“No big deal!”
You’re qualified – your résumé says it all.
But here’s the thing:
That person across from you won’t care about what’s written down…
…but what you’ll say and show.
They will measure you, analyze you…
To see if you’re the right fit.
Every interview is a battlefield.
- The enemy = grueling questions
- The weapon = your words
- The game plan = your answers
So a well-designed game plan is crucial.
Doesn’t matter if you’re a college grad, in between jobs or fresh out of the military…
Follow these 10 tips to nail any job interview (and take them with you to the drawing board).
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Job Interview Tip #1 – Dress Appropriately
Welcome to the real world. Where books are bound to be judged by their covers (at least initially).
Don’t worry – it doesn’t take much to avoid really screwing up your wardrobe for interviews!
The first step is to confirm the dress code of a company (there always is one). If this hasn’t been mentioned in the job ad or when you’re notified of your schedule, make sure to call or email the right person.
Aside from that, take some time to research the company culture. Get the details on the work setting and office style it abides by.
In industries like private banking, legal, and consulting which rely heavily on reputation – you should double-check that everything you plan to wear is appropriate (the color of your suit, pattern on your tie… and even your haircut).
But an open-space office usually means that the company adopts a less formal working style. There it’s likely you’ll be better off not wearing a suit to the interview.
I’ll be blunt here. If you don’t see the value of coming in early – don’t bother with the rest of this list.
Unless you can prove you got up caught in an unlucky situation out of your control (NOT bad traffic) – tardiness is application suicide.
Allow yourself to come at least 15 minutes early to the waiting area. This will give you a window to relax, loosen up and rehearse the answers in your head one last time.
Make it a point to read your start time out loud, confirm it once more – and look at your WATCH while heading there (your phone can be a distraction on the big day, so limit its usage).
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It enhances your wardrobe for interviews – and you might even get compliments for it by your interviewer. Congrats! That means you’ve broken the ice and set the tone well.
Job Interview Tip #3 – Research The Company
Think about the last time you did a book report. Assuming you actually read the book, did it help to do so? Of course. There’s no other way you could’ve given the answers you gave – exploring the characters like you did – without reading it.
I’ll tell you what it’s like to go to an interview without researching the company:
Doing a book report without reading the book – which had a movie version come out – but you only base it from the TRAILER on YouTube.
It’s good to spend an hour researching the company. Make sure you look into its history, its structure, financials, mission and vision statements, and any notable news about it over the past year.
Now, this may not be the most important tip when you apply for an entry-level position. But if you’re going for a management role – this preparation is a very big deal. It can require even as much as 8 hours of solid reading up.
When a higher-level job vacancy has dozens of equally skilled and experienced candidates, the only way to stand out is through extensive company knowledge. Anyone can show they’re qualified, but not all can show passion for the job and workplace – and employers know this.
Job Interview Tip #4 – Think About Which Roles You Can Take
This is a similar deal to joining the school football team. Some guys try out aiming to become backs and receivers (they enjoy throwing the ball), but they should be open to taking a defensive position if the coach thinks they’re better for it. They shouldn’t limit themselves to one role.
Make a list of positions you might be able to fill in a company besides the one you’re applying for. It doesn’t matter if you’re under 25 or you’re part of a more technical field.
Know all your options based on your skill set or personality – whether it’s in another department or an assistant role for someone else. If you’re able to explain those things to the interviewer, you come across even better.
Job Interview Tip #5 – Think About How You Can Add Value
This is where you must give a concrete description of your skills, and how you see them translating into a strong return on assets (ROA) for your employer.
In simpler terms – what can you do to bring in MORE money for the company?
At the end of the day, business owners are concerned about one thing above everything else – profit.
They have to consider all the costs, taxes and risks that come into play before they even deal with salaries. So they need managers and professionals who can be paid to help widen the earnings–expenses gap.
Job Interview Tip #6 – Practice Interviewing
Allow me to amend the old adage “Practice makes perfect.”
No – PERFECT practice makes perfect. And that applies to preparing for interviews.
Do some research online and make a list of different possible questions. Print it out and write a draft of your answers. Then compile them all into another document as a script.
Get a friend or family member to rehearse it with you. Make sure it’s someone who has the time to make it a real mock interview – where you give your answers at a good pace.
