Break down the job-search process into three phases: Prep, search and close. When you think about it, the interview process also has three important stages. How you prepare and what you do afterwards is just as important as what happens when you’re sitting in the interview room pitching your skills. Below I’ve created a comprehensive checklist to walk you through the interview process so you’re ready to impress a prospective employer and land the job. Research the company. Employers want to know you took the initiative to learn more about their organization. With the prevalence of social media and mobile technology, there’s no excuse for entering an interview unprepared. Visit the prospective employer’s website and social media accounts and search for them on Yahoo! Finance to get a better sense of what the company is all about. Run a Google News search on the company and its competitors to catch up on the latest news. If you haven’t already, subscribe to some email newsletters and other online publications that focus on your target industry. Unsure where to find these publications? Run a good ol’ Google search such as “RV industry publications” to start. The goal is to get a better understanding of the company’s industry and business, their competition, where they stand in the marketplace, and their financial stability so you’re better prepared to field and ask relevant questions during the interview. Investigate the company culture. In recruiting, we often talk about the 80/20 rule: If you’re brought in for a face-to-face interview, approximately 20 percent of the time will be spent verifying you have the necessary skill set. The remaining 80 percent will be spent determining if you’ll fit in with the team. You can have the best qualifications, but if your personality and work style don’t mesh with the existing team, it won’t work out. Take another look at the company’s social media presence – particularly if they have accounts set up for recruiting purposes – to get a better sense of the company’s personality. For additional insights, visit Glassdoor and The Muse’s company sections and talk to anyone in your network who currently works or previously worked for the organization. Click on the following link to learn more about investigating company culture. Identify the market rate. It’s nearly impossible to get past the first phone screen, let alone a face-to-face interview, without being asked for your salary requirements. That’s why it’s important to research the going rate for a position before you set foot in the interview room. Check out TheLadders’ Scout feature and their Job Market Guides, Salary.com and PayScale to discover the going rate for your targeted job. When using any of these tools, take the location, industry, and company size into account. Not sure how to handle this topic during an interview? Check out this article on how to respond to the question, “What are your salary requirements?” Review the role. Reread the job description and take a closer look at the core requirements for the position. If you’re working with an agency recruiter, ask this person what qualifications are most important to the hiring manager when it comes to filling this role. What about your experience, background, skill set or previous accomplishments are most attractive? This will help you develop your talking points for the interview. Practice your responses. Think about the interview questions you feel least comfortable answering, such as “What’s you’re greatest weakness?” and “Tell me about yourself.” Create and then practice delivering succinct stories that answer these questions, while demonstrating how you possess the right skill sets and background for the role. I recommend using the STAR method. Need more help? Click on the following link to learn the right way to answer these difficult – and essential – job interview questions. Prepare questions. When you don’t have anything to ask your interviewers, it sends the signal you’re not really interested in the role. Don’t make this mistake. Prepare at least five questions you can ask every interviewer with whom you meet. Looking for more interview help? Select your interview outfit. When was the last time you tried on your interview outfit? Do yourself a favor and try on the entire ensemble a few days before the interview to make sure everything fits you properly, is clean, pressed and ready to go. Do you need to tighten a loose button or shine your dress shoes? Take care of these little details ahead of time so you can focus on other more important things the day of the interview. Remember, when it comes to interview attire, there’s no “one size fits all.” Consider the company culture and other factors when choosing an outfit for your interview. Need some visual aids? Check out these great articles by The Daily Muse on interview wardrobe options for men and women. Pack your bag. Bring at least two hard copies of your resume, a copy of the job description, a list of three references and their preferred contact information (remember, this does not belong on your resume), a list of questions to ask the interviewer, and a pen and notepad for taking notes. If you’re in a creative field, bring your portfolio to showcase your course of work. Last but not least, bring your A game. Confidence, a positive attitude, and a genuine interest in the role and the company will set you apart from the competition. When you and another candidate have comparable skill sets, the only thing that will set you apart is your passion. Plan your commute. The last thing you want to do is show up late to your interview. Talk about sending the wrong message! Avoid this mistake by doing a dry run of your commute. Travel to the office location at the same time of day your interview is scheduled so you are familiar with the route and can properly budget your travel time. If this isn’t an option, pull out your smart device and use apps like Google Maps or HopStop to estimate how long it will take you to get to the interview. Unsure when to arrive for your interview? Check out Business Insider’s article on the perfect time to show up for an interview. Take notes. Make sure to collect business cards or write down the proper spelling of the interviewers’ names and email addresses during the interview process so you can follow up in a timely manner. Take notes during each conversation so you can personalize each message by focusing on the most significant points raised during each interview. Don’t be afraid to jot down little details you learned about the interviewer, such as a shared passion or an upcoming trip – you can use this information in your follow-up to demonstrate your attention to detail and make your message more memorable. Follow up. Differentiate yourself from other candidates by sending a thoughtful thank-you note to each interviewer within 24 hours of the interview. Use this communication as a tool to address any objections expressed by interviewers and demonstrate your qualifications for the job. Click on the following link to view some of my favorite tips for creating the perfect thank-you message.