If you think most hiring decisions are based on your experience and qualifications, then you better keep reading. Your resume gets you in the door, but how you interview determines whether you’re offered the job.
This article will teach you proven job interview tips to help you pass a job interview and get the job you want. Here’s what we’re going to cover:
These are the best interview tips that I know, from close to 5 years working as a Recruiter.
After you finish this article, you’ll know how to stand out from other job seekers and pass a job interview a majority of the time.
Each step below will prepare you for the actual interview. None of this is very time consuming but it will set you apart from everyone else applying for the job, making it easy for the company to decide who to hire (you!)
Here are the basic interview preparation steps to remember. I’ve put the estimated time next to each one.
Interviewers can tell when you’ve done your research, and they love seeing it. And if you haven’t… it looks really bad, especially at the start of the interview when they ask things like:
So the start of the interview is your chance to make a great first impression. Walking in with zero knowledge of their business is one of the fastest ways to shoot yourself in the foot and NOT get hired.
It could even lead to them ending the interview early. That’s one of the biggest signs your interview went badly, and you definitely want to avoid that (for example if you were told it would be a one-hour interview, and you finish in 25 minutes).
So be ready to show them that you what they do, how they make money, who their typical customer or client is, etc. You’re not expected to be an expert on their business, but know the basics.
You can do this company research on the company’s website, on their social media pages, and by searching Google. I also recommend finding one or two recent news stories to see what the company has done recently. To learn the latest on a company, try typing the company’s name plus the word “news” into your search bar.
Use the company research you’ve done to come up with a business-related reason you’re excited about them. It could be a new business model, new clients, new partnership, etc.
Actual example: I recently had a phone interview with a tech company that was built as a review/info website. They recently started handling transactions instead of sending the buyers out to other websites to complete the transaction. I read this in the news and mentioned it as an exciting development and a really good business move. The interviewer was extremely impressed that I had read the news, and understood the implications. Total time spent researching: less than 3 minutes.
Along with one business reason, try to come up with a secondary reason too. Maybe community involvement. Or company culture. Almost every company has a blurb about their culture on the website. Read it and mention what you read as a secondary reason for being interested.
You’ll seem extremely well-prepared and well-rounded for having two very different reasons.
Companies will often choose someone less talented if they also seem less risky or if their motivations make more sense. I’ve seen it first-hand.
Don’t lose out on a job to somebody with less skill than you. Prepare some legitimate reasons why you want to make a move (without talking negatively about your current employer). Here are some examples:
You can get more specific based on your situation. These are general ideas. If you do a good job with this you can beat out applicants that have more experience than yourself, because they’re not using these strategies most likely.
If you are job searching while employed, here’s a full article on interviewing when you have a job.
And if you’re unemployed right now, here are 20 good explanations for why you chose to leave your last job.
Most people go into their interview and make general statements and talk in very general terms. To set yourself apart, you want to prepare specific examples and talk about DETAILS. Facts, numbers and real accomplishments.
Hint: this is true on your resume also. You’ll get far more interviews if you cram your resume with facts, figures and statistics instead of general statements like “responsible for handling customer requests”.
So when the hiring manager asks what you accomplished in your last job, or what you do each day, you should be ready to impress! This is not the time to hesitate or be unsure. Prepare ahead of time for this.
If you’re looking for your first job without any work experience, then think about accomplishments in your academic career – classes you’ve taken, projects you’ve completed, etc. That’s your most relevant experience!
This is one of the more important interview preparation tips, and one of the easiest. Glance over your resume if you haven’t in a while. Be ready to explain past job changes in a positive light. If you left a job because your manager was horrible, say that you went to an organization that had more supportive management. It’s all about how you phrase it. We’ll look at more examples of how to deliver this in Part II coming up.
Also think of a couple of challenges and accomplishments in your last 1-2 positions. Interviewers love specific examples of accomplishments.
That’s it, you’re done with Part I. At this point you’ve already done more than 80% of job applicants, and you have good answers prepared for some of the most common interview questions. Let’s move on…
So, you’ve mentally prepared yourself with the interviewing tips from Part I. Now let’s talk about how to pass a job interview after it begins.
Most interviewers will ask you to give a quick walkthrough of your background at the start of the interview. That’s why I mentioned reviewing your resume beforehand. This pre-interview step is commonly overlooked but it’s one of my favorite job interview tips and is so easy to do!
If you’ve prepared a good, brief narrative of your career, you can impress them right off the bat. What got you interested in this field? What have you accomplished recently?
