How to Absolutely Ace an Interview
Job interviews can be very scary. You’re trying to make a great impression on an employer you hope will hire you amongst possibly many other people. This person is usually in a position of power and authority, and that alone can be intimidating. Coupled with not knowing what kinds of questions they’re going to ask, and what kind of personality they have, it can be quite overwhelming.
Here are my tips on how to have an amazing interview:
1. Be on time.
It’s almost impossible to recover from being late to an interview unless you have a really good excuse. Plan to get to the area of your interview about a half hour before you’re scheduled to meet. That way, you can mentally prepare yourself to be your best instead of rushing in all frazzled with no time to regroup. Don’t forget to factor in finding the office where you’re supposed to be and parking into your prep time. Be sure to get to the actual office about 10 minutes ahead of time to check in and wait to be seen. Waiting for your interviewer already gives a really good first impression, and you haven’t even said anything yet!
One last thing to mention on this point – don’t get the day of your interview wrong. Come in early and you just look stupid. Come in late and you look stupid and also nix any chance of getting the job.
2. Be confident, but not over-confident.
Everyone likes a confident person – no one likes an over-confident person. A potential employer wants to see that you are confident and that you believe in yourself, and that you can carry yourself with authority. Don’t get too crazy though. No employer wants to see someone who thinks they know everything already. All employers love someone who shows potential of being a chameleon. Jobs often change nature, and employers want an employee who will embrace that change and grow with it. Be open to learning new things – this will only benefit you going forward.
3. Perfect your body language and tone.
This is actually a huge one. The other two might seem obvious, but this one maybe not so much. Your body language and your tone (the way you say what you say) can be everything.
Think of this scenario. An interviewee walks in and makes minimal eye contact with the interviewer. She doesn’t extend her hand for a handshake. She sits down and leans back in the chair, putting both arms on the arm rests. In the interview, she is a tad too eager and ends up sounding disingenuous. At times, the words she emphasizes in a simple sentence make her come off as a know-it-all.
The next interviewee walks in. She immediately smiles and extends her hand to her interviewer for a handshake. She sits up straight in her chair and maintains eye-contact throughout the interview (without looking too creepy). Her arms rest at her side and her hands are in her lap. In the interview, she maintains a mellow yet confident and professional tone, and sounds natural and at ease. She makes sure to use intonations and emphasize certain words in her answers that would otherwise make her sound cocky. As she continues to speak with the interviewer and get a feel for their dynamic, she either maintains her strict professionalism or eases up a bit to lighten the mood.
I feel like it would be useful to do a video on this particular point to illustrate the differences described above. Maybe at another time…
Anyway, be constantly conscious of what you are doing with your body and how you sound. The interviewer is watching and listening to your every move. It might even be beneficial to record yourself on your phone to see what kind of quirks you might want to work out.
4. Be at ease.
This is of course easier said than done. Interviews are always a nervous time. Here are a few things I tell myself before an interview to calm myself down.
- Be yourself. Trying to act a different way than your normal self is tiring and takes away too much focus which should be used on thinking of good answers to give during your interview. If you’re hired, you also don’t want to end up looking back on your interview and feeling awkward for pretending to be someone else.
- The interviewer is just another person. They have a family to go home to at the end of the day just like you. They brush their teeth and get ready for bed at the end of the day just like you. I try to imagine them outside of work, where they don’t have to be dressed up and sitting here with me asking questions in the hopes of really getting to know me in an hour or so. I try to imagine them for who they really are – just another person who looks forward to the weekend and holidays, who loves their mama just like me, and who enjoys McDonald’s just like the rest of us. Just another person.
- Be honest. You might think that an interview is a time to minimize your faults and maximize your strengths. However, failing to point out at least some shortcomings will have you pegged as a liar outright. No one is perfect, and employers don’t want to hear about how you never make mistakes, never come to work late, or never have disagreements with fellow employees. We all do it. Own it. This isn’t to say that you should divulge your shortcomings without being asked about them, but if you are asked about them, be honest about them and let the employer know that you are not afraid to admit them, but that they are absolutely an area for improvement. Be honest about your faults, but don’t be proud of them.
5. Remember: your interview starts the second you walk into the office.
You never know what type of feedback from the receptionist or passersby the interviewer will get about you after the interview is done and you’ve left. While waiting for your interviewer to meet you, the impressions you give the receptionist as well as other employees who might see you waiting can make or break you. Be warm and friendly to everyone you come across. Leave them talking about how nice and professional you were, not how rude and impatient you were. Be aware while waiting. Don’t let your interviewer catch you off-guard looking at your phone when you should be alert and ready to meet them. Make sure your posture is great. Again, first impressions are everything.
