The Ultimate Interview Playbook - Smart Money Seed


The Ultimate Interview Playbook

We all want to land that dream job at an awesome company, but with anything good in life, you have to put in some work beforehand. Once you've followed our tips for a successful career fair experience, the next step is nailing the interview. In a many ways, the preparation for an interview is very similar to that of a career fair, but it is slightly different. A career fair is like going on a first date with a group of friends around, but an interview is a more formal date with you and the other person.

Pre-Game Prep

Research Time

First things first, you need to research the company. While you may be able to get away with just a little research for a career fair, you're dead in the water if you don't research the company before an interview. Google the company, search their website, and scour the news for current events; the more you know about the employer, the more it looks like you care about getting a job. You can use this information to not only ask better questions (see "During the Interview" below), but you'll be better equipped to answer their questions like, "Why do you want to work for us?". Act like you're getting ready to write a research paper on this company and seek out any details you can find. Some websites such as Glassdoor even have reviews from current and former employees. Sites like these can be a wealth of knowledge, but be cautious - many people that post reviews on these sites have just recently left the company and may have slanted viewpoints.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice makes perfect, and the only way you're going to get good at interviewing is through repetition. But if you've never interviewed before, how do you get repetition? Luckily there are a ton of websites that offer examples of the most common interview questions (just Google "common interview questions"). Take advantage of this and practice answering these questions beforehand.

Don't just stop with practicing by yourself. Give a list of questions to a friend and have them conduct a mock interview for you. Even though a mock interview might not give you the nerves or anxiety that comes with a real interview, practicing your responses out-loud can help you further refine your answers, and your friend may be able to give you some helpful feedback.

While you're practicing these questions, be mindful of any bad habits you may have in an interview setting. Do you talk too fast? Are you fidgety? Do you come off too stern or serious? Once you're aware of your weaknesses, you'll be able to better mitigate the bad habit and be on your way to a better interview.

Outside of preparing for common questions, you should also develop your elevator pitch for the inevitable "tell me about yourself" question. While you will use the entire interview to them about yourself, you should develop a short (no more than about minute) pitch that gives the interviewer a quick background about who you are.

The Big Game

Dress The Part

The big day is here and you're about to interview for a job that could change your life. The practice and preparation is behind you; now it's time for the real test. Before you leave the house, don't under-estimate the importance of appearance and first impressions. I'm not advocating that you need to go out and buy a brand new outfit, but take some time to make sure your shirt is ironed and tucked in.

It's always better to be over-dressed rather than under-dressed. To be safe, you should always dress one notch above the company's protocol. When in doubt, a matching business suit is almost always a safe bet for an interview, regardless of the industry. 


Never, ever... ever be late to an interview. I can't say for certain, but I think being late automatically puts your resume at the bottom of the pile. With that said, you also shouldn't be too early for an interview. A good rule of thumb is to enter the building or location about 10-15 minutes prior to the scheduled interview time. If you panic about time like I do, you can still get to the interview earlier, but just sit in your car until it's time to go in. Otherwise you're in for a long, potentially awkward, wait in a lobby.

If you've never been to the location of the interview, try driving there a day ahead of time. This will give you a chance to get a feel for the area, and will help ensure you don't miss an exit or can't find the building. 

During the Interview

Relax. Breathe. If you've prepared for the interview, you've got nothing to worry about. In addition to answering questions, make sure you show your personality. Don't be afraid to make a few light jokes or laugh (unless you're Alex - in this case your jokes are terrible and you should absolutely avoid them). Although you want to be professional, most interviewers are looking for your personality. Once you've made it to the interview stage, they already know you can do the job, but they want to know how well you get along with others and if you'd be fun to work with.
Don't forget to ask questions. Almost every interview ends with the opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions, and if you don't take advantage of this opportunity it will look like you don't really want the job. Bring more questions with you than you think you will need, and you can even jot some down during the interview. In some cases, you will even be able to ask them throughout the interview. Thoughtful questions show that you care.

Before you leave the interview, make sure to get the interviewers contact information, and ask them about the next steps in the process. These two pieces of information will help with your post game plan.

Post Game Steps

Once the interview is over, your job is not done. There are a few more steps you still need to take if you want to land that job.

Thank-You Card

Your first trip after the interview should be to the store to buy a thank-you card. Take a few minutes and create a handwritten thank-you note to all of the interviewers you met with. You don't need to write a novel, but thank them for their time, mention something specific about the interview, and express your continued interest in the position. There are a lot of great example thank-you letters online to use as a reference.

DO NOT underestimate the importance of this step. Handwritten notes may seem out-of-date and old-fashioned, but it separates you from the pack, and shows how much you care.


If you haven't heard back from the company by the time they mentioned, send a follow-up card or email to the interviewers. Just like you and I, companies can often get behind in their work, and just because they haven't contacted you doesn't mean all hope is lost. Sending a follow-up note is just another way to show your continued interest in the opportunity.

Don't Get Discouraged

During my junior year of college I attended a small career fair at a local college. I probably wasn't as prepared as I should have been, but I had researched a few of the companies in attendance and had a general idea of what to do. A few minutes after I handed my resume to a recruiter for a certain, nameless company, he informed me that I was a potential fit for their internship program, and that they were conducting on-the-spot interviews that day. Once he said that, I think my heart rate about doubled. I was excited to be considered for an interview, but I was certainly well under-prepared. I had about 30 minutes to cram in a lobby, but I don't think that was much help. The interview was gruesome. I hadn't practiced any interview questions, so my answers were scrambled and choppy, and I didn't really click with the interviewer.

Once the interview concluded, the interviewer mentioned that she would be in touch in the next few weeks. Even though the interview didn't go well, I still sent a thank-you note and followed-up once I hadn't heard back after a few weeks. I never received notice that they turned me down, or that they ever even received my message. To this day I've never heard back from that employer.

Long story short, whatever you do, don't get discouraged with the results of your interview. Regardless of how hard you try, some companies may just not be the right fit. Keep grinding, be confident, and know that the right job is still out there for you. Trust me, I know from experience.

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