Career Advice

How to Nail an Interview Checklist: 19 Steps

Landing your dream job starts with nailing the interview, as the first impression can make or break your chances. Our 19-step interview checklist is your ultimate guide for polishing your interviewing skills. Get ready to impress potential employers and make a lasting impression.

Why Use an Interview Checklist?

Utilizing a checklist can be a game-changer for job seekers wondering how to nail an interview. It acts as a roadmap, guiding you through the intricacies of interview preparation with precision and efficiency.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job seekers have a 30% chance of securing a job after applying for 21 to 80 openings.  Entering an interview fully prepared increases your chances of landing coveted roles.

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How to Prepare for the Interview

Preparing for an interview has many moving parts to consider, but the payoff of landing your dream job makes it all worthwhile. It is an investment of time and effort that can significantly increase your chances of success. Remember, thorough preparation boosts your confidence and demonstrates your commitment and professionalism to potential employers.

1. Research the Company

Hiring managers expect job seekers to be familiar with their companies. Researching the company will help you appear more knowledgeable and better able to respond to interview answers that determine you’re a good fit. 

Familiarize yourself with the business’s mission and core values—they are the foundation for many organizations. If you are applying for a leadership role, learn about the company’s plan for growth and expansion and be prepared to discuss how you can support its goals.

Reviewing the company’s website will help you make a stellar impression. Most sites have the following pages that provide detailed information about the business:

  • About us page
  • Careers page
  • Products and services pages
  • Blog 
  • Newsroom or press pages

Wize Tip: Get to know who you are interviewing with by reviewing the hiring manager’s and other employee’s LinkedIn profiles.

2. Thoroughly Review the Job Description

Re-read the job description to get a feel for what the company wants in its dream candidate. Pick out the main duties and skills they’re after, and mentally note any qualifications or experiences that align with what you bring. When you’re in the interview chair, these insights will help you shine by showing how well you fit the role.

3. Answering “Tell Me About Yourself”

Most interviews start with the classic icebreaker, “So, tell me about yourself.” This is your cue to summarize your professional journey, spotlighting wins and experiences that directly relate to the job you are applying for. 

Remember, this is your chance to share a narrative that showcases why you’re the ideal fit for the job, so practice what you plan to say.

You can start by writing a short script and rehearsing it. Try recording yourself so you can fine-tune your response. The work will ensure you make a strong first impression.

4. Practice Responses to Common Interview Questions

After the tell me about yourself question, some of the most common interview questions are as follows:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work for this company?
  • Can you walk me through your resume?
  • How do you handle challenges or difficult situations?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

To ace your responses, start by jotting down notes for each question, outlining key points you want to cover. Then, practice answering them out loud, either solo or with a friend, to get comfortable articulating your responses. Pay attention to your tone, body language, and pace to appear confident and natural. 

Structure your responses using the STAR method (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This practice will help you articulate your experiences more effectively. 

  • S: Share context around a specific situation or challenge you faced.
  • T: Describe the tasks you were responsible for in the situation.
  • A: Discuss a few specific actions you took to overcome the challenge. 
  • R: Share the results of your actions and discuss what you learned.

5. Prepare Questions for Your Interviewer

Near the end of an interview, it’s standard for the interviewer to turn the tables and ask if you have any questions. Prepping some thought-provoking questions beforehand shows your enthusiasm for the job and the company. Remember, this is an opportunity to determine if the organization is a match for you, too. 

Sample Questions to Ask an Interviewer 

  • Where do you think the company is headed in the next five years?
  • How would you describe the work culture here? 
  • Is this a backfilled position or a new role on the team? 
  • What would qualify as excellent job performance for this role?
  • What opportunities are there for training and development?
“One of my favorite questions to ask a candidate is, ‘What questions do you have for me?’ I like to dedicate at least 10 minutes for this part of the interview.”

– Marisa Ramirez, Director of People Operations at Wizehire

6. Gather Your References

Some employers want to check references during the interview process, while others typically check your references just before making an offer. Whatever the case, ensure you have three ready.

