- Preparation and post-interview best practices can increase your chances of landing your desired job.
- In a good interview, you’ll share your professional story and ask insightful questions.
- Excellent communication – both verbal and nonverbal – is critical for a successful job interview.
- This article is for job seekers who are looking for actionable ways to maximize their job interview skills.
A solid interview can help you stand out from other applicants with similar skills and talents. However, your interview time is limited, and it can be challenging to show you have the skills employers want and the emotional intelligence that makes you an ideal fit for the position.
Preparation and specific skills can help you polish your interview presence, calm the jitters, and
demonstrate your ability to form an authentic connection with the interviewer. We’ll explore six interview skills to help you clearly articulate your value to the company and get one step closer to your dream job.
Interview skills to help you get the job
Your interview is a chance to showcase your hard and soft skills and prove you’re the right person for the job. Because the stakes are high, preparing an interview action plan will boost your confidence and smooth your communication skills to ensure you’re presenting the best version of yourself.
Practice the following six essential interview skills to nail your next job interview.
1. Clarify interview questions during the job interview.
Most people are hesitant to ask an interviewer to clarify a question, according to Sara Sutton, CEO and founder of the job listing website FlexJobs. They may be concerned the interviewer will think they’re being inattentive. However, ensuring you thoroughly understand the question can help you give a thoughtful, relevant response. “Try to paraphrase the question and say, ‘Is this what you’re asking?'” Sutton advised.
You also can use question clarification as an opportunity to turn the tables on interviewers and ask them questions. By treating the interview like a two-way conversation and asking intelligent and thoughtful questions, candidates can gauge whether the company is a good fit for them, according to Dana Leavy-Detrick, a personal brand strategist and career consultant at Brooklyn Resume Studio.
“Candidates should pose questions that will ultimately provide them with deeper insight into the company’s values, culture and even challenges,” Leavy-Detrick said. For example, candidates can ask an interviewer how they mapped their career path with the company. They can also ask interviewers to describe a typical day or highlight qualities that make someone successful in the organization.
Did you know?: Hiring managers often ask common interview questions, like “What is your greatest strength?” However, they can’t ask illegal job interview questions about race and sexual orientation because of the potential for discrimination.
2. Think out loud during the job interview.
A common job interview mistake many interviewees make is to stall when they don’t have a ready answer to a question, or responding with “I don’t know,” according to Shon Burton, CEO of social recruiting tool HiringSolved. Thinking aloud is an excellent tactic for combating this problem.
“The best approach is to have humble confidence,” Burton said. “Repeat the interviewer’s question, and work through your thought process out loud. The interviewer may give you a hint if you’re actively thinking instead of stalling.”
3. Communicate nonverbally during the job interview.
You’re communicating with the interviewer even when you’re not speaking. It’s crucial to be aware of your interview body language and work on ways to keep it under control to appear calmer and more confident.
“Good nonverbal communication speaks volumes about a candidate,” said Jonna Myers, an instructor at the Everett Dobson School of Business and Technology at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. “It’s something most people don’t practice, but it makes it very evident when you’re nervous.”
Myers recommended conducting mock interviews with a friend or in front of a mirror to practice your eye contact, posture and other body language confidence indicators.
“Since there’s no quicker way to kill an interview than to come across disinterested, bored or unengaged, having an opportunity to practice and get feedback will help you overcome the little nuances of your interview persona that you may not be aware of yet,” said Sanjay Sathe, founder and former CEO of the outplacement firm RiseSmart.
One of the best ways to keep your body language under control is to take a deep breath before you step into the interview room and ensure you keep breathing deeply and steadily. This type of breathing helps your body feel more in control and can help keep anxiety at bay.
Tip: Ensure your body language doesn’t make you appear inattentive. Interviewers understand that distracted workers cost money for the company, so they are more apt to hire focused candidates.
4. Know your resume in depth before your job interview.
You’ve likely put immense time and effort into creating a great resume, but do you know it inside and out? While your resume speaks for itself, you’ll add to your credibility when you can easily provide measurable specifics about the accomplishments documented in it.
