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3rd Nov 2021

How to ace your next job interview

Ace your next job interview by learning about interview techniques, what questions you can ask the interviewer, and more.

Job interviews can be stressful. Sitting down opposite a hiring manager, either in-person or online, and having to answer questions in real time is a very different experience from being able to spend hours on the perfect resume or cover letter. Many people struggle to be as confident and clear in spoken answers compared to written ones, and this can present a major hurdle when it comes to impressing a hiring company.

Fortunately for you, we’re here to help! We’ve created this guide to help you go into your next job interview (and every interview after that) confident and prepared. While we can’t promise that every single tip will be applicable in every single interview of yours, we’re sharing what we wish we’d been told before going into our latest big interviews!

Getting prepared

First things first: the job interview process doesn’t begin when you sit down to talk to the interviewer. You should start researching and preparing for it as soon as you get invited to an interview. Hopefully you’ve found this article as part of your job interview preparation, as there’s lots more we have to tell you. Before you head out for your interview, or sit down to have one online, you should have spent some time ensuring you know:

  • The company you’re applying to, especially recent news and products pertaining to the role you’re applying for.

  • The job description for the role you’re interviewing for, especially day-to-day responsibilities and requirements for a successful candidate.

  • Your application materials, especially your resume and cover letter, that you used to apply for this job.

  • The who, what, when, and where of your job interview, as well as the dress code and any additional resources you’ll need to prepare.

You should have a reasonable baseline to work with on all of these points. Your initial application (which we hope you tailored uniquely for this company and job) will have given you the basics in that list. The only truly new information here is the specifics of the interview itself, which the company should provide you ahead of time, and any developments from the company that might have happened since you applied.

This means all your research ahead of the interview should be building on what you already have, rather than coming from scratch.

When it comes to company research, use Google or Apple News to see if the company has made any noteworthy moves recently. You can access Google News by searching for the company name and clicking the ‘News’ icon that appears below the search bar. This will display any news stories the company has appeared in lately; a goldmine for interview prep information.

It’s also worth checking them out on social media. Use their official presence to spot everything the company wants you to see, and the news searches to catch anything that’s maybe less positive. Taking some time to do this will give you a full picture of the company you’re about to speak to, as well as helping define some of the questions you should be preparing for the interview.

Reminding yourself of your application

You might be wondering why we told you to remind yourself of the initial application — your resources and the job description, we mean. The simple answer is that the interviewer will have knowledge of both of these already, and will expect you to have as well.

You should know your professional profile and what’s listed on your resume, but if it’s been a few weeks since you applied then it’s worth reminding yourself of what you’ve already provided the company. It’s also important to know everything the company has asked for and offered in the job description, as this will help you lead the conversation to areas where you are strongest. An interview can sometimes naturally move to areas of weakness, and you don’t want that to happen if you can help it!

Now that you’ve done your research, and have prepared everything you need for the interview, we can start giving some advice on how to ace the interview itself!

Your setting

When going into an interview, regardless whether it’s in-person or remote, make sure that all distractions are muted or removed. This is simple for in-person interviews, as you usually just need to turn off your phone and make sure you don’t have anything else that could make noise during the hour or so you’ll be there.

If you’re doing the interview from home, then it’s worth making sure you’re in a quiet part of the house and to let anyone you live with know that you can’t be disturbed while you’re interviewing. Turning off computer and mobile notifications will also eliminate distractions in an online setting.

You should also make sure that no one else in the house will be downloading lots of data that could slow the internet down, as this can be really jarring and you don’t want a weak connection to damage or even postpone the interview.

Interview techniques

Once the interview’s actually started, you want to appear confident and comfortable, with clear answers and a steady approach. Have a drink of water with you, just in case you’re not offered one or you’re not on-site for the interview, and don’t be afraid to take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before answering a question.

Diving into an answer without having a clear direction of where you’re going can massively weaken your response. No interviewer is going to demand an answer within a second of asking, so don’t worry about taking your time to ensure you nail each and every question.

Something that people can also neglect is asking the interviewer for clarification or to repeat the question. Obviously you should avoid asking for every question to be repeated, but again it comes back to the interviewer being more impressed by a great answer that took you a few seconds to formulate, than a weaker one you provided instantly.

Using the right tone

Always consider the company culture and ethos when going into an interview. This should be something you develop an understanding of after your research, and is something you should be willing to adapt to as the interview goes on.

