Does the job-interview process have you feeling overwhelmed? Break it down into three parts.

When you think about interviewing for a job, you may immediately feel overwhelmed. Not only do you have to survive the interview, but you also have to adequately prepare for it beforehand and then, afterward, figure out how to approach the next steps.

But rather than getting caught up in anxiety, job-search expert Amanda Augustine suggests tackling the interview process in three steps: before, day-of, and after. This is what's called a three-pronged approach; you're breaking down a large task (the interview) into three parts that feel way more manageable.

Here's how the three-pronged approach will look when it comes to interviewing — and how it can help you ace your next interview.

1. Before the interview

Before walking into the interview, job seekers will need to set aside some time to prepare. There are four action items that fall under this prong:

Research the company

Quickly scanning a company's website won't cut it when it comes to preparing for an interview. You'll need to understand the company's mission, know its key executives, get familiar with any recent news, and scroll through its online reviews.

Use this quick pre-interview research checklist to get you started. Make sure to research the company's: 

  • Website

  • 10K Annual Report (if it's a public company) or Crunchbase profile (if it's a startup)

  • LinkedIn profile

  • Other social media platforms, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram

  • Recent Google news hits

  • Online reviews

You'll also want to take a step back and look at the company's competitors and other recent industry news, taking notes on your key findings to review before your interview.

Practice interview responses

Whether you're feeling a bit rusty or have been on an interview spree, it's important to prepare your responses before every interview. After all, every role is different.

Before you start talking to yourself in the mirror or asking your significant other to quiz you, review the role and job description you're interviewing for and highlight its key responsibilities and required skills. That way you can choose which relevant skills and experiences you want to highlight in your responses.

Then check the company's Glassdoor reviews to see if you can find any hint of what type of interview the company tends to employ. Will it be a behavioral interview? A group interview? A panel interview? A stress interview?

If you can't find any information online, ask your recruiter before the interview (if you have one) or prepare as much as possible by crafting answers for the most common interview questions.

Whatever the interview style, you'll likely get asked some type of behavioral interview question —  the ones that start, “Tell me about a time when…” For those, use the STAR method to compose your answer.

If you want to practice interviewing with an expert, consider connecting with an online interview coach who can walk you through the process and offer feedback to help set you up for success.

Prepare your own questions

By now, you probably know that interviewing isn't just about answering questions — you need to be prepared to ask some questions, too.

According to Augustine, you should come up with questions that help you:

  • Determine if the employer and position are a good fit for you.

  • Showcase your genuine interest in the job.

  • Figure out if the interviewer has any reservations about you as a candidate.

Here's a list of the 13 best questions you can ask a hiring manager during your job interview.

Select your attire

One of the most stressful parts of interviewing can be figuring out what to wear. You want to impress the hiring manager, but not go overboard. You want to fit in with the company's culture, but not be too informal. You want to look professional, but not stiff. It's a fine balance.

Don't fret, though. Use these dress guides on what to wear to an interview if you're a woman, as well as what to wear to an interview if you're a man, in order to spark inspiration. The biggest takeaways for both? Play it safe. Avoid loud colors, patterns, and accessories and stick to the classic colors: black, navy, and khaki. Your final look should be professional and polished.

2. The day of the interview

Now that you've adequately prepared for the interview, you're not nervous at all … right? Just kidding — it's natural to feel a little jittery. Here are two things you'll want to do on the day of your interview:

Get in the right mindset

You want to walk into that interview feeling confident, sharp, and positive, so it's important to adjust your mindset properly. Instead of thinking, “I'm going to flub this interview,” try these tricks:

  • Stop thinking about how nervous you are and instead practice positive self-talk and thinking before the interview. Pick out a mantra and repeat it to yourself over and over until you feel yourself relaxing. For example, you (Anna), could say: Anna is strong. Anna is smart. Anna is powerful. Anna is going to ace this interview.

  • Remind yourself you earned this interview. According to a 2019 Jobvite report, only 12 percent of job applicants land an interview, so you're already doing great!

  • Stay focused on your goals. These might include learning more about the company, seeing if the job's a fit, or gaining confidence from the experience. Focusing your mind on these will help you stay positive and remind you why you're interviewing in the first place.

Conquer those jitters

If you're feeling particularly nervous leading up to your interview, remember to breathe. It sounds silly — and obvious — but taking deep breaths can help soothe your nerves. You can even use a meditation app, like Breethe, Calm, or Headspace to help you focus.

You'll also want to take a few moments to put this interview into perspective. What will happen if you don't get the job? You might really want it, but your career won't end if you don't get it. Chances are, the job wasn't a good fit — and that's OK. There are more positions out there.

Also, keep reminding yourself that, because you've followed the steps thus far, you've done everything you can to prepare.

3. After the interview

Congratulations! You've made it through the most difficult parts of the interview process. Now it's time to make sure you've tied up any loose ends. Here are the final two steps you should take, post-interview:

Send a thank-you email

Sending a thank-you note or email after your interview is crucial. In fact, a 2017 TopResume survey found that 68 percent of hiring managers and employers say a thank-you note or email matters when it comes to making a hiring decision. Additionally, nearly one in five interviewers admit to dismissing a candidate because they didn't send a thank you.

You'll want to send this follow-up no more than 24 hours after your interview. Follow these guidelines when sending a job-winning thank you note to help you craft it:

  • Say thank you

  • Be sincere

  • Prove you paid attention

  • Show enthusiasm

  • Show you're the perfect match

  • Share something new

  • Spellcheck!

Use this interview follow-up email example to help you get started.

Continue to follow up as needed

If it's been a few days since the company said you'd hear back, then feel free to reach out and follow up with a gentle nudge. As a general rule of thumb, you should wait 10 to 14 days before reaching out after your initial thank you. In this email, you can mention that you're still excited about the opportunity and that you're eager to hear back.

If the company lets you know it needs a few more days (or weeks) to make a decision, then try to remain patient. But if several more days have passed since that second tentative deadline, you can reach out again.

Following up a third time can come off as a bit pushy, so you'll need to trust your gut. If it's been weeks since you've heard from the company, then you know it's time to move on to your next opportunity. Remember it's out there! You just need to stay persistent.

Feeling ready to conquer the interview process during the job search but want to practice with an expert (instead of the mirror)? One of our TopInterview coaches can help!

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