Great news! You are qualified for an interview!
Now you’re just a few steps away from your dream job. All that’s left is for you to nail the interview.
Let’s hear it straight from 20 expert recruiters and employers.
Executive Director, RSolutions (Holdings)
As an IO/OD scholar and working at the intersect of candidates and hiring professionals, I have three tips that WILL impact your interview performance:
Provide simple clarity amid complex ambiguity why you are the best fit for the company and role
Prior to the interview, review the company website, specifically mission, values, and biographies for any known interviewers.
Compare this information with your own cover letter, resume, and ideal working environment. Take ten minutes to jot notes BY HAND. That’s right, align your information with the company’s to find similarities by simplifying in a few words how the company and role is a fit for you
Related: How Long Should a Cover Letter Be
Take the comparison of “who the company is” and “who you are” and focus on aligning your prior experiences and strengths to the specific job description/position opening.
Write out on one sheet (MAX) a clear and succinct outline of examples of the technical skills, soft-skills, and experience you have based on the opening. Create this simple outline framework (be ready to speak to BOTH soft-skills and technical skills), to guide you confidently through the interview process.
This is how you present “who you are” in a clear manner that fits the culture, team, and role despite not knowing what specific questions will be asked in the interview!
Confidence is king but requires a real effort to build
By using the process mentioned in the first tip, you will be more confident. However, confidence requires practice. When you are seeking to interview (for a promotion or new hire), always invest 4-6 hours by applying to roles that you would not consider.
Great examples are commission-based sales roles. Use these practice interviews. In research conducted in 2011, 2013, and 2017 by my firm, candidates who used this tip were 3 times more likely to succeed in their ideal interview. In fact, in one specific case, two candidates were competing for the very same job.
The falsely confident candidate lost out on the job to the candidate who invested in real-life interview experiences despite the fact on paper she appeared to be less of a match for the role!
To lead and learn in service is to own your career success
The Career Development System is based on an applied performance model known as SERVICE. This model, an acronym, defines how to develop soft-skills, technical skills, and to do so in real-work/life settings. RISK FREE!
Many individuals seeking a promotion or new career may not have had a professional opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities. Being regularly involved in community non-profits helps you contribute professional skills that may require you take time to learn, practice, and improve on mistakes.
However, as a volunteer – and in my experience – most community non-profits will benefit and absolutely love anything you can do to help share their message, manage events, volunteers, or PR. If you are serious about promotion and taking steps to “recession-proof your career,” follow the SERVICE model.
Remember these three simple, proven, and practical tips.
They do not take a lot of time. Brevity is key for tips one and two. Practice makes perfect, and the better you get at analyzing a job opening, company, and your own resume, the more clarity, and confidence you will bring into an interview.
Data has shown candidates using this process have even gotten job offers in career pathways that were brand new for them as professionals, and without taking a reduction in pay!
President, Benton Management Resources, Inc. | Author, The Leadership Mind Switch: Rethinking How We Lead in the New World of Work
Nailing an interview is important to get the job, but the boss of the job you get is what makes for success.
Ask more questions then you answer and ask around the boss’s goals, objectives, frustrations, interests, setbacks, etc. so you can determine whether that is the kind of person you want to work for and with.
If you are interviewing with human resources
Ask them questions about management, including the person who will be your direct boss. You can ask them stories about the person, their reputation, their history in the company or before, the type of people he or she works well with, and anything else that is of interest to you.
Human resources might act like that is proprietary information, and right there, that tells you something. If the person is a good person to work with, people brag him or her up all over the place. If they’re hesitant to talk about the person, that could mean they don’t have something good to say.
If you are talking directly to the person, who will be your boss
You have every right to ask questions about his or her background, how they like to communicate, how they like to hear bad news, how they like to hear good news, what did they look for in an employee.
You could ask them stories of their own learning experiences, setbacks, successes as well. You can ask, “what do you hope to achieve by bringing this person on” and whenever they say anything, ask “anything else, anything else.”
You can also ask, “what did the previous person in this job well that you don’t want to change?” And the other good question is, “What do you want to avoid in the person you are hiring next?” (What people want to avoid is more powerful than they want to achieve lots of time.)