But it has to be concise. Nobody wants to hire somebody that rambles on or sounds scattered, and that’s the biggest mistake people make with this relatively open-ended question.
Spend most of your time on the recent portion of your career. Go through the beginning rather quickly. 2-3 minutes total should be your target.
After walking them through your resume, you’ll probably be asked why you’re looking to make a job change, and/or why you’re interested in their company in particular. This is where the research you’ve done pays off. You should already have two specific reasons for wanting to interview with their company.
When explaining your reason for job searching in general, I mentioned one example of how to turn a negative into a positive in Part I. Here are 2 more examples:
If your current company has no room for upward growth, say that you’re looking for a job with more room for upward growth. If you don’t like your coworkers, say you’re hoping to find a team that’s more collaborative. See the difference? You’re saying the same thing without sounding negative.
Whatever you say you’re looking for, be prepared for them to ask why you can’t get that in your current company. Just answer by saying that you don’t think there’s an opportunity to get this, and that you considered this before starting to look externally. Simple and easy. That should end the line of questioning.
After the basic questions, you’ll get into the meat of the interview. The content and questions here will vary based on the job, but here’s what you need to know about how to pass the job interview:
A good interviewer will test your limits. Especially if it’s a position involving some type of technical knowledge (math, science, engineering, etc). The only way they can find your limits is if they ask something you don’t know. So stay calm when you get this. Here’s what to do:
Try to work your way through the question as much as you can. Your thought process is often more important than answering correctly, so tell them what you’re thinking. Ask questions to clarify if needed.
Seeming genuine, thoughtful and honest can go a long way. It’s more important than answering any one question correctly.
Preparing yourself for how you’ll handle a question you’re not sure of or didn’t expect is an important piece of how to pass an interview. You can prepare for questions all day, but you still might hear something you weren’t ready for.
You should ask a lot of questions after the interviewer has finished their own questions. How are you going to decide if you want the job if you don’t find out any info? The best job candidates are evaluating a company, not just trying to get a job in the first company that wants them. Once a company realizes this, they’ll treat you like a top-notch candidate and try to sway you to join them.
If you aren’t sure what to ask, here’s a mega-list of the best questions to ask.
Use these lists to come up with questions to ask each person you’ll be meeting. If you interview with 4 people, you should ask questions to all of them. It’s okay to repeat a question, but don’t tell the last person, “so-and-so already answered all my questions.” I’ve done this in the past and wasn’t offered the job. Lesson learned.
Some of the best questions are opinion-based questions because you can ask the exact same question to as many people as you want. Example: “What’s your favorite part about working here? What is the biggest challenge/difficulty you face here?”
You have one goal in any interview: Convince them that you’re the best candidate for the job and get invited to the next round.
So you should be selling yourself in the interview, not deciding if the job is desirable.
Then you can go digest the info and make a decision once you get home. If you start using this approach you’ll have a big advantage throughout the entire interview because you’ll have one single thing to focus on. Other applicants will be juggling everything at once.
I’ve seen people recommend that you ask for feedback or concerns at the end of the interview. Something like this: “Based on what we’ve discussed, is there any reason you wouldn’t consider me for this job?” Horrible advice. Never ask this. Ever. Or anything like it.
First of all, they just finished interviewing you. Give them time to think. You’re going to go home and decide whether you’re interested, they need time to think too. Don’t put them on the spot like this.
Also, you’re bringing the negatives to their attention. You’re literally asking them if they can think of a reason that’d stop them from hiring you. Even if they do think of something, they won’t tell you for fear of a lawsuit.
I like to say something like this instead: “If you need any more info from me or have any questions later, don’t hesitate to contact me.”
You don’t need to seem perfect in the interview to get hired. Don’t try. Be human.
If you seem fake, or if you try too hard to give “perfect” answers, the hiring manager might not be able to get a real sense of what your strengths and weaknesses are. And if they can’t tell, they won’t hire you.
So, don’t go in with interview answers you read from the top of Google. If you found those in 5 minutes, everyone else did too. Come up with great answers that are unique.
Remember that it’s also okay to occasionally say, “I’m not sure”, or “Sorry, I’m drawing a total blank”. (This is okay once or twice per interview. If you find yourself doing it more, it’s a sign you didn’t prepare enough).
I’m horrible at remembering names. I always have been. So if I can do this, you can too…
When you hear someone’s name, repeat it to yourself in your head once or twice IMMEDIATELY after you shake hands. This helps you remember it.
Most of the time, if you forget someone’s name, it’s because you never really “got” it. Immediately after you heard it, you forgot. So this is how to remember.
