See the results of our 2022 Personal Finance Study!
10 Tips to Nail Your Job Interview
Applying for jobs in 2019 is like sitting on a desert island, writing a message, putting that message into a bottle, and then throwing that bottle directly into a black hole.
Unless you know someone who works at the company you’re applying to, you’re probably applying through some sort of online portal in exchange for an automated confirmation email. Odds are you’ll never hear from them again. Or maybe you’ll get a rejection email months after you’d forgotten about the position.
It’s a numbers game: The more jobs you apply to, the more likely you’ll be to get a job interview. But the challenges don’t end there! You still have to nail the interview. Here are ten tips for doing just that.
1. Do your research.
Acing an interview is often about more than just having the right skills and knowledge for the position. It’s also important to have knowledge of the specific company you’re interviewing with.
“Research the company and have questions about the role and the organization,” urged certified human resources professional Rebecca Francoline. “As a recruiter, it is so disappointing to get to the end of the conversation and the person has no questions at all. You will be spending 40+ hours a week at work, you should want to know more.”
Dave Lane, CEO of Inventiv Tools, offered some good resources to consider when researching your potential employer:
“First and foremost, do your research on your potential employer. Read their website, find key team members—especially those who may be in your interview—on LinkedIn and other social media, and learn what makes them stand out from other potential employers.
"Researching the company for an hour or two will give you great opportunities during the interview to show how deep your interest in the company goes. Your research is a jumping-off point for helping interviewers go off script and make a real connection with you.
“To show you're someone that does their homework, a statement like this goes a long way: ‘I read on your site that you're doing X, which I find interesting. I didn't see anyone else in the industry doing this. What led you to do X?’”
2. Dress for the job you want (as long as it’s the one you’re interviewing for).
While it might be nice to live in a society where employers don’t take your appearance into account, it is not the society we live in. As such, the way you dress is going to make a strong first impression, and you want it to be a positive one.
“Visit the company's Instagram to see what the company's vibe is,” suggested Christian Eilers, a career expert at Zety. “If the employees dress casual and an office dog is running around—that's a signal not to wear a suit and tie for your interview. Try to blend in and be respectful of the company's culture. Show them that you fit in. Smile. If you are stressed or nervous—feel free to admit it and make a small joke about it. That's all natural."
That being said, being too casual can also be a significant misstep.
“This may seem obvious but the trend seems to be leaning towards business casual outfits,” explained Certified Lifestyle & Leadership Coach Joanne Newborn. “Regardless, wear the suit, wear the professional dress, and wear the right shoes. There is a saying that goes… ‘Dress for the role you WANT, not the role you have.’ Fantastic advice.
"Be sure to wow them (and I mean anyone you come in contact with at the company) with your first impression. That is the one the interviewer is going to remember. You can never take that first impression back – dress to impress.”
There may not be one definite answer to exactly how you should dress, but it’s definitely something you should put thought into.
3. Practice, practice, practice.
Getting good at something often takes practice. Getting good at interviewing is not an exception.
“Look up common interview questions and practice answering them out loud,” advised Francoline. “Sometimes what sounds good in our heads actually is very awkward when spoken, so get comfortable talking about yourself.
"You may not be asked the same questions but that's OK because you will have the practice in articulating your professional experience.”
4. Connect off the bat.
Making a good impression isn’t just about what you’re wearing.
“Have a firm handshake and look people in the eye when you greet them,” recommended Lane. “It's not about having the strongest grip or appearing bold. It's about making a connection through eye contact and acknowledging your interviewers as people. People don't trust people who can't look them in the eye.”
It’s also worth trying to make a personal connection.
“If you share a hobby or educational background with one of your interviewers, try to work it into the conversation,” offered Lane. “Signal that you are not only a technical fit for the job description but also an interesting and engaging person your interviewers will want to work with.”
5. Show your enthusiasm.
Is this your dream job? Maybe, maybe not. But it’s probably a good idea to treat the interview as though it was. You took the time to come to the interview, so at this point, there’s nothing to lose from giving it your all.
“Confidence is important but arrogance is a turn-off,” explained Newborn. “Interviewers are looking for someone who is excited to work on their team and someone who is passionate about the company. That being said, a little nervous energy is great. It shows that the interview is important to you.”
6. Come with something to offer.
It’s not just enough to answer the questions you’re asked. If you really want to impress the interviewer, you should be ready to volunteer information of your own.
“Bring success stories,” advised Newborn. “Prepare your best success stories, big wins, and how you overcame business challenges in past companies. Even great success stories from when you were getting your bachelor’s degree or MBA; or perhaps you are on your condo board or another position with an organization or head up a volunteer group, etc.
"Managers want to see how you define success and how you will bring that kind of success to my team. Don’t just have one or two or three – have ten, so that you can pull out the right story for the question the interviewer is asking. This goes the extra mile—it shows you put the time and energy into your own career growth.
