Let's face it: interviewing for a job is stressful, nerve-wracking, and sometimes pretty discouraging. That's why Fairygodboss has compiled all our best interview advice into a one-stop guide designed to answer every question you might have.
The collected wisdom encompasses decades of combined career experience across a wide range of women in diverse industries all across the U.S. So, what we're saying is, we've got you covered so you can focus on what should be your No. 1 priority when you're job searching: acing that interview!
Putting together your interview outfit doesn't have to be hard — you just have to do a little research and choose a look. If you're interviewing at a casual startup, that might mean business casual. A more corporate environment might mean a suit or dress.
As long as you look professional, well-groomed and appropriate, you should pass muster. But if you need help picking out what to wear, we have some of the best fashion influencers to follow for work outfit inspiration.
For an even more detailed list, a Fairygodboss career coach gives a full rundown of what to bring to an interview.
Aim to arrive about 10 minutes prior to your time slot.
That means planning backward from that time to account for how long it will take to get there (with traffic!), park and find the office building, and any unavoidable delays. While you might think the earlier the better for checking in, you might want to think twice.
According to an expert career coach, "arriving more than 15 minutes early before your interview can make interviewers feel pressure to start the meeting early." If you do end up arriving extremely early, take a walk around the block or take a few minutes to meditate in your car before walking in.
If you're running late, always call or email ahead to explain the delay. And be realistic — if something happens that you know will push you later than, say, 30 minutes, ask to reschedule. This should go without saying, but save rescheduling for emergencies.
To start, expect the usual "Tell me about yourself," which should prompt you to give a well-rehearsed, short and dynamic elevator pitch. Molly Owens, a career coach and Fairygodboss contributor, shares her tips on how to smartly reply to "tell my about yourself," including: "Start with a description that can apply to both your professional and personal self. For instance, you might say, 'I like to think of myself as a relationship engineer.' Then, go on to talk about your strengths. Share your most recent accomplishments, as long as they align with the job for which you’re interviewing."
Next, you'll likely hear:
...and a number of other questions, both general and specific to the role itself. Prepare yourself by conducting a practice interview with friends, family, or acquaintances.
You should also prepare for multiple people asking you the same questions (if you're meeting with multiple people separately in one day, which is common in the startup space), or for a panel interview. In the latter scenario, you'd be in the hot seat as you answer questions from multiple interviewers while all in the same room.
It doesn't matter what step of the interview process you're at: phone screen, first-round interview, or final round — asking good questions can make or break the hiring decision. Engaging with the hiring manager, recruiter, or interviewer (who is your potential new boss) is how you build rapport. And questions are a key part in the process.
You can't go wrong asking:
Beyond the questions interviewees expect (as well as your company specific screening questions), you could try any of these 20 creative questions. Choices include:
Get prepped and ready to ace a phone interview with 15 of the most common interview questions (and how to answer them!). Take question No. 7, for example: "What did you enjoy the least in your previous positions?" If you don't have an articulate response at-the-ready for that one, add that to your list!
"Watch your energy," and more top-tier advice from 15 phone interview tips by Fairygodboss's CEO, Georgene Huang. Another nugget from our CEO: "Studies suggest that you make a first impression on your interviewer in less time than you might think...on the phone, you make your first impression by the sound and tone of your voice. Just as someone meeting you for a face-to-face interview first registers a lot of visual information, during a telephone call, your voice — its cadence, rhythm, timbre, and volume — serves as that first impression. Our advice? Don’t do a phone interview first thing in the morning when you’ve yet to fully wake up or warm up your vocal chords much."
As the interviewer, you can start by saying, "Tell me what you like most about this role and our company?" (Here are four more of the best questions to ask when conducting an interview.)
A recruiting veteran of 15 years, Michele Mavi, writes, "Don't make the interviewer dig for answers." She continues, "Solid candidates recognize what the interviewer is trying to uncover based on the line of questioning and respond accordingly. This means they don’t just say, 'Oh, I have great organizational skills,' but they actually offer unprompted examples of how they organize their priorities and how their organizational skills positively impacted the outcome of a certain project."
Impress hiring managers by engaging in chit-chat. Fairygodboss's editors write, "We are all human beings, and sometimes it’s wise to try to break the ice with some casual conversation. You can talk about whether or local sports or recent events. However, don’t go overboard. Your goal is to establish some sort of genuine human connection and if you can find something you have in common, that’s a great way to warm up and establish a friendly tone for the interview. Just be sure to bring it back to the job and the company."
Take it from the top: Romy Newman, co-founder of Fairygodboss, writes, "I simply will not hire anyone who doesn't send a timely thank you note following the job interview." Newman recommends sending an email within 24 hours of the interview. That way, you're still at the top of the interviewer's mind, and you demonstrate good manners and interest right off the bat.
Here are three things you'll want to include in your thank you:
Whether you send an email and a hand-written card is your choice, but you have to send one. Even if you don't think the job is quite right for you, you're thanking the company for its time and interest in you. And, the world is often smaller than you realize. Hiring managers often know one another. Leaving a good impression (even if you think it's overly polite!) is key.
If you're still not sure you're hitting the mark, check your note against our roundup of 11 mistakes to avoid in your thank you note.
Let's say you've followed Newman's advice and sent a thank you note or email within 24 hours of your interview. Now, you're in the hot seat waiting to hear back from the hiring manager to see if you made it to the next step in the hiring process.
When should you ping them? How often can you follow up before becoming a nuisance? Fairygodboss contributor Samantha Shankman writes, "If you don’t hear back within 4-5 business days, send a second brief follow-up letting the company know that you are still excited about the opportunity and offer to send a brief sample of the work that you would be doing for the company." That's assuming the hiring manager didn't respond to your thank you note with, "we'll be in touch when something changes." As a candidate, it can be easy to think you're out of the running if you don't hear anything in a week or two. However, hiring decisions take time. In some cases, you may be waiting a month or more while the company interviews other candidates, before you hear any word back.
If you decide the job is not for you in this time, send an appreciate quick note thanking the interviewer for her time. Let her know you will not be taking the role and wish her the best of luck in her search.
Sometimes when it rains, it pours. You're on the last dollars of your emergency fund, you're running late to an interview for the job you desperately need, and the unthinkable happens — you get into a car accident. Things like that happen, and interviewers understand. In that case, you are more than excused for asking to reschedule your interview (check our phone script templates and email templates to make it even easier!).
But in some cases, it may not be so cut in dry. That's why we get into the weeds about when it's best to cancel vs. when you should reschedule.