You have applied for a dream job, and congratulations, they let you know to come in for an interview in three days. How do you go from being one of several candidates being interviewed to the one they send the offer letter to? This article provides the best job interview tips where you will learn:
- how to prepare for an interview
- how to look professional and confident
- how to present the best version of yourself possible to get the job
- how to determine if this is the best job for you
Best Interview Tips on Interview Preparation
If you are new to interviewing or have not interviewed in a while, a key component of having a great interview is preparation. If behavioral style interviewers or answering questions using the STAR format is new to you, then make sure you read the article below.
1. Practice the STAR Interview Answer Format
Instead of responding “Yes, I did that,” the ideal way that interviewers want you to respond to questions in the STAR format. Using the STAR story answer structure will also help show how awesome you are in a concise and compelling manner.
Learn how to use the STAR answer format to establish your brand and showcase your character, competence, and why you are the best person for the job. This is one of the most important job interview tips.
2. Review the Job Description
For every job you apply to, you need to keep a copy of the job description, company name, manager name (if available), and date you applied. Now, is the time to dig it out and look at it again.
Look at the job description and the choice of words used to talk about things you may have or have not done. Look at the required and desired skills they want.
3. Write Examples from Your Own Experience to Show You Have the Required and Desired Skills
Why? It is stressful sitting an interview and being asked a question that you need to think of an answer for and to articulate it in a clear manner. The more examples you have already thought of, then it will be easier and more like an open book test where you knew the questions ahead of time. The time you spend before the interview thinking of STAR story examples you can share means you will better be able to share your unique qualifications at the interview versus thinking after the interview, “Argh, I forgot to tell them that!” or remember a better answer after you leave.
The important thing in how to prepare for an interview is to make sure you can speak clearly about your experience. This may seem like a silly job interview tip, but I have been an interviewer where the candidate was not able to to explain what he did for three of his jobs. Use the STAR format to showcase your key qualifications and experiences and why you would be the best candidate.
4. Research the Company, Products, News
Read the current news, press releases, and social media about the company. It can help give you a better idea of what is important to the company and guide your questions about the company.
If the company makes software products that you might be using, it is helpful to have used them or read about them at least so you can offer your opinion or insight into them if asked.
If you are able to talk to someone who has worked with the company or on the project, even better. It will give you a better idea of how the company works, terminology, and culture.
5. Brush Up on Your Technical Skills
If you will be interviewing for a technical job, make sure you have your certification dates and brush up on your technical knowledge and skills. Ideally, you will be doing this before you get called for a interview.
Best Job Interview Tips on How to Dress
Good dressing and grooming are important in how to prepare for an interview. It makes you look professional, polished and instills you with greater confidence.
I remember when I interviewed for an Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corp (ROTC) college scholarship when I was in high school. I wore a navy blue jacket and skirt I had bought (hey, I am wearing blue, I already look the the part, hint, hint).
As I left the interview, I saw a guy I went to high school with. He was a jock and in my Calculus class. He was sitting in the waiting area in a sweat shirt and jeans. He was there for an interview too, but he looked no different than when he went to class. I was so shocked to see him there and how casually he was dressed. Later, I got an offer letter but he did not.
I think dressing up for an interview is a sign of respect for the people and company you are interviewing with – that you care. It is best to be conservative and not wear clothes that are too casual, flashy, revealing or do not fit well. Later when you start working with the company and everyone is dressed casually, by all means fit in but dress a little better.
Either a matching tailored suit coat and pants/skirt or a jacket and pants/skirt and polished shoes is fine. You don’t want your outfit too loose or too tight. Buying a good interview suit is worth the investment. If it makes you feel great and you think you look good, it increases your confidence and positivity which radiates to others.
If you did not just dry clean your jacket, then give it a smell especially near the underarms. Check your outfit for stains, missing buttons or hanging hems. If it has been hanging in your closet for years, brush off the shoulders and suit, since it is has accumulated dust. Trust me, I know.
Clean and polish your shoes. If you will be wearing high heels and need to walk a distance, then plan to bring your heels in a bag or briefcase with you and wear comfortable shoes.
Now is the time to look your best as a professional. Good grooming is important.
Get a haircut. If you color your hair, get the roots touched up.
Eyebrows? If they will rival Chewbacca’s eyebrows, get them trimmed, threaded, or plucked into a shape. Avoid unibrows.
How are your fingernails? They need to be clean unless you are a mechanic. Trim them and file them so they have a nice, even, rounded shape. No bitten, chewed fingernails. You could get a manicure but go for a French manicure or a subdued colored nail polish. No screaming, bright or unusual colors unless you are interviewing for a rock band.
Are you bringing a briefcase? purse? laptop bag? Make sure they look clean and professional. Now is the time to clean them out, so you are not digging in your laptop bag for a pen amid the gum wrappers.
What to Bring to the Interview
- Bring the interview information, along with the names of the people you will be meeting, and directions.
- Your driver’s license for proof of identity.
- Job description that you will be interviewing for and your notes if you want to review them before the interview.
