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nail a job-interview

Practical Tips on How to Nail a Job Interview in 2021

Some people may be wondering why it’s important to learn how to nail a job interview since they already have the main thing they need for a given job: skills and knowledge. But, just having certain skills usually isn’t enough to get the job we’ve applied for.

As you’re aware, you have to be better than plenty of other applicants. Sounds demanding? It might be, but taken that only 5 out of 250 applicants on average get invited to an interview, you really want to make the most of your chance and convince the employer that you’re the company’s missing puzzle-piece. 

With some tips and tricks we’ve collected throughout extensive research, you will quickly get a grasp of how to be successful in a job interview and leave a great first impression on your employer. Keep reading to find out how to achieve that.

Job Interview Preparation: Things to Think of in Advance


Obtain knowledge about the company

Each phase of the selection process requires a certain level of knowledge about the company and its core values. This especially goes for interviews, and it’s not only because employers will likely be testing that knowledge. 

Firstly, research will help you decide if the company is a genuinely good fit for you. Furthermore, you want to sound knowledgeable, and getting a sense of how the company operates will boost your confidence. 

There are a couple of job interview preparation tips that could help you with this step. For example, it isn’t necessary to spend weeks on this sort of research—carefully reading through the “About Us” section of their website, browsing through their social media, and analyzing a couple of reviews should be sufficient to keep you informed.

Questions to think about

In figuring out how to nail a job interview, many questions need to be answered, a lot of which have to do—with you. In other words, it’s essential to be prepared for some common interview questions that employers ask so as to learn more about you. For instance, you can expect to hear:

  • Questions about you: 

Tell us about yourself. Why should we hire you? Why are you interested in this position? What is your greatest strength? What is your greatest weakness?

  • Company and team-related questions: 

How did you learn about this job opening? What do you know about our company? Are you a team player?

  • Questions about handling particular situations: 

How do you deal with pressure? Why did you quit your previous job?

  • Questions about your expectations:

What are your salary expectations? Where do you see yourself in five years?

Prepare specific answers to each question

What is important for a successful job interview is to remember that, even if you’ve prepared thoroughly, you may find yourself searching for the right word. However, what you can do is reduce the chance to get asked a question you didn’t think of in advance. 

We’re not trying to say you should come up with answers and learn them all by heart, but you should have them sketched. That way, even if a certain question surprises you, you’ll be able to improvise well. 

Get comfortable talking about yourself

“Tell us about yourself” is usually the first question asked during an interview and however plain it might seem, it can get tricky. For some of us, talking about ourselves is an unpleasant experience and feels like bragging about our accomplishments. But don’t worry, there are tips for a successful job interview that cover the issue.

Whether you like it or not, when competing for a job position, you’ll simply have to sing your own praises. Still, make sure not to exaggerate and try to avoid bringing up irrelevant information. Instead, your story should be concise, objective, and strictly work-related (or education-related if you’ve just graduated and work experience is yet to come).

Also, during your job interview preparation, you could outline the story into three equal segments in the following order:

  • Present

Begin with introducing the interviewer with your current status and possibly with the most recent attainments and aspirations.

  • Past 

Tell a short story about your education and/or career path to the present day, and highlight the points that make you qualified for the role you’ve applied for.

  • Future

Briefly explain how you ended up there and what it is exactly that you’re looking for (i.e. how this position matches your career goals).

Establish a balance between strengths and weaknesses

Using a balanced set of traits when talking strengths and weaknesses is definitely among the more successful job interview techniques. It’s difficult to talk about strengths and not sound overconfident, or even arrogant. 

On the other hand, exposing your weaknesses is challenging as well—you shouldn’t sound too humble or be hard on yourself. In any case, talk about your weaknesses first. This way you will end your speech on a positive note.

Also, during your preparation for a job interview, jot down those strengths that make you qualified for the job. When it comes to weaknesses, choose those which either aren’t necessarily a disadvantage in the specific field of expertise, or can be turned into an advantage. Here are some examples of personal/professional traits you could mention (depending on the job requirements):

      STRENGTHS       WEAKNESSES
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Perfectionism
  • Collaborative
  • Lacking experience in a non-vital skill
  • Disciplined
  • Taking on too much work
  • Detail-oriented
  • Self-critical
  • Rational judgment
  • Overly focused/lacking focus
  • Persistent
  • Conventional (afraid to take risks)
  • Responsible
  • Overthinking
  • Diplomatic
  • Overly sensitive

Practice interviewing

Preparing for a successful job interview doesn’t only mean knowing what questions to expect. You’ll also have to approach them carefully and come up with clear-cut answers for each. Then you’ll be able to manipulate the conversation in your favor, even if some questions slightly differ from those expected. 

