How to Ace a Job Interview

Woman being interviewed by a female employer
Stuart O'Sullivan / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Congratulations! You have just landed an interview for a seemingly wonderful job. Now what? A successful interview will be essential in order for you to lock in a job offer, and this is your chance to impress the interviewer enough to get hired.

Tips for Acing a Job Interview

Taking the time to prepare will make the interview process, which can be lengthy, run smoothly. Here's advice on how to ace a job interview, including tips on every aspect of the interview from preparation through follow up.

Conduct Company Research

Research should always be your first step after accepting an interview. Gathering background information on employers is crucial to successful interview preparation.

An employer will expect you to know something about the company, and expect you to know why you will fit in well there. You need to be prepared to answer the questions, "What do you know about our company"? and "Why do you want to work here?"

Knowing as much as possible about the company's past performance and future plans can also help you better explain how you can add value to the company.

Before the interview, review the company's website, particularly their “About Us” section. Also check out their LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ pages to see what information the company is sharing. Don't be afraid to contact your prospective employer to request details on the position you are interviewing for or to ask for company literature.

Practice Makes Interview Perfect

Practice makes perfect (or at least leads to improvement). Conduct practice interviews with a friend or family member, and ask for their feedback. You can also record or videotape your responses so you can review your answers and check your body language.

Prepare answers to commonly asked interview questions. Doing so will help you analyze your background and qualifications for the position.

Also prepare a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer. Remember, you aren't simply trying to get the job — you are also interviewing the employer to assess whether this company and the position are a good fit for you.

The more you practice, the more self-assured you will feel walking in to the interview. Your answers will feel natural, and interviewers will be impressed by your confidence.

Be Prepared for Different Types of Interviews

It is important to know what type of interview you will have, so you can effectively prepare. For example, you will prepare slightly differently whether it is your first, second, or final interview. You will also have to practice using different technologies if it is a phone or video interview. For a lunch or dinner interview, you will want to review polite dining tips.

You might also have a group interview, in which you are either interviewed by a panel, or interviewed along with a group of candidates. For this kind of interview, you want to practice both answering questions and being a good listener (which you can show by responding thoughtfully to your group members’ comments and through your body language).

Make sure you know what kind of interview you will be having before you arrive. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to ask the employer or recruiter who set up the meeting.

Other Types of Interview Questions — Behavioral Interviewing

In addition to standard interview techniques, behavior-based interviewing is becoming more common. It is based on the idea that a candidate's past performance is the best predictor of future performance. Behavioral interviews involve you answering questions about how you have handled past situations at work.

The best way to prepare is to make a list of your skills, values, and interests as well as your strengths and weaknesses.

For each item on the list, consider a time when you displayed that quality. Take the time to compile a list of responses to common behavioral interview questions

When answering, describe the past situation, and how you successfully handled it. Make sure your answers are related to the job for which you are interviewing.

What to Wear

You will want to decide what to wear before the interview day. Your first impression is very important, and what you wear is a big part of that first impression. Therefore, you want to make sure you look professional and appropriate. In general, men tend to wear a dark suit and tie, and women often wear a dark suit or a blouse with dark pants or a skirt. You should also limit accessories, and makes sure you are well groomed and your clothing fits you well.

You might be able to dress more casually for a job at a startup, or a job at a place with a casual work environment. However, when in doubt, it is better to dress more professionally than less so.

If you are unsure what to wear, call the company and ask about their typical dress code. It is always a good idea to dress just a little bit more professionally than the dress code requires.

The Day of the Interview

It is very important to be on time for the interview. On time means ten to 15 minutes early. If need be, take some time to drive to the office ahead of time so you know exactly where you are going, and what the transportation and parking situation looks like.

Make sure you know the interviewer's name and use it as soon as possible during the interview. If you're not sure of the name, call and ask prior to the interview.

Remember to bring an extra copy of your resume, a list of references, and any work samples you want to show the employer. Bring a list of questions to ask the interviewer. You may also want to bring a notepad and pen to take notes.

It’s also important to know what not to bring. Do not bring coffee, gum, or anything else not related to the job.  Turn your phone off and put it away before you walk into the office.

Stay Calm

During the interview, try to remain as calm as possible. Ask for clarification if you're not sure what's been asked and remember that it is perfectly acceptable to take a moment or two to frame your responses so you can be sure to fully answer the question.

Also, remember that thorough preparation helps build confidence and relieve stress. The more you research the company, practice answering interview questions, and prepare for the day of the interview, the more calm and confident you will feel.

Take the Time to Follow Up

End the interview with a thank you to the interviewer and reiterate your interest in the position. Then follow-up with a personal thank you note or email message restating your interest. This is an opportunity to remind the employer of your qualifications, and include any details you forgot to mention in the interview.

More Interview Tips

Avoid Common Interview Mistakes
What shouldn't you do when interviewing? Here are the most common job interview mistakes, blunders, and errors a candidate for employment can make. Take the time to review these mistakes before your interview, so you don't have to stress out about blunders after it.

Review Interview Questions and Answers 
The key to successful interviewing is to review these typical interview questions and prepare your answers. Also be ready with questions for the interviewer — here's a list.

More Job Interview Tips
Tips for phone interviewssecond interviews, lunch and dinner interviews, behavioral interviews, interviewing in public, and more advice for interview success.

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