We all know the interview is all-important. But what can be even more important is what you do before and after that meeting.
When you’re on the prowl for a new job, you know the interview with a prospective company is everything. Or is it?
As imperative as a smooth interview is to getting the job, what you do before the —and perhaps especially what you do after—can be just as critical.
Here are six key tasks to keep in mind (three for pre-interview and three for post-interview):
Before the Interview
1. Get all your paperwork in order
You’ve probably already provided a , cover letter and a perhaps a business card. But bring along an extra copy of all these things just in case your interviewer asks for a spare (or has misplaced your originals).
Also bring a second form of ID in addition to your driver’s license, written references and any examples of work you’re especially proud of. Have this all together in a tidy folder and you’ll exude professionalism.
2. Practice your questions and answers
Be ready for these :
What did you learn in your last job?
What do you feel your strengths/weaknesses are and why?
How do you motivate yourself?
Interviewers also love scenario-based questions, asking how you’d react to stressful or ethical scenarios. Be ready with examples of how you successfully navigated something similar in the past.
Finally, have two or three thoughtful questions about the company tucked away. Interviewers almost always ask “Now, what questions do you have for me?” and if you don’t have any, you’ll look unengaged.
3. Choose your attire
Dress a step above what you’d normally wear if you were hired, and make sure it’s clean, comfortable and conservative. It’s really that simple.
After the Interview
1. Follow up without annoying anyone
Ideally the company will let you know when you’ll hear back from them—and will actually keep their word and their deadline. But if that doesn’t happen, wait a full 24 hours after the time and date you were supposed to hear by and then give them a call. If no “you’ll hear from us by” date was given, then wait at least a week before calling.
However, if they specifically said not to call to follow up, believe them: don’t call.
2. Handle limbo with savvy
While it’s tempting to put all your eggs in one basket once you score an interview and it goes smoothly, while you’re waiting for the official word, keep applying to other jobs. Who knows? Maybe you’ll end up getting to choose from more than one company—or be able to use one offer against another as a salary negotiation tool.
If you accept one job while still waiting to hear back from another, be sure to send the company that’s still deciding an email letting them know you’ve taken yourself out of the running.
3. Send a hand-written thank you note
With ink and stamp and everything. Tell the interviewer you appreciated his or her time. It makes a classy impression and, in this era of texting, will make you stand out in a good way.
Tara Hornor writes for , an online printing company that prints booklets, business cards, flyers, posters, postcards, brochures and other marketing media. Connect with her on Twitter at @TaraHornor.