How to Prepare for and Ace an Interview

Premierehire Executive search and leadership strategies

The job interview is your proving ground, the place where you must demonstrate why you are the best person for the job. Making that powerful statement that you’re the best of all the candidates requires the three Ps: Preparation, Presentation and Perception.


Keep in mind that you are marketing yourself to everyone you meet. The more people you leave with a good impression, the better your chances are of being remembered. Project yourself as someone who is thoughtful, helpful, and prepared.

Effective presentation includes being in the right place, at the right time. If you’re late for the interview, you could inadvertently tell your interviewer that you’re not right for the job.


Make sure your outfit is clean and neatly pressed and take care of other time-consuming chores (polishing your shoes, trimming your nails) the day before the interview if possible.

  • Suit (solid color – navy or dark grey)
  • Long sleeve shirt or Coordinated blouse (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • Belt, Tie, Dark socks, conservative leather shoes
  • Little or no jewelry
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Limit the aftershave or Perfume
  • Light make-up
  • Portfolio or briefcase


Gather any important materials you’ll need for the interview in one place. You might include copies of your resume, references and directions.

Memorize everything you put on your resume and cover letter and be prepared to explain each item. But you should also be ready to talk about more than just yourself. Get to know your future employer.  Be prepared to demonstrate what you know about the company and the industry.  When you go over your resume focus on your accomplishments instead of reiterating job descriptions, present yourself as an active problem solver will show an employer that you can contribute and succeed in the role.

Give very specific examples of your qualifications by speaking about your experiences that tie in to your skills or qualifications.  Further, describe how your experience will help you meet the requirements of the role you might fill in our company.


Find out exactly where you’ll need to go when you arrive at the company.

Timing is everything: Don’t cause yourself undue stress before a big interview.  Arrive about 10 minutes before the interview is scheduled to begin.

If you arrive too early, you’ll sit and wait and worry. A ten-minute, pre-interview break will give you an opportunity to catch your breath and acclimate to your surroundings. It’s enough time, but not too much time.

Once you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist and turn off that cell phone

Body language is exceptionally important. Positive, upright and open body language shows self-confidence and interest.  During introductions give a firm handshake and then take a seat facing the interviewer.


  • What is a typical week like?
  • How do you measure success on the job?
  • What’s a common career path at the company for someone in this role?
  • What do you think gives this company an edge over its competitors?
  • What’s the company’s biggest challenge? How is it planning to meet that challenge?

Don’t get too detailed about your specific career plan. Instead, discuss things that are important to you professionally and how you plan to achieve them. If growth is a goal, mention that. You can also talk about challenge, another value that employers prize in their employees.


When your interviewer asks you a complicated question, don’t launch into your answer straightaway. Make certain you understand what is being asked. A clarifying question, or restating the question in your own words saves you from wasting your interviewer’s time, and demonstrates that your are a careful listener. Asking the right questions can also demonstrate your ability to think strategically.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

This is one of the most well-known interview questions, and interviewers often ask it indirectly, as in, What did your most recent boss suggest as areas for improvement in your last performance review?

When it comes to weaknesses, or areas of growth it is recommended to build on your answer to include how you have improved, and specifics on what you have done to improve yourself in those areas.

Why did you leave your last position?

Interviewers will always want to know your reasoning behind leaving a company? Be prepared to tell the truth, without speaking negatively about past employment.

Can you describe a previous work situation in which you…?

This question comes in many forms, but what the interviewer is looking for is your behavior on the job. Your answer could focus on resolving a crisis, overcoming a negotiation deadlock, handling a problem co-worker, or juggling multiple tasks on a project.

The theory behind this type of question is that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  The key to responding well is preparing real job examples, describing your behavior in specific situations that demonstrate important skills that the job requires.

What is your ideal work environment?

This question is not about whether you prefer a cubicle or an office, so think broadly to include ideas about supervision, management styles, and your workday routine.

This question is to evaluate sense of their work habits, how flexible they are with their schedules, and how creative they are.

How do you handle mistakes?

The best strategy for this general question is to focus on one or two specific examples in the past and, if possible, highlight resolutions or actions that might have relevance to the job you’re interviewing for.

Employers want to know they’re hiring someone with the maturity to accept responsibility and the wherewithal to remedy their own mistakes.

What is your most notable accomplishment?

Present  three or four accomplishments and quantify what their actions mean in terms of increasing revenues, saving resources, or improving resources.

Being able to quantify your achievements in your career will launch you ahead of the rest by demonstrating your ability to do the same as a future employee.

If your interviewer does not ask this question try to add on to another questions or rephrase it so you can present your significant accomplishments. Always speak in terms of accomplishments when possible.

The ‘Salary’ Question

No matter whom you’re meeting. Don’t ask about salary, vacation, 401(k) or anything else that might make you seem more interested in the compensation than the company.

When an interviewer asks your salary requirement, try first to gently deflect the question by inquiring about the salary for the position.

If the interviewer presses you for a number, give a range. To decide on a range, think about the salary you want, your salary at your most recent position and the industry-standard salary for the job.

The ‘Why’ Question

There’s a fine line between boastful and confident.

When an interviewer asks you why they should hire you, you’re going to have speak confidently and honestly about your abilities. But you should avoid sounding overly boastful.


Be honest about the layoff but focus your communication with potential employers on what you can do for their company, rather than on your past. And when the layoff comes up, make sure you talk about what you accomplished during your time off.  By that time you will have impressed your listeners with your interest in their work, and they won’t care whether you were laid off.



A relaxed job candidate is a confident job candidate.

Show the interviewer that you’re calm, composed and in command during an interview. They are likely to assume that you’ll be rock-solid on the job too.

  • Use these tips to stay relaxed during an interview:
  • Breathing deeply and slowly (and quietly, of course).
  • Sit up straight and don’t cross your legs or arms.
  • Speak slowly and pause for breath often.
  • Keeps your hands and jaw relaxed; no clenching.
  • Smile — it really is contagious!

Pause, Don’t Panic

In every interview, there comes a moment that doesn’t go according to plan. There’s an awkward silence. You stumble over your words. You flub a tough question. Don’t panic. Now’s the time to put your relaxation skills into overdrive.

A quick ten-second pause can be all you need to regain your composure and get back in control. And the interviewer likely won’t even notice.

They don’t want you to fail; they want you to show them why you will succeed with their company. The sooner they hire you, the sooner the search can end.


Finally, be sure to ask your interviewer when he anticipates making a decision. Reiterate your interest in the position and your enthusiasm for the company. Thank him graciously for his time, both in person and in a prompt thank-you letter.

The Author

Leanne Abraham helps leaders and teams reach higher levels of performance. She supports leadership teams as an executive team coach, facilitator, trainer, and advisor.

She and her team also help organizations find and retain the right people through her 4 Phase Executive Search and New Leader Integration Solutions.

Leanne is a certified executive coach and team coach (EMCC); is a certified coach for Birkman Leadership and Career Assessments, has completed training with the Adizes Institute, Tony Robbins coaching, the European Mentoring & Coaching Council (EMCC), and the Global Team Coaching Institute (GTCI).

Leanne serves clients throughout the US and Canada, ranging in size and industry.

On a personal note, Leanne is an avid reader, aspiring author, student of servant leadership, mother of 2, and loves hockey and skiing. She is expanding her career coaching program to provide support to executives wanting to move up or transition and she recently completed her team coaching practicum under David Clutterbuck and GTCI.

If you are looking to elevate your team, your leadership, or your career, please contact Leanne at or book a no charge consult.

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