From preparing your responses using the STAR method to making your interview conversational, here are 17 answers to the question, “What are some top interview tips for someone who is looking to land the job they want?”
- Prepare Your Responses Using The STAR Method
- Tell a Short Story Relating To Your Interest For The Field of Work
- Know What You Are Applying for
- Make Sure You Ask Questions
- Study the Job Posting and Company
- Dress the Part
- Focus on Your Body Language
- Align First, Then Differentiate
- Tailor Your Responses To The Qualities They Are Looking For
- Use a Career SWOT Analysis
- Use Stories to Show How You Solved Job-related Problems
- Demonstrate Your Unique Value Proposition
- Show Up and Be Your True Self
- Replace “We” Examples with “I” Examples
- Remember Who You Are & Know Your Value
- Do More Than Show You’re Qualified for the Role
- Make Your Interview Conversational
Prepare Your Responses Using The STAR Method
Preparation should be your first priority. Don’t go into interviews cold – prepare your stories ahead of time using the STAR method of formatting them: Situation, Tasks, Actions, and Results. Treat each item as a subheading with bullet points beneath each to allow you to tell a clear story, relaying only the most pertinent facts illustrating why you’re the right candidate for the job. Preparation is the make-or-break thing for all candidates. As an interviewer, it was very easy to tell who did their homework beforehand, as they came across as confident and a clear communicator. Do your prep before you join the Zoom call!
Tell a Short Story Relating To Your Interest For The Field of Work
When asked something like, “So, tell me a little about yourself,” or “Why do you want to work with us?” don’t rehash your academic history. Smile and tell a short story about what got you interested in the field of work the job requires or the company does. For example: “When I was in high school, a teacher told me to find something I love to do and pursue it for a career. Unlike a lot of kids, I always loved helping my mom and dad do yard work. Everything from mowing the grass to helping pick out plants for our flowerbeds every spring made me feel like I helped create something beautiful for everyone to enjoy. So when I saw the job for GreenThumb Nursery, I couldn’t get my application in fast enough!
Know What You Are Applying for
Before you start to construct your answers, read the entire job posting, job description, and research the company itself. Too often, candidates come into an interview prepped with generic answers, ready to talk about themselves. They end up losing critical interview marks.
Think of your interview as a business transaction. The company is trying to determine if you are their best return on investment (ROI). You need to demonstrate not only what you know and what experience you have, but also how it links up with the job you are applying for and the company’s strategic goals. In other words, prove to them that they should choose you; prove that you are their best investment for this particular job.
Make Sure You Ask Questions
As much as a prospective company is interviewing you, you are also interviewing them. Make sure you ask questions to help you evaluate your decision! Doing this allows you to also display your interest in the company. Not doing so can allow your interviewers to think that you may not have much investment in them. In addition, prepare your answers in advance, and actively listen to make sure your question wasn’t answered during the interview process; it is okay to ask the hiring manager to expand.
Here are some questions you can ask in your interview:
1. What challenges is the company currently facing?
2. What are some of their proudest achievements?
3. Why did they choose (insert company) here?
4. What would be your expectations in the first 6 months?
5. How do you recognize the success of your employees?
6. What are your current Diversity and Inclusion initiatives?
Study the Job Posting and Company
Whether interviewing for a private sector or federal government job, you’ll need to study the job posting and company. Ensure you familiarize yourself with the organization by reviewing its website, especially its mission statement, history, and values. You can use this information as talking points during your interview to show you researched the company. Additionally, review the duties and skills from the job posting. Ensure you can articulate how your experience aligns with those skills and provide examples of your competency in those areas.
Dress the Part
The way you dress and appear communicates your credibility, authority, and confidence and forms an impression in the first seven seconds. Make sure you look the part for the job position you are seeking. For instance, if you’re seeking to be a CEO, dress in business formal, and if you want an entry-level job, dress in business casual.
Focus on Your Body Language
Most applicants forget about the HOW and instead concentrate on what questions to ask during the interview. Focus on your body language and learn how to make a good impression with it to ace your interview! You may stand out from the competition by using hand movements, eye contact, and passion.
Align First, Then Differentiate
Your first job is to align with the job, showing you have the hard skills and the deal-breakers that the company needs. Once the required skills, education, and training are established, you’ll want to dig into what makes you different from other applicants.
