How To Improve Your Interview Skills

Businessman conducting job interview
••• PhotoAlto/Eric Audras / Getty Images

A job interview gives you a chance to shine. What you say and what you do during an interview will either move you to the next round of consideration for employment or knock you out of contention.

It doesn't take much to make an impression — good or bad. Interviewing is a competitive game, and even little things can make a big difference when you're trying to get hired.

If you haven't taken the time to dress appropriately or if you say the "wrong" thing, it could be over before it starts. It's important to be the candidate who makes the best impression, rather than the person who trips up in the interview and doesn't get a shot at the job. 

Key Takeaways

  • In a job interview, how you communicate matters as much as what you have to say
  • In addition to qualifications and subject matter preparation, success in a job interview could depend on factors such as your attire and body language
  • Practice interview questions and research the job description and the company well before the interview
  • Ask relevant questions and remember to thank the interviewer for their time at the end of the interview and afterwards.

Tips To Improve Your Interview Skills

You'll need to do more than simply show up to the interview to perform well during a job interview and make a strong and positive impression. Taking the time to brush up your interview skills before you get on the phone or head out to an in-person interview will help you nail the interview and secure a job offer. 

Follow these strategies and tips to ace your interview. 

Know Yourself And The Employer

One thing that can help you tremendously in a job interview is thorough knowledge of the facts, both about yourself as well as the company you're looking to interview with.

Your Work History

Interviews are not a meeting to list what's already there on your resume. Interviews are a chance for you to put forth your narrative, to tell your story to the potential employers. Its about where you're coming from, where you hope to go, what your goals are, what your skills are, and how all of that makes you a good candidate for the job they are trying to fill.

Review your work history before the interview — and make sure what you say matches what's on your resume. Its easy to slip up on details if the interviewer probes information that you have exaggerated.

Know the Company And the Job

Spend some time learning about the company and about the job you're applying for. The more informed you are, the easier it will be to handle interview questions and pitch your qualifications to the hiring manager.

You can use the company's website, social media websites, government and industry resources to research the company and the job description. This can not only help you learn more about the company but make connections between your skill set and what the company is looking for.

Practice Beforehand 

Practice answering some interview questions, so you're comfortable responding to the most common questions employers ask. This type of rehearsing will help you feel confident on the day of the interview. 

Practicing will also help you keep your answers concise, but more importantly, it can help you manage your reactions and answers to questions that can make you defensive. It can also help you avoid blaming others, former employers and co-workers, that may not work in your favor.

Sell Yourself 

Think of yourself as the product, and be prepared to sell yourself. To do so effectively, you'll need to be able to share why you're qualified for the job. Here's how to answer questions about your qualifications. You'll also want to make it clear during the interview that you're interested in this specific job at this specific company — not just any job that's available, at any company. 

What you say — and how you say it — matters.

Your verbal communication is important. Don't use slang. Speak clearly and definitely. If you need to think about a response to an interview question, it's fine to take a minute. It's better to think before you talk than to stumble over your words. You'll want to appear calm and focused, not flustered, while answering questions. This will help you make a good impression on your interviewer. 

On the flip side, you can use non-verbal communication to impress the interviewer. What you don't say during an interview is as important as what you do say. The goal during a job interview is to appear professional and attentive throughout the interview process. 

Dress for the Occasion 

Appearances and how you conduct yourself during the interview are important as well. If you come to an interview chewing gum or drinking coffee, you will already have one strike against you. Too much perfume or not enough deodorant won't help either. Excessive make up, and loud accessories are probably best avoided.

Not being dressed appropriately but professionally for a job interview could work against you. Attempt to learn about the company's culture and dress code while planning your outfit. Does the company follow a conservative business attire policy such as suits or do employees wear business casual?

Treat the interview seriously. Plan your interview outfit ahead of time, leave yourself plenty of travel time so you aren't late, and show up prepared to engage in the conversation. 

Remember to Focus on Listening

You should consider appearing focused even before you step into the interview room. Talking loudly on your cell phone or listening to loud music while waiting for your turn to be interviewed may not been looked upon well. You could take some time to relax or refresh all the preparation you've done for the interview.

It can be easy to get distracted during a job interview. It's stressful, and you're in the hot seat when it comes to having to respond to questions. That said, if you do your best to listen to what the interviewer is asking, it will be easier to frame appropriate responses.

When an interviewer asks you a question, you don't have to respond with the first thing that comes to mind. Listen carefully and take the time to frame a thoughtful response to each of the questions you're asked. But remember, not to take too long to construct your answer either.

Have Questions Ready to Ask

While you may no get the chance to ask questions in all interviews, be prepared to respond when you're asked whether you have any questions. You can ask about the job, the company, and about any details that you'd like to know more about.

Its a good idea to come to an interview prepared with at least five questions for the interviewer. Thoughtful questions reiterate your interest in the position. Avoid asking questions which can be answered by looking at the company website.

If you've been listening, you could use this opportunity to ask the interviewer more details about things they may have mentioned in conversation.

Thank Your Interviewer

Before you leave the interview, be sure to thank the interviewer for their time, and for considering you for the position. Then follow up with an email message or thank-you letter that reiterates your interest in the position, and your thanks for being considered.

Specific Preparation For Different Interview Types

There are different types of interviews and each needs a slightly different approach to preparation. While you are still making a sales pitch for yourself, getting ready for a behavioral interview is very different from bracing yourself for a technical interview.

You can also practice nuances specific to where and how the interview is being conducted.

For example, it is recommended to look directly into the camera for a video interview to give the illusion of eye contact, while for phone interviews you might want to consider standing up to keep the energy up.

Similarly, you may different insight to ace second interviews, lunch and dinner interviews, or interviews conducted in public spaces. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you improve interview skills for introverts?

Interviewing for a job is stressful in general, but it can prove particularly tough for introverted people. Some tips to put an introverted person at ease during the interview process include scheduling your time wisely to space out interviews and interactions, doing your research, practicing tough questions a preparing to make small talk.

How do you improve communication skills for interviews?

While interviewing for a job, how you communicate matters almost as much as what you have to say. Preparation is key to improving both verbal and non-verbal communication skills for an interview. Practice talking about your experience and answering common interview questions to keep your answers concise.

Article Sources

  1. The University of Alabama. "Division of Student Life Career Center - Research Employers."

  2. The University of Alabama. "Division of Student Life Career Center - Interview Questions."

  3. Misssouri State. "Interview Attire: Dress For Success."

  4. University of California Berkley. "Interviewing," Page 3.

  5. University of California Berkley. "Interviewing," Page 7.