If you’re preparing for an interview, you’ve probably encountered a sea of advice on how to succeed. But which job interview tips are worth following — and which are a waste of your precious time?
When it comes down to it, job interview prep is pretty simple: know who you’re talking to, understand what they need … and be prepared to make the case that you’re the one who can supply it.
That’s the short version. Here’s the long one — everything you need to know to get ready for your next conversation with a hiring manager. Follow these job interview tips and you’ll make the best possible impression:
1. RESEARCH THE COMPANY
When you’re applying for jobs, you don’t have time to thoroughly research each company. But once you’re called in for an interview, you need to have a good picture of what you’re walking into.
What’s the employer’s mission? How many people work there? Are there multiple offices and/or locations? Are you sure you know exactly what they do? Read up on recent articles about the company and the industry they’re operating in. This can help you not only get a bigger picture of where they stand — are they growing rapidly or downsizing and filling old positions? — but also decide if it’s the right place for you to work.
You can reach out to friends who have worked there by searching sites like LinkedIn or tapping alumni directories. Get an inside view of the company if you can. What’s the culture like for real, not just on social media posts?
2. KNOW THE INTERVIEWER (AND THE CEO) BY SIGHT IF POSSIBLE
Along with researching the company, you should also try to learn a bit about your interviewers. Check out the team’s public social media profiles and web presence. If the company has a directory with bios, you might be able to see how long the interviewer has worked there, their interests and maybe a photo of what they look like.
Knowing your interviewer by sight (and perhaps even their boss or the CEO) is a great way to avoid any wacky misadventures as you arrive for the interview. Remember the story of the guy who shoved past someone on the train, only to come face to face with him in the meeting? Yeah, don’t be that guy. And if you happen to be on the elevator with the CEO, there’s a great chance to make an impression on them on your way to or from the building.
3. KNOW THE JOB REQUIREMENTS
As job interview tips go, this seems like an obvious one: read the job description before you go to the interview. But you’d be surprised how many people don’t bother.
Don’t skim, either — it’s important to read the details carefully. Be ready to emphasize your specific experience that matches their requirements. If they’re seeking someone with skills that you don’t have, you can also make a point of showing why you’re a great fit for the job anyway. But if you don’t read the job requirements ahead of time, you might miss your chance when you have 15 minutes to make your case.
You should also always have a handful of questions ready to ask the interviewer. The hiring manager will probably ask if you have any at the end. Don’t let this opportunity slip away. Some examples of solid questions include:
Is this a new position or are you filling a slot for someone who is leaving? Why?
What’s a typical day like for this person in the position?
What are the goals for a person working in this position? What benchmarks will you be setting in the near and long-term?
What kind of growth opportunities are available to someone in this role?
What do you like about working here? What’s the culture like?
What is the time frame for your hiring process or what are the next steps like for this role?
4. KNOW WHEN TO BE QUIET
Your interviewers aren’t here to listen to your Ted Talk. They want to have an exchange with you, and learn what you’d be like to work with. Nobody likes someone who never shuts up and won’t let anyone get a word in edge wise.
“It’s OK to stop talking,” said one Reddit user, according to Undercover Recruiter. “I’ve interviewed far too many people who just don’t know when to shut up. Some people are nervous. Some people are unsure. Some people don’t think for a second before they start blabbing, and they’re STILL trying to talk over the interviewer as they try to steer them towards the next question.”
Want to become a better listener? Practice active listening techniques and even when you’re nervous, learn how to slow down, think about your responses and make considerate replies to questions.
Active listening skills are also great “soft skills” to show off during an interview (along with being on-time, prepared and respectful of others). They don’t necessarily come through on paper, so make sure you can practice them in person.
“When someone sees that you are actively listening, they immediately think that you care about what they are saying,” writes Mat Apodaca at Lifehack.org. “It’s well known that most of us gain great satisfaction from being understood. It’s one of those things that just makes us feel good.”
