How can I do well in a job interview?

The job market today is competitive – just securing an interview is an achievement. These interview tips and tricks are your 9-point plan to acing a job interview.

1: Research the company and the interviewers

Interviewers want to know you’re serious about the position. Be familiar with the company’s background, history and the industry they are in. An online search will help you find information on most companies.

2: Prepare questions and rehearse in advance

Think about questions you might be asked. Rehearse the way you’ll present yourself and practice answers to important interview questions. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will be.

You might get challenged with tough questions to judge how you cope under pressure. Expect questions on where you will be in 2, 5 or 10 years. They might ask about difficult work experiences, your most stressful jobs – remember to always be professional when answering these questions, and try to put a positive spin on it (if your job was stressful, then it helped you learn how to stay calm under pressure).

Employers use behavioural questions to dig into past achievements and predict future performance. These questions are to find out your key skills. Things like leadership, teamwork and problem-solving are important.

3: Put thought into your appearance

First impressions matter, so the safe bet is to dress professionally. If you are a coffee drinker or smoker, or you have lunch/breakfast before an interview, use a mint (don’t chew gum) or brush your teeth before starting.

Just like the military expected an ironed uniform and polished shoes, make sure you’re presentable.

Remember to be confident: head high, stand straight and tall, smile, and relax.

4: Arrive early (but not too early)

Arrive for your interview 5-10 minutes early. Everyone has their watch set differently, and a 5-minute cushion is a good idea. Give yourself enough time to reach the location. Rushing will affect your interview performance, so if you think you might be late, call ahead to let them know.

If you arrive more than 10-15 minutes early, it’s a good idea to wait in the car, or go for a walk around the block in the fresh air to get your head together. Turning up too early not only puts pressure on the interviewer to see you sooner, but makes you look like you have bad time management.

5: Make a strong introduction

Introduce yourself with a smile and a firm handshake. If there’s more than one interviewer, greet others in the same way, and follow the interviewer’s lead to sit down or to head elsewhere. First impressions are formed within seconds of meeting someone new, so make sure yours are solid.

6: Your body language

Body language is a huge part of the impression you make. A weak handshake, for example, shows a lack of authority. Likewise, a bone-crushing handshake implies you’re trying to show authority and strength.

Gazing around the room or avoiding eye contact signals disinterest in the job or a lack of focus. Sit up straight and leaning slightly forward in your chair. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer without making things awkward. You should look at each interviewer if it’s a panel but address your answer primarily to the asker.

7: Don’t ask about money, benefits, for an office tour.

Never bring up money on your first interview. If they ask what you're making, be honest and provide your exact salary or a salary range. Indicate it is still premature to talk numbers and that you're interested in evaluating the entire opportunity rather than the salary alone.

8: Ask questions at the end of the interview

When the employer asks if you have any questions, you’ll have one more opportunity to demonstrate how well you communicate and how well you’ll fit in with the company. Examples of solid questions to ask the employer are:

  • What are vital qualities for someone doing this job?
  • What are some of the challenges facing the company or industry?
  • Where do you see the company in 5-10 years?
  • I believe I’m a great fit for this company. Is there anything else I can do to dispel any doubts or is there anything else you’d like to know about me?

9: Always remember to follow up

Always follow up an interview within 24 hours.

Send an email to the interviewer, thank them for their time and re-iterate your interest in the opportunity. By following up, you're reminding the interviewer that you're a strong candidate for the job and you are reinforcing the fact that you're qualified and should be seriously considered.