You have to be smooth and weave in these questions with their questions and the general conversation. You do not want to sound like you are interrogating them or make them defensive. But you must find this information out so that you don’t learn it too late.
Many executives I’ve coached have lamented not doing their due diligence like this and finding out after going on board — and ending up unhappy.
A good job but with a bad boss is a no-win situation.
Your job is only as secure as the emotions of your immediate superior, and to nail the interview, you have to be interviewing that person.
Head of HR | Co-Founder, Zety
Show your interest
There’s nothing worse than an interviewee asking, “what does your company actually do?” Hopefully, you are applying to work for the dream-come-true company that you’ve been following for a while now. This means you know already what kind of tea the founders drink.
If not, do your homework and research the company thoroughly. Visit its website, social media profiles, learn about the company’s mission and culture, competitors, history, and what’s been happening there lately. Be smart. Use the mission statement to show how your values tie in with the company’s!
View the recruiter’s profile
Perhaps you two have something in common. Showing passion and interest in an interview is what makes the recruiter’s blood run faster, and it shows that you genuinely care.
Prepare yourself to answer the most common interview questions
These are questions like “tell me about yourself“, “what’s your biggest achievement so far?” and others. Be sure you will be asked at least one of these questions, and you don’t want to then and there think of an answer.
Research the web for most common interview questions and answers for specific jobs: marketing, teaching, nursing, machine learning- they all get a different set of questions!
Ask smart questions yourself
You sell yourself short if you don’t do a little interviewing on your own.
An interview is a time for recruiters to get to know you better. It’s highly possible that they’d checked your online presence. Be sure to check what information a potential employer can find about you online.
Enter your name on Google and see what pops out. Get rid of any compromising photos of you on various websites and check to see if you are following any fan pages that might discredit you.
Instead, let your social profiles show your achievements, hobbies, and personality.
It comes down to preparation, practice, and feedback and follow up!
Do some preparations
Prior to an interview, there are a few things that should be done to position yourself to ace an interview.
Research the company, organization, or agency
If you do not, it will be readily apparent, and it is an easy way for an interviewer to eliminate you from the running. Even if you are not asked directly, communicating what you as this shows a demonstrated interest in working for the employer and for the position you desire.
Research the interviewers
A simple Google or LinkedIn search, even a company website, can provide a wealth of useful information to a candidate.
How long has the interviewer been employed at the company, and what is their role? Did the interviewer advance within the company? What is their background and experience? Have they written any articles, or are they considered an expert in the field?
This is valuable information that can help make a great impression during the interview process.
Gather salary information
Use any number of resources, including Payscale.com or Glassdoor.com, Salary.com, LinkedIn, etc. to research the average salary (within your geographic area) for the position you seek.
Do not be surprised if you are asked for your salary requirements during an initial screening interview. Be prepared to answer with a range based upon your research, the value you bring, skills, and experience, to name a few.
Ideally, try to defer any discussions about salary until you have an offer when you have more leverage to negotiate. If that is not possible, provide a range, but indicate that you are leaving the door open for further conversation or negotiation once you’ve learned more about the position.
Craft your responses
Literally draft brief and concise answers to the most common questions like “Tell me about yourself” or “Tell me about a time when….”, “Why should we hire you?”.
Think about what information the employer is really trying to get at when they ask these questions. For example, “tell me about yourself” does not mean they want you to share your life story and recite your resume.
The key is to connect the dots for the interviewer. Show him/her that you are the right person for the job. Use the job posting as your guide because it tells you exactly what the employer wants in the right candidate.
Practice for the interview
It may require stepping out of your comfort zone, but would you rather continue the job search process, or would you rather go into an interview feeling confident that you’ve done all that you could have done? Keep working on the draft and then practice saying your responses.
There is an advantage to you hearing yourself actually speak the words – your confidence will increase, and it will become more natural and authentic. Avoid trying to memorize a script as this will be apparent and could cause you to lose out on a next round interview or a job offer.
Ask someone to ask you the questions that you seem to struggle with the most and get their honest feedback.
Whether you ask a friend, colleague, or career coach, they should be listening for whether your answers are concise, whether you tend to ramble or stay focused, whether you sound confident or uncertain and disinterested and whether you are communicating your value in a way that connects the dots for an interviewer.
