Guide to a Successful Job Interview

From your initial contact with the hiring manager to following up after your meeting, here's everything you need to know to ace your next job interview.

Congratulations, you’ve landed a job interview. Now what?

Whether it’s your first, 15th or 100th time interviewing, it’s important to be prepared if you want to get an offer letter. From your initial contact with the hiring manager to following up after your meeting, here’s everything you need to know to ace your next job interview.

Prepping for the Interview

Before you arrive at the interview, you should be well versed in everything the company does and stands for. Make sure you know the company’s mission statement and values. Be up to date with everything the company has been up to recently, such as if it has been in the news, released new products or won any recent awards. If you have the opportunity to try the company’s product or service, do it so you have firsthand experience with what the business offers. Use this information to demonstrate your knowledge of the company’s current market position and where they are headed in the future. Doing your research is a signal to the interviewer that you’re not just looking for a job, but this job.

Reviewing Your Resume

Your resume is likely the reason the hiring manager called you. Although you submitted a digital copy with your application, remember to bring a printed copy of your resume to an interview. Don’t assume your interviewer has seen your resume, let alone has an available copy for your interview. You should be prepared with at least three copies of your resume. Additional employees may be pulled into the interview process at the last minute, be prepared to hand them a copy of your resume, walk them through your career story, and tie your qualifications back to the position at hand. Always think about your experience in the context of this particular job and its requirements. You don’t need to rehash every role that’s listed on your resume, but you should call attention to the parts of your experience that are most relevant for this job opportunity.

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If there are job gaps on your resume, you may be asked what happened or why there is one. Always be honest, concise and never point fingers at previous employers. For short stays, make sure it is clear that the reason you left company X after such a short period of time is not a reason that applies for this role. If you’re returning to the workforce from an extended leave, talk about what inspired you to make a transition and how you plan to leverage your strengths.

Answering Interview Questions

After you’ve discussed your resume, you’ll likely jump into questions from the interviewer. No matter what they ask, don’t be nervous. Candidates get nervous about job interviews because there’s the potential they’ll be asked an open-ended question that will give the interviewer a secret view into who the candidate really is, but the real secret is that a lot of the time the interviewer doesn’t know what the right answer is either, or they’ll admit that there is no right answer, so just relax.

For questions on your skill or experience, respond using this “STAR” method to demonstrate how you possess a particular skill that’s required for the role:

  • Identify a Situation or Task where you demonstrated that skill.
  • Describe the Actions you took to resolve the matter.
  • Discuss the Results of your actions.

For instance, were you able to defuse a tense situation with a disgruntled customer? Did you help your team complete a project on time or under budget? Did you cut costs or generate revenue?

It is advisable to always practice your answers to common questions about your strengths, long and short-term career goals, and other topics, and reviewing them with a friend or colleague. They’ll be able to immediately identify shifts in your tone and mannerisms that might impact your presentation and confidence.

You should also prepare a few questions of your own for when your interviewer invites you to ask. This not only gives you the opportunity to gain deeper insights into the company, role and culture, but also shows the hiring manager that you’re truly interested in the organization.

Also note that during the interview, you should try to assess whether the employer is a right fit for you, not just try to prove to the employer that you’re right for the job.

Following Up

One of the trickiest timelines to decipher is how long after the interview you should follow up. If the hiring manager doesn’t indicate the company’s timeline by the end of the interview, be sure to politely ask (before you leave) when you might expect to hear from them if they decide to move forward. Honor the time frame that they present before following up about their decision. Regardless of the company’s decision time frame, experts advise emailing a thank-you note to each individual you met with during the interview within 24 hours.

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The most important thing to remember is, even if you don’t ultimately get the job, every interview is a learning opportunity. Practice makes perfect, and by following these steps, you’ll be an interview pro in no time.