Job Interview Tips: How to Knock Their Socks Off

handshake between interviewer and applicant

Do you have an upcoming job interview that you want to ace? These job interview tips are here to help.

A lot has changed about job-seeking and application in the past years, but job interviews remain the deciding factor between new employment and a continued job search. Job interviews are daunting for a good number of reasons. Fear of the unknown, social anxiety at conversing with strangers, and pressure to progress your career can leave you tongue-tied and flustered.

The average job listing gets about 250 resumes, and only 2% get called for an interview, according to Glassdoor. These success rates are incredibly low, and the competition can be fierce during the interview phase. To ensure your interview knocks the interviewers’ socks off, increasing your chances of locking down a job offer, read our job interview tips below.

Research for the interview

The worst thing you can do is show up for your job interview completely blind. If you don’t have substantial knowledge of the industry, organization, and the position you’re applying for, you’re wasting your (and the business’s) time. Think of your interview as a rigorous oral exam that requires in-depth knowledge of the position.

Research the industry

You need to be able to present high-level expertise of the industry you’re applying for, even if you’ve never worked in the field before. Research reputable industry-specific websites, watch informational videos, and connect with a veteran professional in the industry to gain crucial insights that will show your personal and professional investment in the industry.

Research the organization

Businesses are more transparent than they’ve ever been. The internet has empowered organizations to broadcast their stories, their values, their missions, and the personalities of their employees. According to a Millennial Branding Study, 43% of HR professionals say a culture fit is the most important quality job-seekers can display. Invest some time researching their organization from top to bottom to make sure you understand what they’re all about. 

Look into the organization’s web presence through the following avenues:

  • Company website
  • About us page
  • LinkedIn
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram 
  • Company announcements and news releases

There’s a good chance your experience doesn’t completely align with the job you’re applying for. Fortunately, your background may provide a diverse skillset that lets you outshine the competition. Look into the specific position you’re applying for and brainstorm all the ways your skills and experience make you uniquely qualified for the job.

Start with “why?”

Simon Sinek makes the following claim throughout his book, Start With Why:

“People don’t buy WHAT you do; they buy WHY you do it.”

The same concept applies to job interviews. Instead of selling a product, you’re selling the idea that you’re the best fit for the job in question. Address these questions with meaningful answers that show you’re much more interested in a paycheck:

  • Why do you want this job?
  • Why are you the best fit for this job?
  • Why do you want to leave your current company?
  • Why do you have gaps in your employment?

Prepare concise and compelling answers to these questions. Employers are looking for the “why” reasons to hire you, and these questions carry more weight than others.

Know the common questions

As you attend more interviews in your career, you’ll start to notice some patterns. Though there is a lot of variation in types of jobs, the questions are largely the same. Aside from specific questions related to the position and your past job experience, you’re very likely to hear these questions in a job interview:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Where do you see your career in the next five years?
  • What makes you the best fit for this job?
  • Are you willing to relocate or travel for work?
  • How did you hear about this job opening?
  • What are some of your leadership qualities?
  • Are you willing to work on weekends or holidays?
  • What are your salary expectations for this role?
  • When have you gone above and beyond in your work?
  • What was your biggest professional failure?
  • What’s your availability?
  • Do you have reliable transportation to work?
  • Do you perform well under pressure?
  • Could you describe your professional goals?
  • What do you do for fun?
  • Can you explain what you love or hate about this industry?
  • Are you willing to work more than 40 hours a week?
  • Do you have any questions for me?

Prepare compelling and meaningful answers to these questions ahead of time so you aren’t caught off guard. There will be questions beyond these common questions, but preparing for these will certainly give your interview performance a boost.

Stay positive

Positivity goes a long way during a job interview. If you convey a negative or cynical attitude when talking about past jobs, yourself, or your future prospects, your prospective employers are likely to walk away with a negative impression of you. 

Talking about past jobs

If you’re looking for a new job, you’ve likely had some nightmare experiences with past employers. Instead of venting about past roles, frame these as a learning experience with plenty of opportunities to grow. Dwelling on the negatives of your last job will tell the interviewers you may be a problematic employee that doesn’t work well with others. A positive attitude in a bad situation is an extremely marketable quality.

Talking about yourself

Talking about yourself in a job interview can be awkward. Singing your own praises in excess can come off as arrogant, but self-deprecation can convey a lack of confidence. To find the sweet spot between the two extremes, work to develop an “elevator pitch” for each of your skills, experiences, and accomplishments.

Professional presentation

As one of the most important job interview tips, we cannot overstate the importance of appearances. Making a professional first impression can make all the difference in a job interview. According to Amanda Johns Vaden, 55% of a first impression is completely visual. You need to present yourself as professionally as possible. This means being on time (or early), dressing professionally, and having all the materials you’ll need for the interview. 

Dress to impress

65% of bosses indicate that clothes could be a deciding factor between two almost-identical candidates, according to Robert Walters. Here are a few tips for looking your best when it’s time for an interview:

  • Arrive a few minutes early (map a route to the interview the night before, if possible)
  • Prepare your interview outfit the night before your interview
  • Bring physical copies of your resume and references
  • Don’t touch or look at your phone during the interview

Follow up

You want to communicate to employers you’re ready to make the next step. The best way to do this is to follow up with the employer via email or letter, thanking them for their time and consideration. This follow-up should be brief and conversational while restating your interest and prompting the employer to make the next step. According to College Recruiter, 86% of employers agree that failing to send a follow-up letter or email show s lack of follow-through, and 56% say it makes the employer think you’re not serious about a job opportunity.

Need more job interview tips?

Interviewing is a subtle skill, and it requires years of practice to achieve mastery. If you want more insights on interview strategies backed by data, or recommendations for strengthening your career through job-hopping, download our eBook, The Job-Seeker’s Handbook for 30-Somethings

The Wharton School is accredited by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) and is authorized to issue the IACET CEU.

The Wharton School is accredited by IACET