Ace That Job Interview: Prepare for Success

Updated on May 20, 2020
Beth Eaglescliffe profile image

I write about employment issues, ways to earn money and how to get best value when spending it.

Interviewers often work as a team; one asking the questions, the other taking notes.
Interviewers often work as a team; one asking the questions, the other taking notes. | Source

How to Prepare For Your Interview

It’s exciting to be asked to attend a job interview. There’s a lot to think about beforehand. How will you get to the interview? What will you wear? What about the competition? How will you make yourself stand out from the crowd? What sort of questions will you be asked? What kind of things should you ask about the role?

The job market is very competitive, but if you stay calm and do your best, you will have a good chance of being successful. Remember you have already passed the first hurdle; your resume showed that you have the right skills and experience for the job. Now you need to demonstrate that your personality is right for this workplace.

3 Steps to Take Before a Job Interview

  1. Carefully read and understand the role description of the job you've applied for.
  2. Carry out some basic research into the company. This should involve reading recent news items about the organization, as well as looking at the company’s website.
  3. Think about the skills and experience you have, and how these can benefit the company. Draft a couple of sentences that highlight the value you can add to the organization. This will help you to expand on your experience and demonstrate your suitability for the role.

Interview Tips: Common Questions, Body Language and More

Practice Makes Perfect

You can improve your chance of success by practicing your interview technique. I use this interview prep app to provide realistic questions that are often asked by interviewers. Some of the most common ones are "Why do you want to work for this company," and "What are your strengths and weaknesses?" Be prepared to answer honestly, but diplomatically.

If you want to be offered the job of your dreams be aware of the kinds of messages your unconscious gestures are sending to the interviewers. Understanding the effect of eye contact and body language on others could make the difference between being chosen for the role, or being the runner-up. You only get one chance to make a first impression, so make it a memorable one, and for all the right reasons.

4 Tips to Calm Interview Nerves

  1. The evening before the interview, relax.

    De-stress in a hot bath, enjoy a cup of herbal tea, take some gentle exercise, and get an early night. That way you'll be alert and refreshed the next day.

  2. On the day of the interview, eat a proper breakfast.

    Leave the house in good time so that you don’t feel rushed when you arrive at the interview location.

  3. During the interview, remember to breathe!

    And don’t talk too fast; it's a sure give-away to the interviewer that you're a bag of nerves.

  4. After the interview, go for a walk or meet up with a friend.

    Don't discuss the interview. Forget the detail of exactly what you did or didn't say; wait until you’re contacted with the result.

How to Answer: Tell Me About Yourself

The Importance of Voice, Eye Contact, and Body Language

Communicating is not just about what you say, but also the pitch, speed, and volume of your voice. Your gestures add to the message, and may tell a different story to your words. You unconsciously give away your real feelings by how you move your hands and feet, arms and legs. Are you tense or relaxed, confident or nervous?

When you sit down in the interview room, try not to slouch in the seat, nor sit bolt upright. You want to be comfortable, but you are in a formal, professional situation. Being perched bolt upright on the edge of your seat shows nervousness and inferiority.

Crossing your arms over chest or stomach is a defensive gesture and can be a sign that you feel the question you are being asked is too probing. You may unconsciously reveal that you don’t like talking about a particular period of your job history.

Foot tapping can show boredom or impatience. Next time you’re in a doctor’s waiting room, take a look at the people who have been waiting for a while; many of them will be jiggling their feet. When you’re waiting to enter the interview-room try not to give off signals like this; reception staff may have been asked to watch for these gestures.

If you’re feeling reasonably confident and relaxed this will show in your body language and eye contact. Be aware of the signals you are sending during the interview, and try to modify them if necessary. Job interviews are stressful, so make sure you arrive in good time and dress appropriately.

President Barack Obama jokingly mirrors U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" look.
President Barack Obama jokingly mirrors U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" look. | Source

10 Body Language Tips for Interview Success

  1. Greet interviewers modestly with equal handshake; mirror theirs.
  2. Relax into your chair, but not too relaxed.
  3. Don’t cross arms over chest; conveys nervous, negative attitude.
  4. Keep hands away from face. Keep them relaxed in your lap.
  5. Stay focused. Concentrate, look and listen to the interviewer.
  6. Sit still. Don’t fidget, keep your legs and feet still.
  7. Don’t groom yourself during the interview.
  8. Maintain eye contact; steady but not staring.
  9. Point your feet towards the interviewers.
  10. Hand gestures imply confidence; but don’t go wild.

What Questions Should You Ask at Interview?

Any concerns you have about the job should be raised at interview, so that they don’t become a problem later on. Recruiting staff is expensive and it’s in the interest of both interviewer and candidate that potential issues are clarified at this stage.

The questions to ask are the ones you genuinely would like answered. For example, you may want to ask about how a new product you’ve heard is in development will impact your role. You may be curious about the opportunities for mentoring and coaching in your new workplace. Or you may want to know about the potential for career progression from the advertised role.

The more thought you give to the questions you want to ask before the interview, the more relaxed you'll be during the interview. This will make your questions sound natural, and become part of a two-way conversation between you and your potential employer.

A poor interview can blow your career off-course.
A poor interview can blow your career off-course. | Source

Questions That Should Not Be Asked at Interview

Don’t ask questions that indicate you’re not committed to staying in the job. No employer wants to hire someone who will leave next month if a better offer comes along.

If the pay rate or salary scale is crucial to you accepting the job, make enquiries before you even apply for the post. Many ads don’t give a salary but just say that pay is according to age and experience. When I see this, I contact the Human Resources (personnel) department for more information. They are often unwilling to give exact figures, so I give them a prompt.

I say something like “my current salary is X, I’m interested in this job but only if the starting pay is likely to be at least X plus Y. I don’t want to waste your time by applying if the salary is too low, so please can you tell me whether the salary offered will meet my expectations?”

The same kind of fact-finding should be carried out for any job conditions that would be a deal-breaker for you; e.g. flexible working, or the provision of a health care plan. If you raise these issues as questions during the interview, it gives the impression that you've not done sufficient research before making the application.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

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