10 Job Interview Tips That Will Help You Get Hired

The job interview is your chance to shine. Take advantage of your time with the employer to show that you’re more than a set of skills and knowledge. Here you can highlight your personality, your aspirations, your thought process, and your passion for the job and for the organization. The interview is where you convince the employer that it needs to hire you.

Often, it’s less about the message and more about the delivery. In this article, I fill you in on best practices for job interviews — from how to dress to what to ask — in order to gain an edge in your interview. I also explain what types of questions to anticipate. Finally, what you do after the interview is just as important as the interview itself. I offer tips on how to circle back with the interviewers in order to stand out.

You want to make a good impression, and this article helps you do exactly that.

1. Dressing appropriately

Your appearance is important, and any investment you make in dressing appropriately for your interview will pay off. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

After you’ve gotten a sense of how people who work at the company dress on a daily basis, follow these tips:

Find out the dress code

Find out how employees at the organization dress, and then make sure you dress as well as they do or a little better. This gives the impression that you’ll fit in. It’s also a sign of respect that you put in the effort to dress up for your interview. People may wear suits to work or they may dress business casual. If the environment is more laid back, they may even dress in jeans, or shorts and T-shirts.

You can find out how people dress in a few ways:

  • Ask the interviewer ahead of time about how to dress for the interview.
  • Ask friends who work at the organization.
  • If you happen to be at the employer’s location prior to the interview, pay attention to how people dress.
  • Look on the employer’s website or on Glassdoor to get a feel for what type of clothing people wear.

People may wear suits to work or they may dress business casual. If the environment is more laid back, they may even dress in jeans, or shorts and T-shirts.

Wear clean, pressed clothes

If you need to travel for an interview, pack two of everything in case you suffer an accidental coffee spill while on the road. Sure, you can explain that coffee or jam stain away during the interview, but not having to do that is even better. Iron your clothes and over-pack just in case.

Showing up to your interview well dressed and clean will make a positive impact. Conversely, showing up with a wrinkled dress or large stain on your shirt can make a less-than-favorable-impression in the interviewer’s mind.

Opt for neutral colors, like black, blue, and gray

If you’re wearing a suit or dress, black or dark gray is a good neutral color. For men, light-colored dress shirts — either white or light blue — are the norm. Avoid wearing loud colors — they can distract the interviewer. Again, you want the focus to be on you as a person and what you bring to the organization, not what you’re wearing.

Tidy up your hair

A clean and simple hairstyle is the norm at most employers, unless you’re interviewing at a hair salon. If you’re a guy, make sure to get a haircut if you think you need one. 

Do this a week or two prior and not the day of the interview; this gives your hair time to grow in case things don’t go according to plan. Shave or trim any facial hair as well. If you’re a woman, wear your hear conservatively and don’t overdue it with an exotic hairstyle. 

Your hair is an important part of your appearance, but it shouldn’t be the focal point or cause a distraction.

Don’t overdo cologne, perfume, and makeup

You may be fond of a certain cologne or perfume, but try to avoid using it for your interviews. What you may think is a good scent may not be for the interviewer. 

You’re better off being neutral. If you do decide to wear perfume or cologne, don’t over do it. You don’t want to leave a scent that overpowers the room or distracts from the conversation.

Pay attention to your shoes

Many people look at shoes, especially in business, to try to guess what kind of person you are. Make sure your shoes are clean or polished. 

They don’t have to be brand new, but they shouldn’t be worn out or too old. Wearing a good clean pair of shoes shows that you’ve put in the effort to present yourself well.

Avoid uncomfortable shoes or high heels. You may be taken on a tour of the organization, and you may have to walk long distances. Work on looking nice but also on being comfortable.

Decide what to do about your tattoos and piercings

Tattoos and body piercings are becoming more prevalent, but they aren’t universally accepted. Some people find them offensive. Hide any tattoos or remove any body piercings that you can so that they don’t become a distraction for the interviewer. 

On the other hand, if you don’t want to work at a place where people get offended by tattoos or piercings, don’t feel compelled to cover them up. If you end up not getting a job because of your tattoos or piercings, it may be for the best. Life is too short to be working with stuffy people.

