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How to Make a Good Impression at Your Next Job Interview

Updated on October 08, 2016
SMD2012 profile image

I'm a business communications coach who teaches writing, speaking, and leadership skills to adults in the midst of a career change.

If you're looking for a new job, what you say and do in front of your prospective employer during the hiring process is just as important as your work experience, education and skills. Don't blow your chances of landing a dream job by making some of these surprisingly common mistakes during your next job interview.

Be polished and professional, every step of the way.

Are you ready to wow your future employer at your next job interview?
Are you ready to wow your future employer at your next job interview?

If you're changing careers, searching for your first job or doing some personal career planning, you should spend time working on your job interview skills. The more confident and prepared you are, the better your chances of landing a dream job.

If you want to find satisfying work with a top-notch employer, here are some things that you should know before you show up for your employment interview:

1.Understand the basics of interview etiquette. Most interview skills training programs will cover basic etiquette and decorum.

  • If you want to find a job, you need to dress professionally and practice impeccable grooming, from your teeth, gums and lips to your hands, fingernails and cuticles.
  • Arrive on time. If you're late, apologize once for being late, but don’t bother making excuses for why you're late. Very few excuses will make a difference to your prospective employer. Your best bet is to carry on as professionally as you can for the rest of the interview and hope that your qualifications and friendly personality outshine your moment of tardiness.
  • Offer a firm handshake, but don’t overdo it. No one wants their hand crushed or their arm yanked out of the socket.
  • Don’t chew gum or suck on mints during the interview.
  • If you're a smoker, avoid the temptation to have a cigarette outside before your interview. Your clothes, hair and hands will smell. For some people, the smell of smoke can be nauseating. You also don’t want your prospective employer thinking that you'll need an hourly cigarette break if he or she hires you. Find an alternative way to calm your nerves.


2. Bring a positive attitude with you to the interview. Smile. Show that you have a healthy sense of humor . Avoid sarcasm, snarkiness and put-downs at all costs. Practice a funny anecdote to help you answer the question “Can you tell me about a project you were responsible for that failed? How did you handle it?” Showing that you can face difficult situations with a positive attitude and a healthy sense of humor is a soft skill that many employers are looking for.

3. Answer questions as specifically as you can. Open-ended questions are the cornerstone of tough job interviews. They’re designed to show that you can think on your feet, that you’ve done your research and that you can provide compelling proof of your competence. If you're asked the question “Why do you want to work for this company?” don't give a generic answer such as “It’s a great organization!”

Being asked why you want to work for the company is another opportunity to match your values, ethics and skills to the values, ethics and needs of the organization. By giving boring answers to tough job interview questions, you'll fritter away a valuable opportunity to show why you're the one to hire .

4. Be authentic. When answering interview questions, it’s tempting to say the things that you believe your prospective employer wants to hear. But the chances are that the interviewer has already heard those same answers from dozens of other candidates. The only way to stand out from the crowd is to answer questions honestly and sincerely. Don’t try to flatter the interviewer. People-pleasers or people who try to pander to higher authority figures can be disruptive to team dynamics. If your interviewer sees you as someone who will do anything to please the boss, she may wonder how you will fit in with other team members if she hired you.

5. Watch your language. Beyond the obvious advice to not swear or use crude, sexist or racist language in your interview, you need to watch out for passive language that undermines the image of confidence you want to project. Avoid non-committal words and phrases such as “I just want…,” “I tried to…,” “I hope to… .” Instead, speak affirmatively: “I want…,” “I achieved…,” “I will… .”

6. Be curious and engaging. Try to shift the interview away from a robotic Q&A session to a productive dialogue with your prospective employer. Without sounding like you’re trying to ingratiate yourself to the interviewer, ask her what she likes about working for the organization.

7. Talk about your 'benefits' rather than your 'features.' Your features are the things the interviewer has already read on your résumé: your credentials, your training, any specialized skills you have, your work experience. Your list of features (résumé) is what got you the interview. Now you need to show the interviewer how you and all your features will benefit the organization. Will hiring you help them increase sales of a specific product? Will your experience in supply-chain management improve their operating costs? Show, don't tell, your prospective employer why you are the best candidate.

