Congratulations, you’ve done it! Your resume has proved its excellence and you’ve secured a job interview. Now comes an even trickier tricky part — getting the job. Your previous experience will be closely scrutinized, and you have a short amount of time to convince a potential employer that you’re the best candidate for the job. Start with some careful preparation, followed by some key interview strategies as well as a commitment to authenticity and you’re on your way to success.
In the article below, we will take you through 30 interview tips to help you feel confident and comfortable in your next job interview.
How to prepare for a job interview
Any good interview relies on the ability to effectively prepare. Your interviewers will expect you to be well prepared — it shows enthusiasm, interest and most importantly, it will help you retain confidence under pressure. Here are some steps to get you ready to prove you’re the better candidate.
1. Analyse the job role
You’ll need to communicate effectively that you can perform the tasks listed in the job role. Sometimes, there will be responsibilities that you both have and haven’t fulfilled in past jobs and you should be prepared to have a confident answer for both instances. For any responsibility that you’ve previously performed, record and memorize an instance in which you did this well. For the tasks that you haven’t yet performed in a professional context, find a personal experience that could relate to how you might tackle that in future.
2. Research the company you are interviewing for
When it comes to being prepared, it’s important to understand the values, missions and goals of the company you are interviewing for. Don’t just take a five minute flick through their website; search for relevant news articles that demonstrate you understand where the company sits in the marketplace, or spend some time looking at the company’s competitors.
3. Research the company’s culture
While ‘culture' has become a bit of a professional buzzword, it’s an imperative part of modern professional life and sometimes, a way for interviewers to vet candidates. Take a look at the company’s mission statement, offerings to prospective employees on their ‘careers’ page and browse former staffer public Twitter accounts to get a good sense of how they talk about their employer and colleagues from a culture point-of-view.
4. Research your interviewers
Knowing who might be interviewing you can provide some helpful context for your meeting. Could it be your new manager? An influential person in the business? Ask your contact for information on who you’ll be attending with so you can prepare and do research accordingly.
5. Practice the interview
Hearing yourself answer some standard questions aloud doesn’t just confirm new neural pathways and help to cement the answer in your mind, it’s a way of vetting some of your natural responses. Take yourself through some of the anticipated questions (‘why do you want to work for us?’ ‘What do you think you can bring to this role?’) and chat them out to yourself in the shower or while making coffee.
6. And practice some more
Why not enlist a friend or family member to sit in as the interviewer? The more you practice, the more authentic you’ll come across in your interview.
7. Gather some data
Even if your industry isn’t heavy on numbers, data can provide concrete evidence of previous successes you’ve achieved that you can use to sell yourself. How many regular readers did you add to your previous company’s EDM list? What were some of the spikes in revenue that happened on your watch? Having a few of these tangible examples on-hand is a great way to weave into answers designed to understand your competence.
8. Know the product
Whatever it is that your potential company creates or offers, whether it’s a magazine, a dog-grooming service or a stationery product, you’ll need to know it up and down before you step into the interview. Expand your research to encompass the ins and outs of said product, so you can offer insight into the customer experience and how your job might alter it for the better.
9. Develop your own messaging
Have you ever noticed how politicians toe a party line by incorporating the same handful of words? This is a powerful way of creating continuity and strength but you can also apply this strategy to your job interview to hammer home just how perfect you are for this position. Have a look out for key terms on the company’s website or marketing material that might could form a theme—’teamwork’, ‘innovation’, ‘challenge’, for example. Once you’ve aligned these to your personal attributes, focus on using these words throughout your interview.
Reflect this messaging further by encapsulating your personal brand in a business card using one of Canva’s creative templates such as Black and White Square Pattern Web Designer Business Card or Black & White Edgy Creative Freelancer Business Card.
10. Decide on a personal checklist
Decide on three things you want to express during your meeting and tick them off. It could be as simple as ‘I’m most proud of my success in managing a team of five’ or ‘I’m ready for the challenge of absorbing a national team’, aimed at expressing both what you can offer your potential future employer as well as what you’re hoping to gain from being part of the company.
11. Dress for success
First impressions count for a lot—even more than a candidate’s previous work experience, one study suggests. How you present yourself is crucial to this; choose formal, clean and pressed clothing appropriate to the workplace (even a casual, t-shirt wearing start-up appreciates a well-dressed potential employee) and groom appropriately with clean hair, facial hair, nails and shoes.
What to do when you arrive to your job interview
12. Arrive early
Not sure what time to arrive for your interview? Early is always the right answer. Time your arrival to ensure you have 15 minutes of waiting time in the reception area — lateness is not a good look.
13. Take some time
While you wait, make a concerted effort to calm your nerves before stepping inside. Take some long, deep breaths, clear your mind of interview answers and focus on projecting confidence and poise. Visualize yourself successfully navigating the first steps of the interview; shaking hands, greeting interviewers and making small talk before launching into your pre-prepared answers.
14. Be polite
While being courteous and polite should underpin every daily encounter, it’s especially important when entering a workplace for an interview. You never know whose opinion—from the receptionist to the security staff—will be sought when evaluating your appropriateness for a position.
15. Consider your first impression
You’ve dressed the part but there’s another subtle way to prove how capable you are. Come equipped with an additional copy of your CV as well as a rich and demonstrative portfolio or examples of any relevant work. It also pays to bring a notebook and a pen—you never know when you might need these and you’ll look suitably prepared if you have this to hand.
