Skip Navigation

Interviewing Basics


While the content of your resume will help you receive an invitation for an interview, the interview itself ultimately shapes a prospective employer’s perception of you and how you will function within their organizational environment. How you prepare and present yourself for the interview will influence the prospective employer’s impression of you. Your appearance, how you answer questions, which non-verbal cues you project, and your ability to stay on topic all contribute to your interview personality—and hopefully bring you closer to the job you want!

To get our recommended tips on interviewing, check out our video and supporting information below:


Doing research in preparation for an interview will provide a prospective employer with information about your personality, professionalism, and what kind of employee you will be. While research about the position itself is an obvious task, it is equally important to know the work environment in which the position is situated. Look into the company’s history, corporate culture, and organizational structure. Use your research to create a list of questions to ask that will show that you understand the position expectations and that you are familiar with the organization and industry.

Practice, Practice, Practice

The two skills needed most for interviewing are performing well under pressure and having a knack for thinking on your feet. To prepare for an interview, it is important that you practice and develop both of these talents; the most effective means of doing so is through mock interviews. Enlist the help of a friend or family member to practice. Sit across a table from them while they pose interview questions to you.

Know Your Resume

Your resume helped you get invited to an interview; be sure to know every detail and be able to expand on the details of your resume while in the interview. You will likely be asked questions about your resume and its contents. Also, be sure to bring extra copies of your resume with you. If you have tailored your resume to fit the job description for which you are applying, be sure that you have the correct resume with you at the interview!

Dress the Part

First impressions matter! Good grooming, proper attire, a confident posture, and a pleasant facial expression all present a positive impression. For more information about appropriate interview day etiquette and attire, please visit our Etiquette and Attire pages.

The Arrival Time

Your interview begins the moment you arrive at the location where your interview is being held. Your arrival time sends a message about who you are and what kind of employee you will be. Being late or unreasonably early could have a negative effect on the attitudes of the people interviewing you and could affect the tone of the interview. The key to being on time for your interview is planning. If you are unfamiliar with the location, map your route and visit the location prior to the interview day.

The Handshake

A handshake is a form of communication. Just as words, tone, and facial expression are important to conversation, your grasp, facial expression, and words are important to a handshake. Your grasp should be firm—neither limp nor bone-crushing. Meet the person’s gaze directly, but not intensely. Be prepared to express basic comments such as, "It is a pleasure to meet you," and, "Thank you for inviting me in today."

Project a Positive Image

When you arrive, be cordial to everyone you meet. Receptionists and other staff will likely be asked about their first impression of you. When addressing questions, be confident and be your own best advocate. You have come to offer your best—share your best accomplishments and skills with your interviewer. When asked about negative events, such as "Talk about your past failures" or "Name one area in which you need improvement," answer the questions directly and positively. While such questions require you to admit something negative about yourself, they also allow you the opportunity to describe how you have overcome failures. Just because you are being forced to talk about a failure or shortcoming, does not mean you can’t come out looking like a champ! For some examples of "tough to answer" interviewing questions, visit the Interviewing Questions page.

What Should I Bring?

You will need to bring a pen, writing paper, and copies of your resume. A notebook or folio that will hold all three is easiest to carry. If a sample of your work is required, such as a portfolio, be sure to pack it in the least cumbersome container. In your notebook, bring a short list of questions to ask the interviewer.

Stay on Topic

For some people, it is easy to trip on the stumbling block of following tangents in a conversation; resist this temptation as much as possible! Answer questions directly and thoroughly, without straying from the main point. Your ability to answer a question will show an employer how you analyze questions and synthesize thought. These skills will project your ability to manage projects and stay focused in the workplace environment.

Online Career Tips

American Public University System, American Public University, and American Military University are not affiliated with American University or the U.S. Military. American Public University System (APUS) is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). © 2016 American Public University System | 111 W. Congress Street, Charles Town, WV 25414 | Toll Free: 1-877-755-2787 | Privacy Policy | Terms