15 Interview Prep Tips You Haven’t Heard

Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
When I was job hunting, I felt like a superhero. By day, I was a mild-mannered employee, dutifully getting my assignments done as normal. By night, I was Application Girl, able to send out five cover letters in a single day, willing to scale tall building to get a better salary. When I interviewed at Refinery29, I even had to change into my superhero outfit (okay, just a new dress I felt really confident in) and then back into my regular office attire.

Leading a double life can be exhausting. Hell, even job hunting while being unemployed can be exhausting. But when it comes to interviews, you want to be on your A Game (or your A+ game if you can swing it). And while there are lots of tips out there on what questions you should be ready to answer, what you do before and after can be just as important. Things like showing up on time, sending a thank-you note immediately, and not having your cell ring mid-interview can affect whether you get the job as much as your answer to the question "Where do you see yourself in five years?"

Sounds scary, right? But it doesn’t have to be. As long as you’re planning ahead, there are lots of easy ways to start off on the right foot — and end on a high note. Ahead, 15 easy tips to take your interview game from great to outstanding in no time. (Cape not included.)
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Treat them like you would a work email or phone, since that’s what you’re using them for — you want to sound like a grown-up. Make sure you have an email signature that includes a cell phone number. If you have a picture associated with your email, make sure that’s professional as well.

Don’t forget to change or disable any email signatures that might be added to messages sent from your phone. You don’t want to accidentally fire off a quick confirmation email that’s followed up with “iPhone, iTypo, iApologize.”
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Phone interviews before meeting in person have become de rigeur for a lot of industries, and they’re likely going to be scheduled during the work day. If you’re on the job hunt, you may very well get used to these.

Rather than trying to seek out a private spot in your office, use these times to go on a “coffee run” or “lunch break” and find a go-to quiet spot. Again, if you have a car, you’re all set. Otherwise, you may have to be creative. City parks can be good for phone interviews. If you’re not absolutely confident you can find a quiet place to conduct a phone call, consider asking if you can work from home that day. Better safe than sorry.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This is just something good to have on hand when you’re job searching, period. Pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood office supply store and have them printed out on resume paper. You’ll want to take them with you on informational interviews, too. Another benefit of having a bunch of printed resumes on hand? You won’t have to run the risk of printing a resume at your office before your interview.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Being as accommodating as possible to the interviewer’s schedule is an easy way to make a good impression. When you’re first asked about your availability, respond back quickly with a range of options. Giving a few suggested times makes it easier for the interviewer to look at her schedule. If possible, do what you can to reschedule previous commitments and appointments that might conflict. If it’s less than ideal but doable, you can always reply, “I can make Tuesday work if necessary, but I can do any time on Wednesday.” Of course, if you already have travel plans or tickets to see Hamilton, it’s okay to say the offered time doesn’t work for you, but do make sure you preemptively offer times that do work as well.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
If you’re in the market for a new job, it can feel like you’re basically leading a double life. But as tempting as it may be to just lie to your current boss when you have to be out for interviews, you don’t want to weave a story so complicated you can’t remember the details.

Instead of making up an illness or house emergency, just tell your boss you have an appointment. It’s true, and vague enough that she might just assume it’s with a doctor. If she presses you, you can reply with another vague truth: “It’s a personal matter, and I’d rather not discuss it.”
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
At some point, you’re likely going to be asked, “Do you have any questions for me?” Don’t pass it up — it’s a good chance to show you’re really interested, and give your interviewer a chance to talk a bit about themselves (something we all like to do). You may very well think of questions to ask during the interview, but just in case, have some in your back pocket. A question about management style or company culture (“What do you like about working at a company this size?”) is a great place to start.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Few employers will judge you harshly for having an Instagram or Twitter that reflects your personal life and interests, but you do want to make sure any social channels you have are something you wouldn’t mind them seeing. It only takes a few seconds to do a quick scan of any visible social media activity to make sure you don’t have anything too crazy.

Of course, this is going to vary by industry. What a teacher shares on social media is very different than what a PR assistant posts. The gut test of, “Would I want my boss seeing this?” is probably enough to let you know if it needs to be deleted. Public posts complaining about your current job should go no matter what. Yes, your interviewer knows you’re looking for a different gig, but you don't want her imagining what things you could post about her company in a year.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
The contents of your job application make up the bulk of what your interviewer knows about you. So make sure you’ve brushed up on the CliffsNotes version of yourself. You don’t want to repeat your cover letter verbatim, of course, but remembering what skills and experiences you chose to share in the application process is important. Plus, it will give you a good idea of topics that can be expanded upon in person.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
It’s hard to be on top of your game if you’re exhausted. Skip out on plans that will keep you out late (or drinking too much) in favor of a quiet night at home. If you’re clear-headed and well-rested, it’s going to show. Plus, what’s worse than finding yourself suppressing an involuntary yawn as you get taken on a tour of the office?
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Not every job requires you to wear a suit. You’ll want to be presentable, but if the office vibe is casual, being overdressed can make you feel awkward or look out of place. If you truly don’t know, airing on the side of business casual (think a nice dress or a skirt and blouse) generally works. If you want to get really sleuth-y, check out the Instagram geotag for the office and see what employees wear.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
You don’t need to write a physical thank-you note for every phone screener and email exchange you have. But you should definitely send one if you have an in-person interview. It’s an easy way to end things with a flourish. Since decisions can be made quickly after interviews, have a pre-addressed, blank card ready to go. After the interview, pause at a coffee shop to write the note and drop it straight in the mail. Make sure to include a detail or two about something you discussed in the interview.

You should also plan on writing thank-you emails after the interview. If you’re going to be in a rush to get back to work, you can even have a draft saved where you leave space to add details about the interview itself.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Traffic and subway delays are beyond your control, so you’ll want to factor in some extra time when commuting to your appointment. An understanding interviewer won’t slam the door in your face if you get caught in a jam, but it is something you want to avoid whenever possible.

That said, showing up too early to the actual office isn’t great, either. Hiring managers usually have tightly packed schedules, and arriving before your appointment can throw them off. So plan to get to your destination 15 minutes early, but kill those extra 10 minutes in a coffee shop, and use the extra time to go over your interview prep. (And use the bathroom to double-check your makeup and give your hair a quick look.) You’ll still want to get into the interview five minutes early, but not so early that no one knows what to do with you.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This one is easy. If you bring a notebook, you look prepared. And if there is something you want to remember for later, whether it’s a question or something you want to bring up in your thank-you notes, you’ll be able to jot it down on the spot, not rely on your powers of recollection.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
This one should be pretty self-explanatory! Before you even set foot in the office, make sure your phone is on silent. And if your phone vibrates when it’s on silent, make sure that feature is turned off, too. In fact, before you walk through the doors, pretend like you’re sending your phone on a little trip and don’t even look at it till you’re done. If you think you’ll want to use it for time checks, wear a watch. Scrolling through your Facebook feed or checking a text, even while waiting at reception, might come off as sloppy.
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Illustrated by Abbie Winters.
Chances are, you’re going to want to be a bit more dressed up for your interview than you will be for your current job. Sneaking into work a bit late in heels and a skirt suit can be a great way to tip off your current boss to your activities. Make sure you’ve planned a quick and easy dress down strategy post interview.

If you have a car, this will be fairly painless. But if you’re traveling via public transportation, you won’t want to show up to the interview with a bunch of bags — it looks a bit messy and unprofessional. Keeping a pair of flats in your interview bag, pulling your hair back, wiping off a bit of makeup, and throwing on a cardigan over your outfit are easy ways to camouflage a fancier interview outfit without adding bulk.
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