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How to Pass a Job Interview with Minimal Preparation

Updated on March 24, 2015
Passing job interviews are easier than you think.
Passing job interviews are easier than you think. | Source

The job interview is usually the last hurdle that stands in your way from getting that job you want. Many applicants dread this part of the hiring process, but you can easily pass a job interview with just a little preparation.

Whether you’re a fresh graduate looking for a new job or an experienced worker searching for a better one, passing the interview can be more critical than acing the pre-interview exams that test your skills. Your interview can leave a lasting impression on your interviewer, and can be the difference between having your resume ending at the top of the stack, or buried at the bottom.

One Simple Reminder

Before we go any further, here’s a short reminder of a basic fact about any interview:

An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation.

The purpose of the interview is to get to know the person beyond their resume, credentials and references. The interviewer will be looking to engage you in conversation to see what paper can’t show: your personality.

So relax; you’re not being interrogated. A lot of the nervousness and tension in an interviewee stems from this fear of getting questioned. Don’t treat each question as an item in a test which you need to correctly answer. Instead, think of them as cue cards for you to show who you are. Elaborate on some details. Ask return questions. Tell a story relevant to the question. Express yourself.

There Are Only Two Things You Need to Know to Pass Any Job Interview

Even if you don’t read the rest of this hub, you should at least take the time to understand these two simple things that are really the minimum in order to pass any interview. You should know:

1. Yourself

That’s so deep right? Know yourself. Actually, you should know enough about yourself – your skills, talents, experience, passion, goals, etc. – to be able to answer anything that the interviewer throws at you.

Well it kind of makes sense – the objective of the interview is for the employer to get to know you better, and who better to ask but you. There’s no need to do too much preparation, or try to look impressive with great answers. You only have to be yourself and give honest answers.

2. The Job

Of course, to actually pass any interview, you have to have the skills to do the job! No matter how experienced or skilled you are, if you’re applying for a job that requires a different or more focused set of skills, the interview will not save you.

The other point here is that, you need to be certain you can actually do the job you’re applying for. Read the job description thoroughly. If you can answer yes to a majority of those duties and responsibilities, then you’ll be able to answer all the relevant questions that will no doubt be asked in the interview.

In addition, the job also means the company – you want to know enough about the employer or organization to be sure about your desire to join them. Ask yourself, do I really want this job? Do I really want to work for this company? If you can say yes, you’ll find the interview easier to go through.

"Have a seat. Let's begin the interview."
"Have a seat. Let's begin the interview."

Common Interview Questions (and Why You Shouldn’t Bother Researching Good Answers)

Many applicants are afraid of or get nervous during interviews because of ‘tough’ questions to answer. To be sure, some of these questions just do not come up in regular conversation and many are unprepared when they get asked. It has then become popular to research and prepare good answers for these seemingly staple interview questions, such as:

  • Why do you think you are the best person for the job?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why did you leave your previous job?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?

Well, if you remember the two things I just mentioned above, you’d have no problem answering these questions at all. If you know yourself well enough, you can confidently answer why you think they should hire you. You know where you’re good at and where you struggle. You can explain the reason you’re now looking for a new job.

It’s tempting to look for nicer ways to say your answers but you really should avoid them. Using your own words is much better, and remember that your interviewer has probably heard all the clichés and clever phrases anyway.

This is probably not a good answer.
This is probably not a good answer.

Confidence vs. Arrogance (and How to Know You’re Crossing the Line)

Showing confidence throughout the interview can be enough to make a good first impression, especially if you’re applying for a managerial or senior position. However, there’s a danger in coming off as a braggart when it’s too much. It’s easy to go on and talk about how good you are and how great your previous accomplishments were, so you have to rein in yourself a bit with the self-praise.

In some ways, it’s how you deliver your answers that can show overconfidence. When you find yourself expecting the interviewer to be impressed with your answer, it’s probably a good indicator that you’re near the line to being arrogant.

Basic Interview Tips You Should Already Know

Now here are actual tips that you were probably looking for when you started reading. Some of these are really just common sense, but you’re forgiven if you’re only about to apply for your first job.

Don’t be late.

Arriving on time or beforehand shows you can be punctual. Being late can already put off most interviewers.

Dress appropriately.

Consider the dress code of the company you’re applying to. This is often noted in the job listing.

Turn off your phone.

Your phone ringing or vibrating in the middle of an interview (or worse, answering it) can really be distracting and off-putting.

Sit attentively.

Do not slouch please. Sit like you want to speak to this person.

Think before you speak.

It’s fine to take your time answering some questions so you can phrase and organize your response better.

Avoid using cliché answers.

Interviewers have probably heard it all and you’re not going to impress them like that.

Just a funny strip from the funniest work-related comic strip.
Just a funny strip from the funniest work-related comic strip.

Even More Common Sense Interview Tips

Just for the sake of thoroughness, here are more common sense stuff.

Be polite.

This can apply to everyday life so you’d have no problem if you treat people with respect in general. Often, this is what is meant by being professional.

Don’t drink or smoke beforehand.

If the interviewer can smell alcohol on you, you’re not showing respect at all. Smoking can be a lesser issue but some are put off when you’re breath smells burnt. Just do both these things after the interview if you still feel the need to.

Don’t bring any food or drink.

This is another point about showing respect. There’s really no need to bring anything like coffee or snacks to an interview; either eat well ahead of time or postpone until after.

Don't drink, boss. You have an interview tomorrow.
Don't drink, boss. You have an interview tomorrow. | Source

Sell Yourself!

Job interviews are essentially sales meetings – you’re there to convince the company to buy your skills and talents. Even more, it’s your opportunity to show that by hiring you, they get more out of the bargain than what they thought: that you really are a great find.

Measuring whether your knowledge and skills meet the job requirements can be done easily enough through tests. Many applicants make the mistake of thinking that this will be the only consideration in selecting the best candidate.

Companies still conduct interviews to look beyond your skill level and experience. They want to look at who you are and determine if you’re the kind of person who can contribute more than what the job position requires and help the company grow even more.

Hopefully, this long read will help you ace your next interview and get you that job you’ve always wanted.

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