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How to Succeed in Job Interviews

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Excelling in job interviews is important. Even if you're not looking for another job, it's a good idea to keep your job interview skills sharp for the next time you need to excel in one! Going to a job interview can be daunting, but with a few easy tips, you'll be well on your way to success.

As a former interviewer and frequent interviewee, I've learned a few things along the way. As an interviewee, I've sweated through a lot of tough interviews, but have developed a strategy that works for me. On the other side of the table, as an interviewer in Human Resources, I not only learned some of the key elements to success at interviews, but also that the interviewer has a tough job, too! Read on for my top tips on how to succeed in job interviews.

Photo by bpsusf on flickr

Photo by bpsusf on flickr

Be prepared

Preparing for your job interview is as important as your performance during the interview itself. Being prepared will give you the knowledge and the confidence to succeed.

Research the company

The interviewer doesn't only want to know if you're interested in the job, but also if you're interested in working for the company. One way to measure this is by how much you know about the company. Don't stop at simply looking at the company's web site - if you really want the job it may be worth your while to ask to speak to someone else who works there to get a sense of what the culture and atmosphere are like at the company.

Research the job

Find out more about the job you are applying for. If you have the job description, look at it closely. If not, speak to someone in Human Resources or your potential future supervisor to get a better sense of what the job entails. Try to match your own skills and experience to those required for the job, and prepare examples to back this up.

Prepare any necessary paperwork

You should bring a few copies of your resume, key employment related documents (like your social security and work permit or visa, if required) and proof of your education to the interview.

Look the part

Creating a good first impression is an important part of a successful interview. So, it's essential that you look professional. Now, that doesn't necessarily mean that you should wear a business suit - it's more about creating a desirable image. You want to look your best, which isn't just about what you wear - you should also make sure your hair, makeup and accessories are appropriate to the workplace. Looking the part for your interview isn't just about creating a good first impression, it's also about making yourself feel more confident. A more confident you will automatically create a better impression and perform better in an interview.

A few more specific notes on the dress code: If the workplace where you're applying to work is more formal, then a suit may be appropriate. If the workplace is a more casual one, then a button-up shirt, a pair of nice trousers and some nice shoes will probably do the trick - I would recommend dressing at least a little better than you would if you worked there everyday. If in doubt, by all means just wear a suit. Overall, looking professional, approachable and friendly is a good impression to leave for most job interviews.

Photo courtesy of hartboy on flickr

Photo courtesy of hartboy on flickr

Answer questions

When answering interview questions, the key is to speak clearly and confidently. You want to establish a rapport with the interviewers, so it's okay to let your personality shine through a little as long as you remain professional. Don't be afraid to take short pauses to think about your responses - this will make you seem thoughtful, not slow, and the pauses will probably seem longer than they really are!

Many people will practice answers to cliché interview questions before an interview, and while these aren't really relevant anymore, they do show what kinds of areas of questioning interviewers might take:

  • Tell me about yourself - While interviewers want to know about your experience, they don't have the time or inclination to listen to interviewees ramble on about their experience. Before the interview, prepare by summarizing your achievements, your experience that relates to this specific job, and your key skills. You should be able to answer this question easily if needed - after all who doesn't like talking about him/herself?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses - A cliché question like this usually results in a cliché answer (e.g. I'm too hardworking/perfectionist/etc). These days interviewers are more likely to ask about your previous experience to get this information. Make sure you can answer questions about how your skills/experience relate to the job in question, and definitely come armed with an example of a challenge you've had to face.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? - While you should have some sort of career plan in mind before you go to an interview, a more modern interview would ask how you see the role developing, or how you think the role is important to the company.

The best advice I can give to you is to make sure you think of some good examples from your own experience. You want examples that mention your key achievements AND demonstrate how you can meet the requirements of the position. During the interview, answer your questions by using these detailed examples from your own experience. I recommend the STAR method for answering interview questions:

  • S: Situation - set the scene, make sure to mention what your role was in this example
  • T: Task - what were you trying to achieve - be specific
  • A: Actions - focus on what YOU actually did (rather than on what the team did, what you should have done, or what you wanted to do)
  • R: Result - what was the end result of the situation, what did you learn?

