How to Interview Well

I can’t imagine a more researched topic with tons of free advice than how to search for and interview well for a new job. Anyone that has ever held a job – whether mowing lawns or as a vice president of a technology company lets the advice flow freely. Recruiters and human resources personnel are not shy also about providing as much interviewing advice as you have time to read or listen to.

Is all of this interview and job search advice bad? Of course not – most of it is probably pretty good. The problem is you are only human – what 3-4 things out of all of this information should you really focus on? Nobody can be an expert or learn the 20-100 different skills, approaches, questions and answers, etc. Interviewing well does not require you have memorized every interview mistake you could make, or obsessing over dressing for interviews, or even trying to memorize every single interview question and answer.

As a hiring manager myself for quite a long time, I can provide some guidance on areas to focus on that, quite honestly, are going to give you the most bang for your buck, and influence a decision more than many other factors that you may have been focused on.

Interview Strengths and Weaknesses

Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. During a job search it seems like we’re always focused on our weaknesses, sometimes to the point where finding that new job and interviewing well seems like a hopeless uphill climb to be a perfect employee even before we’re hired.

I’m here to tell you as an actual hiring manager, who has recruited and made hiring decisions for hundreds of job seekers, that you cannot forget your strengths as well. Furthermore, you should focus on a few key attributes of interview weaknesses and forget trying to memorize every possible interview question and answer – it won’t serve you well if you stay on that path.

Let”s consider what I consider the foundational items you need to have in place:

  • Dress professionally for the interview – regardless of the position. It is a sign of respect for the manager, the company, and an indication that you take this seriously.
  • Don’t discuss personal information [see my other post on this topic] with the hiring manager, or human resources unless required to as part of the job application process.
  • It’s ok to be nervous – most people are. However, try not to act nervous and remember that this is an opportunity for the manager to get to know you, and for you to also obtain information to determine if you would even want to work for this company in this position.
  • An interview is a 2-way exchange – remember, while you would be getting a paycheck for this role, the company is getting your time and energy 40+ hours a week to improve their business. Keep this perspective in mind at all times and it will help you not be so nervous.
  • Do not ramble during a job interview. This is critical – job candidates that rample on and on, deviate from the question asked, etc. never set a good impression, and in fact this alone can be a factor in not getting hired even if everything else goes well.
  • Answer interview questions succinctly and within 1-3min at most, unless the question is a longer one such as “walk me through your career”. Remember, short and to the point – give the manager the information they are looking for.
  • Always have a positive spin on things – never bad mouth or come across as negative when discussing past positions, past bosses, or what a company “did to you”. Nobody wants to hire someone that is negative for a new job.
  • An example of this: You’ll likely be asked about a failure – make sure the example you give is something you can point to you not having done or recognized, and most important, what you learned from it. This is what we are looking for – can you recognize mistakes and learn from them.
  • Always make sure you come prepared to ask 2-4 questions during your job interview. Research the company so you are prepared to learn more about this position and whether you would accept the job.
  • Don’t ask about job benefits during an interview. This is something you can cover once you get an offer. When a candidate seems too focused on the benefits, it means they aren’t here for the right reasons.
  • Always ensure you can tie your interest in this job and this company to your career goals.  You will likely be asked why you are interested in this position – have a good response.

There are many many more job interview pitfalls and common, easy to make mistakes in an interview that can kill your chances of getting that offer call or letter. Check out my book on the key 7 interview questions what has live examples of good and bad responses I’ve seen over the years to help coach you on how to think about these questions – not just how to answer them.

Good luck in your search

Russell