Most importantly, you want to know whether you are articulating your skills and experience in a way that shows you are the right person for the job.
Communicate your value proposition
Do not let all your hard work go to waste! Go into an interview, phone, or otherwise, with your resume (and cover letter if you submitted one), job posting, list of well-thought-out questions, and communicate your value.
Do not just recite your resume. Show and tell the interviewer why you are interested in working for them and what you will contribute in the short and long-term. Aim for a balance of personality, professionalism, and address the employer’s needs. They are hiring because they have a need to fill.
Use specific examples of how you’ve demonstrated the skills and requirements throughout your employment history. Don’t leave the interviewer guessing as to whether you are a fit.
Unfortunately, many candidates will take themselves out of the running, even though they had a great interview, by not following up with a thank you message to each person that has interviewed them. Avoid cookie-cutter responses.
The best way to make an impression, whether you remain interested in the position or not (and you can indicate this in the message) is to send a personalized note thanking the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration.
Provided any additional information that may be helpful for the interviewer in determining whether you are a good fit for the role.
Related: How to Follow up with a Recruiter
Career Expert | Author, Your Personal Career Coach
Make an outline prior to the interview
To nail a job interview, take time prior to the interview to outline what you want to say, what you want to convey, what you want the interviewer to really know about you and your experience.
Make a list of all the ways you would be great in the position and identify corresponding real-life examples of them. Write down all the key points of the job description and how you would excel in each one.
Then, practice demonstrating how you would deliver specific results in the role so you can address what you would like to accomplish in the position and share it with your interviewer.
Study all the points you want to make
This is so that they come naturally to you in your interview. Then, like a good politician, slip in your prepared talking points when answering the questions they ask.
If the interviewer doesn’t ask a question that enables you to utilize your practiced statements of how you would excel in the position, ask him or her.
Ask something like, “Would you like to hear what I’d like to accomplish in the position?” and provide all your reasons and examples that would demonstrate how you will take the position to the next level.
Make sure you address all your talking points before they end the interview and show you to the door. To nail a job interview, be prepared to demonstrate that you are not only the best person for the job but leave them thinking you are the only person for the job.
Ashlee Klevens Hayes
Founder, RX Ashlee
Highly competent students and professionals emerge every single day who will ultimately become the future of the US career ecosystem. They have the talent, training, ambition, and heart that would make them a great addition to their profession and community at large.
But there is one major problem that is often unaddressed. Sometimes the most competent and brilliant professionals lack the confidence, clarity, and skill of articulating themselves during a high stakes situation (such as a job interview) that is necessary to stand out, especially in today’s competitive and evolving marketplace.
The good news is that there are specific tools and techniques that one can learn to translate their education, skills, and ambition into lasting success and career satisfaction.
Here are specific tips on how to stand out and nail your interview:
Be your own biggest advocate
If you cannot articulate to the interviewers WHY you are the perfect fit for this position, then how are they going to get to know you, your skills, your mission, your values, or your background?
Learn the art of the humblebrag
Get comfortable being uncomfortable when it comes to talking about yourself.
Avoid being a memorizing machine
Since we never know what to expect during a job interview, you really cannot memorize answers. The best way to prepare for an interview is to: reflect on your experience, practice common questions (such as “tell me about yourself”), and practicing articulating your answers.
Interview them like a pro
I would avoid generic or vague questions that can be googled or searched through their website or social media. Also, avoid asking questions such as “will I work on holidays or weekends?”
The best way to ask a question is to ASK the question that is on your mind. The last thing you want to do is show up on day 1 of this new job with unclear expectations.
If you have a high stakes job interview coming up and you know you want to nail this interview, invest in this process. Hire a coach or have a trusted colleague practice with you. Do not WING IT.
The market is too competitive, and you’ve worked way too hard not to invest time and energy into this process.
Supervisor, Samet & Company
Prepare for it
Nailing a job interview requires more thought than dressing appropriately and asking intelligent questions. Although portraying the image and asking good questions are important, candidates must also give themselves time to prepare for an interview, show confidence, and follow up post-interview in a timely manner.
