Even experienced job seekers need to prepare for their job interviews. Don't take a chance by going in cold or "winging it." Interview skills can be learned, and you can increase your chances of getting hired if you’re confident, prepared, and dressed to impress. These interview tips will show you how to answer interview questions and prove to the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the position.
In this article, we’ll cover interview techniques and methods that will dramatically increase your chance of getting hired.
What to do before the interview
Dressing the part
The STAR technique and behavioral interviewing
Questions to ask
General tips and tricks
Following up after an interview
It may seem like a lot of work, but in the heat of the moment, these techniques and tips will help you stay professional, calm, and collected.
Do your homework
In some ways, the interview begins before you arrive for your appointment. It’s important to take the time to do your prep work, and have all the information you need to present yourself in the best possible light.
Research, research, research
Learn as much as you can about the company before you set foot in the building. Take a good look at the company’s website and other relevant sites to find out about its mission statement, values, and goals. And make sure you are clear on what the company does, including its products and services! It might also be helpful to know who the company’s competitors are, and how they differ.
Go over the job description itself, noting any keywords, skills, or attributes that are repeatedly mentioned. Make sure your resume and your interview answers align with the job description, emphasizing keywords from the description when answering questions in the interview. This will highlight your relevant qualifications and help the interviewer visualize you in the position.
Don’t limit your research to the company website. Social media accounts and employer review sites such as Glassdoor and FairyGodBoss can also help with getting a more in-depth understanding of the company. And don’t forget the personal side — know who you’re interviewing with, and look them up on the company website and LinkedIn. It’s not stalking, it’s expected, and will provide you with potential questions to ask during the interview.
Craft your story
Along with your company research, consider preparing some examples to show your value to the company. Scan your resume and identify the skills and abilities you want to impart during your interview. Then, come up with an example of how you can “tell the story” — how you can give a concrete example of a time you utilized that skill in a real-world situation. The technique of behavioral interviewing (more on that later!) incorporates this method to show how you have dealt with challenging situations in both your work and personal experiences.
Interviewing technique: Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
You can’t go wrong rehearsing these stories out loud ahead of time. Get a supportive friend or family member to help you practice, or stand in front of a mirror if that’s what works for you. Sure, you’ll feel a little silly, but it really will help you develop poise and confidence and improve your performance in the interview.
Dress for success
Don’t wait until the morning of the interview to decide what you’re going to wear. Even though it might seem trivial in this era of Zoom calls and working from home, the right interview attire can stack the deck in your favor.
When putting together your interview outfit, keep in mind the following factors:
Be comfortable. If something is pulling, pinching, too tight, or too loose, you will not feel your best, and people pick up on those signals.
The position for which you’re interviewing and the overall company culture will determine the best ensemble for your interview. Doing your research and dressing appropriately will show you can mesh with the company’s “vibe” and that the position is important to you.
Generally, the main categories are business formal, business casual, and the newer “smart casual,” which is generally appropriate for start-ups or more creative fields.
Formal environments, such as finance, banking, law, or insurance, generally call for a suit (jacket, button-down shirt, and tie), matching pants or skirt, hosiery, and perhaps a chic scarf.
Business casual attire can include tailored slacks or a knee-length skirt, a solid color shirt or subtly patterned blouse, understated accessories, and a blazer or well-fitting cardigan.
Don’t forget grooming — no facial stubble, uncombed hair, scuffed shoes, or chipped nail polish.
A good tailor can alter your clothing to fit your body type, handling everything from taking in a waistband to shortening a sleeve or hem. Details count!
What if it’s a behavioral interview?
Behavioral interviews incorporate the idea that your past behavior is the most accurate gauge of your future reaction in a comparable situation. Interviewers generally pose open-ended questions and statements to draw out detailed responses that may ascertain desired skills and behaviors.
Some questions the interviewer may ask:
“How do you typically deal with conflict? Give me an example.”
“Tell me about a time when you went above and beyond the call of duty.”
“When scheduling your time, what approach do you use to prioritize your tasks?”
An important thing to remember is that there is no “right answer” to these questions. The interviewer is merely trying to gauge your temperament, learn more about you as a person and decide whether you are a good fit for the position.
To craft answers to these types of questions, look back at your job history and create stories. Make sure these stories line up with the job description and incorporate them into your answers.
Be a STAR
The best technique for answering behavioral questions is the STAR method. “STAR” is an acronym that stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. It’s a technique for answering behavioral interview questions utilizing real-life scenarios. You can read our more in-depth analysis of the technique here, but the overall format of the STAR method consists of four elements:
Situation: Set the scene and give any required context for your response.