Create a killer portfolio to showcase your best work with a Canva template such as Green and White Media Kit or Mint Green and White Corporate Social Media Report.
16. Adopt a positive attitude
Even when posed questions that steer towards negativity (‘what didn’t you like about your last job?’ for example), try to maintain an attitude of positivity. Find reasons to truthfully discuss why you liked or learned a lesson from a negative job or situation—it’s much easier to endear yourself to a potential future employer if you project an attitude of problem-solving as opposed to problem creation.
Job interview questions and answers
Although each industry, company and role will demand a different set of skills, there are some interview questions that are universally illuminating for an interviewer to understand more about your personality, your suitability within the workplace culture and also how you apply your soft skills in the context of day-to-day tasks. Below are some examples.
17. How to answer: ‘Tell me a bit about yourself.’
The interviewer typically isn’t asking you about your weekend here. Take this opportunity to capture and distill the most important things they need to know about you as an employee—your most impactful job, the skills you’d most like to highlight, as well as some of the previous projects you feel showcase your abilities are all great options.
18. How to answer: ‘What are your weaknesses?’
Avoid responding with something that’s not genuine and communicates inauthenticity—saying something like ‘I work too hard!’ doesn’t come across well. Everyone has weaknesses—it’s how we manage them that’s important and expressing what you’ve already got underway to alter it is the key. For example, if your weakness happens to be a tendency to get overly stressed during particularly busy periods, mention that you’ve been meditating at lunch times and working on communicating with superiors in order to manage this.
19. How to answer: ‘Describe a time you faced a challenge and what steps you took to overcome it.’
This demands self-reflection and self-examination, focusing on problem solving skills and your attitude to challenges, conflict resolution and how you cope under pressure. Work through the S.T.A.R method if you get a little stuck: first, contextualise the situation for your interviewee by presenting the challenge in a professional manner and explain how it arose in the first place, then explain a little about where you fell in the group in relation to the task at hand. The action step requires you describe the specific measures you took to overcome the problem, backing by the reasons you decided to take this particular path. Then, end with the result, which is obviously positive as it was a challenge you overcame.
20. How to answer: ‘Why do you want to work for us?’
This is where your genuine passion for the role and the company should shine—it’s your opportunity to authentically present the reasons you’ve chosen to apply. A good way to highlight this is to incorporate the company’s mission, ethos and culture into your answer, as well.
21. Be concise
Nobody likes a warbler. You don’t need to be brief, you just need to be concise—this means expanding answers far past a few words but also only expressing what’s relevant to the question, the job and you as a candidate.
Interview your interviewer
Despite your initial feelings that this is the perfect job for you, remember that the interview time is for both the candidate and the company to get to know each other. Have in mind a set of questions that you want to find out about the company. Have in your head a really clear idea of why this company will want to hire you. Ask about future opportunities for job growth within the company.
22. Engage in active listening
Staring out the window between questions doesn’t communicate interest. Practice active listening skills such as affirmative body language including eye contact and nodding, asking questions and mirroring their body language.
24. Don’t forget body language
In addition to communicating active listening, body language is an important way to show your interest—maintaining eye contact, sitting up straight and as mentioned, mirroring your interviewer will subtly demonstrate that you’re aligned with those in the room.
25. Convey your passion
Why would anyone get hired if they didn’t care about their job? Passion helps you create, inspire and grow—as an employee and as a person. As LinkedIn’s Mike Hull says, “It usually takes me five minutes and two questions to know how an interview will likely turn out. The best responses showcase a candidate's ambitions, passion for what they do and clarity of vision.”
26. Be the purple cow
Cows, after you’ve seen one or three or twenty, are boring. A purple cow, though? That would be incredible. In Seth Godin’s book Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, he tells us "today, the one sure way to fail is to be boring. Your one chance for success is to be remarkable." Be the purple cow, and employers will immediately separate you from the other black and white cows, who don’t know how to be purple.
27. Answer the question
During the panic of an interview, it can become tempting to recite your resume as a response to out-there questions, especially if some of the questions are a little left field, and designed to throw you off-kilter. Interview IQ’s founder Karalyn Brown says “they're not targeting it to the specific role or thing the person might be interested in”. So, it can be useful to have a bullet-point list of responses prepared in your head.
28. Prepare some questions
Have at least three questions to ask your interviewer: it shows you’ve been actively listening, that you’re keen and thirdly, it’s a great opportunity to revisit any aspects of the interview that you feel you didn’t address effectively. Some refer to the question part of the interview as the ‘second chance’ section for this reason.
After the interview
29. Send a follow-up email
One final step many overlook is the importance of a follow-up email. In the form of a thank you, it’s a way of imprinting yourself in the minds of your interviewer as someone who is courteous, considered and, most importantly, very invested in the position following the interview. You’ll be more memorable in the minds of your interviewer after taking this simple step.
Want to make a lasting impact? Try sending an email that’s finished with a perfectly professional logo to add to your email signature such as White with Black Dots Personal Logo or Blue with Orange Diamond Icon Personal Logo from Canva’s range of templates.
30. Ask for feedback
If you’re unsuccessful, politely asking for feedback can be a great way to gather insights into things you can do better next time.