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Job Interviews: 7 Tips for Success

by THEA kelley | June 5, 2013

If getting an “A” on a test would make you thousands of dollars and improve your daily life for the next few years, would you study hard for it?

A job interview is that test. It’s smart to prepare and practice before you’re ever offered an interview. What if someone calls you today for a quick phone screening? What if they say “Can you come in tomorrow?”

Here are some tips to guide your preparation.

1. Know your brand. What is it about you that stands out, that makes you the right candidate for the job? What’s your unique selling proposition? Communicate these key points early and often, throughout the interview and all your job search communications.

2. Strategize your answers. Gather up a long list of common interview questions, including behavioral interview questions and questions specific to your occupation, and plan answers that are both authentic and strategic. Don’t memorize scripts, but do write a few notes or a keyword outline for each question. Keep this list in your computer, add to it, and use it as a guide with which to practice your answers out loud.

3. Use every interview question as an opportunity to sell yourself. Whether the question is about your strengths, your weaknesses, or even what kind of magic powers you’d most like to have, demonstrate qualities that make you the right person for the job. Questions about weaknesses or mistakes are an opportunity to show self-awareness, coping skills, learning ability, and a willingness to go the extra mile to overcome difficulties. Off-the-wall questions give you a chance to show creative thinking and a can-do attitude.

4. Understand how to maximize video interviews. It’s not rocket science, but most job seekers make mistakes in terms of lighting and eye contact, just to mention a couple of areas discussed in my post How to Ace a Video Interview.

5. Tell success stories and give specific examples instead of making vague claims. Use a format like STAR or SOAR to structure your answers. Pay special attention to the R in those acronyms, which stands for Results. Whenever possible, quantify the excellent results you’ve achieved, or offer specific “evidence” of the quality and impact of your work.

6. Ask good questions, informed by the research you’ve done about the company. How you ask questions can be as important as how you answer them. Be ready to relate yourself and your skills to the answers you hear. “You said your top priority is shortening time to market for key products. Let me tell you about how I’ve made that happen in my most recent position.”

7. Close the interview with a brief statement summarizing why you’re a great fit. People often remember what they hear last, so make it good! If you’re still interested in the role, say so. It’s a pet peeve of employers that candidates often fail to say this. After all, they can’t assume you’re still interested; for all they know, you may have changed your mind. If it’s the final interview, let them know you want the job.

These tips may seem obvious, but most interviewees fail in some or all of these areas. Practice and feedback are crucial. Working with an interview coach is a smart investment. You can also practice on your own or with a buddy.

Follow these seven tips and you’ll stand out from the rest.

 

This post was originally published in 2013 and updated in 2023.

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