Task: Describe your responsibility in that situation.
Action: Talk about the steps you took to resolve the situation.
Result: Share the outcome of your actions.
This method of crafting an interview response might be a little overwhelming at first, but give it some time and effort and you’ll find that it can be a great way to shine a spotlight on your experience, talents, and skills. Of course, you can't anticipate every single question you might be asked, but go over your resume and make note of times when you solved a problem, met a goal, faced a challenge, or led a team. It's okay to go into your interview with notes, as is taking a moment to craft your answer in your head. It makes you look resourceful and thoughtful and shows that you take this opportunity seriously.
Interview techniques: Ask questions
At some point in the interview, the hiring manager will probably ask the dreaded question: “Do you have any questions?” Instead of staring blankly and intoning, “No, I don’t, sorry,” prepare some relevant and knowledgeable questions ahead of time and show the interviewer that you are interested in the company as well as the position.
Some examples of questions to ask are:
What do you believe are the main responsibilities of this position?
What qualities or characteristics are most important for success in this job?
Tell me about a typical day for someone in this role.
What are your company’s strengths and weaknesses?
What do you like best about working here?
Asking good questions demonstrates that you did your homework and that you understand the scope of the position. It also shows that you are interested in the company and how you might fit into the corporate environment.
A few more things to remember
You will have a lot on your mind during the interview, and it's easy to get nervous or overwhelmed. But stay calm, and remember that this isn't a life-or-death situation. Keeping things in perspective will help you keep your cool.
There are a few things to keep in mind before and during your interview. Along with your STAR answers and list of questions, the following will help you make a great impression:
Be on time. Seriously. Allow yourself more time to get there than you think you’ll need. If you arrive a bit early, great — you’ll have time to review your resume again, have a drink of water, or check your appearance. This will help you feel calm and confident.
Bring important documents and materials, including several copies of your resume, business cards, a list of references, and some work samples or your portfolio (or a link to it).
Silence your phone. A ringing phone can be a distraction and interrupt a conversation. Make sure it’s on silent before you step into the interview room.
Always speak positively about your previous (or current) employer. Stay professional. A hiring manager wants to know that you can stay upbeat even under difficult situations. It's all right to talk about challenges you've faced in previous positions but always frame them in a professional manner.
At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for their time and close on a positive, enthusiastic note. Reiterate your interest in the job, and ask what the next step will be (if they haven’t mentioned it.) Smile and offer a handshake (but don’t be offended if the interviewer declines in this age of Covid), and leave promptly and politely.
Follow up after the interview
Even after you’ve finished the interview, you still have a few things you need to do. You have at least one more opportunity to solidify your good impression, so you shouldn’t brush it off.
Send a thank you note
No interview is complete without a thank you note. It may feel a bit antiquated, but a well-written thank-you note does not go unnoticed by hiring managers. Follow up as soon as possible with a brief but heartfelt note, making sure to thank them again for their time and reiterating your interest in the position.
Dear [Interviewer Name],
I want to thank you for meeting with me today. I enjoyed speaking with you and learning more about the team and position. I’m very excited about the opportunity to join [Company Name] and help [do whatever the position does] with your team.
I look forward to hearing from you regarding the next steps in the hiring process. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if I can provide additional information.
Check-in with the interviewer if needed
Sometimes it can feel like the interview process is dragging along. If that’s the case, it’s okay to check in with the interviewer, as long as you don’t overdo it. The key is to offer value in making contact again, with a side-benefit of reminding them that you still indeed exist. For example, forward an interesting article, or send a quick congratulatory note if they’ve earned an award or honor. Keep it brief and concise, and don’t nag them about the job. The whole point is to keep you and your qualifications top of mind.
An interview, when you get right down to it, is more than an opportunity to talk about yourself. You can increase your chances of getting hired by making yourself shine, and the best way to do this is to do your research, research, employ the STAR technique, and engage with the interviewer in a positive, considerate, and enthusiastic way. With a little work, you can set yourself apart from the rest of the candidates and demonstrate your value as a potential employee.
Learn as much as you can about the company. An educated applicant is a valuable applicant.
Practice your interview answers. This will help you develop confidence and keep your answers concise and polished.
Prepare for behavioral interview questions and utilize the STAR technique
Dress professionally, be on time, and show enthusiasm for the interview.
Send a thank you note after the interview. Employers expect it, and it can help you stand out.