Avoid clothing or accessories that make political statements

Unless you’re interviewing at a grassroots organization or a political campaign, forgo wearing anything that makes a political statement. For example, a pin on your backpack that says “Free Tibet” shows support for a cause, but it may be one with which the interviewer may not agree. 

The purpose of the interview is to establish a good professional and personal rapport. Talking about politics is risky because you don’t know where the other person stands on certain issues. You’re better off not approaching this subject in order to avoid a possible distraction that also has the potential to weaken the interviewer’s perception of you. 

Even if the interviewer brings up politics, you can respond and make conversation, but work to bring the conversation back to the interview or to another topic.

Leave large pieces of jewelry, including big earrings and necklaces, at home. These can also create distractions.

2. Arriving early

One of the easiest things you can do to make a good impression is to get to your interview on time or early. By early, I mean 10 to 15 minutes, not more. Being punctual shows that you’re prepared and that you’re excited to be there. 

Conversely, if you’re late for your interview, it shows that you may not care about it and that you don’t have your act together. It can also be perceived as disrespectful. 

For example, if you arrive 10 minutes late and you’re meeting with three people, you just wasted 30 minutes of other people’s time. This is not a good way to start the interview.

Plan ahead and show up early. A little punctuality goes a long way.

Here are some things you can do to ensure you get to your interview with plenty of time:

  • Map the route. Whether you’re walking, driving, or taking public transportation, go to Google Maps or use your phone to find out how long it will take to get to your interview. Add another 15 minutes to your estimate to give yourself plenty of time to get there.
  • Check for traffic. You can do this by using a map online and specifying the time you want to arrive. Or if you’re driving, make sure to use your phone’s GPS instead of your car’s GPS, because your phone may have live traffic data, unlike your car.
  • Stay close to your interview location. If you’re traveling to your interview and staying at a hotel the night before, stay close to where your interview will be the next day. If your interview is local, try to arrive at a nearby location — such as a coffee shop or a quiet place — early. That way, you can easily get to the interview on time.
  • Don’t make prior plans. You have plenty on your plate the day of your interview. Don’t plan any activities prior to it that may cause you to be late. If your interview starts midday or in the afternoon, leave the early part of the day open. Spend that time practicing or relaxing prior to your appointment. At the same time, your interview may go very well and the employer may ask you to stay and meet with more colleagues. If this happens, make sure you have the time to stay. Avoid scheduling any activities for an hour or two after your planned interview.

3. Getting rid of your chewing gum, food, and drinks

Chewing gum during an interview is a definite no-no. Throw away any chewing gum or snacks prior to your interview. If you have a cup of coffee, finish it or discard it as well. Your focus needs to be on the interview, not on your beverage. The only exception is water. Often, a glass or bottle of water comes in handy in case your mouth gets dry during the interview and you need to take a sip.

The interviewer may offer you something to drink prior to the interview. Accept the offer if you think you’ll need some water. If offered coffee, pass on it, or take a cup only if the interviewer is also getting one and as long as it doesn’t take too long to go get the coffee. 

You have limited time with the interviewer. A quick cup of coffee is fine, but don’t spend 15 minutes going to the coffee machine for an espresso or a cappuccino. You can get one after you’re done with the interview.

4. Eliminating distractions

If you tend to get easily distracted, as I do, you need to do everything you can to stay focused. First, turn off your cellphone or put it in airplane mode before you get to your interview. You don’t want your phone going off if you get a call or a text or any other notification. 

Also, avoid looking at your cellphone during the interview. Not only does it detract from the conversation, but checking your phone shows a lack of interest.

Try to sit facing away from a doorway or window. This way, you can stay focused on the conversation and not be distracted by people passing by in the hallway or by activity outside.

5. Starting a conversation

The key to making good conversation is to be a good listener. Expect to be on the receiving end of the questions, but remember that you’ll also have the chance to ask questions. Take notes during the interview. Bring a nice pad of paper or notebook and a nice pen. Write down anything that jumps out where you either learn something or have a question about it.