5. HAVE EXTRA COPIES OF YOUR RESUME READY
Yes! Even if you don’t give them out, having half a dozen nice hard copies of your resume, along with a paper copy of your portfolio (for creative types) is a wonderful thing to bring to an interview. You don’t want to leave that to the last minute, though. Have copies printed professionally, or do them at home on nice paper. It’s old school, but it lets you steer the recruiter’s eyes if they don’t have a hard copy.
Having some nicely printed copies of work samples from your portfolio lets you share visuals from your past work without the hassle of setting up a whole A/V presentation in a strange room. If you’re willing to bring and use a laptop or tablet to show off multimedia work, make sure to have your materials available offline. Don’t ever rely on there being connectivity or an internet connection where you interview. You might spend more time trying to search down a guest user password for the WiFi than actually talking about why you’re a good fit for the job.
6. NOTIFY REFERENCES AHEAD OF YOUR INTERVIEW
“Hey, old boss I haven’t talked to in five years, here’s a heads up!” In addition to asking before you list contacts as a reference, you should also let them know when to expect a call or email. It’s polite, and you can also maybe remind them when you worked with them last, the type of role you’re interviewing for now and major projects you worked on together.
You also don’t want to hold up getting that final job offer by having references go AWOL. Make sure they’re in town, and ready to give you that final OK so you can land that job.
If they decline being a reference, don’t take it personally. Even awesome bosses get super busy and can’t be good references sometimes, especially if you haven’t worked with them for a while. Have a backup list of potential past managers, coworkers or even trusted one-time project buddies you can tap for a solid reference.
7. RESEARCH YOUR SALARY REQUIREMENTS (JUST IN CASE)
Yes, you could get asked the dreaded salary requirements question during a first interview. While it’s totally OK to ask to hear more about the role before answering, you’ll want to have a range in mind. Otherwise, you could find yourself shortchanged and resentful once you’re on the job.
Take the PayScale Salary Survey and get a free salary report in minutes. Then use the PayScale Salary Negotiation Guide to build your negotiation strategy.
8. CHOOSE A GOOD INTERVIEW OUTFIT
I’ve fielded so many questions from friends about what shoes to wear to an interview in a snow storm (boots or business shoes?) or how to find a plain black skirt with just hours to go before a meeting. Avoid these problems now, and get ahead of the “searching for your size” problem well in advance. Think about having a couple of interview outfits ready to go in your closet, like a professional pair of pants and a couple of tops (in case you get called back for another meeting, you’ll want to change things up).
Most companies won’t require you to wear a real suit these days, but some industries that are still formal (law, banking, etc.) do expect some level of business dress. If you research your field and the company well in advance, you’ll have an idea whether it’s more laid back, or a chance to dust off your simple black suit. Have an outfit ready for the hottest of summer days and the coldest of winter so you won’t spend that night before an interview searching the sale racks for something that fits.
And yes, it’s a good idea to try it all on and see if it fits, if you feel confident and awesome in the outfit, and see if it still seems like a current style. A suit you bought 10 years ago might scream “I’m out of the loop” while something too trendy (never reach for the leggings) might broadcast that you’re not professional or serious enough.
9. WHEN NOT TO LISTEN TO JOB INTERVIEW TIPS
Ultimately, you want to show your interviewer some of your own personality. You can prepare TOO much sometimes and come off tense or fake. Try to find ways to think about responses to common questions without sounding like a robot. Don’t forget to laugh or share personal moments that can make a memorable impression on this potential new coworker (or boss).
“The more free-wheeling and relaxed the interview conversation is, the more comfortable you and your interviewer will be,” writes Liz Ryan at Forbes. “You will be more memorable. You will be in your power.”
When you’re done, relax, take a deep breath and write (and send) those thank you notes. You’ve made it further than a lot of other applicants, so know that even if you don’t get the job, you’ve done great work.