Between getting selected for an interview and being hired, applicants have less than a 1% chance of landing any one position. This places a lot of pressure on interviewee to articulate their suitability in a convincible way. That can make interviews seem like a high pressure make or break moment. However, the majority of the convincing begins long before you enter an interview.
Recruiters have specific criteria they hope you fulfil; from your resume all the way to the job offer. The best thing you can do is understand what your recruiters are looking for and how you can satisfy those needs.
Below, we’ve compiled 19 interview tips that will give you the best chance at being in that 1% of people who get hired.
1. Think about why you want this job
The recruiter is looking to identify your intentions and determine what impact they’ll have on their bottom line. Remember, the business is there to succeed, not just survive. If your reason for wanting a job is simply to make ends-meet, you should consider packaging this in another way. Perhaps you’ve been interested in a particular industry for a while and want more hands-on experience or you’d like to help an organisation you know do better in a certain area.
Your reasoning for wanting this position should link in with the business succeeding in one area or another. Some examples are:
- “I want to explore [area of business] further to round out my experience after doing [previous experience] for [length-of-time]
- “I noticed you’re going into [new venture of business] and I believe in that project. I want to use [your relevant skills] to help accomplish [business goals].
- “[Company name] is known for [good quality of business]. This interests me because it was lacking in my previous job. I think the [good quality of business] will keep me motivated and help me succeed in accomplishing [business goals] here.
2. Understanding the why
One thing that we often neglect is understanding why recruiters ask the questions they do. Your job is to entice the recruiter by giving them what they’re looking for in the job. Understanding the reasoning behind their questions is key to this.
There are many ways you can try understand the ‘why’ behind a question. Simply looking at sample interview questions and thinking about what exactly that’s asking you is a great start.
The job description can also give you great insight. The question you’re being asked is probably related to something you’ll be involved in in your role – finding common questions and referencing them against your job description will show you that connection.
“What are your greatest weaknesses?”; a question we often get asked when applying for a job. Without thinking of the reasoning behind this question, you might just answer with “I always leave the fridge door open” or “I don’t know how to change a car tyre”. When you understand that the recruiter is seeing if you’re self-aware of qualities that might hinder your ability to perform, you can answer the question effectively.
4. Know your weaknesses
Career advisor Ben points out it is important for you to be knowledgeable of your weaknesses. It’s a disadvantage to take someone on that is ignorant to their own areas-of-improvement. A good way of approaching this type of question in an interview is to speak on a previous experience that you struggled with. “Well, in the past I had difficulty with…” and mention that you are looking to improve on this issue in the current position through X, Y and Z. This answers the recruiters question without making it seem they’re inheriting a liability.
Make sure the weakness you’re highlighting is not an essential skill for the position you’re hoping to secure. If it is, this might be a red flag for the recruiter.
5. Know your resume well
One of the greatest resources recruiters will have on your life will be your resume. Leaving prepared questions aside, anything the recruiter asks you will be taking inspiration from your resume. You need to know the things that are on your resume quite well for this reason.
There’s no greater red flag than when the recruiter asks you about your 30% user growth for a previous employer only to be met with a blank face. If it’s on your resume, be prepared to talk about it and provide more information than what is on the page.
6. Any questions?
At the end of the interview, it is common to be asked if you have any further questions. It’s important that you have something prepared as not following up can give the impression you know little of the position or are concerned with other vacancies (and thus have done little preparation for this interview).
Common questions include those that directly address the organisation, for example:
- “Could you tell me more about diversity policies currently in place?”
- “What have previous people in the position struggled most with?”,
- “What are common misconceptions about this role?”,
- How do you see this role fitting into the business’ mission?”.
While these show you’re in-tune with the business and take a genuine interest in its management, there is room for improvement. The best questions to ask at the end of your interview are those that open a dialogue and create a fluid conversation. An example of this sort of question is:
“Is there anything in my application that bothers you?”
This sort of question shows your desire to improve and demonstrates your ability to take critique. It also gives insight into secondary concerns of the recruiter and gives you an area to work on you may have not been aware of. Even if you don’t get this job, you’ll have this information for the next interview. It’s win-win.
7. Don’t lie
Lying can only get you so far in an interview: it is very rare to be the right decision. As Ben brought to our attention, recruiters who notice interviewee’s lying will “end an interview early” and automatically take them out of consideration. Answer honestly and stick to your true experiences – that’s what the recruiter is interested in.
8. Understand the USP of the position
Working in customer support, Sia says he always researches “the USP of [his] position”. This is the unique-selling-point of your job. Essentially, this asks what does your role add to the business. What impact does it make for the firm and how does it differ to all other roles that are employed on the team? Understanding the USP of a position will help you comprehend exactly why the vacancy exists and how you can apply yourself.
To get a grasp of the USP of your position you can:
- Look into the business’ social media to see their latest projects
- Analyze the job description to see essential skills not shared among people in the company
- Identify the seniority of your position (if you’re a the Head of a department, your USP is your expertise)
If you can’t figure out the USP of your position, this is a great question to ask during the interview as mention in #5.