When the opportunity arises, ask the interviewer to clarify if something was not clear. You can also ask for details about the job or the organization. This will shift the balance so the person interviewing you also has to answer questions, and this turns the interview into more of a discussion.

Being nervous is okay. Interviewing is not easy. If all of a sudden you realize that you’re having a conversation more than an interview, you’re doing great. Give yourself a pat on the back.

6. Minding your body language

The key to good body language is to be as relaxed and comfortable as possible during your interview. Avoid sitting on your hands, crossing your arms tightly across your chest, or rocking back and forth on your chair. These are typical signs of being nervous or uncomfortable.

It’s normal to be nervous. Sit comfortably on your chair or couch, but don’t slouch or spread yourself on a sofa. Find a balance between not being too stiff and not being too relaxed.

In some cultures, it’s bad manners to show the sole of your shoe to the other person. Avoid crossing your leg to prevent this from happening.

7. Making eye contact

A key to making a good impression is to establish a good rapport with the interviewer. One essential way to do this is to make eye contact. Yes, it’s hard for many of us to look others in the eye, especially when they’re staring right back. 

But this is an essential piece for communicating effectively. Making eye contact establishes a human connection with other people. It also lets you gauge their reactions as you talk and respond to questions.

You don’t have to do this constantly. For example, I tend to stare off in the distance when I’m collecting my thoughts or when I’m giving a topic careful consideration. It’s okay to look away. Besides, you don’t want to be staring at the interviewer constantly. But when you’re asking or responding to a question, you should look at the person.

When you make eye contact, you come off as being confident. This helps to make a good impression and will elevate you in the eyes of the interviewer.

If you have a hard time looking people in the eye, focus on an eyebrow or on the space between the person’s eyes. This makes it easier on you and to the other person, it appears as though you’re looking him or her right in the eyes.

8. Asking the right questions

The interview is about you, but you should expect to ask questions about the organization, the job, and its culture. An interview is an opportunity to get first-hand answers and to make sure the organization is the right place for you. By asking questions, you also show that you’re enthusiastic about the organization and that you did your research.

In this section, I walk you through some questions you can ask. You most likely won’t have time to ask all of these, so make a mental note of five or six questions you’d most like to ask. You’ll also come up with more questions to ask as the interview progresses.

Potential questions to ask about the role:

  • What will the job entail and what will my responsibilities be?
  • Where does this position fit within the organization?
  • Is this a new position?
  • What would be your ideal candidate for this role?
  • How long do people stay in this job and what is the typical career progression?
  • Whom would I report to?
  • What would be your expectations for me in this role and what would be the measure of success?
  • Can I talk to other people currently in this role to get a better idea of what it entails?
  • What are some of the challenges associated with this job?
  • How do you measure and reward performance?

Organization culture is just as important as the role itself. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Where do people usually have lunch?
  • Whom do you typically have lunch with?
  • Does the organization or do individuals participate in any after-work events?
  • When do people tend to get into work and when do they go home?
  • Do team members have any traditions or milestones that they celebrate?
  • How would you describe the culture here?
  • What do you like the most about working here?
  • What is one aspect about working here that you think could be improved?

Also ask specific questions about the organization based on your prior research. Your goal is to show that you prepared for the interview and that you’re interested in working for the organization. Some thoughtful questions go a long way. Here are some questions you can ask:

  • I read your press release on ________ product or ________ partnership. How has this gone since the announcement?
  • I was looking at the company’s stock price trend and saw that it’s moving up. What’s driving this growth?
  • What would you say is the most exciting project or one of the key initiatives that the organization is working on right now?
  • How is the organization leveraging ________ trend/technology?
  • Has the organization thought of expanding into this certain area or creating a product for ________?
  • What does the future look like for this organization?

These are just some ideas of what you can ask. If you’re paying attention, you’ll pick up on topics and come up with your own questions during the interview. Be thoughtful and learn from the answers you get. You’ll learn more about the organization and the job while making a good impression in the process.

