10 Job Interview Tips and Tricks

Businesswoman waiting at an office
••• David Woolley

You hear time and again that you need to sell yourself in a job interview. One of the keys to doing so successfully is planning your pitch ahead of time. Consider these interview tips and tricks your 10-point plan to acing a job interview.

Do Your Research

Research the company and the interviewers. Hirers know they’re dealing with someone who is serious about the position when you’re prepared with relevant data. Mention press releases and revenue numbers, quote statistics and be familiar with executives’ backgrounds.

For startup companies, be aware of who the venture capital investor is and which partners sit on their board, as well as how much money they have raised so far. Savvy online searching can turn up valuable information on most companies. Ultimately, know the company, the industry, and competitors, and use their product if available.

Visualize and Rehearse

Hirers challenge applicants with tough questions to judge their company fit and see how they cope under pressure. Expect questions about difficult work experiences, stressful jobs, your favorite job, and where you will be in several years. Prepare to reveal the ideal manager and company you'd like to work for.

Visualize the interview and questions that could arise, and project how a successful interview experience will play out. Rehearse they way you’ll present yourself, and practice answers to important interview questions for your field. Mock interviews prepare you for most possibilities and help with nerves as well. Smooth delivery shows knowledge of subject matter and allows for good rapport to develop, and the more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.

Prepare for Behavioral Questions

Hirers use behavioral questions to dig into past achievements and predict future performance. These questions identify applicants' key competencies and skills, so it’s vital to prepare answers to match your skills to the employer’s requirements. Focus on past achievements that highlight your abilities in leadership, teamwork, problem-solving, conflict resolution, and responding to failures.

Appearance Matters

First impressions are important in job interviews. If appropriate, ask ahead of time about what to wear. The safe bet is to dress professionally, paying attention to grooming, colors, and accessories.

If you are a coffee drinker or smoker, or you have lunch/breakfast before an interview, use a mint or brush your teeth before starting. Refrain from chewing gum, be conscious of how much perfume/cologne you wear and remember to exude confidence—head high, stand straight and tall, hold a slight smile, and relax.

Arrive Early, But Not Too Early

Arrive for your interview about five minutes early. Some interviewers are time-sensitive and notice if you're even one minute late, dulling initial impressions. Don’t arrive too early and put pressure on the interviewer if they are not ready for you yet. Give yourself ample time to reach the location. Rushing will affect your interview performance, so if you think you might be late, call ahead to advise them of the situation.

Be Aware of Body Language

Introduce yourself with a smile, a handshake that matches the firmness of the interviewer's, and a relaxed and self-assured demeanor. Greet others on the panel and follow the interviewer’s lead to sit down or to head elsewhere.

Nonverbal communication cues are part of the impression you make. A weak handshake, for example, shows a lack of authority. An averted gaze signals distrust or disinterest in the job. Show assertiveness by sitting up straight and leaning slightly forward in your chair. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer without making things awkward. You should look at each interviewer if it’s a panel but address your answer primarily to the asker.

Take Notes

Bring a notepad and pen to take notes during each interview. This is an effective way to show your interest in the job and your attention to detail. It also gives you an opportunity to look down at times if you struggle with eye contact.

Don’t Ask About Money

Never bring up money on your first interview. If they ask what you're making, be honest and provide your exact salary or a salary range. Indicate it is still premature to talk numbers and that you're interested in evaluating the entire opportunity rather than the salary alone.

Don't ask about benefits unless the hirer broaches the subject, and never bring up overtime, even to show a willingness to work extra hours. The interviewer almost always will remember overtime was discussed, and they may doubt your ability to work efficiently during regular work hours.

Be Honest

Don’t lie if you were laid off or a previous job was terminated. The truth will come out, and if you secure the position, your future at the company will be in jeopardy. Answer with the facts. Be open and confident, providing valid reasons for losing previous positions. If you were laid off, make it clear that your performance didn’t contribute to the decision. If it was a termination, use a softer term like “let go.” Then bring your skills and suitability for the job on offer back into focus. If possible, direct the hirer to references who can vouch for your skills and performance.

Ask Questions

A job interview is an investigation into your experience, achievements, and cultural fit. But it's also your opportunity to find out if the company is a good fit for you. You can demonstrate how well you communicate with good questions. Examples of solid questions to ask:

  • What are some of the challenges facing the company?
  • Where do you see the company in five to 10 years?
  • What does success mean to you and to the company?
  • What have previous employees in this position gone on to do?
  • I believe I’m a great fit for this company. Is there anything else I can do to dispel any doubts?

Follow Up

Always follow up an interview within 24 hours. Email each interviewer or, if you want to make a lasting impression, send a written thank-you card.

Inside the email or letter, thank the interviewer for his or her time, reiterate your interest in the opportunity, and mention one topic from your notes that addresses an area of the interviewer's focus. Most interviews entail stress and nerves. This mustn’t interfere with reaching your career goals. Pre-interview preparation leads to strong performance and boosts interview success.