Interviews are nerve-wracking experiences, even for the most confident among us. They’re also something nearly every one of us has to face during her life — often many times over. While the idea of facing yet another round of anxiety-provoking interviews may have you on edge, there are some guidelines that can help you get through them with flying colors. There’s no magic formula for success, of course, but this tried-and-true interview advice will at least take some of the edge off and make you feel a little more confident.
21 interview tips.
1. Research the company or organization.
Inevitably, your interview will ask some question that will require you to understand the mission of and organization itself. It could be something along the lines of “Why do you want to work here?” or “What do you know about the company?” In order to have an answer ready to go, you need to know a good deal about the organization.
Dig as deep as you can. While the company website and social media accounts are a good place to start, try to go further. See if there’s anything about the company in the news and read press releases. Look at their blog. If you know anybody who works there or have contacts who know people who work there, chat with them about the company culture and ins and outs of the business.
Not only will you gain a greater understanding of what the company stands for, but you’ll also get a better sense of what it’s like to actually work there and whether you’ll fit in. Additionally, this will give you a sense of the kind of person they’re looking for, which can help you prepare for your interview.
2. Research the role.
Perhaps you have the same or a similar title as the role in question, but no two positions are exactly alike. You should get a sense of what the job will entail by starting with the job description, before talking to others who are familiar with the position or work with the company if you can. If you know the name of the previous person who was in the position, peruse her LinkedIn profile to see what kind of work she did and what she’s doing now. Some of these ideas may not be possible, but do your best.
In any case, you should always research the general requirements of the position at hand. See what the position looks like at different companies within the industry. You might be able to find examples of work the previous person in the role produced, too. This will help you know what aspects of your experience you should empahsize in your interview.
3. Research the interviewers.
Often, a recruiter or HR represntative will let you know with whom you’ll be meeting prior to the interview. If they don’t, you can always ask. Once you have a list, learn more about your interviewers by Googling them and searching for them on LinkedIn. This will allow you to gain insight into their backgrounds, areas of expertise and interests. You can guide your own responses accordingly — for instance, you might ask about an area in which an interviewer specializes.
4. Develop a good response to “Why do you want this job?”
Inevitably, you’ll be asked some variation of this common interview question. “Why do you want to work here?” and “What attracts you to X company?” are some other versions of this question. The research you conducted about the organization will help guide and inform your response. You should have some concrete reasons as to why this position and company appeal to you. While the interviewer knows that you’re likely interviewing elsewhere, they want to see what sets them apart. After all, they want to hire someone who will be excited to work there and won’t be thinking about leaving any time soon.
At the same time, be careful about disparaging your current or former employer. Rather than discussing what you don’t like about that workplace, emphasize what you do like about this one. Focusing on what you don’t like will give your interview a negative tone and leave a bad taste in your interviewer’s mouth.
Pick out two or three conrete examples of what you admire about the company — preferably something you can’t find anywhere else or isn’t very common in other workplaces.
5. Make a list of your skills, accomplishments and qualifications.
An interview is a time to showcase your achievements. Spend some time making a list of the ones you want to highlight the most — those that best correlate to the job. Actually write them down to help you remember. Come up with some examples or anecdotes to ground your skills and qualifications. This will both add color to what you say and help demonstrate how they function in the real world and apply to your work.
6. Prepare for common interview questions.
We’ve discussed a few of the most common interview questions, such as “Why are you interested in this role?” There are many you’ll likely encounter, including:
• What makes you unique?
• Why are you leaving your current job?
And the list goes on. Check out our guide to answering these common questions — it’s best to be thoroughly prepared in case they come up. (At the same time, don’t memorize your responses; just make some notes about what you want to say so it doesn’t sound rehearsed.)
7. Know your strengths and weaknesses.
You may be asked to share your strengths and weaknesses. This may be a challenge, so come up with a few in advance. Weaknesses, especially, can be difficult to address. A common response is to sidestep the question by spinning a strength as a weakness (e.g. “I work too hard). Instead, try discussing a challenge you’ve overcome or something you’re working on improving.
8. Have concrete examples of successes ready to go.
We discussed how you should ground your skills by using examples. You should also have some concrete examples of successes you’ve had in general. You can use these to address a variety of questions, including “Tell me about yourself.”
9. Be able to tell the interviewer why you’re looking for a new job.
Many interviewers will want to know why you’re unsatisfied in your current role. There’s a such thing as oversharing here — you don’t want to disparage a current or previous employer, after all. Instead, focus on something positive — for instance, you might be looking for new challenges or growth opportunities.
10. Be honest.
If you lie, they’ll find out. So don’t. Does that mean you have to share every fault? Absolutely not. But don’t be dishonest.
11. Be confident but not cocky.
This is a delicate balance. You should be overly confidence, but being too modest will keep from showing what you have to offer. Try to strike a balance between the two, being deferential to your interviewer while also speaking candidly about your accomplishments.
12. Clean up your online presence.
Most employers will look at your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Make sure there’s nothing you won’t want them to see. Delete anything suspect; for example, those pictures of you partying should probably go. They don’t exactly scream professional.
While you don’t want to come across as too rehearsed, you should still practice with a friend or trusted colleague before the interview. Go over common interview questions and questions you expect to come up. Practice delivering a confident response, being as concise and economical with your language as possible.
14. Get your documents in order.
Prepare a folder with documents you’ll needs, such as:
• A list of references and their contact information
• At least three copies of your resume
• A portfolio of your work
You should also bring a pen and a notepad.
15. Dress the part.
Even if the employer has no dress code or seems casual, you should still dress up for an interviewer. For some places, this might mean business casual, while others may be more formal and require a suit.
Make sure your outfit is clean (take it to the dry cleaner if you haven’t worn it in a while) and ironed before the day of. Lay it out the night before so you’re not scrambling to put yourself together in the morning of the interview.
16. Have questions ready to ask the interviewer.
The best questions are the ones that you can develop during in the interview, bouncing off of something that comes up in conversation. Still, you should have three or four prepared ahead of time just in case.
Not sure what to ask? Here are some questions to get you started.
17. Get into the right mindset.
This means getting a good night’s sleep, eating a balanced breakfast (think protein) and maybe going to the gym or for a run. This will help you get into the right headspace and feel energized yet relaxed.
18. Arrive on time.
By on time, we mean 15 minutes early. If you’re worried about traffic or delays in your commute, give yourself an extra cushion. You absolutely don’t want to be late.
19. Watch your body language.
• Make eye contact
• Sit up straight
• Deliver a strong handshake
• Play with your hair
• Touch your face
• Bite your nails
• Cross your arms
20. Listen to the interviewer.
When the interviewer is speaking, take care to really listen. She will be able to tell if you’re zoning out — plus, this will derail the interview, since you won’t know how to respond to a question or keep the conversation going. Moreover, paying attention will help you develop better questions to ask at the end.
21. Follow up.
After the interview, write individual notes to everyone with whom you spoke thanking them for their time and expressing your interest in the position. If you can reference something you discussed, all the better. Send it within 24 hours of your interview.
What is the STAR method of interviewing?
This is a common method of tackling behavioral questions, which ask you to present scenarios in which you’ve handled challenges at work. The method stands for situation, task, action and result, and to prepare, you’ll consider each aspect of the scenario according to the associated descripter. Learn more about how to use the STAR method.
What are the 10 most common interview questions and answers?
We’ve touched on some of the most common interview questions you’ll encounter. Here are 10 particularly challenging and common quetions you may hear, plus interview advice on how to answer them.