9. What do people not like about the business?
One of the greatest things you can do to prepare for an interview is to ask people in the organisation what they don’t enjoy about the firm. This can give you a better understanding of issues within and where you can help improve. It can also give you more information on the work culture and help you negotiate whether or not you’re willing to take a job offer should the interview go well.
You can get in contact with people through LinkedIn or Facebook Groups to do this.
10. Allow yourself to say no
Much like knowing your weaknesses, do not fear saying no in an interview. As pointed out to us by data scientist Pavel, “You’re afraid to say no you [don’t have experience with something], but that’s totally fine to say. I think I had a perception that saying no is a very bad thing when at an interview”.
This ties into not lying in an interview, too. You don’t need to pretend to have experience with a certain technology or system in an interview if you haven’t. What is important is that you highlight your ability to pick up new concepts quickly and demonstrate a willingness to learn. 11. Research where the company is headed
Gal (who works in business development) gave us a great insight into his interview preparation. Researching the goals of the business for the next 6-18 months will allow you to spot opportunities to shine. If you notice that they have a product launch upcoming next year, you might have skills that can aid that. The recruiter will be concerned with the difference you can make now to the firm. However, they’ll be impressed seeing the differences you can make now and in the future.
To see where the business is headed in the next 6-18 months you can:
- Check news stories about the firm
- Interview people that work in the business currently on their projects
- Review the company’s LinkedIn page
11. Research field trends
Whatever position you’re going for, it will be situated in a certain sector. This can be Tech, Marketing, Finance, Health, and many others. Understanding the trends within your field will give you a great platform to speak on directions the company can take in the future. This also links to having a follow-up question for your recruiter. If you spot a trend in the field, you can ask what the company’s plans are to address this.
You can learn more about trends in your field by:
- Searching [Field] Trends [Year]
- Checking the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (or another country’s equivalent)
- Researching the projects of competitors
- Following industry-specific media (Business Insider, The Financial Times and so on)
12. Don’t jump to say everything
As interviewees, we think recruiters will want to hear everything we have done and all the reasons we are great. But, this isn’t always the case. As a former CEO, Pavel notes that “when you interview people you don’t want to know all the great things they did in their life, you just want to know if they meet the requirements or not.”
You might be anxious to get all of your great points across but the key details you need to convey are those related to the position you’re applying for.
13. Mock interviews
Contacting friends to run-through mock interviews with you will allow you to calm your anxieties and frame your answers. Prepare some common interview questions and have someone that you know ask you them. This way, you get to hear yourself speak aloud and will build confidence in your response. To find interview questions to use for these, you can check Glassdoor.
Mock interviews can be enhanced by having a recruiter or a friend that works at the company conduct them for you.
14. Prepare a checklist
Not all interviews are to get hired at a new company – some are for promotions and moving to a new internal role. Often, these types of interviews will require an in-depth knowledge of the company and a plan-of-action for what you will do if you’re granted this promotion.
You can get lost in your thoughts and become flustered if you’re worrying about missing something important or forgetting a statistic. Preparing a one-page document that you can use to go over your thought processes is a great way to overcome this.
15. Training sessions
Many people struggle with interview skills. For this reason, there’s an abundance of interview skill trainings found all over the world. Training sessions are great for meeting other people that are looking to develop the same expertise as you – especially if you don’t have a close network of friends to sit and run through mock interviews with you.
16. Video content
If you’re bored with static information, researching interview questions, and don’t have the means to go out and meet others to prepare for an interview, online video content is the best option for you. There are hundreds of videos on Youtube of real people that provide interview advice and preparation.
Deniz Sasal provides a comprehensive guide to answering interview questions with an analysis of why those questions are being asked.
17. Give experiential responses
The recruiter has already had a chance to look over your resume and cover letter. They know what your duties were in other organisations – simply regurgitating these statements to them will lead to disinterest.
Your responses should be framed experientially, meaning that you should tell stories. Rather than stating you were involved in a product launch, talk about what that process was like. Much like how you should quantify achievements on your resume, your responses should have a narrative to them.
18. Choose your highlights
Before going into an interview, think on the highlights of your career that are most applicable to what you’re going for. Gal considers this to be his most important step. “ I rehearse with myself talking about each highlight”. This structures the way you speak about your most relevant experience and will allow you to be articulate in your previous accomplishments.
19. Prepare yourself
There are many things you can do to prepare for an interview. One thing we can forget is to prepare ourselves, not our materials and not our responses. Meditation is a great way to center oneself before entering an interview. Most importantly, remember to eat, drink and sleep beforehand. Without taking care of yourself you can’t expect to perform to the best of your ability.
Job interview preparation
All of these tips come down to a single truth: there’s no silver bullet for a job interview. You need to think critically about how to best apply these tips to your specific situation and then put in the effort to really prepare. Remember that the right job can change your life, so it’s worth working hard to get it. If you need some ideas or inspiration, you can see dozens of real stories of career success on our Successful Resumes page.