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Essential Interview Tips and Tricks To Help You Land a Job

Brandi Glass
September 69 min read
Woman shaking hands across the interview table

Getting from point A to point B requires planning, practice and skill, and this is no less true in a job interview than in any other endeavor. These interview tips and tricks will help you lay the foundation for a successful job search and ace the interview that lands you your dream job.

First, let’s cover the interview process and what you can expect from the hiring company.

Interview Process

Before you land a job interview, it’s important to know what the process is like so you know what to expect. Typically, the interview process includes the following:

  1. Screening Interview
  2. Phone/Video Interview
  3. First Interview
  4. Second Interview
  5. Team Interview
  6. Background Check
  7. Final Interview/Job Offer

This process can take weeks or months depending on the company or organization. But before you enter this process, you should prepare by implementing the below interview tips and tricks.

Before You Apply for a Job

Successfully interviewing for your dream job starts before you even fill out the application. Your first task as a prospective job candidate is to get on the hiring manager's radar — in a good way. These tips will help you build your image into one that wows recruiters and hiring managers.

Research the Job and Company

The trick is to work smarter, not harder. You can pepper the internet with job applications on all the known job sites, but that's not necessarily going to land you the job you want to keep for the long haul — or place you on the next rung of the career ladder. Put in some time researching the industry or company where you want to work and get to know the kind of candidate that catches their eye. You can use this info later in the process, too, when you sit down to impress that hiring manager in person.

Fix Your Social Media

Now that you've gotten to know the kind of person your dream company is trying to attract, give your social media presence a once-over with a critical eye. Does it reflect the priorities and culture of the companies you want to work for? If not, it's time to do some rehab work on it. It doesn't necessarily have to be squeaky clean — in fact, that may be a detriment in some industries — but there shouldn't be anything publicly viewable that you wouldn't want your future employer to see or know about you.

Tailor Your Resume

Next, tailor your resume to the position for which you're applying. According to a recent study, hiring managers spend an average of 7 seconds looking at a resume before moving on to the next one. Given that, it makes sense to make sure you're highlighting the skills and qualifications they want. Use bold headlines and clean, uncluttered formatting to place the focus on the skills you want them to see. The resume that attracts a game design company is not necessarily the one that will stop an architectural firm in its tracks.

While you're at it, learn about the tips and tricks that will help you beat automated resume scanners, sometimes called applicant tracking software, that could count your application out before a human eye even sees it.

Write a Killer Cover Letter

Cover letters are often optional, but they give you the opportunity to connect with the hiring manager on a personal level before they meet you. Business network CNBC recently noted that recruiters are more interested in cover letters in the wake of the pandemic. A cover letter gives you the opportunity to express your excitement about a particular job, highlight specific skills or experience that may not be on your resume, and address any red flags, such as why you're changing careers or applying for a position that's a step down in responsibility — not to mention, show a little bit of your personality.

Before the Job Interview

Congratulations — your resume and cover letter did their job, and you've scored an interview! You may already be picking out your interview outfit, but hold up a second — some things are more important than how professional you look — like how well you can answer questions about yourself and ask questions about the company. Everyone tells you to "research the company and the position," but very few give you the insider interview tips and tricks that tell you what notes you should be taking.

Study the Job Description

First things first, sit down and carefully read the job description for the position you're applying for. Your goal is to show how your experience, education, and qualifications are relevant to that specific job description. Don't sell yourself short, either. Even if you don't have work experience that matches the job, you may have experience that prepares you to meet the needed qualifications.

Review Your Resume

Anything on your resume is fair game for an interviewer's questions, so prep yourself to answer those questions. You may not see a link between that filing clerk job you had ten years ago. Still, the interviewer may have questions about that new filing system you devised — and it could highlight a quality that they'd find relevant to their open position.

Review Your Research on the Company

Even if you've already done basic research on the company so you could tailor your resume, take the time to do a deeper dive now. Is there a reason they're hiring a new manager? Have they recently expanded their offerings into a new area — geographic or otherwise? What kind of work do they do in your community? The more you know, the better you'll be prepared to answer questions like: "Why do you want to work for us?" or "How do you know about this job?" If you've been dying to work for this company ever since they sponsored your Little League team, it can't hurt to mention the connection.

Find Out What Kind of Interview It Will Be

There are many different kinds of interviews — one-on-one interviews with a hiring manager, team meetings with a group of managers, open calls for multiple candidates, behavioral assessments and more. If the invitation to interview doesn't tell you what kind of interview you'll be attending, ask what you should expect from the interview. The answer will help you prepare properly — and the fact that you asked will alert the recruiter that you pay attention to details.

Prepare Answers to Commonly Asked Interview Questions

There are a few questions that are practically matter-of-course in job interviews, which makes it much easier to prepare and practice your answers in advance. These are some of the most common questions and tips on the best ways to answer them.