Although it’s a tight job market with unemployment at an all-time low, it remains highly competitive when it comes to landing your dream job and crushing your interview.
Some important preparation includes reviewing the job description for the position you’re interviewing for and going through your resume to think about your strengths as it relates to this role.
Although this seems obvious, sometimes candidates have applied to so many open roles that they forget to ask or “wing it” when it comes to those details.
Think of your accomplishments
I always recommend to candidates as part of their preparation to think in advance of 3 projects or accomplishments you’ve experienced, refamiliarize the details of those projects.
What obstacles did you overcome? What was the team environment like, and how did you fit into that team? Were there challenging timelines? What were your strengths in these projects?
When the interviewer asks you a question like “Give me an example when…” you’ll be fully prepared to give a great answer and tweak it to fit one of your three projects no matter what the question is.
You’d be surprised how many candidates stumble on standard interview questions because they want to think of the grandest example of all.
Remember, it’s less about the project and more about your confidence, ability to think on your feet and communicate well, recalling details, and being a great storyteller of your experience.
It’s always a good idea to do your research on the company, industry, and the people you’ll be meeting. Taking time to look at the company’s website and LinkedIn are just a starting point.
Be a bit more creative and strategic about where you can get additional information on these topics so that you can ask intelligent questions to show your interest.
Researching their industry, competition, recent news, and intel from common connections are all interesting areas to focus on as well. As you become more knowledgeable about the company, people, and product, it will add to your energy and enthusiasm for your interview and the role.
Bring a notepad or portfolio
Keep in mind that companies are looking to invest in new hires who demonstrate a genuine interest and excitement about the company. It’s a good idea to bring a portfolio or notepad with you and have some well-thought questions written out in advance, in addition to writing some notes down during your interview.
You may want to refer to those notes later in the interview or when you’re writing your follow up thank you notes.
Send a thank you note
This is an important part of leaving a good impression and closing the loop for a successful interview.
Thank you notes should be emailed within 24 hours of your interview. Keep them brief 4-5 sentences, but make sure you refer to something specific mentioned in the interview to show your genuine interest and that you were listening.
Make sure you don’t have any typos or grammatical errors – it never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes look at the thank you note to proofread.
Nailing an interview has some basic components such as showing up early-on-time, being well-groomed, bringing copies of your clean resume, and communicating well. However, spending the extra time to prepare is critical, and will give you the confidence to paint that picture that shows you would be a great fit on their team.
Career Coach | Director, Red Crest Careers
Rapport, resilience, and work war story
You can build rapport, demonstrate resilience, and give a concrete example of your experience with a good “work war story.”
Pick a time at work that was really difficult, horrible, where everything went wrong.
Be fun and vivid of your description of it. It’s likely that your interviewer will have been in a similar situation in their job as well. The goal here at this point is to make them laugh in a macabre “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” kind of way.
Then talk about what you did to get out of that situation.
Don’t talk about what your company or manager did; talk about what you did.
It doesn’t matter if you worked your way out of the problem with an innovative solution or just grinding through it, you just want to demonstrate that you can get out of tough spots at work.
As you reflect on the situation, you want to demonstrate that you can look back on these difficult moments with a sense of humor and perspective. Try to make light of the toughness of it. Employers are looking increasingly for resilience, and a sense of humor and perspective on these kinds of difficult situations is one of the best ways of demonstrating that.
In short, a good “work war story” can:
- Make you relatable in the eyes of an interviewer
- Make the interviewer laugh, especially if told in a charming way
- Demonstrate resilience.
Don’t try and shoehorn this into an interview. But if the opportunity comes up to talk about it, then do so.
LinkedIn Coach & Trainer, Burriss Consulting, Inc.
Practice business conversation
Too often, interviewees all read the same sample questions from the same career sites. Candidates are coached to be confident, clear, concise, and to answer the questions in the context of the job and their abilities to do the job.
What few career coaches do is guide the candidate to have a business conversation with the hiring manager. The reason this can be impactful, for most jobs, is because these jobs are being filled to solve a business problem, not just to add to the labor pool.
When candidates help guide the ‘interview’ into a business discussion, they are positioning themselves as a solution to the problem or need, and not just a better candidate based on resumes, cover letters, and the ability to answer the same interview questions.
