How to Nail Your Interview

Follow these simple guidelines and you’ll be receiving an offer in no time at all.

by Paige Bradley, September 29, 2015

So, you got the interview. Now what? Sure, your CV and cover letter may have blown the hiring manager away, but now it's time for both you and the company to feel each other out. You may be wringing your hands, but if you follow a few simple guidelines on how to nail your interview, you’ll be receiving an offer in no time at all.

1. Do Your Homework

“Dream job” or not, it is necessary to educate yourself on the ins-and-outs of the company for which you are being interviewed – who they are, what they do, and why they do it. A Google search may suffice for larger public companies, and LinkedIn, Glassdoor, or other sites can be useful when searching for lesser-known organizations. Review past press releases, new hire announcements, notable events they’ve hosted, and the like; by the end of this process, you should be able to speak expertly on the company, demonstrating your investment in its goals, milestones, and continued success and expansion.

Knowing and understanding relevant information about the company – and its current happenings – is key to asking pertinent questions. Doing so will alert the interviewer that you have taken the time to do independent research and, thus, shows genuine interest in the company, as well as personal motivation.

2. Know Your CV

As an applicant, always know your CV like the back of your hand. Any piece of information on it is “fair game,” so to speak – be prepared to convince your interviewer that your skill set, educational background, and relevant work experience have prepared you thoroughly for the job in question. The capacity to speak intelligently about any and all of your previous positions will allow you to answer probing questions quickly and thoughtfully, a strength your interviewer will recognize and appreciate. Have excellent answers prepared for typical, though difficult, questions such as “What is your greatest weakness?” or “What can you offer us that someone else can’t?” and brainstorm answers for a few potential curveballs. It’s never a bad idea to practice your responses in a mirror or create a cheat sheet of bullet points to review beforehand; your words will sound clear, well thought out, and concise. But, beware of sounding over-practiced! Your answers should flow in a natural, conversational, manner. Try to use thoughtful pauses to encourage your interviewer to digest and respond to your thoughts.

3. Dress (and Act!) For the Job You Want

Dress for the job you want – not the job you have now, or even the one you’re applying to. Show initiative by dressing for a position one rung above the one for which you’re being interviewed. This will give the interviewer the impression that you’re looking forward to a serious future with the company, and that you’ve taken extra care in your preparation.

Casual slang and swear words have no place in an interview room. Be formal, polite, and professional. A potential hiring manager is not your close, personal friend, so you should steer clear from treating them as such. Even if you dress to impress, your attitude, mannerisms, and way of speaking say a lot about whether you’re suited to a professional environment. Practice your responses, and some calming breathing exercises, to help yourself stay on top of your game; your ideas will sound far more articulate, confident, and authentic if you learn to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before you begin to speak. Most importantly, correct grammar is a must!

4. Know the Position to Which You Are Applying

To really nail an interview, it is essential that you study the job description until you fully understand what the company – and especially the hiring manager – is searching for in a potential employee. Adapt your responses accordingly, paying special attention to relevant professional roles or experiences that illustrate the qualities you know the company desires in a new addition to their team. Shy away from merely listing your strengths; concrete examples go a long way in proving to your interviewer just how prepared you are to take on the position at hand. The inclusion of relevant details will be much appreciated.

5. Bond With Your Interviewer

Forming a personal connection with your interviewer is the best way to start your interaction on the right foot. If you’re eager to make an excellent first impression, body language, eye contact, and amiability can carry you far. A firm handshake, a sparkling smile, and an attempt to put your interviewer at ease – for example, with a comment about the weather, or a unique, funny anecdote about your background – will break the ice, and help create an air of comfort in an otherwise nerve-wracking environment.

Direct eye contact exudes confidence, poise, and courage; make it a point to hold eye contact in order to improve the personal connection between you and your interviewer and impress them with the type of composure a lesser candidate might not possess. Body language has a similar power, allowing you to radiate positive energy by sitting up straight and maintaining a relaxed, though alert, demeanour. Keep in mind that both parties are looking for a good fit, so attentive listening and pertinent question asking demonstrate that you value and respect the interview process.

6. Bring Printed Copies of Your CV

Most companies will have you email in your CV before your interview, but even in 2015 – the “digital age” – it is extremely important to bring at least two printed copies of your CV to each interview. The perfection of your LinkedIn profile is hardly impressive when your interviewer asks for a hard copy and is left empty-handed. No printer excuse is sufficient in this case; bring copies in an A4 envelope to prevent creases and wrinkles.

7. Follow Up Quickly

As soon as the interview is over, send a handwritten thank you note, or – if you can’t get your hands on the interviewer’s home address – a thoughtful email. Thank the interviewer for their time; no need to wax poetic – just keep it short and sweet. Potential employers will remember exactly who put in the time and effort to thank them, so this extra courtesy can go a long way.

8. Be Yourself!

No matter how much you love the company, if you aren’t a good fit, you aren’t a good fit. Never change yourself to suit what you think the interviewer, or company, wants. If you stay true to your own personality – hopes, fears, quirks, and strengths – you’ll appear natural, engaged, and genuine. Falsity will cast a dark shadow that your interviewer will be able to sense right away. Geniality and self-assurance are necessary complements to polished, professional demeanour; confidence is success’s closest companion, and comfortable authenticity will leave a lasting, positive impression. Melt any anxiety you might have with a personal reminder that interviewers are as eager to find a new team member in you as you are to find a new position with their company.

Extra Tips:

  • “On time” is 15 minutes early
  • Say thank you with a written note or email; potential employers will remember this courtesy in the long run
  • Don’t lie to your interviewer – these days, it is easy for employers to use social networks like Linkedin, or even Facebook, to do back-channel referencing
  • Smile!