- Bring a list of three – five references – names, title, company, phone number, e-mail, dates you worked with them, and a note on how you worked with the person
- Bring half a dozen copies of your resume printed on nice quality, thicker resume paper in case an interviewer does not have a copy.
- Bring supporting information such as a more detailed version of your resume, certification dates, etc. in case they want you to fill out more information or ask a question.
- Bring two pens, black or blue.
- Portfolio with a pad of paper for your notes.
- Your calendar (hopefully available on your phone), in case they ask you to come back for another interview or meeting.
- If you are wearing a skirt, then wear pantyhose and bring an extra pair.
- Before an interview, I had gone to the bathroom and wanted to make sure I did not have saggy pantyhose ankles. As I hoisted them up, I heard a long, “rrrrrrr” sound. I looked down and saw my fingernails had torn through my pantyhose, and I had a long run from my ankle up side of my leg to the top.
- It was a panel interview with five interviewers in the room. I walked in and kept big run on the side away from the interviewers and twisted my body to avoid them seeing it. I was sweating just from the stress of trying to hid my big run. If you want to wear a dress or skirt, bring extra pantyhose.
- If you won’t be coming home before you interview, then bring a toothbrush and toothpaste or at least have breath mints. The last things you want is to impress the interviewers but kill them with your halitosis.
- Bring a brush or comb to smooth down your hair.
- Make-up for last minute touchups, – eyeliner, eyeshadow, concealer, lipstick.
- If you will be eating lunch before you interview, it is a nice idea to have an extra shirt or blouse just in case. Or take it from me, and avoid anything drippy like soup or cocktail sauce.
- Reading glasses if you need them. Clean them the night before.
Best Interview Tips and Questions
When you interview, the interviewers have a few questions in mind:
- Can you do the job?
- Are you someone they want to work with?
- Will you fit in the company’s organization?
The best interview tips I have is to be yourself, the best version of yourself, and let your personality shine. Your personality – your eye contact, your smile, humor, communication skills, appearance, and how you present yourself are the intangible qualities behind your answers that contribute to a positive impression.
Make sure your voice and body language convey interest and enthusiasm for the position and the people you are interviewing with. If there are two equal candidates, and one seems more positive, interested, and enthusiastic about the job, guess which one is more likely to get the offer?
If you can make an authentic human connection early on in the interview through some breaking of the ice or small talk, it makes you more relaxed and open and allows the interviewers to hear your answers with greater openness and receptivity.
When I interviewed with a manager, Lou, I noticed a small, handmade ceramic pot on his desk. I asked about it. He told me about how his son made it. I could hear the pride in his voice. I shared how I used to make pottery in 4th grade and how my parents kept my pots too and how proud I used to be when I got to visit my father’s office and see that pot.
It was an authentic moment where we shared our experiences and connected on a human level. It made me want to work with that manager who cared enough to keep a pot his son made on his desk which spoke to his values and love. Out of the interviews that day, there were two jobs that were of equal interest to me, but I really wanted to work with Lou based on the connection we made that day. I felt he was a good, caring person and would be a good person to work for. He offered me the job, and I took it which changed my life.
As the interviewee, your goal is not only trying to impress the interviewers, but your questions need to help you determine if it is the best job for you:
- Does this job sound like what I want and will enjoy?
- Will I like working with the team? manager?
- Is this company or project’s culture one that I would l find growth and fit in with?
One of the most helpful job interview tips is to ask questions about the job in the beginning. You will gain a much better idea of what they are looking for than the job description that you already read. It will also help you relax if they are talking and you do not have to.
Not only will it help you to start determining if the job is something you would like, but you can start re-shaping your STAR story answers in your head to have ready stories to match what the needed skills and qualities are before they start asking. You can even ask a question and volunteer your STAR story which shows your character or competence as well.
Questions about the typical work hours, overtime, schedule, and recognition/morale/team events will give you an idea of the culture. After their answer, you should volunteer your own STAR story about you have gone above and beyond to meet the schedule or your own experiences with recognition events. Keep it short, but it gives you an opening where you can give insight into your character and personality.
Questions about the project’s challenges, the job’s biggest challenges or things they would like improved will show you care, give you insight into what they need, and an opportunity to show how you can help them with your STAR story. I would avoid using the question, “What keeps you up at night?” unless they use the words since they are so overused and not very original.
Ask what is the timeline and point of contact for when you may hear back on a decision or next steps. If you are interviewing for other jobs, it is helpful to know if you may be hearing back in two weeks or two months. Ask who is the best person to follow-up with.
Get contact e-mail and phone numbers if they will provide it. Ask for a business card or e-mail if possible. You will want to send them each a thank you e-mail within 48 hours. If you get their business mailing address from the business card, a handwritten thank you note is even more memorable. It should contain the job and date you interviewed, what you enjoyed learning, a few sentences summarizing why you are a strong candidate, and how you look forward to hearing more.
Stay positive and confident before, during, and after the interview. You may get the job you are interviewing for or the interviewers may think you are better suited for another job or opportunity that will be even better. The best job is out there waiting for you.