Interview Tips: 10 Tips to Improve Interview Performance
You’ve been on a job hunt for weeks, months, or maybe even years. You finally get that email, or call or text message inviting you to an interview.
That is exciting. But it could also make you quite anxious.
Will the interviewer like you? What kind of questions will she ask you? Will you be able to answer them all? Correctly? Well enough to get the job?
To familiarize yourself with interview questions, read our article on difficult interview questions. It might help to also know that there are funny questions you could be asked during an interview.
Today we tell you how to outperform the other candidates and get hired.
It’s a tough competition and this is just the first interview. You have to outshine everyone else. And here is how to do it.
To make it easier to work on these tips, we have divided them into two. There are things to do while preparing for the interview and those applicable to the interview as it happens.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Preparing for an interview starts with the moment you see a job advertisement. As soon as you decide to apply for the job, you should start preparing for the interview.
This is something you do in your mind to ready yourself for the job.
The good thing about an interview is that in case you missed something in your resume, you can make corrections.
It therefore doesn’t matter whether you did these things before applying for the job or not. The tips provided in this section are still relevant.
They will help you close the gaps which are open and help you solidify your case for the job.
Here is what you do.
Research the Company
It is obvious that researching the company is a necessity. It goes without saying.
But if you have been invited to an interview, then you need to do this again. This time round, more keenly.
You have to understand that you have now moved closer to getting the job. Many people applied and some weeding out was done. You survived that stage. So you cannot afford to take this step lightly.
Researching the company should lead you to several pieces of information. Some of the most important are:
1. Company vision
The company’s vision statement should be one you know. You should be able to tell your interviewer what their vision is.
This shows that you are indeed in tune with what the company seeks to achieve in the long run.
More than that, this is beneficial to you as well.
Would you like to be part of a team working towards going to the moon while your dream is to become a farmer in Indiana?
This kind of difference can ruin your morale and negatively affect both your work and life.
2. Company mission
The company’s mission is related to the vision. However, this is more short-term. Read our article on inspiring mission and vision statements for a deeper understanding.
The mission is what you will be looking to achieve on a daily basis. Your daily work will be centered around this. Knowing the company’s mission tells the hiring manager that you’re ready to begin working.
3. Core values
There is nothing that defines a company better than its core values. The mission and vision statement aside, the values say more. They actually tell how possible it is for the company to achieve its goals.
For example, a company may have a mission of “always satisfying customer expectations.” The values may be all about work efficiency and maximum productivity.
Since values influence the company’s culture, too much internal competition may affect the focus on the customer.
When you know the core values of a company, then you can easily adapt to them. You will then sub-consciously start acting in line with the culture created by the values.
This will be evident to a keen interviewer through your words and body language. It will work for you.
4. Product or service provided
There is no way you can go to an interview in a company whose product or service you don’t understand. Note that the key word here is understand.
It’s one thing to know that the company operates a hotel chain. It’s a totally different thing to know what cuisine they specialize in.
This can really set you apart because in your answers, you can mention aspects of that cuisine.
For example, if the hotel is mediterranean, you can talk of the health benefits of the mediterranean diet.
Mention some scientific report on the low rates of cardiac diseases among the consumers of that diet and the hiring manager will know that she has someone for the job.
5. Industry competition
Interviews are an opportunity for the candidates to impress the interviewer. The interviewer on the other hand seeks to pick the best candidate.
Being a business, the company is out to make profits and grow. You therefore need to know who is challenging them at that.
If it’s a not-for-profit organization, then find out the challenges they face in their mission. These simply tell the interviewer that you are in tune with the situation. You are thus likely to start contributing to the solution faster.
These are some of the key things you need to get right. You may not be asked about them. But the information will give you an opportunity to show how you are the best fit for the job.
Work on Your Resume
You have already sent your resume so you’re not preparing another one. What you are to do is pick it up and go through it. Check what you wrote.
Did you make any mistakes? Did you misrepresent yourself? Did you fail to mention something?
Take note of these and come up with ways of covering the mistakes. “Covering the mistakes” here does not mean lying in case you misrepresented yourself. Lying is the worst mistake you can ever make. Whether in your resume or in an interview.
Lying rarely goes far and paying for it is never cheap.
What we mean here is that you need to find a way of correcting the mistake. You know the truth which you ought to have stated.
Therefore, get a way of explaining it without necessarily saying that you lied.
The Dress Code
This is a big one, especially if you are a millennial. Or are simply the type who dress casually.
Don’t be fooled by anyone. Casual dressing has no place in job interviews.
You may see the employees of the company dressing casually but that is no license for you to do the same.
As for now, acknowledge the difference between you and them.
If you get the job and you confirm that it’s okay to dress casually, then fine. If the job description said you can dress in smart casual clothing, that’s okay. If it didn’t, don’t use the interview to test the waters.
Interviews are business meetings between strangers. And to make it sink deeper, the odds are against you. You don’t really have the same bargaining power since the interviewer is the decision maker.
So dress officially. If you are a lady, put on a smart skirt suit. Check the length of the skirt. It should at least, be at your knees. For guys, you have no option but to go for suits.
