3. Before the Interview

In the following video, you will learn about some of the preparations that should be made before a job interview. The text below provides additional information about these interview preparations. 

Before the Interview

(To read along click here.)

Preparing Yourself

There is a lot of work that you can do to prepare for an interview:

  • Gather information about the organization—this may include conducting informational interviews, either with people who work where you want to, or with people who have similar positions in other organizations
  • Develop a list of questions, if they are not provided beforehand; practice answering them
  • Get feedback on your answers from other people—ideally people who are knowledgeable about the interview process, or friends who have successfully been through the interview process
  • References—be prepared to provide two or three professional references, and make sure they can be contacted
  • Supporting documents, such as examples of your professional accomplishments—certificates, awards; even learning plans or reports that you have created

Presenting Yourself

Apart from the practicalities of preparation, you can think about how you will present yourself and communicate both verbally and non-verbally. Here are some components to consider:

  • In many countries, shaking hands is not common, especially between men and women. In Canada, a firm handshake accompanied by eye contact and a smile is considered to be an appropriate greeting.
  • Differences in personal space can lead to feelings of discomfort. The usual distance between two people in Canada is about two feet. French Canadians may tend to stand slightly closer.
  • Some cultures consider direct eye contact with people in higher positions, such as an interviewer, to be a sign of disrespect. In Canada, making regular eye contact is a sign of confidence, trustworthiness and interest in the position. But continual eye contact may come across as being prying or aggressive.
  • In an interview, Canadians typically expect to see candidates nod their heads up and down if they understand or agree with what’s being discussed. On the other hand, shaking your head left and right is an indication of disagreement. Pointing at someone with your index finger is generally thought to be impolite.
  • In some cultures, deference to authority is expressed through lowering the voice or speaking softly. In Canada, this may be perceived as a lack of interest in the job or a low confidence level. On the other hand, the intonation of some languages when they are translated into English may sound overly direct.
  • Being punctual, or slightly early for job interviews is important. If you’re going to be late, contact your interviewer immediately to let them know.
  • Avoid wearing any scent at an interview—this includes perfumes, strong aftershaves, lotions or hairsprays. These can affect people with asthma or allergies, which are common in Canada. Many workplaces in Canada have scent-free policies.
  • Formal titles and surnames are not usually used at job interviews. If in doubt, use the name your interviewer uses when they introduce themselves or ask what they would like to called.
  • The interview may begin with a short period of small talk in which both of you exchange pleasantries. The interview will also likely be well organized and adhere to a time schedule. A relaxed tone of conversation is usually the norm for interviews in Canada.


For any us, it’s hard to control how someone will react to our verbal and non-verbal communication. But what we can control is the content of what we’re saying, and the form it takes. We’ll learn more about this in the next lesson.

Learning Exercise: Preparing for the Interview

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