Then, use it in the conversation within the first 5-10 minutes of the interview. Now you’ll never forget it.
There’s another benefit to this too – using someone’s name helps you build a bond with them and build trust. Studies have shown you seem more confident, competent and impressive when you say someone’s name when talking to them.
Go talk to the CEO in your company, and I bet they’ll use your name in the conversation. Leaders do this. Successful people do this.
This is a very underrated tip for interview success that anyone can do. It just takes effort.
You will build a stronger bond/rapport with the interviewer if you do this, and they’ll be more likely to remember you favorably and hire you.
Don’t use vague language and “dodge” their questions. And don’t lie. They’ll usually know. Hiring managers interview a lot of people and have a great sense of this.
If you lie and get caught, there is no way they’re going to hire you.
And if you seem like you’re trying to hide information, they won’t trust you and won’t hire you either.
Hiring managers aren’t just evaluating your skill; they’re evaluating your character. If you’re going to be joining their team, they need to see what type of person you are. And no hiring manager wants someone who is dishonest on their team.
What do they want? Someone who stands up and takes responsibility when things go wrong, who can learn from past mistakes, who is honest if there’s a problem, and who isn’t afraid to tell the truth.
The interview is where they test this before hiring you. So just remember that while they’re judging your experience and skills, they’re also judging these character traits.
Don’t badmouth former bosses, former employers, coworkers or anyone else.
Here’s what happens when you do: The interviewer will immediately become curious about the other side of the story. They’ll wonder if you were part of the problem (or the whole problem).
They’ll want to know if you’re someone who always looks to blame others. And they might worry that you have a bad attitude and won’t be able to fit into their organization. And they won’t hire you because of this.
So never, ever badmouth anyone from your past in your interview. Also, you never know if the interviewer knows somebody who you’re bad-mouthing! Many industries have pretty tight-knit communities.
Here’s a little secret: The interview isn’t really about you.
If you want to start getting a TON of job offers from your interviews, you need to start thinking about what the company wants. Make yourself seem like a solution to their problems.
How can you help them make money, save money, save time, etc.?
How will you make the hiring manager’s life easier if he or she hires you?
Figure out how to show this, start thinking about their needs and answering their questions with this mindset and you will be in the top 10% of job seekers.
The same goes for writing your resume.
If you want to stand out, start thinking of your resume as being about THEM. It’s a document that should be “tailored” to the employer’s needs, showing them how your qualifications and past work will help you step into *their* job and be successful in their organization.
That’s the general idea, and it’s true for resumes, cover letters, and interviews.
Once your interview is done and you’ve left the room, there are still a few things you should do to boost your chance of getting a callback.
These interview tips will help you impress the employer after the interview is over.
You want to thank your interviewer when you leave the room and send a thank you email the following day.
Showing appreciation for the employer’s time goes a long way, and it’s one of my favorite interview tips because it requires no talent; just effort.
Sometimes you won’t hear from the employer for many days after your interview.
They might need to meet more candidates, or might need time to finalize their decision.
I’d recommend wrapping up your interview by asking when you can expect to hear feedback. That way, you won’t be too anxious waiting at home.
If that time passes, it’s okay to follow up with the employer to get an update from them. But be patient and never sound needy/desperate. Delays happen.
If they tell you, “sorry, things are taking longer than we expected and we are still making our decision,” the worst thing you can do is act frustrated or upset. This isn’t going to help you get hired!
The best thing you can do is keep applying for jobs while you wait. It’s never smart to wait around for one single employer because so many unexpected things can cost you the job or cause a delay in the process. (Budgets change, people get promoted inside the company and they no longer need an external candidate, etc.)
So that’s another one of my favorite interview tips – when you finish one interview, try to get more lined up! Don’t stop interviewing for jobs until you’ve signed a job offer.
If you’ve followed these job interview tips, you’re in great shape to pass your next interview and get the job offer.
Don’t forget: Motivation, interest, and how you explain yourself and the reason you’re interviewing are just as important as your actual resume/skillset. I can’t stress this enough in terms of important job interview tips to remember!
Reading this article won’t change your professional skills. But it can change something far more powerful — how you come across in the interview room.
By using the interview tips and strategies above, you can beat out somebody with more experience and a more impressive resume because job interviewing is a separate skill… a skill that you’ve spent time mastering.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
Get our free PDF with the top 30 interview questions and answers. Join 10,000+ job seekers in our email newsletter and we'll send you the 30 must-know questions, plus our best insider tips for turning interviews into job offers.