12 Tips for Interview Success
With Career Services’ help, prepare to make your best impression at job interviews.
No matter the career field or level of the role you’re applying for, there are fundamental guidelines every applicant should follow in the job interview process. With planning and preparation underlying every step, you can ready yourself to ace your next interview.
To best position yourself for interview success, you should:
1. Get to know Career Services.
Whether you’re just getting started in your job search, are preparing for interviews, or have already started working, it’s wise to take advantage of Walden’s Career Services. Among its offerings, Career Services provides:
- A comprehensive website with links to job and internship opportunities as well as sample résumés and cover letters and strategies for interviewing and networking
- Webinars and an online library of archived video recordings on career topics
- Student support services like one-on-one advising
- Online networking and advising events
- Job and internship search tools
- Online learning support like OptimalResume’s career management system for building résumés, cover letters, and portfolios
- FAQ and other resources to help prepare for interviews
- Social media channels, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and a blog
2. Prepare diligently for all interviews, regardless of location.
It’s always best to go into an interview prepared. Most people wouldn’t dream of going to an in-person interview without some planning. Likewise, job candidates should also prepare for phone and virtual interviews. Just because your interview can be held in the comfort of your own home or in a public place of your choosing doesn’t make the interview’s content or discussion any more casual.
3. Test your technology.
Interview preparedness should also extend to your technology. If you’re invited to a phone interview, test locations for a dependable and strong signal if you’ll be using a mobile phone. If possible, use a landline to ensure a consistent connection. If you’ll be doing a video conference or virtual interview, test the connectivity of your laptop. Make sure to find a quiet, distraction-free place to conduct your interview to avoid surprises on your interview date.
If you’ll interview in person, technology is still incredibly important, but for very different reasons. Be sure to power off your mobile phone when going into an interview. You’ll want to give your interviewers—and potential future coworkers—your full, undivided attention.
4. Research the company.
If you’ve made it to the interview stage, you can be sure your potential employer is interested in hiring you. Return the sentiment and show interest in the company.
Research the basics of the company and find out what you can about its office locations, the number of employees, and what sector it serves. Discover its mission and how it works toward achieving it. Know the competitors. Learn about the company’s recent and upcoming projects and recent news. If you have some advance notice, consider creating a Google Alert to automatically scan for the company’s online news mentions. What does the CEO talk about in media appearances or in news articles? This information gives good insight into the day-to-day work and goals of the company.
You should also research the people at the company. Strive to learn more about your potential teammates, the people with whom you’re interviewing, and the superiors you’d report to in the role. This research will demonstrate your initiative and interest in the company, the team, and its mission.
5. Familiarize yourself with your own experience.
Even though you are the biggest expert on yourself, it’s amazing how much you can forget about your past experience without a refresher. Before you interview, be sure to refamiliarize yourself with your own experience. Study your résumé and know its contents: the timeline, the skills you used in each job, and your duties and responsibilities in each role. If possible, practice speaking extemporaneously about your job experience, either to yourself in the mirror or to a friend, to become more at ease talking about your past work and education.
6. Dress professionally and be punctual.
Perhaps it’s obvious advice, but it’s always worth mentioning: Dress professionally for your interview and be on time. Few things ruin a first impression faster than dressing poorly or in a disheveled manner or arriving late. Arrive to your interview a few minutes early—five or ten minutes should suffice—and give yourself a chance to get familiar with the office or interview space before the interview begins. Make sure your clothing is professional, clean, and polished.
7. Pay attention to your tone and posture.
When you meet your interviewers, be sure your posture matches your refined appearance. Sit up straight and be courteous, confident, and sincere. Be mindful of your tone. Speak confidently and smile warmly. Make eye contact and strive to remember the name of each person you meet. These seemingly small interpersonal interactions make a strong impression.
8. Perfect your elevator pitch.
While elevator pitches or elevator speeches are usually made in networking situations, they’re also valuable for interview preparation. What’s an elevator pitch? It’s a 30-second speech to tell someone about yourself, your background and experience, your direction in your career, and your professional interests. They’re called elevator pitches because you should convey your talking points in the time it takes to ride an elevator.
Why is this useful in an interview? Many interviews begin with the inevitable “tell me a little about yourself” opening. With a well-practiced elevator pitch, you’ll make a confident start, leading to a natural conversation about your skills, background, and experience. The elevator pitch is intended to open conversation channels and initiate further discussion, a great way to lead your interview.
9. Prepare for typical questions.
Like the “tell me a little about yourself” opening, there are several common questions you might hear in an interview. Research and study these questions, then think about your answers in advance and rehearse your delivery. You’ll minimize surprises and be more prepared and confident in your answers on the day of your interview.
Some common questions you’re likely to hear in an interview include:
- Can you tell me a little about your educational and career background?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why should I hire you over other candidates?
- What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
- What were your major accomplishments in your past jobs?
- Tell me about a difficult situation in a past job. How did you overcome it?
10. Practice and use the CART technique.
To successfully respond to interview questions, you’ll need to incorporate your qualifications and experience into your answers. It’s especially helpful to illustrate your willingness and ability to address adversity. When possible, succinctly integrate the CART technique to ensure your answers are relevant and convincing. The CART technique covers these components:
- C – Challenge – Describe the challenge or situation you faced.
- A – Action – Discuss the action you used to overcome it.
- R – Result – Summarize your action’s result.
- T – Tie-In – Discuss how the situation and its result relate to the role for which you’re applying
11. Ask smart questions.
Toward the end of most interviews, one of your interviewers will ask, “Do you have any questions for us?” Don’t be caught without any questions. It gives the appearance that you’re in a rush or don’t care about the position. While many of your questions will be covered over the course of the interview, make sure you’ve thought about others to ask.
One effective tactic is to ask your interviewer similarly thoughtful questions to the ones they’ve asked you. For example, “What do you like best about this position? What do you like least?” Or, “What do you like most and best about working for this company?” These questions show both confidence and initiative and may provide valuable insight into the company and your future coworkers should you be offered a position.
If the interview team hasn’t already mentioned the next steps in the interview process, the end of the interview is a great time to ask for clarity. Be sure to ask for a timeline on when they might make a hiring decision, so you’ll know when to follow up if you haven’t been contacted.
12. Write a thank you note.
Whether you’ve had a phone, virtual, or in-person interview, it’s always a good idea to thank your interviewer with a thank you note. Sometimes an e-mail will suffice, but it makes an even stronger impression to write a note on paper. Write your note soon after the interview, while your thoughts are still fresh. Use the thank you note to mention discussions from the interview, showcase your writing skills, and once again allude to your qualifications and interest in the position. If possible, you’ll want your note to arrive before the company makes a hiring decision.
If you’ve traveled to interview in person, it might be worthwhile to bring thank you note cards along with you. That way you can write and send them before leaving town, cutting down on the days needed for delivery and helping you make another strong impression after your interview concludes.
Walden University is an accredited university with flexible online education options, offering bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in business, communication, social work, nursing, education, psychology, criminal justice, and more. With a commitment to social change, Walden students learn to become effective leaders en route to rewarding professional careers.
Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.