3 Skills You Need to Ace a Job Interview
The purpose of a job interview is to get to the core of who you are, not only as an employee but also as a person, which can be an intimidating thought. If the company hires you, your skills and experience are obviously important, but what makes you tick as a person and how you fit into the workplace culture are also crucial factors, so it makes sense for the hiring manager to care about who you are outside of work.
However, a job interview is a two-way street—it’s ultimately a conversation about a position and your suitability for it. To make the most of this opportunity, you must actively participate in the conversation by preparing questions and carefully listening to the interviewer. Instead of rehearsing in your head what you’ll say next while the interviewer is speaking, be present and focus on their words—they’ll notice how engaged you are.
Having a successful interview requires more than practical preparation such as researching the company and the role and rehearsing answers to common interview questions—the outcome also hinges on the emotional and tactical skills you possess. Although your nerves are likely jangled, don’t forget that it’s ultimately a conversation, and you have to remember the everyday social skills that ensure effective communication.
The way you speak, the manner in which you present yourself, and the confidence you show will tell the interviewer as much about you as the qualifications and work experience listed on your resume. Therefore, it’s essential that your soft skills are as sharp as your technical skills and that you’re ready to showcase them on the day of your interview. The hiring manager will be judging you as a package, not just as a collection of skills written on a piece of paper, so be mindful of the impression you’re making—sometimes, the subtle details matter more than the substance.
Practicing with a trained expert is one of the best ways to prepare for an upcoming job interview, so set up a mock interview with one of our job success specialists, who will give you constructive feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, offer you valuable tips for handling questions, and help you build up your confidence.
So, what three skills can help you ace your next job interview?
One of the most crucial skills to bring to a job interview is confidence. Some argue that this is more of a trait, but it is actually something you can learn. The interviewer will obviously want a candidate who has the necessary skills and qualifications, but they’ll also want someone who’s confident, honest, and pleasant. If you radiate confidence, they will have more confidence in you as well; conversely, if you appear to doubt yourself and your skills, the interviewer won’t put much faith in you, either.
To showcase all your best attributes, you can prepare a short introduction (elevator pitch) in case they ask you to tell them about yourself. Your pitch should be short, flow naturally, and sound authentic (even though you’ve obviously practiced it a few times), and it should tell the interviewer a couple of things about who you are as a person. Don’t practice it so much that it sounds robotic and rehearsed—memorize the content but make sure to present it naturally and authentically.
You can also take this opportunity to match your qualifications and experience to the position, always aiming to convey your enthusiasm for the job and your industry knowledge. Prepare examples of times you’ve solved problems, led a team to victory or guided it through a loss, or created something innovative—you need to be ready to prove why you’re the best candidate for the job and how the company would benefit from hiring you. You’ve likely already included some examples of your achievements in your resume and cover letter, so choose new ones or add relevant detail to those you’ve already presented. The key is to add to the information in your resume, not merely repeat it.
2. Good communication
Good communication isn’t just about what you say and how you say it—it’s also about listening to what the other person says and what they ask. Many candidates make the mistake of spewing out an answer without carefully considering the question, thus failing to give the interviewer the information they want.
Even worse is rambling about irrelevant stuff, which shows a lack of self-awareness and focus, so do listen to what the interviewer is saying. After all, it doesn’t matter how eloquently you answer if you’re not addressing the question at hand. Besides, forcing yourself to be present and truly listen to the interviewer should help calm your nerves and allow you to respond more smoothly and confidently.
It’s incredibly important to choose your words with care and speak clearly during a job interview, but it’s just as crucial to be mindful of your gestures and facial expressions. Body language can say a lot more than words can, so it’s a good idea to record yourself rehearsing for your interview so you can watch your performance and correct any distracting behavior. Keep reminding yourself that a job interview is about the full package, not just the content of your answers. Make eye contact, smile when appropriate, and be present. Rein in any annoying or distracting tics, and ensure that your body language denotes confidence and professionalism.
3. Emotion management
This is obviously easier said than done, and we’re not suggesting you shouldn’t have or even show your emotions during a job interview—we’re simply saying your emotions shouldn’t be controlling you.
Job interviews can be stressful, and all the nerves and anxiety can greatly affect your performance. Therefore, it’s key to practice mindfulness so you can remain calm, alert, and confident even under pressure. Don’t feel bad if you’re nervous—even veteran professionals get the jitters before their next big interview. That’s only natural, and it’s all a matter of controlling those feelings and thriving despite them.
Your attitude and mindset can affect the interviewer’s perception of you and influence the outcome of the meeting, which is why it’s essential to practice and prepare before your interview. In this way, even if you’re hit with a curveball question, you can take it in stride and answer with confidence. Go through the most common interview questions and prepare your answers to them, but keep in mind that interviewers may seek roughly the same information through different questions—if you can determine what they want to know, you can easily adjust your prepared answers to fit the context, maintaining your calm and composure the whole time.
These aren’t skills one can learn overnight, and they’re not easy to master—it takes practice and consistency to improve your communication skills, boost your self-confidence, and control your emotions. However, being aware of what you need to correct is the first step to self-improvement, and these skills will serve you well not only in your job search but also in life.
After the interview, consider sending a follow-up letter thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your enthusiasm for the job. It will help you stand out from the crowd and reinforce your professionalism. Depending on the hiring manager, not sending a thank-you note may even hurt your chances, so you never want to neglect this step.