12 Job Interview Tips and Tricks

How to dominate your upcoming job interview

waiting for an interview
David Woolley

The job market today is competitive, even cutthroat, and securing a job interview, yet alone a good position, is more difficult than ever. Yes, you need to sell yourself in an interview. We hear it time and again. But you can’t sell something if you haven’t planned your pitch ahead of time. These interview tips and tricks are your 12 point plan to acing a job interview.

Tip #1: Make sure to do research upfront

Research the company and the interviewers.

Hirers know they’re dealing with someone who is serious about the position when you’re prepared with relevant data. Mention press releases and revenue numbers, quote statistics, and be familiar with executives’ backgrounds.

For startup companies, be aware of who the venture capital investor is and which partners sit on their board, as well as how much money they have raised so far. Savvy online searching can turn up valuable information on most companies.

Ultimately, know the company, the industry, and competitors, and use their product if available.

Tip #2: Visualize and rehearse in advance

Visualize the interview and questions that could arise, and project how a successful interview experience will play out. Rehearse they way you’ll present yourself and practice answers to important interview questions for your field. Mock interviews prepare you for most possibilities and help with nerves as well.

The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.

Tip #3: Practice tough interview questions beforehand

Hirers challenge applicants with tough questions to judge their company fit and see how they cope under pressure. So expect questions on where you will be in 2 or 5 or 10 years. They’ll ask about difficult work experiences, your most stressful jobs, and your favorite job.

And prepare to reveal the ideal manager and company you'd like to work for.

Formulate answers to common interview questions. There are exhaustive lists online. You may be a convincing speaker, but being caught unawares by a trick question and stumbling through an answer could cost you the job. Smooth delivery shows knowledge of subject matter and allows for good rapport to develop.

Tip #4: Prepare for Behavioral Questions

Hirers use behavioral questions to dig into past achievements and predict future performance. These questions identify an applicant's key competencies and skills, so it’s vital to prepare answers to match your skill set to the employer’s requirements. Focus on past achievements that highlight your abilities in these key areas:

  • Leadership

  • Teamwork

  • Problem solving

  • Conflict resolution

  • Failures

Tip #5: Put thought into your appearance

First impressions matter. If appropriate, ask ahead of time about what to wear. The safe bet is to dress professionally, paying attention to grooming, colors, and accessories.

If you are a coffee drinker or smoker, or you have lunch/breakfast before an interview, use a mint or brush your teeth before starting.

Keep the following points in mind too:

  • Do NOT chew gum

  • Be conscious of how much perfume/cologne you wear

  • Remember to exude confidence - head high, stand straight and tall, hold a slight smile, and relax

Tip #6: Arrive early (but not too early)

Arrive for your interview 5-10 minutes early. Everyone has their watch set differently, and a 5-minute cushion is a good idea. Some interviewers are time-sensitive and notice if you're even one minute late, dulling initial impressions. Don’t arrive too early and put pressure on the interviewer if they are not ready for you yet.

Give yourself ample time to reach the location. Rushing will affect your interview performance, so if you think you might be late, call ahead to advise them of the situation.

Tip #7: Make a strong introduction

Introduce yourself with a smile, a handshake that matches the firmness of the hirer’s, and a relaxed and self-assured demeanor.

Greet others on the panel if there’s one and follow the interviewer’s lead to sit down or to head elsewhere. You’re well aware by now people form first impressions within seconds of meeting someone new, so make sure yours is a solid one.

Tip #8: Be conscious of your body language

Nonverbal communication cues are part of the impression you make. A weak handshake, for example, shows a lack of authority. An averted gaze signals distrust or disinterest in the job. Show assertiveness by sitting up straight and leaning slightly forward in your chair. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer without making things awkward. You should look at each interviewer if it’s a panel but address your answer primarily to the asker.

Tip #9: Remember to take notes

Bring a notepad and pen to take notes during each interview. This is an effective way to show your interest in the job and your attention to detail. It also gives you an opportunity to look down at times if you struggle with eye contact.

Tip #10: Don’t ask about money, benefits, an office tour, or overtime

Never bring up money on your first interview. If they ask what you're making, be honest and provide your exact salary or a salary range. Indicate it is still premature to talk numbers and that you're interested in evaluating the entire opportunity rather than the salary alone.

Don't ask about benefits unless the hirer broaches the subject, and don’t ask to take an office tour, either. That will happen later. Never bring up overtime, even to show a willingness to work extra hours. The interviewer will almost always remember overtime was discussed, and they may doubt your ability to work efficiently during regular work hours.

Tip #11: How to let the interviewer know if you’ve been laid off or fired

Don’t lie if you were laid off or your job was terminated. The truth will come out, and if you secure the position, you future at the company will be in jeopardy. Answer with the facts. Be open and confident, providing valid reasons for losing previous positions.

If you were laid off, make it clear that your performance didn’t contribute to the decision. If it was a termination, use a softer term like “let go.” Then bring your skills and suitability for the job on offer back into focus. If possible, refer the hirer to referees who can vouch for your skills and performance.

Tip #12: Ask questions at the end of the interview

A job interview is an investigation into your experience, achievements, and cultural fit. But most importantly, your skills are under the microscope. Your communication skills determine how well you present this vital information. When the hirer asks if you have any questions, you’ll have one more opportunity to demonstrate how well you communicate and how well you’ll fit in with the company. And you can find out details that may not have arisen during the interview. Examples of solid questions to ask the hirer are:

  • What’s a typical day for someone in this role?

  • What are vital qualities for someone doing this job?

  • What are some of the challenges facing the company?

  • Where do you see the company in 5-10 years?

  • What does success mean to you and to the company?

  • I believe I’m a great fit for this company. Is there anything else I can do to dispel any doubts?

BONUS Tip: Always remember to follow up

Always follow up an interview within 24 hours. Email each interviewer or, if you want to make a lasting impression, send a written thank-you card. It is rare for people to send handwritten cards today, and it will make you stand out. This could be the deciding factor when multiple candidates are under consideration.

Inside the email or letter, thank the interviewer for his or her time, re-iterate your interest in the opportunity, and mention one area from your notes that answers the interviewer’s hot button area. (See more on thank-you letters here.)

Most interviews entail stress and nerves. This mustn’t interfere with reaching your career goals. Pre-interview preparation leads to strong performance and boosts interview success.

This post has since been updated by Laurence Bradford.

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