How to Make the Best Impression at a Job Interview
You did it! You got an interview for a job you truly want. Well done! However, you’re not out of the woods yet. After you celebrate this huge accomplishment, you need to start preparing for the interview so that you show up at your best, ready for whatever questions come your way. You don’t have the job yet, so you can’t let your guard down.
This post will guide you through what to do and what not to do during this critical meeting so you can increase your chances of bagging a job offer. If you need help prepping for the big day, consider our mock interview service.
How to show up for a job interview
Job interviews can be nerve-racking. A good remedy for those jitters is to show up fully prepared, which will make you more confident. Hiring managers love confidence in a candidate—no matter how skilled you are, you probably won’t get the job if you look timid and uncertain. Here are a few things you should do to hit a home run.
- First impressions count. It takes just a few seconds to make a first impression, so don’t waste them! First and foremost, dress appropriately. Wear something professional that you feel good in—this will help boost your confidence. Depending on the company culture, your attire can range from casual to formal. Find out what's acceptable and dress accordingly. When in doubt, overdress rather than underdress—just don’t go overboard.
- Be attentive and prepared. Learn everything you can about the company and the job before the interview. Do your research so that when you're asked a question, you can give an informed answer. Also, the more you know, the better you’ll be at asking questions about things important to you, including chances of advancement and the company's values. Remember: An interview is an opportunity for both you and the interviewer to find out if you're a good fit for each other, and asking questions is a great way to show that you’re engaged, interested, and enthusiastic.
It's also important to be attentive. Listen closely to the interviewer, and comment or ask questions to show you’re paying attention and care about what they have to say—two good characteristics a hiring manager will appreciate. This will also come into play when you send a thank-you note after the interview—an often-overlooked step you don’t want to skip. Touch on things that were mentioned during the interview to prove you were engaged.
- Brag a little. Don't be afraid to explain why you'd be the best choice for the position. Share your accomplishments from previous jobs and your unique skills while also noting how you can help the company move forward. However, be careful not to come off as conceited. It can also help to tell the interviewer how interested you are in the position. Employers prefer hiring someone who is excited to work for them over someone who will take just any job, so your passion could push you past a candidate who’s technically more qualified.
What not to do during a job interview
Following the tips above will go a long way toward ensuring a successful job interview. Still, you have to avoid the most common mistakes, which could erase all the positive effects of the right moves. Remember that what you don't do during the job interview is just as important as what you do.
- Don’t be unprofessional. What you say about your past employers speaks volumes about your work ethic and who you are as a person in general. If you're willing to bad-mouth another company, a hiring manager will assume you’d probably do the same with them (and you probably would). Avoid that negativity like the plague, focusing instead on being positive. Even if you hate your current or previous jobs, find the positives in them.
You should also avoid lying at all costs. Don't ever think that a single small lie won't matter or that nobody will find out about it. It's pretty easy for a hiring manager to discover what's true and what’s not, especially in today's digital world. Don't risk it. Even a small, seemingly harmless lie will destroy your reputation and trustworthiness, so be honest, even if it’s tough.
- Don’t hide your weaknesses. Obviously, you want to focus on your strengths, but it's common to be asked about your weaknesses during an interview, so know what you’re going to say. Tell the interviewer what one of your weaknesses is, but add something positive about it—perhaps how you've overcome it or how recognizing it has made you a better leader. Don’t go with a cliché such as perfectionism or something else that’s typically considered a strength. Share a real weakness—although obviously not one that would cost you the job—and explain how you’re handling it.
- Don’t arrive late for the interview. Being late can immediately take you out of the running. It makes you look unprofessional and may suggest that you don't care. Hiring managers may also see it as a sign that you'll be showing up late for work should you get the job.
Plan ahead and figure out how long it will take you to reach the venue with time to spare. Give yourself more time than you think you’ll need—worst-case scenario, you’ll just have to wait for a while. In this way, if traffic is bad or something else comes up, you'll still get there several minutes before the interview is supposed to start. It also helps to make the drive before the day of the interview if you're unfamiliar with the location, just to see what you're up against in terms of the roads and parking. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and the current traffic situation as well in case there’s construction on the road.
A few other things you should avoid may seem obvious, but they're worth a mention: Don't chew gum during the interview, don't ask about other candidates, don't interrupt the interviewer, and don’t hog the conversation. An interview is a two-way street, and you should use it to showcase your interpersonal skills. The interviewer is evaluating not only your answers but also your professionalism, personality, etiquette, and other soft skills, so be on your best behavior.
In short, show up for the interview well-prepared, be confident, and, above all, be yourself. If you need help preparing, check out our mock interview service.