19 winning job interview tips to get you hired
It is commonly observed that only 10 to 20% of job applicants make it to the interview stage of the hiring process.
This means that if you have a job interview scheduled, you are competing with an unknown number of candidates who have already been deemed promising based on their resumes.
However, there are certain tips and tricks you can follow in order to ensure that your interview will go smoothly and you will be seen in the best light possible, significantly increasing your chances of getting a job offer.
Here we will present you with an amalgamation of well-known job interview best practices combined with my inside knowledge of the hiring process and a number of powerful job interview hacks.
The list is extensive, and some of the tips we have outlined may not apply to your situation.
We advise you to consider your unique set of circumstances and use the advice outlined here to create your own job interview "toolbox" that will turn you into one of the most promising and well-prepared candidates.
Table of Contents
How to prepare for an interview
Preparing for your job interview is essential and will be more time-consuming than the actual interview itself.
With every job interview, you need to be aware that there are 4 main qualities that hiring managers look for in candidates.
- Ability to communicate effectively
- Being capable of doing the job
- Being a good fit for the company
- Being an agreeable person
All job interview tips and hacks outlined here will help you in varying degrees with building your image as a promising candidate who meets the criteria. So here is what you need to do in order to prepare.
1. Research the company
The first step in preparing for your job interview is researching the company. If this is a company that you’ve wanted to work for a while now, then you are probably already quite familiar with it.
But if you are not, then take the time to visit their website and social media profiles. Learn about their mission, vision, and goals.
Take a look at their social media posts and the photos they’ve uploaded. Try to get a sense of the company culture and the general vibe of the people who already work there.
This way, you might be able to figure out if you are a good fit for the company – one of the 4 main qualities that are important to recruiters.
2. Learn about the role you have applied for
It’s a no-brainer that actually being able to do the job you’ve applied for is an essential requirement.
But you have to keep in mind that this is something that goes beyond professional skills and competencies.
For example, if you have applied for a sales position, you might be confident that you’d be pretty good at it due to your friendly, extroverted persona.
But do you think that you will be able to speak to customers on the phone for 8 hours a day, 5 times a week?
Every job comes with specific aspects that are usually not well-understood by inexperienced candidates. In HR language, this is something known as “the nature” of the job.
So take the time to carefully research the role that you have applied for and what it entails.
Your main priority is to understand its main responsibilities and the required critical skills but also what it is like working it full-time.
3. Prepare your answers to common interview questions
Most job interviews start with the interviewers asking the interviewee to tell them more about themselves.
So you should prepare a short introduction, stating a few general facts about your background.
This might include where you grew up, what school you graduated from, and a couple of your general interests.
Stick to surface-level facts about yourself, and certainly don't go into stating any polarizing controversial opinions.
After this, you should expect some general common interview questions. Here are some examples.
- Why did you apply for this job?
- What do you know about the company?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Where do you see yourself in one year?
- Why should we hire you?
You should prepare your own genuine answers for all these questions and memorize them.
However, you should keep in mind that there is a secondary purpose to these questions that goes beyond your answers.
Most recruiters would want to know if you are genuinely interested in the role. They would like to hire somebody who is intrinsically motivated to work this job, not a person who is simply in need of employment and income.
So the hiring managers will pay attention to how you answer these questions and how you behave while you answer them.
If you answer any of these questions in a vague and disinterested way, then that would be a major red flag for any recruiter, and you would seriously harm your chances of getting the job offer.
4. Prepare notes and a list of questions
There is a lot of information that you have to memorize before going to a job interview. That is why you can help yourself by preparing and bringing notes to your interview.
Using notes during job interviews is perfectly normal and expected.
Also, you will certainly be perceived as organized and well-prepared by recruiters when they notice that you have brought notes.
Your notes can contain specific facts about your career, such as notable professional achievements, dates, numbers, statistics, etc., and a list of any questions that you might have for the recruiters.
While using notes is perfectly fine, how you use them matters as well. Certainly, you shouldn't use them to read out loud entire answers to job interview questions.
5. Prepare examples of your skills and experience
Based on the specifics of the job that you have applied for, you can prepare examples that showcase your professional skills and competencies.
For example, if you have worked in Sales, then you refer to impressive numbers that you have achieved in the past.
Don’t worry, during your job interview, you will be given a chance to speak about how you can bring value to the company. For example, when you are asked why they should hire you.
6. Prepare copies of your resume and any other relevant documents
You should bring printed copies of your resume just in case. As well as any other relevant printed materials.
Your goal is to make things as convenient as possible for your interviewers. This way, you will demonstrate that you are a team player and that you are able to plan ahead.
7. Dress appropriately for your job interview
There are three distinct dressing styles that are associated with the office work environment – smart casual, business casual, and business professional.
Dressing appropriately for your interview is crucial because it is part of fitting in. So visit the website of the company and their social media profiles.
See if you can find pictures of employees and pay attention to what they are wearing. This should give you a pretty good idea of how to dress for your interview.