Contact your references beforehand to ensure they’re willing and prepared to speak on your behalf. Tell them about the role you’re applying for so they can tailor their responses to the position. At this time, you may also want to request recommendation letters.

You generally want references from former managers. If you are early in your career and don’t have many former managers, you could ask professors or mentors you worked closely with to vouch for you. Hiring managers sometimes want references from direct reports if the new role involves leading a team.

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7. Always Have Your Resume Handy

Be sure to have multiple copies of your resume for in-person interviews, even if you’ve already sent it digitally. For video interviews, be prepared to drop it in the chat if necessary. Remember, your foresight in this regard will give you extra points.

Additionally, consider having reference letters or a concise list of references handy. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.

8. What to Wear to an Interview

To nail an interview on Zoom or in person, choose an outfit that matches the company’s dress code or fits the company culture.

When researching the company, consider what employees wear in company photos. Are they dressed in suits and posed professionally? Or are they dressed casually and shown in candid settings? 

If you need clarification, err on formality or business casual. Ensure your outfit is clean, pressed, and professional to project confidence and respect for the interviewer. 

Wize Tip: A work-worthy wardrobe can be expensive. Investing in one interview outfit might be all you need. In some communities, non-profits such as Dress for Success and 100 Suits will provide job seekers with an outfit so you feel your best while job searching.

9. Be on Time for Your Interview

It seems obvious, but taking extra steps to be punctual is worth it. 

Know precisely how to get to the interview location, considering extra time for any unforeseen delays. Use online maps to plan your trip to the interview location, including any public transportation routes or parking options. Plan on arriving early to account for potential delays and demonstrate your punctuality. 

For virtual interviews, check your equipment and set up your space. Most importantly, ensure you can access the interviewer’s tool (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, Skype, etc.) beforehand.

To nail a video interview, find a quiet area, test your computer’s camera and audio, and ensure enough lighting to show your face clearly. Consider tidying up anything in the background to remain professional, or use the background blur feature.

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10. Mentally Prepare for Each Interview

Engage in activities that reduce stress and boost your confidence, such as meditation, visualization techniques, or reviewing your accomplishments. 

For instance, visualize the interview process going smoothly to build your confidence. Remember, the goal is to arrive at the meeting calmly and prepared to speak. 

To further boost your confidence, try these positive affirmations for job interviews:

  • I’m qualified for this position.
  • I’m confident in my abilities.
  • I speak clearly and confidently.
  • I’m the right candidate for the job.
  • I know I can do great work. 
“Interviewers get nervous, too! Remember we’re both just humans showing up for each other in what can feel like a high stakes situation.”

– Danielle Bloxom, Professional Recruiter at Wizehire

What to Do During the Interview

Prepping for the interview is the foundation for your success. The following tips will help you present yourself in the best possible light when talking to the hiring manager and other company employees.

11. Show Enthusiasm

Express genuine excitement about the position and the company. Let your passion for the work, the company’s mission, or the industry shine through in your responses and body language. Enthusiasm can be a differentiating factor, making you more memorable and demonstrating your motivation to contribute positively to the team.

12. Maintain Eye Contact

Keep eye contact with your interviewer(s) to show your interest and attention. Sustained, appropriate eye contact during the interview shows that you’re engaged in the conversation and confident in your abilities.

If you’re talking to a panel of interviewers, try to distribute your eye contact evenly, answering the person who asked the question while also engaging others in the group.

13. Listen Carefully

Active listening is a valuable interpersonal skill. Focus intently on what the interviewer is saying. Nodding or giving verbal affirmations when appropriate shows that you understand. 

Pay close attention to each question asked, and take a moment to think before you respond. If a question is unclear, don’t hesitate to ask for clarification instead of rushing into an off-target answer. 

14. Take Notes

Take notes during a job interview to capture key details about the role, the company’s culture, and specific expectations or projects mentioned by the interviewer.

