A job interview can be considered an opportunity to sell yourself to a potential employer. While this might be a slightly exaggerated description, in some ways it’s true. Interviewers are critiquing you, assessing your skills, evaluating your qualifications, and trying to see whether you are the best fit for their organization.
It's essential to be able to show the hiring manager that you're the best person for the job and have the skills and credentials they need for a successful hire. Here are some tips and tricks that will help you ace your interview and come across as a strong candidate for the job.
Research the Company Before the Interview
Spend some time researching the company prior to the interview. Hiring managers know that they’re dealing with someone who is serious about the position when the candidate has taken the time to learn about the company.
During the interview, try to ask thoughtful questions about the company based on what you’ve found out online.
For startup companies, try to find out who the investors and partners are, as well as how much money they have raised so far. Be aware that a startup job may not be long term (should the new business fail), but getting in on the ground floor of a profitable company can prove lucrative for you down the road.
Plan What You’re Going to Wear
First impressions are the most important in job interviews. That's true whether you're interviewing in-person or on Zoom. If you’re not sure what to wear, ask ahead of time about the workplace dress code. The safe bet is to dress professionally, paying attention to grooming, soothing colors, and tasteful accessories.
If you’re actively seeking employment, have a couple of interview outfits ready. That will help avoid the stress of figuring out what you’re going to wear at the last minute.
Practice Interview Techniques and Responses
Employers sometimes try to challenge interviewees with tough questions to judge their compatibility and to see how they cope under pressure. Expect questions about work experiences, stressful moments, difficult decisions, and where you see yourself in several years.
Practice answering some of the standard interview questions. If you feel overly nervous about the interview, have a family member or friend role play as the interviewer and video record yourself. Dress in that interview outfit you just picked out, so you feel the part.
While no one wants to hire someone who acts mechanically and comes across as too rehearsed, feeling prepared can help you to feel confident enough to be yourself. In turn, this can enable you to better recall relevant details from your past employment during the interview.
Bring some copies of your resume, both to refer to if your brain freezes, and to offer to the people you interview with. If you're interviewing remotely, have your resume nearby so you can refer to it.
For many people, the only way that they do well in interviews is by doing a lot of them. If this applies to you, it may be in your best interest to take an interview, even if you are not very excited about the job.
While you should never let on to an employer that you don’t care that much about the position, putting yourself in the interview “chair” more than once can help you nail the big interview for the job that you really want. And who knows? After the interview, you might find that you do want the job after all.
Prepare for Behavioral Interview Questions
Employers use behavioral questions to dig into past achievements and to predict future performance. Behavioral questions are those that give the interviewer insight into your personality and emotional intelligence in the workplace.
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 learning from failure. Prepare a list of examples to share with the interviewer.
Make a Pit Stop
If you’re stressed and there’s a restroom you can use before you go to the interview, stop in and take a few deep breaths to calm down. Wash and dry your hands to minimize sweaty palms.
If you are a coffee drinker or smoker, or you have a meal before an interview, use a mint or brush your teeth before starting.
Arrive Early, But Not Too Early
Arrive for your interview about 5-10 minutes early. Good employers value punctuality, and if you arrive even a minute late, you will likely give a poor first impression. Arriving more than 10 minutes early can put undue pressure on the interviewer, especially if they have a number of interviews to get through in the day.
If you are unfamiliar with the area where your interview will take place, give yourself plenty of time to recover if you get lost.
Rushing will negatively affect your interview performance, so if you think you might be late, call ahead to advise them of the situation. If you have a reasonable excuse, most employers will understand and may even offer to reschedule.
Be Aware of Your Body Language
Remember to exude confidence—hold your head high, stand straight and tall, hold a slight smile, and relax. Introduce yourself with a smile, a reasonably firm handshake, and a relaxed and self-assured demeanor.
Greet others, and if you’re interviewing with more than one person, follow the interviewer’s lead to sit down or move to another room. Do your best to enjoy the interaction as much as possible. Keep it professional at all times.
Nonverbal communication cues are a major 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. You can show assertiveness by sitting up straight and leaning slightly forward in your chair.
Maintain eye contact with the interviewer without staring him or her down. When you're interviewing remotely look at the camera to make eye contact with your interviewer.
If there are multiple people present in the interview, focus your attention on the individual asking you questions.
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 nerves or eye contact.
Be sensitive to the possibility that the interviewer may not feel comfortable with you taking notes. So, it is appropriate to ask permission before pulling out your notebook and taking notes.
Don’t Ask About Salary or Benefits
Don’t bring up salary on your first interview unless the employer brings it up first. If they ask what you're making at your current place of employment, provide an exact salary or a salary range. If appropriate, you can mention that you feel it might be premature to talk salary. What is most important in the first interview is getting a sense of compatibility between yourself and the company.
Don't ask about benefits unless the interviewer broaches the subject, and never bring up overtime, even to show a willingness to work extra hours. The interviewer will nearly always note that you asked about overtime, and they may doubt your determination to work efficiently during regular work hours.
Always Be Honest
Don’t lie if you were laid off or terminated from a previous job. The truth will likely come out before being hired.
If you lie and secure the position despite your dishonesty, your future at the company will be in jeopardy once the truth does come out.
Answer with the facts as best you can. Be open and confident, providing valid reasons for any part of your employment history that you are not proud of.
If you were laid off, make it clear that your performance did not contribute to the decision and that you can provide references from the company that laid you off. If you were terminated or fired, you can use a softer phrase, such as “let go.” Stay focused on the skills and suitability for the job presently on the table. References and letters of recommendation are a major help in this part of the process.
Have Questions Ready to Ask
A job interview is an investigation into your experience, achievements, and compatibility with the company culture. But it's also your opportunity to find out if the company is a good fit for you. You can demonstrate your intelligence and communication skills (active listening) by asking thoughtful questions. Here are some examples:
- What are some of the challenges facing the company?
- Where do you see the company in 5 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?
Here's a list of more questions to ask the hiring manager during a job interview.
Follow-Up After the Interview
In 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.
If there's something you had meant to mention during the interview but didn't, use your thank-you note to share your thoughts.
How to Ace the Interview
Don’t Feel Nervous About Being Nervous. Most interviewers understand that those they interview are nervous. Employers want to see how you respond under pressure, not how well you act like that pressure doesn’t exist.
Have a Conversation. Everyone in the room of an interview is a human being. Do your best to relax, listen carefully, and simply engage in the conversation as it is being led by the interviewer(s). The more you do to prepare ahead of time, the better you will be able to relax in the room.
Interviews Improve with Practice. For many people, the only way that they do well in interviews is by doing a lot of them. If you're one of those people, the more interviews you do, the better.