Do you get nervous before job interviews? Many people do, and it's not hard to see why: the more you care about getting the job, the more you're likely to stress over how the interview will go.
If you haven't done many job interviews in the past, the uncertainty will only add to your jitters. But if you follow best practices, you'll build your confidence, feel more comfortable answering questions, and dramatically increase your chances of having a successful job interview. Below are tips on how to succeed next time (and every time).
Before the interview
1. Do your research
Always do your research on a company before your head into an interview. Wouldn't it be a shame to get hired only to discover you don't even want to work there? At the very least, research information about the company and the job, and do a Google search for current news on the company.
Some important information to look for includes what are the latest projects being carried out by the employer, how financially stable the employer is, and how well they treat employees.
Regarding the job, look for information that can help you be more convincing about how you'd be a great fit. Find former and current employees on LinkedIn who've had that job and ask them about it. If this isn't possible, review the job ad and make a list of your relevant achievements. These will serve as talking points during your interview.
Plan to arrive for your interview 10-15 minutes before the appointed time. Arriving too early can confuse the employer and create an awkward situation. On the other hand, arriving late creates a bad first impression and may doom your chances right off the bat.
2. Prepare stories to tell
Part of a successful job interview is your ability to market your experiences and skills as they relate to the job described, and a great way to do just that is by telling stories to illustrate your experiences and successes with those skills.
Stories make you engaging, allow you to show off your personality and demonstrate good communication skills too.
The job description, combined with your research, should tell you which particular skills the employer values most for the job. With that in mind, refresh your memory of stories that best show off your qualifications.
3. Gather your questions
A classic recruiter pet peeve is the part of the interview when they wonder out loud if you have any questions for them, and you simply reply "no." That can be a big strike against you.
Having questions shows how interested you really are in the role and may also show that you did your homework and should be taken seriously. Prepare a list of questions you'd like answered, It's ok to refer to your list of questions during the interview.
4. Dress for success
While your skill and experience should stand on their own, to have a successful job interview, start with your clothing. Dress one level above the job you're seeking. It's not all about expensive suits and ensembles — it's about looking the part and wearing clothes that are clean and fit you well.
If you are unsure of the dress code at the company where you are interviewing, reach out to the recruiter and ask. Once you have a general idea, be sure to choose something that will make you feel confident.
Decide what you'll wear the night before so you won't rush at the last minute. Lay out your clothes and make sure everything is clean and pressed.
5. Bring what you need
Although you may have emailed your resume to the company, bring paper copies for you and your interviewer to refer to. It's also a good idea to have paper copies of your references list in the event that you are asked for them. These should always be on a separate sheet of paper, not on your resume.
Bring a work portfolio with proof of your skills and achievements. Compiling it will build your confidence and jog your memory, while having it in the interview will build your credibility and make it easier to tell your stories.
6. Respect the schedule
How to succeed in a job interview 101: Plan to arrive for your interview 10-15 minutes before the appointed time. Arriving too early can confuse the employer and create an awkward situation. On the other hand, arriving late creates a bad first impression and may doom your chances right off the bat.
Ask for directions when making arrangements for the interview. If you run into a snag, phone ahead at the first sign of trouble. It shows good manners and a respect for the recruiter's time and will give them an opportunity to reschedule if need be.
During the interview
1. Stay positive throughout
A positive conversation is key to s successful job interviews. Employers don't want to hear a litany of excuses or bad feelings about a negative experience, even when legitimate.
If you are asked about a low grade, a sudden job change, or a weakness in your background, don't be defensive. Focus instead on the facts (briefly) to emphasize what you learned from the experience. And don't bad mouth anyone at any point. That just leaves a bad taste.
2. Watch your body language
What you don't say can be as important as what you do say in job interviews. Understanding and maximizing your non-verbals — smiling, eye contact, handshake, posture, and the like — will help you succeed in the interview.
3. Be real
Speak clearly and enthusiastically about your experiences and skills. You should be proud of your accomplishments. Be professional but let your personality shine through. Employers tend to hire people they like. Don't be afraid of short pauses. You may sometimes need a few seconds to formulate answers, and that's fine.
4. Seal the deal
When both sides are done with their questions and the interview winds down, thank your interviewers for their time, and ask them when you can expect to hear from them next and what's the best way to follow up with them (which you should note immediately).
After the interview
1. Note important information
As soon as possible after the interview, take time to write down the names and titles of all your interviewers, your impressions, remaining questions and key information learned. If you promised the interviewers anything, such as forwarding additional information, note that too for a reminder later. Once you're interviewing regularly, this process will help you keep employers and circumstances clearly defined.
2. Send a handwritten thank you
Follow up the interview with a handwritten thank you letter. This shows your strong interest in the company, your sincerity, and your attention to detail. Only 1 in 20 jobseekers bother to send a thank you letter, so doing so could be the only difference between you and other good candidates.
LiveCareer can help you get prepped for some of the most common -- and not-so-common -- interview questions to expect when the big day comes. Check out our Interview Questions guide and find direction on how to respond to common, behavioral, and situational interview questions (plus a lot more).