In any case, if you can find any reliable hints on what to wear, then in most cases, it is safe to opt for a business casual outfit. However, a business professional choice would be the safer choice if you have applied for a higher management position.
8. Wear glasses to appear more capable and knowledgable
Wearing glasses for a job interview can actually give you quite the advantage. Research suggests that people who wear glasses are perceived as more competent and knowledgeable.
Besides, glasses are a great addition to any business casual or business professional outfit.
Your specs might just be the accessory that gives you that finished look of a capable and confident professional.
And if you read more convincing to put on a pair of specks, then here are more reasons why wearing glasses might help you land the job.
How to ace the interview
If you are able to prepare well for your job interview, then you should do great. But still, there are certain things that you can do and that you should pay attention to during the interview in order to ace it.
9. Arrive on time for your job interview
The golden rule for job interview arrival time is this: it's better to be a few minutes early than one minute late.
However, arriving way too early would be problematic as well. In most cases, you'd want to arrive about 10 to 15 minutes early as this would usually be enough time to go through a reception process and then be taken to the room where your job interview will take place.
Here we further explore the perfect job interview arrival time with regard to various circumstances.
10. Be mindful of when your interview takes place
You might be surprised to find out that when your interview takes place matters and could affect its outcome. Generally, there is speculation if being interviewed first or last matters.
However, being interviewed early in the week and early in the day is possibly better because the interviewers won't be fatigued from conducting numerous interviews.
This means that they will be a lot more present and energetic during your interview.
So be mindful of when your interview is taking place and do your best to read the room once you are in there with the interviewers.
In case the interview takes place in the afternoon, and the hiring managers seem a bit tired and low-energy, this would mean that you’ll have to work a little harder to lift them up and present yourself as a notable candidate that they would remember and consider to hire.
11. Be mindful of your body language and voice
When you finally meet your interviewers, be mindful of your body language and the way you speak.
You'd want to keep your head up high and shoulders straight. Take a deep breath before you speak, and don't shy away from meeting the gaze of your interviewers.
If you are struggling with social anxiety and your body language and tone of voice reveal your nervousness, then your interviewers should notice this right away if they are well-trained and experienced in observing kinesics.
Don't worry, this is actually a good thing. Experienced interviewers are quite good at making nervous candidates comfortable.
They will ask you how you are feeling or if you're a bit nervous. It is perfectly fine to be honest, and there is nothing shameful, so don't waste your energy by pretending.
The interviewers would appreciate your honesty.
You can simply say that you are a bit nervous but excited to be there.
12. Let your interviewers take the lead
In the beginning, let the interviewers take the lead. Listen carefully to what they say and trust them to guide you through the process.
Eventually, they will start asking their first set of questions, and you will be given a chance to speak.
Hopefully, all the preparation and visualization you did prior will kick in, and you will be able to provide them with clear, concise, well-thought-out answers.
13. Showcase your ability to communicate
Every job entails communication and teamwork. So one of your main priorities should be to demonstrate that you are able to effectively communicate and collaborate with others.
Through active listening, you will be able to demonstrate that you are paying attention and you are fully engaged in the discussion.
Use your body language to your advantage by nodding, gesturing, and making eye contact as you listen to the hiring manager.
Also, don’t shy away from asking clarifying questions when it is appropriate to interject. But when you speak, do your best to be clear and concise.
You should be able to express your thoughts and ideas with simple statements that are easy to understand.
14. Use examples to illustrate your professional skills and knowledge
Instead of using general statements about your professional competencies, do your best to present the hiring managers with relevant examples.
This is where the notes you are going to bring with you are going to come in handy.
For example, you can talk about what you worked on during the last 6 to 12 months at your previous job and what you were able to achieve.
You can also take a quick glance at your notes to refer to specific numbers and time periods.
Don't shy away from talking about your most notable professional achievements over the course of your career – this is not the time to be too humble.
But still, let the facts speak for themselves – there is no need to brag. Also, this will show the interviewers that you are a goal-oriented professional, which is usually a major green flag.
15. Anticipate killer questions
Experienced interviewers often resort to what is known as hard questions or "killer" questions.
The purpose of these questions is to somewhat confront the job candidate and put them into a difficult situation in order to draw out an authentic reaction and response.
Such questions test the candidate's character, honesty, preparedness, and ability to think on the spot.
Examples of killer questions include:
- What would you have changed if you were the manager at your previous job?
- What was the biggest impact you made at your previous job?
- Our business is experiencing X, Y, and Z. How would you solve these problems?
- What would you improve in our company?
- How do you imagine your perfect role?
- What kind of management style do you prefer?
- Have you ever experienced problems with previous coworkers or managers?
- Tell us about a failure of yours and what you learned from it.
Famously, Elon Musk's favorite interview question, “Tell me about one of the most difficult problems you’ve worked on and how you solved it”, could be placed in this category.