Some examples of how you can differentiate are:
- Highlighting relevant industry awards or recognition
- Sharing examples of unique experiences or projects you’ve managed
- Discussing any certifications or additional education you have received
- Explaining times when you have worked well under pressure or handled unexpected challenges
- Outlining your ability to collaborate with a diverse range of individuals and teams
- Giving details of your experience working with cutting-edge technologies
- Describing your ability to adapt to change or a major company reorganization
Tailor Your Responses To The Qualities They Are Looking For
This is an age-old question that is used for behavioral interviews. The key part of this is to really read the job description. If they are asking for some specific soft skills, then make sure to align your strengths with those soft skills. If they want someone who is working with others in collaborating, talk about how you are the person on your team whom people turn to when they need help with a project.
On the flip side, when you are asked about your weaknesses, it is absolutely critical to make sure that you don’t say one of your weaknesses is a quality that they are looking for. For example, if they are looking for someone who is detail-oriented, don’t say that you are more of a “big picture person.” It is absolutely critical to read the job description prior to these questions being answered.
Use a Career SWOT Analysis
The top tip I give job seekers preparing for an interview is to prepare a Career SWOT Analysis. Like a traditional SWOT analysis, you will be addressing your internal strengths and weaknesses and the external environment’s opportunities and threats. While you likely have a library of strengths, now is your chance to cherry-pick those most applicable to this opportunity! The knowledge you gather while noting the opportunities and threats to the company shows the interviewer your interest in the industry and the problems they face.
Use Stories to Show How You Solved Job-related Problems
Through research, networking, and early-stage interviewing, work to uncover and understand why they are filling the position-the specific problems and challenges they want you to address. Then prepare your success stories-examples of how you have solved exactly those kinds of problems and delivered results in the past. In your interview, use the CAR (Challenge-Action-Result) format to tell a clear, succinct, and relevant success story that demonstrates your specific skills. Your specific examples will elevate your skills from theory to hard evidence. Also, stories are memorable and will distinguish you from every other candidate. Finally, by sharing an example that is relevant to the employer’s needs, you show that you understand the challenges of the job and are ready to perform.
Demonstrate Your Unique Value Proposition
In a saturated job market, with many other qualified candidates competing for senior-level positions, it’s important to promote your unique skills and talents to show your value proposition.
You need to know your value, to convey your value – spend some time reflecting on the times you made a remarkable impact, the relevant skills you were using, and how your talents benefited previous employers. Are you operating over and above the benchmark for the role and do you know your relevant skills and strengths? Have you strong examples with quantifiable evidence to demonstrate you are capable of next-level responsibilities and delivering on the required competencies?
By comfortably articulating your value proposition at the interview through strategic storytelling, you will grab the interviewers’ attention, and build trust conveying a confident, competent individual who is ready to lead their organization to success!
Show Up and Be Your True Self
Your pre-interview research isn’t only for collecting facts about the company; it’s also an ideal time to do a gut check on how well the company’s culture aligns with your work style, beliefs, and values. Ask yourself: Is this my kind of place? Are these my kind of people? If they are, your true-to-you responses and genuine interest in the company will shine through during your interview. Ignore any advice to “fit in just to get in.” Be yourself, and look for work where you will be welcomed.
Replace “We” Examples with “I” Examples
One of the most common errors candidates make in an interview is hiding their individual contributions. They do so by answering questions with phrases like, “We came together to address the problem and then we came up with a solution.”
Although this might seem like the right response, it will leave the hiring team thinking, “But what did you do?” Instead, describe the situation from your perspective and highlight your individual contribution. “I worked with my team to brainstorm potential solutions, and then I created proposals for each solution.”
Remember Who You Are & Know Your Value
My top interview tip for job seekers is to understand their value. The ability to demonstrate healthy self-confidence is vital to the success of their career-search campaign. It also aids in presenting relevant accomplishments and potential contributions in a compelling manner. Finally, when job seekers know their value, it’s empowering, it fuels confidence, and it’s key to negotiating a desired salary.
Do More Than Show You’re Qualified for the Role
Showcase the experiences and skills that you have that match the role you want. It’s more than just showing that you’re qualified for the position. Pick the events and accomplishments from your work history that speak to your expertise and that suggest you would be the best choice for the position. Once you’ve selected your best examples, take time to rehearse your answers out loud so that you sound confident and organized.
Make Your Interview Conversational
Avoid the typical robotic question-answer, question-answer interview format and make the conversation more conversational!
To achieve this, you can:
- Offer options when answering questions (“I could tell you about a time when X, or I could tell you about a time when Y”)
- Keep your answers short and then ask if they want you to elaborate
- When it’s your turn to ask questions, make sure you’re not just moving on to the next question after they give an answer.
Ask a follow-up question or make a comment about how your experience connects to their answer. By doing so, you are likely to get the employer talking. According to an MIT study, the ideal mix that results in a hire is for you to talk 50% of the time and the employer to talk 50% of the time. Showing genuine interest in the employer and their company can also make you more likable, and humans hire people they like.