How to Succeed at a Job Interview

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When confronted with the scrutiny of selection interviews, many of us feel threatened, embarrassed, uptight, overwhelmed by emotion and totally uncomfortable. It’s not easy to accept a perfect stranger dig intrusively in the world of your experience, aspirations and dreams, even if it’s meant to be just a neuter discussion about career issues.

However, it’s good to know that butterflies in the stomach are not a pre-requisite to a hiring interview. Here are some tips & tricks to avoid recruitment traps and turn a ghastly encounter in a friendly chat.

Show Positivity and Drive

Enthusiasm, optimism and motivation to join the team are the catalyst for the interviewer to shape a strongly positive opinion upfront. A jovial sense of humor is also welcome, because laughter is an effective ice-breaker that brings people closer and creates a sense of complicity and shared togetherness. Nonetheless, don’t overdo it and stick to benign humor: Don’t crack jokes at the expense of others, avoid irony, sarcasm or long satirical anecdotes that divert from the objective of the meeting.

Do Your Homework Before the Interview

A selection interview FAQ is “What do you know about us?” The successful candidate must prove that he/she is reasonably informed about the organization and the targeted position. Be sure to gather relevant info beforehand,

Google down the company facts & figures, find out about the number of employees, main locations and headquarters, branches of activity, stock exchange value, profitability, turnover and forecast. It’s always useful to visit a forum about employees’ rating of the company. Refrain from gossip, rumors, controversies, criticizing former employers and other delicate subjects that tend to generate resentment and defensiveness

Add a Name to the Face

Inquire beforehand about the name and position of your recruiter. When you schedule the appointment, usually during the phone conversation, make sure to ask for contact details for the assessor you are going to meet: their department, and whether they are a manager or a specialist. Of course, you won’t either need or gain access to the abridged biography; still some background data can help you anticipate the direction of the discussion and the standing point at stake for your partner. For instance, when interviewed for an HR specialist position by a training manager, you will focus more on, say, soft skills, while when you meet a payroll manager, probably the dialogue will evolve in a stricter manner, on topics such as fiscal or legal issues.

Answer in Full Sentences

Pay attention to phrasing and coherence of speech when you express your opinions. Avoid monosyllabic answers, especially starting phrases with “no”. Be aware of the fact that, however shallow it may seem, what you say is sometimes less important than how you say it, in terms of message impact. When accurately modulated, not too loud nor too whispery, your voice is your brand, so use it wisely.

Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, Aware of Your Shortcomings

Be ready to give an example of achievement, as well as one when you failed to rise up to your own or the others’ expectations. Be sincere and promote your talent and interests without fake modesty. This is often discarded as either manipulation attempt, or under-rated self-esteem. When you acknowledge your vulnerabilities, you are one step closer to overcoming and converting them in strengths.

Ask for Feedback

You may ask for a debriefing feedback at the end of the interview, by restating the value of the interview as a learning experience. No matter how poorly or brilliantly you think you did, the interviewer must be available to state his / her perception and arguments on the spot. This off-the-record feedback will clear the air and prepare you for the official conclusion you will receive later on.

Remain Time and Space Oriented

If you are late or lost, this can be interpreted as absent-mindedness, unreliability or sheer disinterest. So make sure you have the necessary directions and the exact address (with landmarks) noted down. Be prepared for the worst-case scenario where you get lost, and have a back-up. Moreover, do your best to arrive on time. Leave 10-15 minutes as precaution buffer for unpredictable cases (weather conditions, traffic, other incidents) and call the company to announce if you anticipate even a slight delay.

Greet the Person Behind the Suit

Start the interview with a cordial smile and a firm handshake. Think about the interview as a genuine discussion between two or more people (in the case of panel evaluations). This will be the perfect beginning for a dialogue between two strangers who turn into partners in a non-aggression treaty.

Ward Off Stereotype Expressions

Be on the lookout for these speech-parasites that may jeopardize the assessment for even the most promising applicant. The interviewer will have a hard time dealing with ready-made answers learnt by heart or with inadequately repeated words or phrases. Compulsive gestures and noises like scratching, panting, and crunching will most likely cause your evaluation to plummet. In some cases, a little censorship pays off.

All this practical advice might seem a lot to handle, in terms of framework for a real-life dialogue, but it helps when you select what fits best to your own situation and personality. Above all, when faced with the career opportunity of a lifetime, keep in mind your most valuable assets: spontaneity and authenticity.

Got any interview tips that you’ve found helpful?

To better understand your clients always ask the following 10 questions so you can be a better freelance designer.

Photo by Brett Arthur


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Mara Stan is an organizational psychologist, a PhD student, former HR recruitment specialist for a retail multinational company, now a work-at-home mother. Her areas of interest are career counseling, work life balance, & volunteering.
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Discussion

  1. Leigh Harris on the 25th May

    Excellent information, Mara! It goes beyond the typical dress-well-and-smile advice.

    Can I add one more? Ask the right questions. Remember you are going into an interview to determine if the job is right for YOU as well. What questions might you have to determine if this is the right fit for both of you? The side benefit of preparing these questions is that it gives you a confidence boost, as you aren’t completely answering to the whims of the interviewer.

    Mara, I love your bio. It almost mirrors mine! I’ll have to look for more of your articles on Work Awesome.

  2. Aimee on the 25th May

    Great tips. As much as I don’t like to flaunt my resume, remember that a job interview is the perfect place to do it. So if you’ve got, it flaunt it! I’ve always wondered if there is a possibility of coming off as conceited during job interviews when talking about accomplishment, though. What do you think?

  3. Liat on the 19th June

    Mara, can I say ditto to Leigh’s comment on your bio. Almost had to ask myself is this me :) , without the PhD student part.

    Can I add, “Listen to the question and answer what is being asked”. Many candidates go off on a tangent about something related to the question but forget to actually answer the question, or forget what the question was. So stay calm and focused, and relate your answer back to the question. Also, remember the recruiter is interested in YOU and the contribution YOU made to your team. Highlight your actions and involvement in projects.

  4. Nathalia on the 26th June

    More and more companies are making use of case studies (work simulations) to assess the applicants practical ability to do the job. My advise in this regards is that you take some valuable time to really read through the scenario carefully, to ensure that you have a very sound understanding of the scenario and to ensure that you present the current “solutions” to address the scenario. If you to make any additional assumptions about the scenario, make sure that you advise the interviewer(s) of the assumption, how you come to include the said assumption and the rational as to how this assumption impacts the solution that you present. In a case study one if often asked to present the solution, thus presentation skills is important, including the material you use to present – no use having a great solution but you have spelling errors in your presentation or you do not present your solution with professionalism, confidence and understood language i.e. refrain from too much jargan.

    And most of all, enjoy the opportunity to practice your skills and experience in marketing yourself (smile)

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