Tips for Succeeding at a Job Interview

What to Do and Not to Do at a Job Interview

Young applicant shaking hands with an interviewer at the beginning of a job Interview.
••• Copyright Ariel Skelley/Blend Images/Getty Images

It's important to make a positive first impression and convince employers you would be a good fit for their company to succeed in a job interview. It's also important to avoid making major mistakes that could raise questions about your professionalism or competence and cost you a chance at getting hired. Use this strategy to navigate a job interview properly so that you can land the perfect job.

Be Prepared

Analyze the job requirements and the employer and be prepared to share compelling reasons why you would be a good fit. Prepare and rehearse what you plan to say, including answers to common interview questions such as the dreaded inquiry about your weaknesses. Carefully review your resume and be prepared to discuss challenges and successes in each position listed in the document. 

Make a Good First Impression

Dress the part of someone successful in your chosen field. Make sure your clothing is appropriate for the work environment, fits well, and is neatly pressed. Greet your interviewer with a firm—but not bone-crunching—a handshake and a warm smile. Sit up straight and lean slightly forward during the interview. Make regular—but not piercing or staring—eye contact. Show energy and enthusiasm through your vocal tone and listen carefully to each question before responding. When the interview is finished, thank the interviewers for the opportunity and reiterate your interest in the position. Follow up with a letter, card, or email to each interviewer, expressing the same thanks and interest.

Project a Positive Image

Describe specific situations or challenges you have faced, the actions you took to intervene, and the results you generated. Pay particular attention to how you have positively impacted the bottom line for past employers. Examples may include saving money, increasing sales, retaining staff, recruiting employees, securing funding, or improving quality.

Ask the Right Questions

Remember that you are interviewing the employer as much as the employer is interviewing you. Focus on questions about specific expectations and goals, both short-term and long-term for the company and the position in question. Good questions help you to discover if the employer is a good fit for you. They show the employer that you've done your homework and have a sincere interest in the company.

Avoid Criticism or Negativity

Never criticize any previous employers, supervisors, or co-workers during a job interview. It can raise questions about your ability to work well with others or to accept accountability. As well, don't fixate on your weaknesses or treat them as hindrances. Be prepared to acknowledge them, but address them as an opportunity to learn and improve.

Use Honesty

Avoid the temptation to exaggerate when addressing your skills and accomplishments. It's important to put a positive spin on what you've done and what you can do, but it all needs to be truthful. Being caught in even the smallest of white lies can raise questions about your character and fitness for the position in question.

Avoid Lateness or Excessive Earliness

Be on time for your interview and remember to take into account that you'll likely want a few minutes to situate yourself, organize your notes, and maybe use the restroom. You should leave early enough to arrive at the interview no more than five to 10 minutes before it starts. Arriving too far in advance of the scheduled time can leave a negative impression and possibly raise questions about your time management skills or ability to follow directions.

Use Common Sense

Dressing or behaving too casually can raise questions about your professionalism, as can actions such as checking your cell phone during the interview. If the interview involves a meal, never order an alcoholic beverage or select an entree that is difficult to eat gracefully. In general, follow your gut. If something seems like it would be inappropriate for a job interview, it likely is not a good choice.

Last Piece of Advice

Be confident about your abilities and skills, and know that the company would be fortunate to have you. Showing a company that you believe in yourself will help convince them to believe in you as well. Also, stay calm and focused to ensure that information is communicated and understood, thus demonstrating your people and communication skills.