What does it mean to perform well during an interview? Well, you’ll need to show that you have the right background and experience, as well as being a good match for the role and the company’s culture.
Think of this as an amped-up, in-person version of the same work you did on the job application to obtain an interview.
But you'll need to do more than check off the boxes on your interviewer's list—you want the person you speak with to feel excited about making an offer. That means selling yourself to interviewers, to make it clear that you’re a strong candidate. Sound overwhelming? Here’s how to get started.
Carry Yourself With Confidence
If you feel unsure about yourself during the interview, it’ll show.
Do everything you can to outwardly project confidence when you meet with interviewers.
What you say in response to questions is essential (more on that later) but how you say it, as well as your overall appearance and how you carry yourself, is also meaningful. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Mind Your Body Language
Are you slumped in the chair? Fidgeting? Avoiding eye contact? These no-nos can make you appear unfocused, uninterested in the job, or unsure of yourself. Maintain good posture, make eye contact when you shake hands, and sit in a position that radiates engagement with the conversation. Here are body language tips to follow during your next interview.
Watch Your Word Choices
Nerves can make verbal tics even more prominent. Try to avoid saying "um" or "like" too much—and, curb any tendency you have to engage in up-talk—speaking with a rising tone at the end of each sentence. Uptalk is a speech pattern that can make you seem immature. Recording yourself practicing interview questions—or having a friend practice with you—can help you identify these habits.
Choose an Industry and Interview-Appropriate Outfit
There is no one answer for what to wear during an interview. Do wear something you’re comfortable in (if you have an itchy seam or keep tugging at a hemline, interviewers may notice) but also choose an outfit that’s suitable for the specific interview. What’s appropriate for an interview at a fashion magazine, tech start-up, and retail job differs.
Practice Answers, but Make Sure to Develop Ones That Are Specific and Memorable
It’s good to practice what you’ll say in response to common interview questions. Interviewers will expect you to be prepared. But just because the questions are common, doesn’t mean your answers should be!
Remember: you want to sell yourself during the interview, and no one is eager to buy a humdrum product.
Aim to be memorable, so your responses stick in the interviewer’s memory, even days after a conversation.
As you practice your responses, keep these tips in mind:
Be specific when you give an example. Don’t just say, “My work on that project saved the company money.” Tell interviewers how much money and what you did to save it. Avoid vague answers.
Tell a story as you relate something you have done or experienced. It’s easy to say you’re a team-playing, detail-oriented self-starter. These buzzwords come up in job listings, but it’s your job to translate them into stories about yourself. That proves you have the quality.
So instead of saying, “I’m a self-starter,” say, “When I came on board, there was a paper- and digital-based workflow for the monthly report. I researched, and removing the paper-based workflow resulted in 10 percent savings and also removed duplicate work. I presented my findings to the executive team, and we transitioned to a new, digital-only routine the following month. The staff was relieved, and we’re all happy to spare the environment.”
Keep It brief in your replies but answer the direct question. Don’t ramble in your answers. It’s better to pause for a second to frame your thoughts than dive in and wind up babbling for minutes upon minutes. Be respectful of the interviewer's time, and pay attention to cues. (If interviewers seem bored, they probably are—wrap it up!).
Following these strategies will help you avoid bland responses.
Know What Interviewers Want
In some ways, what interviewers want is obvious: a candidate who can do the job well, and fit in with the company. But this will vary across positions, industries, and companies. To gain insight into employer wants and needs, research the company and industry. If it’s been a while (say, since you wrote your cover letter) analyze the job description.
Think always: What can I do for the company?
Will you help them sell more widgets, resolve customer complaints faster, streamline the workflow, or make sure customers are happy? Figure out how you’ll be beneficial, then make sure it’s evident in your interview question response.
Put Your Strengths on Display
Interviews are not the time for modesty! Rather, it’s a moment when it’s appropriate to say, “I did XYZ” or “My work helped do ABC.” Avoid saying “we” and make sure to mention your accomplishments. If this feels uncomfortably like bragging, consider framing achievements in terms of other people's comments:
- My coworkers voted me the best team player two years running.
- In my annual review, my manager was grateful for my organizational abilities.
Follow these steps, and you’ll be sure to impress interviewers with your confidence and suitability for the position.
The Best Way to Ask for the Job
One of the best ways to close the deal is to ask for the job at the end of the interview. There are strategic ways you can do that without coming across as obnoxious or push. Here's how—and how not—to ask for the job during an interview.