Notes help you accurately remember important points so you can ask thoughtful follow-up questions, demonstrate attention to detail, and show genuine interest in the position.

Even more, notes can help you evaluate the opportunity against your criteria for an ideal job, making sure it’s a good fit for you.

15. How to Close the Interview

As you wrap up the interview, it’s a good idea to express your interest in the role and the company again. Don’t hesitate to ask if the interviewer hasn’t already laid out what comes next in the hiring process. This demonstrates your enthusiasm for keeping things rolling and staying in the loop regarding the job opportunity.

“Always take notes on any action items or next steps that arise from the interview, such as sending additional materials, scheduling follow-up interviews, sharing references, etc.”

– Shivani Puri, VP of People Operations at Wizehire

What to Do After an Interview

There are things to do and keep in mind after the interview. Following these steps afterward emphasizes your interest in the job and helps refine your strategy for future interviews.

16. Send a Thank-You Email

Within 24 hours of your interview, send a personalized thank-you email to each interviewer. Reference specific topics or discussions during the interview to show you were paying close attention.

Don’t hesitate to reiterate why your skills and experiences make you ideal for the role. A thank-you note shows you’re a professional and reinforces your interest in the job.

Post-interview Thank-You Note Template

Subject: Thank You for the Interview Opportunity

Hi [Interviewer’s Name],

Thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I appreciated learning more about the [position] role and the team. I’m excited to contribute to [Company’s Name] and support its goals [mention any specific goal discussed].

Please let me know if there are any further steps or if you need any information from me.

Warm regards,

[Your Name]

[Your Contact Information]

17. Reflect on the Interview

Take some time to evaluate your interview performance. Jot down what went well and where you could improve. Honest reflection is key for personal growth and preparation for future interviews. It helps you understand more about your strengths and vulnerabilities in interview settings. 

Also, consider the interviewer’s answers to your questions and how the role aligns with your goals. Does the company culture align with your own, and can you picture yourself working there?

18. Follow Up With the Hiring Manager

If you haven’t heard back within the timeline provided, sending a polite follow-up email is appropriate. Ask about the status of your application and reiterate your interest in the position.

Keep the tone positive and professional, showing your enthusiasm and respect for their hiring process. A follow-up email can keep you at the top of their mind for the role.

19. Continue Applying

Keep your momentum going. Even if the interview went well and you feel confident about your chances, continue your job search and apply to other openings you’re interested in.

The job market can be unpredictable, and having multiple options may relieve some of the stress of waiting for a response. Plus, continuing to apply keeps your interview skills sharp and may lead to an unexpected opportunity.

Your Job Interview Checklist

Our interview checklist will guide you through an interview, covering everything from your initial prep work to the follow-up actions after the interview.

Before the Interview

  • Research the company
  • Review job description
  • Prepare to share more about yourself
  • Practice more common interview questions
  • Prepare questions for your interviewer
  • Gather your references
  • Keep your resume handy
  • Plan your outfit
  • Prepare to be on time
  • Mentally prepare yourself

During the Interview

  • Show enthusiasm
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Listen carefully
  • Take notes
  • Close the interview

After the Interview

  • Send a thank-you email
  • Reflect on the interview
  • Follow up with the hiring manager
  • Continue applying 

Wize Words

The interview process can feel like stepping onto a stage; these tips will help you manage those pre-interview jitters. We all know that interviewing can be challenging and sometimes disappointing, but preserving your confidence is a priority. Consider each interview as a rehearsal, prepping you to eventually obtain your dream job. We wish you all the luck!


  • Leighann Emo

    With a rich background in content development, Leighann creates engaging, educational articles that resonate with small and growing businesses. Her role involves ensuring the accuracy and quality of content and collaborating with other board members to assess the accuracy and compliance of content.

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The article was reviewed by Deirdre Sullivan

Leighann Emo

With a rich background in content development, Leighann creates engaging, educational articles that resonate with small and growing businesses. Her role involves ensuring the accuracy and quality of content and collaborating with other board members to assess the accuracy and compliance of content.

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