While you don’t have to learn the answers by heart (you don’t want to sound like a robot), it’s wise to write them down, at least in the form of an outline. After you’ve summarized your responses, it’s a great idea to do a mock interview with a friend. If it’s not your preferred way, you can practice on your own, or even record yourself. 

Dress for success

One of the keys to a successful job interview is the awareness that first impressions matter more than you might think. Did you know that out of 2,000 surveyed managers, 33% of them knew if they were to hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds? We don’t really have the ability to expose our inner qualities that quickly.

Your looks can greatly affect the impression you leave, which is why it’s also immensely important to know how you should dress for a successful job interview. Try to stick to the following general rules:

  • Research the company’s dress code and adjust your outfit to the formality level required.
  • Avoid open-toe shoes even if the company’s dress code isn’t too strict.
  • Wear what makes you feel comfortable and confident, but don’t underdress.
  • Avoid clothes that reveal too much.
  • Make sure your clothes are ironed well.

Be there on time but not too early

Perhaps one of the most important tips for a successful job interview we can give you is—be punctual. Arriving late gives employers the impression that one lacks discipline, doesn’t respect other people’s time, and maybe doesn’t even care about the job at all. So, when’s the best time to show up?

You shouldn’t arrive too early (over 15 minutes beforehand). If you do, it might get awkward since you’ll probably have to sit and wait for the appointed time. There’s a reason your interview was scheduled for a specific time and if you arrive much earlier, you might cause a disturbance. During that time, you might also start overthinking and getting anxious over irrelevant details. 


During the Interview


How to have a successful job interview in person: body language

As we already stated, first impressions matter. You should look nice on the outside, but it’s not only about what you wear. Another important component of a great first impression is effective body language.

For instance, statistics show that 20% of interviewers claim they wouldn’t consider candidates who had their arms folded during the interview, as it indicates insecurity and defensiveness. 

So, what kind of body language is desirable?

  • Good posture and stillness
  • Smiling (but keep it natural)
  • Being able to maintain eye contact for a couple of seconds
  • Subtle hand movements (e.g. moving your fingers as you speak) imply sincerity

Don’t only listen, ask questions as well

During your final job interview preparation, keep in mind that an interview isn’t an interrogation, but a two-way conversation. It’s not only the employer who needs information about you, but you’re also there to find out as much as possible about the potential workplace. 

You should also prepare some questions that will signalize you’re truly interested in the role. Here are some examples:

  • Can you tell me more about the daily routine (working hours, organization of daily tasks within the team, etc.)?
  • How many people are employed in this department?
  • What is the next stage of the selection process?
  • Is there anything you would like me to clarify further in terms of my qualifications?

Win them over with authenticity

Another hint on how to have a successful job interview: be authentic. Although we did advise you to have an outline of what you intend to say in an interview, you should by no means lose your personality and authenticity over clichéd phrases you’re convinced they’d like to hear. 

While it’s natural to have concerns over what’s right and what’s wrong to say, feel free to spice up your words with a dash of authenticity, as long as it’s not inappropriate. For instance, instead of vaguely describing why your experience is an asset, mention the specific projects you engaged in and how you felt about them. That way, you sound sincere and enthusiastic about your career goals.

Be concise and focused

Conciseness and focus are certainly among the skills you need for a successful job interview. If you happen to have too much to say about your background, that can be tricky since you may find yourself unable to finish your response smoothly. To avoid talking endlessly and meaninglessly because you’re lacking a phrase to end your sentence without a hitch, consider the following:

  • Referring back to the question: “So that’s how I’d describe what led me to apply…”
  • Associate your response with the role/company you’re being interviewed for  “… and I believe it’s similar here.” or “Does that sound like something similar to what you do on a daily basis?”