Find the right person for business conversation
Yes, I understand many interviewers do not fully understand the business need. The only way to fix this issue is to find a way to get into the business conversation with the person who will make the business decision of hiring the right resource.
This requires other activities such as using LinkedIn to find the right person to get introduced to this person and then to get into the business conversation. For most candidates, this is far more rewarding than being a job seeker in line with everyone else to have an interview.
I share this idea because it’s what I have done for all 6 of my primary career shifts. It’s also what I coach my students to do.
Human Resources Manager, National Contracting Center |
Human Resources Manager, Senior Financial Group
Be your best self
Don’t dodge questions or sugar-coat your answers. Be real, be yourself, and be honest. Take some deep breaths to recharge your brain. Listen to your pump-up song (mine is “Break My Stride” by Matthew Wilder, circa 1983) to boost your confidence.
Read your resume to remind yourself of your accomplishments. Think about your proudest moments, your most significant challenges, lessons you have learned, and why you have moved from role to role. Spend some time thinking about what is important to you and convey it.
Keep it mostly job-related, but be sure to share your passions and personality. Ask if you answered all their questions.
Make eye contact. Shake hands firmly. Charm the receptionist. Mirror the interviewer. Most importantly, make sure that, before you leave that room, they can imagine working with you and sharing stories in the break room. Make connections at every opportunity.
Do your homework
Conduct your own research on the company – google their leaders and scour their website and social media. Read up on industry trends and current challenges. Ask intelligent questions that show that you will do the same in the workplace.
Do you feel comfortable in the work environment? Make sure you get a good idea of what the role entails, why it is open, and what success looks like.
Ask your interviewers why they joined and why they stay. Ask yourself if this is how and where you want to spend your most valuable resource – your time.
Let them know
Lastly, if you want the job, tell them that.
Trainer/Career Coach, Employment BOOST | Executive Recruiting
Manager, JMJ Phillip Executive Search
Research before the interview
Nailing a job interview always starts with preparation prior to the interview. Review the job description and know how your experience aligns with the job. Research about the company and your interviewers on LinkedIn before meeting them so you can get an idea of their role in the company.
Review and practice interview questions
Practice potential interview questions and start preparing examples that could help frame your behavior to help hiring managers understand your approach to particular situations. Even if the interviewer does not ask these exact questions, this will get you to think about your experiences and become better equipped to answer questions that come your way.
Confidence is vital during interviews. Be confident in your experience and achievements, and being prepared will help give you a confidence boost.
Laurence J. Stybel, Ed.D.
Co-Founder, Stybel Peabody Associates, Inc.
Research about the company
A great way to differentiate yourself from your competitors in the job interview is to be the one who did the most primary and secondary research about the company.
Secondary research refers to articles about the company that appears in the newspapers and financial filings. Consult your town’s librarian for tips on how to conduct secondary research on a company.
Primary research refers to getting away from your computer and having face to face conversations with people who work at the company or used to work at the company. For example, find the nearest coffee shop to the company and see if the person at the check out counter can point out employees.
You may learn something valuable, or you may learn nothing. But how many of your competitors even try.
HR Practitioner, HR NOLA
Please make sure to research the company you’re interviewing with well in advance of the interview. Check out their website, look up the team members through LinkedIn, read reviews on Google and Glassdoor.
Prepare for situational questions
Interviewees should expect to talk about projects/assignments they have worked on, including success, failures, and potential improvements they could have made to those projects.
Situational questions are the norm these days, so think about different challenging situations you have been in and be prepared to describe them, and if it wasn’t your best moment, relay how you could have handled the situation better.
Companies don’t expect you to be perfect, but they want to know you are accountable and can learn from past experiences. Having an answer prepared in advance can help to calm down your interviewing anxiety!
Keep in mind that the interviewer is generally just as nervous, anxious, and excited about the process as the interviewee!
Global Head of HR, Avaya
Value two-way discussion
Beyond the obvious – research the company, know the job expectations and how your skills and experience relate – ask questions! The best interview should feel like a two-way discussion, one where you are exploring getting to know each other, after all, it’s a two-way street.