9. Avoiding the wrong questions

You may be asking yourself if there are questions you shouldn’t ask during an interview. You’re right to wonder about this. As the saying goes, there is no such thing as a dumb question. But during the interview there are questions you definitely shouldn’t ask. Or at least delay asking them until you’re about to get an offer.

Any question having to do with pay and benefits should wait until you’ve gotten an offer. An example of a question not to ask during your first interview is: “How much does the job pay?” This is a valid question and you need to know how much the job pays before you take an offer. But you still haven’t gotten an offer. These questions are more about you than about the organization. At this stage in the process, it’s better to leave these questions for later.

Here are other questions that are better left unasked for now:

  • How much vacation or paid time off do I get?
  • What benefits do you offer?
  • I have a DUI. Will you still hire me?

This last questions brings up an important point. We all have unique histories with parts that may be less than stellar. You should use your best judgment and be upfront with any information about yourself that you think needs to be shared. But do this after the interview and prior to accepting an offer or when asked.

Avoid asking the interviewer questions about her family, partner, or political beliefs. Although those questions are interesting, they’re not relevant to your interview. They’ll create distractions and you could potentially end up in an uncomfortable conversation that could hurt your chances of getting the job.

10. Following up after an interview

A good way to make an impression is to send a follow-up message to the interviewer. You can do this via mail, email, or LinkedIn if you don’t have the person’s contact information.

A simple thank-you message will do. If you come up with something you should have said during the interview or want to make a clarification, you can do this in your follow-up. It’s not too late!

A nice note conveys to the interviewer that you’re detail oriented and that you’re interested in the job. It also helps you make a more lasting impression and stand out from other candidates.

Writing a thank-you note

Regardless of how the interview goes, send a thank-you note. Email is a good method for doing this. Although email is less formal than a printed note, it allows you to reach the interviewer immediately, and you’re more likely to get a reply.

Your message should be short and positive and reference some point in the conversation. The following example shows a message to Lady Gaga, who you interviewed with for a kite surfer position at LGG Enterprises. You can be formal or informal in your email, depending on the rapport you’ve developed with the person.

  • Subject: Thank you for your time
  • Hello, Ms. Gaga.
  • Thank you for taking the time today to talk to me about the kite surfer position at LGG Enterprises. I enjoyed our conversation and now have a better understanding of the role. Given the need to kite surf bigger and better waves, I’m excited about the prospect of being part of the LGG team to achieve or exceed this goal.
  • During our conversation, you asked if I would be intimidated by surfing big waves. I wanted to clarify and add that with the right preparation and equipment, I am up for the challenge.
  • Please keep me in mind and if there is any question or concern I can answer, let me know.
  • Thank you again and best regards,
  • Roberto Angulo

Double-check your message for typos and make sure you spelled the person’s name and the organization’s name correctly. If the name is LGG, make sure you don’t mistakenly write “Lgg.” Spelling names correctly won’t earn you points, but incorrectly spelled ones will give the impression that you lack attention to detail.

Checking on your status

After your interview, ask when you’re likely to hear back about the position and find out who will get back to you. If you don’t hear back or didn’t ask, follow up with the employer ten days after your interview.

You can send a brief and simple email like this:

  • Subject: Checking in: Kite surfer position
  • Hello, Ms. Gaga.
  • I remain very interested in the Kite Surfer position at LGG Enterprises and wanted to check if you’re still looking to hire for the role.
  • Sincerely,
  • Roberto Angulo

If you’re interviewing at more than one organization and an offer is imminent from the other employer, you can send a more forceful follow-up if you’re interested in this employer, as shown here:

  • Subject: Checking in: Kite surfer position
  • Hello, Ms. Gaga.
  • I remain very interested in the kite surfer position at LGG Enterprises and wanted to check if you’re still looking to hire for the role.
  • Since my interview, I’ve had conversations with another employer and it looks like that employer is close to making an offer. However, I would prefer to join the team at LGG Enterprises, so if I’m still in the running for the position, I hope you’ll let me know.
  • Sincerely,
  • Roberto Angulo

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