8. Don’t complain about your employers, past or present. Be respectful of your current or former employers no matter how challenging they may have been. If the company you worked for mistreats its employees, chances are your prospective employer has probably heard it before. Savvy managers keep their ear to the ground; they know which organizations have good reputations and which ones have poor reputations. You don’t need to gush about your past employer, especially if doing so would be insincere. Instead, focus on what you learned while working for your past employer. A smart interviewer should pick up on your efforts to be diplomatic and will recognize this as an example of your professionalism.

9. Take responsibility for where you are in your career. Don’t blame other people, external circumstances or unfortunate events in your life. While some of these things may have had an impact on your career (i.e.; a loved one getting sick which required you to take an extended leave), don’t dwell on these things in the interview. Focus on what you were able to do in spite of any difficult circumstances you faced. “While taking time off to care for my mother three years ago, I was able to take a distance education class on XYZ, which means I can now do ABC and help your organization achieve 123.

Keep in mind that you are not obligated to discuss any personal issues with your prospective employer that would give away your family, marital, religious or health status. If you're asked to explain long gaps between jobs, answer as honestly as you can without disclosing any personal information at this time.

10. Ask smart questions during the interview. When you're given the floor to ask your prospective employer questions, don’t ask about things that you could have answered yourself had you looked at their company website. Ask questions that show you're genuinely interested in working for the organization.

Ask about the company’s work culture and the organization’s values. How do the employees work together as a team? What are the team’s greatest strengths and assets? Hint: If the interviewer can’t answer this question right away with a sincere level of enthusiasm, this could be a red flag that the organization is either experiencing difficult team dynamics or that the company doesn’t value and recognize staff contributions.

Once you have your foot in the door for an interview, the fastest way to get a job is to stand out above all the other candidates being considered. Practice your interview skills, but only to the point where you're able to think on your feet. You want to sound natural and sincere. If you think you need more assistance with your job interview skills, consider hiring a career coach or taking some interviewing workshops at your local job search club or community center.

Your handbag or briefcase should look professional and polished on the outside, and clean and tidy on the inside.
Your handbag or briefcase should look professional and polished on the outside, and clean and tidy on the inside.

What is your biggest fear about doing a job interview?

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Bonus Tips!

  • Always stand up to greet the person who will interview you. Even if you have been shown to the interview room and asked to take a seat at the interview table, always rise when the interviewer walks in.
  • If you are driving your car to the interview, make sure it is clean, inside and out, and in good shape. Employers will look at the way you treat your property and possessions as a sign of how you will treat their property and possessions.
  • Make sure your purse or handbag is well organized, just in case you need to retrieve something from it. You want to avoid rooting around in your handbag and accidentally pulling out candy wrappers, old envelopes or worse, embarrassing personal items. (For tips on how to organize the inside of your handbag, check out the video below.)
  • Before your interview, visit the nearest washroom and double check your appearance. But don't forget, you may bump into your interviewer in there without knowing it, so always be on your best behavior, even when in the washroom.
  • If you are led to an interview room by the interviewer, do not sit down until you are invited to do so.
  • Avoid wearing strong scents or perfumes to the interview.
  • If you have a business card that you want to give to the interviewer before you leave, make sure the card is in pristine condition. Hold the card with pride and reverence as youb hand it to the interviewer. Hold the card in the same orientation as the text is laid out and make sure that the text is facing the receiver when you hand it to him.

From the moment you walk into the room, your potential employer is watching everything you do!
From the moment you walk into the room, your potential employer is watching everything you do!

© 2012 Sally Hayes

Comments

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  • vibesites profile image

    vibesites 4 years ago from United States

    It's really important to ask certain questions if and when the chance is given, and it should be questions you've just thought of by yourself. It means you're showing interest to work for your prospective employer. Great and very very important tips. Up and useful. :)

  • Faith A Mullen profile image

    Faith A Mullen 4 years ago

    Awesome list! Definitely helpful to anyone in the process of job searching. I especially loved your advice to ask smart questions and make it a two way conversation. Voted up.