More on how to succeed in interviews:

  • How to Prepare for Job Interviews Using the STAR Technique
    Using the STAR or PAR job interviewing technique may help you stand out from the crowd during job interviews. Ace your interviews with the STAR method.
  • How to Avoid the Top 10 Interview Mistakes
    Whether or not we are in an economic recession as a nation and experiencing increasing Unemployment Rates in many states, the following 10 negative attributes will lengthen your own recession by losing you...
  • Successful job interview - Key points to follow
    A job interview offers you an opportunity to gather more information about the organization and at the same time the organization is allowed to gather more information about you. You need to present your best self at the interview.

Ask questions

In an interview, you are interviewing the interviewer(s) as much as they are interviewing you. This little fact always helps to calm my nerves during an interview, so if you're nervous in interviews, keep this in mind. You should use your interview as an opportunity to ask about things that are important to you and that will affect your decision about whether or not to accept the job. Write down some questions before the interview to make sure you ask everything you need to know. Also, during the interview, make a note of any subjects raised that you want more information about - this will show that you've been paying attention.

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Here are some questions that you might want to ask:

  • Ask for specific information about the job (if you don't have enough information yet): What are the main duties, responsibilities, supervision, etc?
  • Is this a new position? How has this job been performed in the past?
  • What are the challenges I would face over the next few months?
  • How would you describe the company's culture?
  • I'm very interested in this job and in working for this company. What's the next step in the hiring process?

The questions you may wish to ask in an interview are very personal. In addition to the above, I also like to ask about the opportunities for working flexible hours and remote working, but this may not be important to you (or appropriate in some interviews).

Final notes

Close your interview by thanking your interviewer(s) using their name(s) and shaking hands. Follow up only after the stated date you were told you would find out the result, or a few days later if no date was stated. Interviews can be a difficult experience, but by following these easy tips you can make them much more pleasurable. Good luck, and please feel free to share your own tips on how to succeed in job interviews!



sanasiddiqui on October 08, 2015:

All interview are very helpful for job seekers.

htodd from United States on April 29, 2012:

Well,we have to prepare for it, like for which type of interview we are going than we don't get interview

toknowinfo on March 28, 2011:

Great hub and the information is always useful. Thanks for sharing your tips.

chirls (author) from Indiana (for now) on October 27, 2010:

Idiot's guide to interviews... That would have been a good title! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for stopping by!

maheshpatwal from MUMBAI on October 11, 2010:

Cheryl your this hub is awesome. Its like an idiot's guide to interviews. Thank you very much for sharing with us. Voted up.

chirls (author) from Indiana (for now) on August 01, 2010:

Interviews became a lot easier for me once I started following the steps I outlined. I would almost go as far as to say I like them now... almost, but not quite! I hope people find this information useful.

Thanks for reading and commenting. :)

Audrey Kirchner from Washington on August 01, 2010:

Great information and interviews are so important right now with about 8 million people showing up for every job out there! Timely advice!

chirls (author) from Indiana (for now) on August 01, 2010:

Themist, I'm glad you found it helpful. Writing it was a nice little refresher for me, so I'll be ready the next time I have an interview, which might be soon!

It's tricky to answer questions about your strengths and weaknesses, but the key is to always link your answers to a really good example from your experience. You don't want your answers to sound rehearsed, so be honest, and be yourself.

Listing strengths is relatively easy; stick to things like good communication skills, hardworking, quick learner, good team player, strong leader, etc.

Weaknesses can be more difficult - you want to portray yourself in a good light, but nobody's perfect! Try not to give cliché answers like I'm too much of a perfectionist. Some weaknesses a lot of people have are taking on too much work, lack of a certain skill required for the job, nervous when public speaking, etc. The best answer would provide an example that shows that you know how to overcome your weakness.

Hope that helps!

themist from London on July 31, 2010:

Hah, I clicked on your profile and this came up, just what I needed and incredibly helpful. Thank you very much!

One thing is, I find it difficult to list my strengths and weaknesses, I've tried it loads of times but I'm rubbish at self-assessment. Any tips?

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