How to Ace a Job Interview

Tips for a Successful Job Interview

Business people shaking hands in conference room
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Congratulations! You have just landed an interview for what could be a wonderful job. Now what? A successful interview will be essential 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. You will be able to make the best possible impression at every job interview you go on.

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, Google+, and other social pages to see what information the company is sharing.

Review Glassdoor reviews, salaries, and interviewing information.

Don't be afraid to contact your prospective employer to request details on the position you are interviewing for. The more information you have, the more comfortable you’ll feel while you’re talking to your interviewer.

More: How to Research a Company

Use Your Connections to Get the Inside Scoop

If you know someone who works at the organization or who can put you in touch with a current or former employee, you’ll be able to gather information that can give you an advantage over the other applicants.

Check LinkedIn to see if you have contacts at the company you can use to get insider information. If your college has an alumni network tap that, as well. Ask your connections about the interview process they went through when they were hired, ask what they like - and don’t like - about working for the organization. Learn as much as you possibly can about the company and the job for which you’re applying. It will help you know what to ask, as well as giving you insight into the role.

More: How to Find Contacts at a Company

Take the Time to Practice

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. You don’t need to memorize answers, but having an idea of what you’re going to say will help you frame a solid response.

Also be ready to respond when you’re asked if you have any questions for the interviewer. 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 into the interview. Your answers will feel natural, and interviewers will be impressed by your confidence.

More: How to Practice for a Job Interview

Learn Behavioral Interviewing Techniques

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.

More: Behavioral Interviewing Tips and Strategies

Prepare 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 differently depending on whether it is your first, second, or final interview.

Phone and Video Interviews
You will also have to practice using different technologies if it is a phone or video interview. For both, you’ll need a quiet place to interview, a time when you won’t be interrupted, and the technology necessary to smoothly handle the meeting. Take the time to make sure everything is in working order, and do a trial run, so you’re ready when it’s time for the actual interview.

Out of the Office Interviews
For a lunch or dinner interview, you will want to review polite dining tips before you go. Get to the restaurant a few minutes early, and expect the hiring manager to pick up the check. Check online to get a sense of appropriate attire to wear. You may also be able to review the menu to get ideas on what to order.

Interviewing over a cup of coffee is much less formal, even though it can be a stepping stone to a formal in-office interview. A casual interview is an excellent way to learn more about a potential employer and the people who work at the company. You’ll have more flexibility and opportunities to discuss the role in an informal setting.

Group Interviews
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.

Dress for Interview Success

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 for the work environment.

In general, for formal business interviews, 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, make sure you are well groomed, your clothing fits you well, and your shoes are shined.

You will be able to dress more casually for a job at a startup, or a job at a place with a casual work environment. What’s important is to wear what’s a good fit for the corporate environment, but even when you’re interviewing at a workplace where nobody has heard the phrase “dress code” you don’t want to look like a slob. Neat and tidy business casual is a good option when you know that a suit isn’t going to be appropriate interview attire.

If you are unsure about what to wear, email or call the person who scheduled the interview and ask about the typical dress code. It is always a good idea to dress just a little bit more professionally than the dress code requires. Your goal is to make the best impression possible.

More: Interview Outfit Tips | How to Dress Appropriately for Your Workplace

How to Handle 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 or check out other options for getting there so you know exactly where you are going, how long it will take to get there, and what the transportation and parking situation looks like.

If you’re running late you’ll be stressed, and that’s no way to start an interview for what could be your new job.

Interview Etiquette
Remember that it’s not only the hiring manager who makes the decision on who to hire. Be polite and gracious to everyone you meet from the time you walk in the door to when you leave.  The people you meet could be your future co-workers, so make the best impression on them that you can.

When you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist. 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.

More: How to Introduce Yourself at a Job Interview

What - and What Not - to Bring
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.  It’s a good idea 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.

More: What to Bring With You to an Interview

Try to Stay Calm and Avoid Stress

If you’re nervous, visit the restroom before your interview, and wash and dry your hands so they aren’t sweaty. Take some deep breaths, and remember that this is only one interview and you’ve prepared as well as you can for it. If the interview goes wrong, it’s not the end of the world, and you may even be able to fix it.

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 calmer and more confident you will feel.

More: How To Avoid Interview Stress | Tips for Handling a High-Pressure Interview

Take the Time to Follow-Up

Even though you’ve finished the interview, you’re not quite done yet. 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 to include any details you forgot to mention in the interview.

More: Tips for Following Up With an Interviewer

Avoid Common Interview Mistakes

In addition to doing everything right, it’s important to avoid doing the wrong thing when you’re trying to get hired for a new job or a promotion. What shouldn't you do when interviewing? Check out the most common job interview mistakes, blunders, and errors interviewees make before you start getting ready to interview. Some of them are minor.  Others can make or break your chances of getting hired.

How to Tell if the Interview Went Well

Sometimes you can tell right away that an interview isn’t working out. You may know as soon as the interviewer starts telling you about the job that you don’t want it. The chemistry between you and the hiring manager may not feel quite right. Or you can tell you’re not a good fit for the job after all.

During other interviews, it may not be as clear. Here are some signs that your job interview went well. If it didn’t, consider it a learning experience, and more practice. With every interview you have, you’ll be better prepared to ace the next one - and get the job.

More: 10 Interview Skills That Will Help You Get Hired