Avoid speaking negatively about previous employers

Here’s what any successful job interview guide will tell you: questions about your previous employers show how loyal and professional you are, so refrain from badmouthing them. Even if you had quarrels, keep it to yourself. 

This doesn’t mean you should lie—simply think of a positive and a negative aspect of your previous job and mention them both. For instance, it’s fine to say there was no opportunity to develop in a role although it was a pleasant workplace. On the other hand, excessive sincerity and complaining might send up a red flag. 


Online Interviews


Online interviews require somewhat different preparation than in-person ones, and this can make some of the interviewees anxious. Still, there certainly are successful job interview tips out there which could help you in this specific situation and boost your confidence. All the abovementioned rules apply, but also remember the following:

  • Test your internet connection and audio/video input.
  • Find a source of natural light in order not to get distracted by bad lighting.
  • Isolate from noise.
  • Even if it’s not an in-person interview, first impressions are still essential.
  • Eye contact is to be maintained regardless.

Over-the-Phone Interviews


Last but not least, there are also over-the-phone interviews, usually held during the initial selection stage. Wondering how to nail a job interview over the phone? Here are some crucial things to know about phone interviews and tips to get you to the next round:

  • Over-the-phone interviews usually serve to quickly eliminate candidates. You have to be extra careful, quick, and responsive.
  • You can expect some general introductory questions about your personal life.
  • Prepare a pencil and a pen, or a laptop.
  • You could also prepare a cheat sheet, but don’t stick too much to it, as it might get you confused if an unexpected question pops up.
  • Be a careful listener and don’t try to lead the conversation. During a phone interview, good conversation manners are your most valuable asset.

FAQ

How to have a successful job interview?

There’s a number of tips on how to achieve this. You might have some desirable predispositions to rock a job interview (such as outstanding interpersonal skills), but most of us could benefit from reading some tips. To sum it up—you should thoroughly prepare for an interview, have your answers outlined for a certain set of questions, find the right balance between honesty and the things an employer would like to hear, be confident to speak about yourself and ask appropriate questions.

How to nail a phone job interview?

You should be aware that what phone interviews usually serve for is to quickly eliminate candidates. Therefore, you have to be extra careful and clever. The good thing is that you can prepare a cheat sheet, but it’s not recommended that you adhere to it too much. It might confuse you in case you’re asked a somewhat unforeseen question. 

Be a careful listener and a polite speaker. Don’t try to dominate the conversation—remember, it is an over-the-phone interview, and you’re relying on your verbal skills exclusively to win someone over.

How to nail a job interview as a teenager?

For a teenager to nail a job interview, all the general rules apply, but it’s perhaps better if they practice an interview with their parents or anyone who’s an experienced job-seeker. Most teenagers don’t have actual work experience, but mowing lawns, occasional babysitting, volunteer club membership, etc. are things worth mentioning. Parents should advise them on what to wear, regardless of the type of job they’ve applied for.

How can I have a successful nursing job interview?

As for other job interviews, careful preparation is required, so make use of all the general tips we’ve delivered. It’s just that here, the specific strengths you should focus on differ. Some of the essential ones are social skills and compassion in order to deal with a variety of patients with different problems and help them cope. Flexibility and time-management skills are also crucial, since nurses may often be required to work overtime or on their days off.

How to nail a job interview with social anxiety?

If you’re diagnosed with social anxiety, there are some things you can’t control easily. However, you can focus on the stressors that have nothing to do with your actual interview performance, such as clothing, getting lost, or not arriving on time. 

These details depend solely on your decisions and nobody else’s. Therefore, figuring out how to approach them may lead to an increased sense of control over the given situation.

If you feel you need more than just tips and tricks and wish to learn a coping mechanism as one of your job interview techniques, that’s completely fine. You can consult a therapist or a doctor, and seek professional advice prior to the interview.


Conclusion

If you’ve been invited to a dream-job interview, you’ve been given a unique opportunity to impress your potential employer with your set of skills and personal traits. However, bear in mind that you won’t be the only one who’s been given that chance. There will be (at least) several other remarkable candidates who want or need that job just as much as you do. How to nail a job interview then? 

It’s essential not to take your chance for granted. Be diligent and proactive, carefully think about all of the helpful hints we’ve provided you with, and rest assured it could be the greatest of all your interviews.