Be curious enough to expand beyond what you have learned online, or from networking to have a dialogue about the company its strategy and culture so you can ensure it’s a good match for you and the company
Talent Acquisition Manager, PrimePay
If the job interview is an in-person interview, I always say that the interview starts in the parking lot! Everything you do from pulling into the companies parking lot to walking out of the interview matters.
Nailing a job interview is not that hard, as long as you follow a few simple steps!
be polite and courteous to everyone you see and meet from when you pull into the parking lot to when you leave.
Handshake and eye contact
Have a firm handshake and make sure to maintain eye contact!
Conduct research on the company, but as well as the individuals you are meeting. Connect with employers on Linkedin.
Be prepared with questions in regards to the company, position, culture, team, environment, and so much more! Also, be ready to answer questions about yourself and what you are looking for!
Dress to impress
Dress professionally! It will make you stand out in a positive way and show that you commit time and effort towards yourself and are dedicated to the interview!
Prepare your resume
Print multiple copies of your resume to pass to individuals who are interviewing you.
Close the interviewer! Tell them your “why” and based upon everything you discussed why you would be a great fit.
Follow up with each individual with a thank you email (or card) within 24 hours and explain to them your level of interest and why you would be the best match for this opportunity!
Group Executive Director, Nigel Wright Group
Provide an emotive response
If candidates can provide an emotive response to why they want the job, this is often something that really stands out to a hiring manager.
Demonstrating an infectious enthusiasm about the role, rather than simply just listing relevant skills and qualifications, is likely to make your response different from other interviewees. A lot can be said about a sparkling personality or attitude and how this will influence an employer’s decision when picking someone out from the crowd.
Often an employer is likely to hire someone who has convinced them of their drive, determination, and willingness to learn over someone who has that bit more experience.
In the United States, employee turnover is at a record high, and engagement is at an all-time low. Therefore, managers are seeking employees who offer commitment and are willing to participate in improving the work culture.
Apply to companies that you admire. Research the company’s corporate values and explain why you resonate with them. Explain that these values will provide you with an incentive to go above and beyond.
If possible, get letters of recommendation from former employers that emphasize your enthusiastic long-term commitment to the firm.
Workforce Analyst, Fit Small Business
Listen more than you talk
While it’s vital to show enthusiasm about the role, it’s equally essential to demonstrate the ability to listen, take instruction, and work as a valuable team member. Those who ramble or over-share are likely to blow the job interview entirely because it calls into question a candidate’s emotional IQ and reliability to perform.
If you’re the type of interviewer who gets over-excited or nervous, I recommend that you listen thoroughly to the answer, think about your reply and then give your response in a clear, clean, professional friendly manner without rambling on. At the end of the day, succinct, well-crafted answers to interview questions always serve the applicant best.
Don’t creep out the interviewers
Before an interview, an applicant must do their homework. Background research on a company’s social media pages and website not only illustrates preparation and interest in the company, but it also helps the applicant craft insightful follow up questions to ask their interviewers.
That said, some applicants take it too far. I once had a candidate ask me questions about my family, travel, and hobbies outside of work. Surely they were simply trying to make a good impression and build a relationship with me as the interviewer.
However, it’s best candidates not to reveal themselves in a way that makes the hiring team feel like you’re stalking them.
Director of Business Operations, Perfect Search Media
Know about the company
It’s crazy that, even today, interviewees will still do little to no research on the company they’re interviewing for.
If you want to nail a job interview, make sure you know not just what the company does, but its history, uniques, and any other creative tidbits that you can find on the company website or in the press.
Keep the length of your answers in check
Be aware of the length of your answers – a long answer can be fine if it’s chock full of useful information, but answers that veer into too lengthy or too brief territory can affect the interview as much as the actual content of the answer you’re giving.
Head of Marketing Recuitment, Software Path
Ask questions and follow up with further contextual questions
Asking the right questions is as important as answering those posed to you in a job interview.
Well-researched and thoughtful questions are a great way to show that your interest in the role is genuine, and it gives you a chance to prepare discussion points that you feel highlight your strengths.
It is also helpful to follow up on an interview with further contextual questions based on the discussion in the interview.
As an example, you may reach out after the interview for training recommendations in areas where you stated you wanted to expand your skill set during the interview.