“Companies today move at the speed of light. Workloads are heavier than employees can bear. Directors and VP’s need teams that can find solutions to problems FAST. Illustrate how you are solution focused and how YOU find solutions to problems.
"Remember that the interviewer has a need to fill—he or she is looking for someone as quickly as possible to fill that need. The more you can show you are the one finding solutions to their problems, the quicker you will move into the role.”
7. Be ready for tough questions.
You might be asked a question you don’t know the answer to. That’s okay! You don’t just have to throw up your hands and walk out on the spot. That will pretty much guarantee you do not get the job.
“If you don't know the answer to some technical question asked in the interview, ask a followup question to increase your understanding,” suggested Lane. “Employers understand that you won't know everything.
"However, they want to know your limits. Are you someone who just knows what they know and accepts that limitation, or are you someone who will dig into the things you don't know and increase your professional mastery?
“If you don't know an answer but have a theory about what it could be, share that as well. ‘I don't know for sure, but I believe the concept you're asking about works this way’ demonstrates your thinking processes and intellect far better than ‘I don't know the answer.’
8. Ask some questions of your own.
It’s a classic job interview tip: you should be speaking more than they are. And that means coming prepared with your own questions.
“Be sure to come prepared with a list of questions,” offered Newborn. “You are interviewing the company and your new potential boss as much as they are interviewing you. What do you want to know about the company, the department, the team? Refrain from asking questions regarding salary, vacation time, benefits, etc.—get the offer first. Some good questions might be:
“‘What are your biggest challenges that you are seeking a candidate to solve?’
‘What are the three favorite things that you love about working for XXX company?’
‘What is the growth potential from this role?’
“There are many insightful questions that both help get an insight into the company and also illustrate a candidate’s intelligence level.”
9. Be yourself.
You can try and make a new identity just for this job interview. But if you are hired, it’s going to be pretty exhausting maintaining that persona every work day going forwards.
“Job interviews can put a lot of pressure on candidates, whereby they feel like they are going in for a big audition and have to give the performance of a lifetime,” acknowledged Susan Braakman, Operations Manager and HR expert with Seuss Recruitment in Amsterdam.
“However, the key to success is simply to be yourself. Truthfully display your skills, experience, and personality. Ensuring that your personality shines through, will allow the interviewers to assess how well you fit within the team.
"When you do not stay true to yourself and transform into someone else, this can result in a poor fit between you and your new team—which will most likely end up in disappointment for both parties.”
10. Follow up.
When you’re competing against so many candidates, it’s important to give yourself every advantage possible. And that means making an effort to stay at the forefront of the interviewer’s mind, even after the interview.
“Hopefully, by the time the interview is finished you have made a great impression already,” explained Eilers. “But I do not know a single hiring manager that would frown upon an extra thank you email landing in his mailbox. You can add the recruiters to your LinkedIn contacts (beware though of stalking their Facebook or Instagram profiles- keep it professional).
"If you haven't heard from a recruiter, follow up with a quick email or a phone call. If a hiring manager is on the fence about choosing between a few applicants, he will most likely go for the one that cares the most and shows persistence."
Now go out there and nail the interview. We’re rooting for you!
Susan Braakman, the Operations Manager at Seuss Recruitment, has a passion for Recruitment and Human Resources. After more than 15 years of industry experience filled with beautiful stories and life-changing moments, she has built up an impressive network. She is dedicated to attracting and retaining high potential talent, and has placed more than 200 professionals into new roles. Susan’s positive energy shines over the people around her.
Rebecca Francoline, President of Go Write2Hire, is committed to helping her clients achieve their professional goals. The job search process is an experience where you want a professional, such as Rebecca in your corner who is an expert in resume design, recruiting practices, applicant tracking software (ATS) systems, interviewing, and offer negotiations. Dedicated to her profession and clients, Rebecca is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and a Certified Professional in Human Resources (PHR) and maintains her credentials through continuing education in both fields of HR and resume writing. She is also a member of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), National Resume Writers Association (NRWA), and the Professional Association of Resume Writers & Career Coaches (PARW/CC).
Dave Lane is the CEO of Inventiv Tools (@inventivtools). Over the past ten years, he has led software engineering teams ranging from five people to 150 people. Working his way up from software developer to CTO, he learned that people problems are much more challenging and interesting than technical problems. Dave now uses his experience to help companies better support their employees. He holds a B.S. in Computer Science from Tennessee Technological University. In his spare time, Dave pretends he still knows how to write software.
Joanne Newborn (@JoanneNewborn) is a Certified Lifestyle & Leadership Coach as well as a Director with the World’s largest producer of Spirits. She has her MBA from Penn State University (Beta Gamma Sigma) and her Certification from the Academy of Jungian Spiritual Psychology. Her blog and coaching business, Newborn Evolution, focuses on Lifestyle & Leadership Transformation with a Jungian Twist. Joanne is a contributing writer to several publications and has two blogs on her website, NewbornEvolution.com. She is grateful for nearly everything.