When I go into a place for an interview, I make sure to make eye contact with as many people as possible, and I smile at everyone I see. I want people to wonder who I am and if I am later hired, I want them to already have a good impression of me. Oh, that’s the girl who smiled at everyone – she seems friendly and like she will be a great person to work with! Another great thing to do while waiting (if appropriate) is to strike up a conversation with someone nearby. Talk a little with the receptionist or someone hanging out in the area. To have your interviewer walk in on that makes you look at ease, personable, and like you belong there!
Lastly, pick your interview outfit carefully. Dress appropriately for the job you’re seeking. If you’re interviewing for Starbucks, don’t come wearing a suit. Maybe opt for a nice pair of jeans and a casual yet put-together top. If you’re interviewing for a property management position, don’t come wearing a tracksuit. Maybe opt for a button-down blouse and slacks or pencil skirt. If the company doesn’t have a uniform, try checking out their website or their employees on LinkedIn to see what they’re wearing.
6. How to answer the dreaded question: “What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
I hate this question. I hate the “strengths” part because I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging. I hate the “weaknesses” part because, well, that’s just really hard to answer without sounding like you’re selling yourself out. I never prepare for this question although it’s almost always asked. Don’t do that. Do prepare. The best way to answer the “weaknesses” part of the question is to basically give another strength, but disguise it as a weakness. My answer was something along the lines of, “I’m very friendly. Sometimes too friendly.” I elaborated, saying that sometimes I was too nice and I couldn’t say ‘no’ to people. In a customer service job, this would likely be counted as a plus, but I made it into a weakness by saying that sometimes it was hard for me to say ‘no’. Point out something that can be spun as a strength if you look at it a different way. Don’t make it just a weakness and end it at that. Then that’s really awkward. Definitely think of a good answer for this one and be prepared for it.
7. Match your interviewer’s body language and attitude.
I know I already mentioned body language, but it’s because it is so important. For this last point, I wanted to be sure to include matching your interviewer’s body language and attitude. As I mentioned previously, start the interview very professionally. You’ve just met this person, so you don’t know what to expect. Maintain professionalism and ease off if and when appropriate. In my most recent interview, my interviewer was very down-to-earth and relaxed. Therefore, I adjusted and leaned back a little in my chair. I crossed my legs. He laughed a lot, and so did I. It was a very fun interview, and I embraced that! In my interview prior to that one, my interviewer was much more serious. Therefore, I kept it strictly professional. I didn’t relax too much, didn’t laugh much, and just mirrored his body language and attitude. I got both jobs respectively. If your interviewer is serious, don’t be awkward and make jokes. They will likely not laugh and things will just get uncomfortable. If your interviewer is easy going and chill, feel free to let loose a little! Whatever they are doing, do it. Still be yourself, but move to fit the mold.
8. Know the company you’re interviewing for.
Before going into the interview, do a little bit of research on the company you’re interviewing with. If you show that you came prepared and are excited about the prospects of working for the company, you’ll likely impress your interviewer. Being able to talk a little bit about what the company is up to these days will show that you care about this interview and this job, and that you are interested in the company and are truly hoping to be a part of it!
9. Ask questions.
Normally toward the end of an interview, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. This is usually a time to breathe a sigh of relief because it signals the end, and many times, we say “no” and end it at that. However, asking your own questions will show the interviewer that you are 1. interested in him/her and the company, 2. that you are confident enough to ask them, and 3. that you were paying attention during the interview. If the interviewer made a comment about themselves or the company that you’d like to know more about, then ask them! Asking them questions will also help to put you both more at ease, and maybe you more than they! A few questions I like to ask are, 1. How long have you been with the company and how do you like it? 2. What are the people on your team like? (Good question to get to know what the interviewer thinks and says about his own employees – because you could be one of them!) 3. What are the benefits this company offers? 4. What are the prospects for growth in this department and in this company?
10. Thank you email.
Once the interview is done and you’ve left, either right after leaving the building or once you get home, send the interviewer a follow-up/thank-you email. Keep it short and sweet, saying something like,
“Dear So & So,
Thank you again for your time today. It was great getting to speak with you and I appreciate the opportunity. If you have any further questions for me, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I hope to hear from you soon!
This not only shows the interviewer that, again, you are professional, but that you are excited and eager (but not too eager – hence the short and sweet) for the job. Also, adding that you are open for more questions shows that you are not afraid of discussing things more with them, and that you would like to hear from them again. It also shows them that you are serious about the job. Think of it as the last bit of icing on the cake that just tops everything off perfectly.
You can truly master interviews with a little practice and self-confidence. Take all of these points and work at them, and in time, you’ll be a pro at interviews.