The only thing you may do without is the coat. But you must have a tie on.
Colors should be plain blue, black or gray. The shoes should be black or brown and not any kind of open shoes.
Raise Your Confidence Levels
Being on the receiving end of an interview can be intimidating.
And some interviewers may try to intimidate you by asking difficult interview questions.
Still, you are expected to show how confident you are.
Check out the below statistics on confidence during interviews.
- 65% of hiring managers don’t hire candidates who avoid eye contact
- 20% of interviewers said candidates who crossed their arms during interviews were not considered for the job
- 40% of interviewers will consider the tone of candidates’ voice before approving them for the next interview
It is therefore imperative that you become confident, even if you normally aren’t.
Your level of confidence shows your ability to deal with challenges. Being confident shows that you can stand for something you believe in and work towards your goals. In this case, the goals of the company.
There are various ways of raising your confidence levels.
There are things you can do on the spot like taking a deep breath.
This will work to slow down your heart rate and consequently relax you, helping you think more clearly.
Clear thinking leads to better answers which you are confident about.
For long-term results, you need to put in more specific effort beforehand. It will be best to think of these efforts not just for the interview but for the overall improvement of your life.
Here are three things you can practice:
1. Believe in yourself
This is one of the most important things you can do for yourself. Just believe in yourself. Believe in your abilities and know that they are great abilities. Nothing can build your confidence better than this.
Start by knowing your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on your strengths and refuse to be limited by your weaknesses.
Focusing on your strengths will push you to come up with alternative ways to solve problems your weaknesses say you can’t solve.
2. Have a winning attitude
Having believed in yourself, you then work on your attitude. Don’t have a victim or loser mentality.
There is a reason you have the strengths you have. There are people lacking those same strengths which you have.
You may have to affirm and re-affirm yourself but more than that, kick out negative thoughts. Many people have tried and failed?
That’s them, not you.
Everyone says it’s difficult? Let them see you prove their facts wrong.
Think like a winner and you will be one.
“You were born to win, but to be a winner, you must plan to win, prepare to win, and expect to win.”
3. Make no comparisons
Making comparisons between yourself and others will kill your confidence. Everyone runs their own race.
Know which way you are going and move without thinking much of others. Whether someone seems stronger or faster should not bother you.
No-one has it all. Know your unique talents and use them to overcome the challenges coming your way.
In being and showcasing your confidence during the interview, keep yourself in check. Do not display arrogance.
Be careful not to be over-confident as you may also come across as disrespectful in your responses.
Interview a Friend
Doesn’t practice make perfect? Try it and you will prove the old saying to be true.
Call a friend and request them to act as an interviewee and answer the questions you ask. Unlike being interviewed by your friend, this will help you see the interview from the employer’s perspective.
Imagine yourself as the CEO of a company and you need to fill a position. You want the best person and are willing to pay him an average salary. You are to push for your terms and ask relevant questions while your friend gives the bets answers.
Gauge how your friend responds to your questions and negotiates the salary.
This setup is great for opening up your mind to the kind of questions your interviewer may have in mind. You will then be able to prepare for them and maybe later ask your friend to interview you. You may both learn from it and improve as you see necessary.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
Come interview day, the tips to employ are slightly different from those above. You can view the interview as a business negotiation meeting where you need to win the heart of the hiring manager.
The tips in this section are more about your conduct during the interview. Follow them to make the best first and lasting impression. That way, once it is time to pick one candidate, you will be the one standing out.
Here you go.
Check Your Communication Skills
Communication skills are commonly talked about. Still, many fail in acquiring them.
They don’t practise.
You will never be good in communication skills if all you do is read about them. These are things you decide to practise in your daily life—in and out of work.
For your interview, communication does not start when you open your mouth to say hello. It starts the moment you step into that room.
As you get judged first of all based on your dressing, by just walking to the interview table, you are communicating.
For this reason, we will break communication skills into six elements discussed below:
1. Your walk into the room – your walking style speaks a lot. It tells what you feel. It shows your confidence level. It also says something about what you think of others. There are many conclusions that can be drawn from the way you walk.
What you want to do is project confidence while showing respect for others.
For this, do not walk slumping as though you have been forced to attend the interview against your will. Even if you have taken a beating from a hard life, the interview should cheer you up.
2. The handshake – greet the person or people interviewing you with hand. The handshake also says something about your confidence.
Business people gauge the confidence of business partners through handshakes. So make yours firm.
Take the other person’s hand, wrap your fingers around their hand and give it a firm shake. Do not be vigorous.
As you do this, be sure to have a smile on your face as you say Hello. If you are not offered the seat immediately, don’t remain standing. Just ask, “May I sit?”
3. Facial expression – your facial expression can communicate joy, anxiety, fear etc. So keep that in mind too. One way of showing confidence and maintaining control over your emotions is by keeping your facial expressions in check.
Practise staying calm by breathing slowly.
There are various breathing techniques you can employ to master this skill.
When your breathing is controlled and your mind is at rest, your face will not betray you when an unexpected question is asked.