  • howtolearnmore profile image

    Andrii Dem. 4 years ago from Tartu

    The most annoying part is the "We look for someone with more experience."

    I think a good way to gain experience is to apply for internships while you are still in college. Also, try to meet new people, because you never know who may be of use to you.

  • Neinahpets profile image

    Stephanie Payne Denne 4 years ago from Greater Toronto Area, Canada

    Great advice! Thanks for sharing!

  • profile image

    Susan 4 years ago from USA

    That was the most helpful, easy to understand, put in laymans terms piece of advice I have read on job interviews! I thank you sooo much as I am getting ready for one interview that really excites me, it's something new and different and it even sounds fun. Thank you!!

  • DevonJ140 profile image

    Devon Johnson 4 years ago from New York City

    Great tips, thank you!

  • matthew francis profile image

    matthew francis 4 years ago from UK

    Nice, worth also remebering that employers are also interviewing you to be a work colleague, don't just focus on the behaviours and competencies.

  • tipstoretireearly profile image

    tipstoretireearly 4 years ago from New York

    This should be required reading for anyone going on a job interview!

  • MomsTreasureChest profile image

    MomsTreasureChest 4 years ago

    Great tips for helping to land a new job!

  • profile image

    e-recruitment 4 years ago

    Successful strategy to improve personal carrier while we are in the stage of job searching.Appreciable approaches are discussed here to offer few tip sand tricks who are panning for a successful professional carrier.

  • SMD2012 profile image
    Author

    Sally Hayes 4 years ago

    @Lovelovemeloveme Thanks for stopping by! Glad you liked my hub!

  • Lovelovemeloveme profile image

    Lovelovemeloveme 4 years ago from Cindee's Land

    Good hubbed! well written and to the point

  • profile image

    John Marks 5 years ago

    There are actually a lot of questions that one can ask the employer that showcases you as the best candidate. I found a website that lists a lot of them:

    http://www.interviewquestionstoask.com/employer/re...

  • roshnewfriday profile image

    roshnewfriday 5 years ago from Thrissur,Kerala

    nice one..i like it...

  • SMD2012 profile image
    Author

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    I agree @Born2care2001, practice and attitude really are the keys to success. How we carry ourselves in the world and the attitude we bring with us makes all the difference to our success in the job hunt. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  • SMD2012 profile image
    Author

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    Thanks @easylearningweb. Glad you could stop by!

  • Born2care2001 profile image

    Rev Bruce S Noll HMN 5 years ago from Asheville NC

    Nice Hub SMD2012!

    There are a number of well formed tips here that would help anyone searching for work. I think one often overlooked item, which you do mention, is tantamount to successful interviewing and that is "practice." It won't make someone perfect but it will make you better and therefore more confident.

    Attitude, in my humble opinion, is the key!

    Well done, Well done!

    Voted up and useful!

  • easylearningweb profile image

    Amelia Griggs 5 years ago

    Great tips and hub, SMD2012!

  • SMD2012 profile image
    Author

    Sally Hayes 5 years ago

    Hi @purewater26 Don't be discouraged. Everyone has to start somewhere. Every resume you send out and every interview that you do will bring your closer to a job that is just right for you. In terms of how to talk about the benefits you will bring to an organization, think about all the talents that you have to offer and how you can help solve a problem for the organization or how your skills can help the organization grow. For example, if you are good at public speaking you could say something along the lines of "I can communicate your organization's strategic plan to prospective investors so that your organization gets the funding it needs to complete XYZ." In this example, the feature is your ability to speak to the public; the benefit is that you will increase the organization's revenue because you will bring new investors on board. I hope this explanation helps, but you can always Google "features and benefits explanation. It's a common tool used in sales, ad copy and the art of persuasion. Good luck with your job search and thanks so much for stopping by.- Sarah

  • purewater26 profile image

    purewater26 5 years ago

    This is a good hub, but in other hands it makes me feel down a bit. I'm fresh graduate with little experiences. I don't know what to answer if my interviewer asks me about benefits I could give to the company. Right now, I just randomly apply jobs that fit with my competency whether the companies are new or old.

    Can you show me some examples about point no.2?

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