As you can see, such questions can easily catch you off guard. Perhaps you will be able to come up with answers based on your research of the company.
But no matter what, don't try to avoid these questions even if you don’t have a proper response.
Do your best to provide some kind of answer or at least admit that you have nothing – remember, the interviewers are looking for authenticity and honesty.
16. Engage the interviewers with relevant questions
One of the best ways to show the hiring managers that you are a proactive individual is to ask them questions about the company and role.
You can prepare your list of questions in advance and include them in your notes. Include questions that will communicate to the interviewers that you have done your research about the company and the role. This way, you won’t have to come up with questions on the spot and waste time thinking.
Also, it is perfectly fine to ask questions about any benefits and salary. Which kind of brings us to the next point.
17. Negotiate salary without losing the job offer
Negotiating salary during a job interview is not out of the question, but it is a delicate process. You wouldn’t want to come off as somebody who is greedy and self-serving.
Your primary focus should be to figure out how you could bring extra value to the company through your work, then ask for a higher compensation based on what you are capable of.
This is something that I talk about in-depth in my guide on negotiating salary before being hired.
How to follow up on a job interview
Following up after a job interview is perfectly acceptable and expected, even necessary in case you were specifically asked to provide additional information. So here is how to do it properly.
18. Send an email – don't call
Always follow up on a job interview through email, and don't ever call unless you were specifically told to do so.
Nowadays, calling is generally frowned upon. Hiring managers are busy, and they would appreciate it if you didn't call them directly.
Instead, send a concise email containing only the most relevant information.
19. Don't overdo it
Your post-interview communication should be kept to a bare minimum.
In most cases, it would be fine to send one email with any requested information the day after the interview.
After that, it would be appropriate to send an email asking if you are still being considered for the role after 10 work days or a period that was specifically mentioned by the hiring manager.
If all you are getting is radio silence after 2 to 3 weeks after your job interview, then you should take that as a hint that you are probably not being considered for the role anymore.
What to expect from a job interview
If you have been through at least a couple of interviews before, then you probably already have a pretty good idea of what to expect.
In case you've never had one, then you should know that every job interview usually consists of several phases.
So, consider that your job interview has started as soon as you meet your interviewer(s). They might come to meet you at the reception area of their office space.
Then they are probably going to take you to the room where the interview will take place, starting with its initial phase.
1. Introduction phase
This is the very beginning of the interview, where you and the interviewer will introduce yourselves.
This is the best time for you to ask any questions you may have about how the interview will go.
2. Small talk and icebreakers
Once you are seated in the interview room and all interviewers/hiring managers are present, and everybody has introduced themselves, you can expect some small talk and icebreakers.
This will give you a chance to get to know the hiring manager a little better and establish rapport. At some point, the lead interviewer will announce the formal beginning of your job interview.
3. Company discussion
Very often, job interviews begin with a general company discussion. The interviewers might ask you what you know about the company.
Then they might give you a brief presentation about how the company operates.
4. Resume review
The substantial part of the interview may start with a resume review. The interviewer may pull out a copy of your resume and inquire further about your professional background and the people you have listed as references.
They may also ask you to provide more details about some of your previous roles and responsibilities.
5. Behavioral questions
The interviewer may ask you questions that are designed to get you to describe specific situations to demonstrate certain skills or qualities of yours.
Such questions often begin with phrases like "Tell me about a time when…" or "Describe a situation where…"
6. Skills-based questions
At some point, the focus of the interview will shift to the specific role you have applied for.
This is probably the most important phase, as you will be asked role-specific questions that are related to your professional experience, knowledge, and skills.
These questions may be more specific and focused on your ability to perform certain tasks or use certain tools or technologies.
7. Closing phase and concluding words
Before the end of the interview, the hiring manager should ask if you have any questions for them. This is your opportunity to ask about the company, the role, or the next steps in the hiring process.
Near the end of your interview, the hiring manager might decide to give you some feedback. They might tell you that you are a promising candidate which is the best response that you could hope for.
My advice on how to ace your job interview
Probably the best advice that I could give you on how to ace your job interview other than to prepare really well for it would be to visualize it.
This will be especially helpful if you don’t have experience with job interviews or if you have confidence issues.
It would be even better if you could simulate the job interview with the help of a friend or a sibling playing the role of the interviewer.
Besides, the merits of visualizing to achieve one's goals have been discussed for quite some time.
(Also, don't be afraid to negotiate your salary. If you do it right, you will only stand out among the rest of the candidates.)
My experience with interviewing job candidates
As a project manager for a major international franchise and a business owner, I have interviewed hundreds of job candidates over the years.
What experience has taught me is that promising candidates who are able to show that they are hungry for a role and passionate about their career make the best hires.
And this is exactly what most hiring managers are looking for: hunger, passion, and intrinsic motivation.
If you are able to communicate these qualities to the hiring managers that you encounter throughout your job-hunting, then you will drastically increase your chances of getting job offers.
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