“Whenever possible, include a statistic to put your accomplishments in perspective,” Sathe recommended. It’s much more compelling to say you delivered customer service to more than 120 customers per week and achieved a 75% resolution rating than simply saying you provided customer service and resolved issues, he said.
“Whatever your contributions were, quantifying them will legitimize your accomplishments,” Sathe added.
Tip: To age-proof your resume, focus on recent experience, eliminate older dates and showcase your technical proficiencies.
5. Tell a compelling story during your job interview.
Hiring managers can collect bits and pieces of information from social media screenings and your resume, but these details won’t always represent you accurately. The interview is an opportunity to create a more comprehensive narrative of who you are and what you can offer an employer.
“The interview is your opportunity to tie everything together and tell a cohesive and compelling story about yourself and your brand,” Sathe said. “Creating vignettes that tell a story of your accomplishments and your career trajectory that is tied into the needs of the employer is considerably more compelling [than] a disjointed list of past job responsibilities and a description of your skills.”
6. Leverage your knowledge of the company and the interviewer during the interview.
Every job seeker knows they should thoroughly research the company and position they’re interviewing for. However, using that information to your advantage is just as crucial. Myers recommended researching the company’s community, location, job description and organization.
“It’s very impressive when a candidate can talk about why [they are] a good fit for the position, as well as things that are going on in the company’s community,” Myers said.
Burton added that using LinkedIn to research the hiring manager and anyone else you might be speaking to can give you an understanding of each person’s background and potentially some common ground to spark a discussion.
Additionally, following the company on Facebook and Twitter and setting a Google alert to receive notices whenever the company appears in the news will help you thoroughly research the company and its industry. By immersing yourself in this information, you can shape interview responses and talking points that speak specifically and intelligently to the business you want to join.
Key takeaway: Websites are a great first step when you’re researching a company, but go past the website landing page and find the About and Press pages. You’ll be able to familiarize yourself with recent company news and the company culture.
Before and after the interview
There are some critical steps to take before and after the job interview to set yourself up for success.
Before the job interview, you should do the following:
- Make a checklist. Using the above tips, make a checklist of areas you want to improve before your interview. Schedule time – and enlist help – for question-and-answer rehearsals. Practice your body language and breathing.
- Review your resume. While reviewing your resume before the interview, look carefully for errors, vague ideas or confusing phrases. A second set of eyes never hurts, either.
- Get specific about the position. Give some real thought to the specific attributes you know you can bring to the position you’re applying for. Similarly, understand and be ready to articulate exactly what about this company or organization appeals to you.
- Prepare real-world anecdotes. Have some anecdotes ready to illustrate how you’ve used specific skills or talents in the real world. It’s one thing to say you can do something; it’s better to show ways you’ve already done it.
After the job interview, you should do the following:
- Follow up. Follow up with a post-interview thank-you letter within a day or two. Keep it brief, but personalize it by mentioning a positive detail of your interview discussion that you appreciated.
- Be concise in after-interview communications. In any communication with an interviewer, never gush, complain or go on at length about anything – and certainly not about how much you want the job. It’s OK to reiterate your interest in a broader context, but more than that will seem like pestering – or, worse, desperation.
- Stay patient. Your interviewer will likely give you a timeline for when you might hear from them. Beyond your thank-you note, in most circumstances, don’t make multiple inquiries. Instead, wait until the given time has elapsed to reach out again.
- Relax. You’ve done the hard work and followed up appropriately. Now, give yourself a break by keeping busy with something else. This will keep you from obsessing over something outside your control while fostering a more relaxed demeanor if the hiring manager contacts you.
Nailing the job interview
Preparing for a job interview can be a lot of work, but your planning and preparation will pay dividends during your interview. Focus on specific areas where you need the most improvement to ensure your confidence is high when it’s time for the interview.
It’s like what people used to say about etiquette books: It’s not so much about being proper (though that doesn’t hurt) as it is about feeling more comfortable in any environment, even sitting across the interview table.
Paula Fernandes and Nicole Fallon contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.