Ask for their feedback afterward. You want them to not just judge how your answers matched those on the script, but also your style of answering questions:
- Making good eye contact
- No stuttering or fidgeting
- Smiling when it’s appropriate, with a neutral face (not frowning) when it matters
- Varying your tone and speech tempo more (depending on the topic)
- Giving medium-length, insightful answers as opposed to generic or incomplete ones
Job Interview Tip #7 – Know How To Present Your Strengths
You’ve probably heard about this one. And it’s easy to do. We should all have enough self-esteem to know our strengths and be proud of them. The harder part is conveying them in a strategic manner.
If you’re going to say “I communicate well with people” – you can’t just end it there. You need a concise story (under 1 minute) to back it up, such as the time you worked on a given team project back in college or your previous job. Always have 3 stories ready to share.
Make sure you tell them with real emotion. The key is to show confidence in your strengths while being modest at the same time. Employers don’t like answers that seem too rehearsed or robotic.
Job Interview Tip #8 – Know How To Present Your Weaknesses
This tip covers one of those “landmine” questions in any interview. There are 2 booby traps that you may fall in if you’re not careful:
- Mentioning something that isn’t a real weakness but a cliché type of answer (“I tend to work a bit too much” or “I’m a perfectionist”)
- Sharing a flawed personality trait of yours that raises a red flag to the interviewer (“I may lose my temper when I get really stressed out”)
How do you stay away from both extremes? Find legitimate weaknesses which aren’t totally bad and – if they’re handled properly – can actually be beneficial to you and the company.
You want 3 concise stories that detail those weaknesses and how you dealt with or overcame them. But just like discussing your strengths, you need to talk with some emotion and vulnerability.
Example: You might be quite stubborn, and it showed back when you tried finishing an impossible task in your previous job. Your boss had to lecture you about regaining focus – but also commended you for your drive. That’s when you realized the value of knowing your priorities.
Job Interview Tip #9 – Don’t Try To BS Anyone
Maybe it’s part of human nature, but many of us tend to give BS answers every now and then. It’s an ego-related thing. We’d rather “gamble” on pretending we know something than being honest.
The problem with that gamble is when it’s a bad one – you lose way more than you would’ve had you told the truth. And more often than not, that’s the case during job interviews.
While interviewers appreciate knowing relevant stuff beforehand, they hate BS more than anything else. And they’ll be able to sniff it from a distance – or as soon as they ask a follow-up question that makes you stumble with your words!
So have the humility to ask them to explain the question better, to clarify unfamiliar terms or acronyms once they pop out. Don’t even delay with “umm” for a few seconds. It’s way better to admit your non-knowledge right away than to cover it up.
Job Interview Tip #10 – If You Don’t Know The Answer, Skip It
Only do this if you feel that answering isn’t going to help things. Maybe you’re uncomfortable with the question, your mind draws a blank or your instincts tell you to move on. Whatever the case – it’s okay.
Politely ask the interviewer if you can skip the question (no matter how aggressively they asked it). If you’ve done well up to that point, and do the rest of the interview the same way – here are the worst case scenarios:
- They realize you need more training
- They respect how you recognize your limitations
- They say they’ll give you time to think about it or answer later on
In the end, nobody’s immune to having those kinds of moments. So treat that situation like a learning experience – to give you strength and wisdom for future interviews.
Bonus Job Interview Tip – Have Confidence & SHOW It
Confidence boils down having the right frame of mind. Positive thinking.
It’s not about having bold thoughts that you’re the best at what you do, or you’re 100% getting the job. That will only set you up for disappointments.
There’s always a chance that somebody else has a leg up with their résumé or gives better answers. Or sometimes you’re just not the right fit at the right time – and it’s not your fault. Recruitment is a numbers game. Not everyone has stars lined up from the moment they step inside to be interviewed.
What you really want is to say “I can” and “I will” as soon as you walk into the interview.
- I can sell my skills and track record of success
- I will prove I’m an excellent candidate
- I can answer every single question well
- I will come out of the interview knowing I gave my best
That’s a true winner’s attitude.
Here’s a checklist of thoughts and actions that will help you exude confidence during interviews:
You know who you are, what you can do, and what you stand for
The job doesn’t define you regardless of whether you’re hired
The interviewer is a normal person who might want to work with you – not someone to “bow” in front of or feel inferior to
You want to talk to them as if you already have a professional relationship
Try some high-power poses which have been proven to significantly improve your performance during interviews – and make you more hireable too!