Before the interview
1. Research the company
Educating yourself on the company you’re interviewing for serves two important purposes. First, it helps ensure that the company’s mission and culture align with your own interests, career goals, and values. Second, the ability to authentically incorporate this knowledge into an interview shows that you are thoughtful, well-prepared, and truly interested in becoming a member of their team.
Prepare yourself by reading the website thoroughly, following their social media feeds, checking any interesting or relevant results on Google, searching reviews on GlassDoor, and reviewing the LinkedIn profiles of anyone participating in the interview. Take notes to help you formulate questions that demonstrate a genuine interest in the company and what they do.
2. Reread the job description
Take the time to read the job description again carefully prior to your interview. Make a list of the skills, experience, or qualifications you have that prove that you’re a viable candidate, using specific examples or quantifiable metrics as often as possible.
Also, pay attention to the specific adjectives used when they describe the type of candidate they’re seeking in the job listing; look for opportunities to include those words (or synonyms) into your interview answers or relay anecdotes that exhibit those qualities when you’re asked behavioral questions.
3. Prepare for the typical job interview questions
The number-one way to learn how to ace an interview is to come prepared with strong answers to interview questions. While you won’t know exactly what will be asked, you can increase your odds of doing well by researching common job interview questions and coming up with 50- to 100-word answers. Be prepared to answer questions like:
4. Get your backstory right
Despite being the most knowledgeable party about your own work history, there’s something about being asked to summarize your experience at the beginning of a call that can cause your thoughts to come to a screeching halt.
Take some time before the interview to write down a short outline that sums up your professional life, making sure to highlight any positions or experience that seem particularly relevant to the job. Then practice saying it out loud in a way that feels friendly, natural, and confident — it’s important that you don’t sound like you’re reading or reciting from a list.
5. Prepare smart questions in advance
Remember how you reviewed the job description and researched the company? That particular prep work is about to help prove that you’re interested in this specific position for this exact company — not just someone who stumbled in on a random and indiscriminate job hunt.
At some point during the interview, you’ll most likely be invited to ask your own questions and this is an opportunity that you shouldn’t pass up. Demonstrate that you’re eager to learn, interested in the position and the company, and have a general understanding of what they need and what they do through a series of thoughtful questions. Consider questions like:
6. Is your interview remote? Check your equipment and find a quiet place
Phone or video interviews often precede in-person interviews lately. Although everyone is familiar with the frustration of technical difficulties, a bad connection, dim lighting, or a noisy background can distract from the great impression you’re hoping to make.
7. Practice your job interview
Confidence is key to crushing an interview. It may feel silly at first, but the best way to work on your interview skills is by rehearsing. Ask a friend or family member to play the role of interviewer or hiring manager and set up a video call or meeting.
Are you talking too fast or rambling? Make sure your faux interviewer understands that critical feedback is essential to your success. Ask them open-ended questions about what went well and how you could improve.
20 Tips for Great Job Interviews
1. Research the industry and company.
An interviewer may ask how you perceive his company’s position in its industry, who the firm’s competitors are, what its competitive advantages are, and how it should best go forward. For this reason, avoid trying to thoroughly research a dozen different industries. Focus your job search on just a few industries instead.
2. Clarify your “selling points” and the reasons you want the job.
Prepare to go into every interview with three to five key selling points in mind, such as what makes you the best candidate for the position. Have an example of each selling point prepared (“I have good communication skills. For example, I persuaded an entire group to . “). And be prepared to tell the interviewer why you want that job – including what interests you about it, what rewards it offers that you find valuable, and what abilities it requires that you possess. If an interviewer doesn’t think you’re really, really interested in the job, he or she won’t give you an offer – no matter how good you are!
3. Anticipate the interviewer’s concerns and reservations.
There are always more candidates for positions than there are openings. So interviewers look for ways to screen people out. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they might not want to hire you (“I don’t have this,” “I’m not that,” etc.). Then prepare your defense: “I know you may be thinking that I might not be the best fit for this position because [their reservation]. But you should know that [reason the interviewer shouldn’t be overly concerned].”
4. Prepare for common interview questions.
Every “how to interview” book has a list of a hundred or more “common interview questions.” (You might wonder just how long those interviews are if there are that many common questions!) So how do you prepare? Pick any list and think about which questions you’re most likely to encounter, given your age and status (about to graduate, looking for a summer internship). Then prepare your answers so you won’t have to fumble for them during the actual interview.
5. Line up your questions for the interviewer.
Come to the interview with some intelligent questions for the interviewer that demonstrate your knowledge of the company as well as your serious intent. Interviewers always ask if you have any questions, and no matter what, you should have one or two ready. If you say, “No, not really,” he or she may conclude that you’re not all that interested in the job or the company. A good all-purpose question is, “If you could design the ideal candidate for this position from the ground up, what would he or she be like?”
If you’re having a series of interviews with the same company, you can use some of your prepared questions with each person you meet (for example, “What do you think is the best thing about working here?” and “What kind of person would you most like to see fill this position?”) Then, try to think of one or two others during each interview itself.
6. Practice, practice, practice.
It’s one thing to come prepared with a mental answer to a question like, “Why should we hire you?” It’s another challenge entirely to say it out loud in a confident and convincing way. The first time you try it, you’ll sound garbled and confused, no matter how clear your thoughts are in your own mind! Do it another 10 times, and you’ll sound a lot smoother and more articulate.
But you shouldn’t do your practicing when you’re “on stage” with a recruiter; rehearse before you go to the interview. The best way to rehearse? Get two friends and practice interviewing each other in a “round robin”: one person acts as the observer and the “interviewee” gets feedback from both the observer and the “interviewer.” Go for four or five rounds, switching roles as you go. Another idea (but definitely second-best) is to tape record your answer and then play it back to see where you need to improve. Whatever you do, make sure your practice consists of speaking aloud. Rehearsing your answer in your mind won’t cut it.
7. Score a success in the first five minutes.
Some studies indicate that interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first five minutes of the interview – and then spend the rest of the interview looking for things to confirm that decision! So what can you do in those five minutes to get through the gate? Come in with energy and enthusiasm, and express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time. (Remember: She may be seeing a lot of other candidates that day and may be tired from the flight in. So bring in that energy!)
Also, start off with a positive comment about the company – something like, “I’ve really been looking forward to this meeting [not “interview”]. I think [the company] is doing great work in [a particular field or project], and I’m really excited by the prospect of being able to contribute.”
Be confident, keep cool
If you’re not feeling confident, try to fake it! Maintain good posture, smile and make eye contact. The way you present yourself shows that you’ll feel comfortable talking to future co-workers and customers. Remember not to talk too fast. It’s normal to do when you’re nervous, but try to talk at the same speed you would to a family member or friend. It’s also ok to acknowledge that you’re feeling a little nervous with the interviewer – they understand that you’re trying your best. Sometimes simply acknowledging how you feel can reduce the pressure.
In person: If your interviewer offers you a glass of water, take it! If you’re feeling nervous your mouth can get dry, and having a glass of water helps you stop and compose yourself if you need to gather your thoughts.
Online: Prep your interview space with things you need (water, pen and paper) and remove things that will be a distraction (your phone, pets and other members of your household). Remember to speak clearly so you can be heard through the technology.