If the company has a very formal public image, but the interviewer is relaxed and casual, be ready to lighten up a little to match their demeanor. Always be polite and treat the situation like a job interview, but a very rehearsed and formal attitude may not be what every company wants from a new hire.

On the other hand, be ready to be slightly more formal than you’d expected if the situation requires it. You can’t get the entire picture of a company from their social media manager on Twitter, so be ready to reign in any light-hearted comments if the atmosphere of the interview is more serious than your research prepared you for.

Our final general bit of advice for the interview is to talk slower than you normally would, especially for remote interviews. It may seem strange at first, so practicing this is always worthwhile, but you’d be surprised how much more clear and confident you sound if your brain isn’t trying to keep up with your words.

In normal conversation you aren’t being rated on what you say, and you don’t always need to back up your point, but in an interview having a clear answer is vital. Take your time, plan your approach, and then clearly answer what is asked of you. If you can do all of this, then you’re onto a winner.

“Do you have any questions for us?”

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When you make it to the end of the interview, you will almost always be asked if you have any questions for the interviewer — and your answer should always be yes! This is your opportunity to impress the interviewer on your own terms and is something that is quietly expected of candidates. Not asking anything can leave the interview on a bit of a low note, so always have something to inquire about.

We’ll provide some examples of what you could ask a little later in the article, but we wanted to give you the objectives of asking questions first. Generally, you want your questions to do a couple of things:

  • Shed light on anything that’s important to you that hasn’t already been covered up to this point, which could include benefits or company culture.

  • Show the interviewer that you have been paying attention and that you have a genuine interest in the company and opportunity.

  • Develop rapport with the interviewer, allowing you both to talk openly and create a conversation.

The biggest thing to avoid is asking something that has already been covered. If the interviewer has to repeat themselves, or they expected you to know this information from the job listing (hence why it’s so important to read again before the interview!) they won’t be impressed.

This is why it’s crucial that you prepare more than just one question. If it gets covered earlier in the interview then you risk being lost for words when they ask what questions you have for them. We suggest that people prepare three or four questions for this reason, but don’t panic if all of these get covered! There’s likely to have been something that came up organically in the interview that you can go further into.

But how do you come up with new questions during the interview? You want to prioritize giving clear answers to what the interviewer poses to you, so if something doesn’t make sense then ask for clarification; don't save it for the end of the interview.

Instead, when you’re asked a question, try and think if there’s anything supplementary to your discussion that could serve as a good question once the most important stuff has been covered. Essentially, if there’s a tangent in which you could have gone down, then it’s likely to be a great question to save for the end of the interview.

We’ve got some examples of questions that achieve what we’ve set out above, and are general enough to be useful in most cases. Again, you might cover some of these in the interview itself, but having three or four of these at the ready will help you go into that final section of the interview feeling confident:

  • What teams would I be working with most often?

  • What does the internal progression look like for someone starting in this role?

  • How has the work environment changed since 2020?

  • What will my first week, month, and year look like at the company?

  • What’s your favorite thing about working for the company?

  • What’s the onboarding process like at the moment given the remote working situation?

  • What career skills will I use/hone the most in this role?

This is not an exhaustive list, and a well-tailored question specific to the contents of the interview will always be best, but this should give you a selection of fallback options to cover any scenario.

So, now that you’ve got everything you need to prepare for and ask during the interview, as well as some new advice to be in the best position to succeed in the interview itself, let’s talk about what you should be doing after the interview.

Following up

As soon as you get home from the interview, make a note of anything that seemed to really impress the hiring manager as well as anything you really struggled to answer. This will help you in your next interview, as it will better prepare you for those hard questions and let you ace the ones that you’ve already got good answers for.

Noting down these insights on the same day of the interview is best, as they’ll be fresh in your mind, but after that be sure to take some time to relax. Job interviews are hard work, and you don’t want to burn out by pushing yourself too hard.

With all that said, it’s now a case of waiting to hear back. Asking in the interview when you should expect to hear from them can give you a timeline. And if, after the date they promised you an update on passes without you hearing from them, then give it a couple of days and send over a check-in message. Don’t keep pressuring the company to make a decision, as this may well count you out, but a follow up is almost always fine.

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And that’s our deep dive into job interviews! Hopefully you’ve found our advice useful and can take some of the lessons into your next job interview.

If you want to learn a little more about job interviews, then make sure to check out our Skillshare course on the topic. You can support Hitmarker and claim a 1 month free trial at the following link: https://htmr.kr/interview-course.

Good luck in your next interview — we’ve all got our fingers crossed for you!

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