  • Tell me a little about yourself. This may be the most-dreaded open-ended question of all — and one of the most commonly asked. Preparing your answer in advance will help ensure you stay on track, keep your answer concise, and present the things you most want your interviewer to know. Your response should be short — about 90 seconds — and avoid mentioning what is already in your resume or cover letter. Instead, focus on the qualities and energy you can bring to the position — are you detail-oriented? A self-starting problem-solver? A stellar team player? Focus your answer on the value you'll bring to their team.
  • What are your strengths? Go on, toot your own horn. That's what they're expecting you to do. Again, stay focused on the strengths that are relevant to the job and the company, and keep it short and sweet.
  • What are your weaknesses? The common wisdom on this one is to highlight weaknesses that are actually strengths — but heads up. Hiring managers are onto that one. Be honest, and pick real weaknesses that won't automatically eliminate you from the candidate list — then follow up with what you're doing or have done to improve yourself.
  • Tell me about a recent accomplishment/challenge. Yes, they want a story. They may ask specifically about a challenge you faced on your last job, but that doesn't have to be hard-and-fast. What is important is to choose a story that highlights skills or traits that will be relevant to this job and to show the action you took to get a particular result. Use the STAR technique — Situation, Task, Action, Result — to help you frame your answer in a way that highlights what you did and the positive result it had.

Practice Interviewing

Finally, get a friend (or a few of them) to help you hone your interview skills by doing a couple of practice interviews. Provide them with common interview questions and ask them to be tough on you. A few practice sessions will help you get used to talking about yourself, so you're not caught by surprise when the questions come up in a real interview.

The Day Before

This checklist of tasks will ensure that you've got everything you need with you on interview day.

  • Try on the clothing you plan to wear a day or two before the interview. The last thing you need is to find out that the shirt you want to wear is missing a button or your good interview pants don't fit anymore. Get your outfit pressed if necessary, and lay it out for the next day.
  • Pack your briefcase with a few copies of your resume, business cards, pens and notebook, and anything you've been asked to bring to your interview.
  • Print out directions to your job interview.
  • Give your resume and prepared answers one last review.
  • Polish your shoes. The condition of your shoes says a surprising amount about your attention to detail.
  • For the same reason, make sure your nails are clean. Chances are no one will see that you have nice nails, but they'll notice dirt, grime and chips.
  • Get a good night's sleep. You're bound to be on your A-game if you're well-rested.

On Interview Day

The big day arrives — and if you've done your prep work ahead of time, you're way ahead of the game. Here's how to wow them at the interview.

Preparing to Leave

  • Go over your checklist one last time to make sure you have everything with you.
  • Leave early and plan to arrive at least 15 minutes early. Always plan for unexpected delays. If you arrive early, you can always kill time for a bit. It's not so easy to fix being late.
  • Leave anything unnecessary at home or in your car. That includes perfume or aftershave — they can induce headaches in people who are sensitive to them. Just like your nails, no one will know that you didn't wear perfume, but they'll notice if your scent overwhelms them.

When you Arrive

  • Be polite and pleasant to everyone you meet on your way into your interview. Especially be polite and friendly to the receptionist. They're the gatekeeper to the interview room — and it's not unheard of for hiring managers to check in with the reception desk about candidates and their behavior while they wait for their interview.
  • Adhere to any pandemic requirements posted or requested by the company.
  • Greet your interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Let your interviewer lead the way in the handshake. If they extend a hand, shake it firmly and confidently, but be prepared to elbow bump if the company culture leans that way.
  • Make small talk on your way to the office where your interview is being held. This shows that you are confident and good with communication.
  • Stay standing until you're invited to take a seat.

During the Interview

  • Don't waste the first few minutes of the interview. This is a good time to thank the interviewer for their time, compliment the company or talk about how you've been looking forward to this interview.
  • If the interview involves more than one person, greet each of them by name, smile and make eye contact.
  • During the interview, maintain eye contact, but not to the point of staring into the interviewer's eyes. Take advantage of natural places to look down at your notes or glance briefly around the office.
  • Answer questions honestly, promptly and directly.
  • Sell yourself. Your job at the interview is to learn more about the job and the company and ensure that the hiring managers have all the information they need to decide if you're a good fit for their opening.
  • Have some questions prepared for the interviewer. Avoid questions about salary or benefits unless they bring them up. A few examples of good questions are:
    • What's a typical workday like for this position?
    • Why did the last person in this position leave?
    • What's your favorite part about working here?
    • How long have you been with the company?
  • As the interview winds down, express your interest in the position. Job interview coaches will often phrase this as "ask for the job." Here's what that looks like in a real interview:
    • "After speaking with you, I'm more excited than ever about a chance to work with [name of company]. I look forward to hearing from you soon about the next steps in the process."

After the Interview

Always follow up after an interview with a personal thank you to everyone who took the time to meet with you. Handwritten notes aren't necessary — an email can serve the same purpose — but many hiring managers will tell you that they definitely make a candidate stand out in a positive way.

Be patient. Hiring the right candidate takes time, so you may not hear anything back for several days. Generally, though, if you haven't heard anything from the company in more than a week, it's acceptable to reach out to your contact at the company to follow up.

Having a Successful Job Interview

Acing the interview for your dream job takes time and preparation, but the effort can pay off in a rewarding career (or career change). Just remember to stay positive and stay in touch. The more you practice, the more likely it is that you'll land the perfect job for the next step on your career ladder.

If you’re looking to find a job, your first step is building a resume that will help you land a job interview. Let Rocket Resume do the heavy lifting with our industry-specific resume templates. Build your resume today!

Sources: HRDive.com - Eye-Tracking Study Shows Recruiters Look at Resumes for 7 Seconds CNBC.com Make It - Recruiters Care More About Cover Letters Than Before the Pandemic Wall St. Journal - Job Interview Preparation Tips to Help You Stand Out University of Alabama Career Center - S.T.A.R. Examples