4. Eye contact – if you are the shy type, you have some work to do. And you need to start as early as possible. You cannot evade the eyes of the interviewer and expect to get the job.
Answering questions while looking away is a bad sign and it will quickly work against you.
When you avoid eye contact, you are taken to be low on self-confidence.
This is a trait which is not liked by employers. You also risk coming across as someone who is hiding something. If this conclusion is made about you, there is no way you are getting the job.
5. Sitting posture – the same way your walking speaks volumes, so does your sitting position. You should always sit up with your back straight and your shoulders back. Bend your knees at a right angle and do not lean to either side. Also keep your feet flat on the floor.
6. Active listening – throughout the interview, you will be given lots of information about the company and the position you are interviewing for. Some of the questions you will be asked later will have their answers in something mentioned earlier.
This is why you have to be very attentive during the interview.
Active listening means that you not only listen, but also show that you are listening and understanding what is said.
This can be seen by the other person through your facial expression but there is more to it than that.
Since active listening helps build rapport and build trust, you need to actively work towards it.
Use nodding to show your agreement with a point and paraphrase statements to show understanding.
Also use verbal affirmations like “I see” and “Sure” before your responses.
Be Succinct With Your Answers
The Oxford Dictionary defines succinct as something briefly and clearly expressed. This is what should define your answers to the interview questions.
Do not be over-detailed in your responses. Details may get the interviewer tired of listening to you.
In many cases, being too detailed can also make you say the wrong thing. You may think that you are explaining a point but that is not needed. Unless you are asked to give more details and expound on an answer, be brief.
That however does not mean that you give one-word answers. Having understood the question asked, provide the answer which is relevant to the situation.
If giving an example of how you did something in another company, keep the story short and to the point.
Instead of giving the background and explaining the meetings you called, just mention the situation and steps taken. Mention specific results and that will be enough.
Here is an example which does this very well:
When working at ABC manufacturers, we once had more orders than we could supply in the given time frame. Finance could only give me half the amount I requested. Since I couldn’t hire extra workers, I engaged the delivery department to have their staff help out. I channeled the money from Finance to buying the whole team lunch and snacks over the weekend as we worked overtime. Come Monday, the order was ready for delivery and everyone was happy.
This example does not go into the details of meetings with Finance and the delivery manager etc.
It only shows the important aspects of the situation and how you came up with a solution and implemented it. It also shows your ingenuity in utilizing limited resources.
Mind Your Language
Communication is either verbal or non-verbal. We have touched on the non-verbal: facial expressions, posture, eye contact etc. But what about the verbal?
Verbal communication is the use of words to express or pass a message. It is said that humans do 93% non-verbal communication and only 7% verbal.
Much of the questions in your interview will be using words. And your responses will also be through the same. This is where you need to be careful because you may use words which will disqualify you without your knowledge.
This has a lot to do with the way you normally talk. If you usually use curse words or are a slang person, then watch out. Your slang and curse words may deny you the job you so much want. All it takes is just a simple slip of the tongue.
Another category of words to avoid are the discriminatory ones.
If you have personal prejudices against any gender, race, ethnicity, social class etc, you need to drop it.
This may not be possible to drop at once. Therefore, for the sake of the interview, try pushing those thoughts to the back of your mind.
Also, be careful of any sensitive topics the interviewer touches on so you don’t say anything wrong.
Most interviews will always end with you being asked whether you have any questions. This used to take job candidates by surprise. Today, it has become so common that everyone prepares for that moment.
This means that asking questions in itself will not make you stand out. But you still need to stand out. So what do you do?
Ask the kind of questions which will get the interviewer thinking about you. Ask questions which she will have to do some thinking before answering.
Not necessarily because they are hard, but because she never expected them.
Example questions you may ask are:
“What would you like the person in this position to achieve in the first 6 months, 1 year or even 5 years?”
“What do you enjoy most working in this company?”
“What are the biggest challenges someone in this position will face?”
Here are some more questions you can ask in an interview.
Don’t Be Desperate
The very last tip is quite simple. Don’t hint at desperation for the job. It is obvious that you applied because you want the job. It is also the reason you came for the interview.
So no-one really needs to hire you for any reason other than qualification for the position.
You will thus do well not to say things like, “Please consider me for the position. I really need this job.”
Showing yourself to be desperate for the job will work against you. Employers don’t want desperate employees, they want confident and competent employees.
If you are desperate, it means you will be at the mercy of everyone around you, trying to please them. That means you may compromise on the work simply to maintain relationships.
Even in the event that the relationships are working against the company, you are likely to hold onto them.
Desperate people are never confident people. They are easy to mislead and are rarely faithful. Whoever has power, even false power, wins their loyalty.
If the interviewer concludes that you are this kind of a person, you can expect to receive no call for the second interview.
Forget luck and take responsibility for winning in the job interview.
Prepare using these tips and you will have a reason to celebrate. Getting the job will also do more than fill your bank account.
The victory and income will make you happy about yourself. This is an automatic confidence booster.
The job interview can sometimes seem more like an interrogation rather than a friendly discussion …