The importance of a job interview
A job interview is the best opportunity for the company to learn more about the applicant and to evaluate whether the skills and qualification matches with the required position and enables the candidate to have a better understanding of the workplace environment and to obtain information that will help him/her to decide if that job offer is the right one or not.
In this article, we will give you a list of advice to help you to improve your interview performance and to boost your confidence.
Research the company
The first thing the applicant should do before going to an interview is to look at the company’s website to have a general idea of the company’s history, beliefs, and missions, then it is recommended to check other sources and to read some of the customer and employee reviews to see if that workplace matches with your expectations.
Prepare some commonly asked questions
There are many questions that are repeated in every job interview and that you should know how to answer; Answering these questions out loud will help you to organize and clarify your thoughts and will boost your comfort and confidence.
Here is a list of some common questions that the hiring manager might ask you and that you can use for your mock interview:
- How did you hear about our company/ position?
- Tell me about yourself?
- Why did you choose our company?
- What will you bring to the company?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Tell me about your educational background?
- Tell me about your previous work experience?
- Why did you leave your last job / why were you fired?
- How do you manage stress?
- What are your career goals and expectations?
- What is your salary expectation?
Articulate your answers
When it comes to answering the questions, take your time, stay focused and concise. Remember this is your opportunity to make a good first impression, to show your communication skills, and to sell your points.
Prepare smart questions
At the end of a job interview, after you have given information about yourself and sold your points, you should ask the interviewer questions about the company, about the workplace culture, and about challenges the company is facing. Asking questions shows your enthusiasm for the job and also gives you a better understanding of whether the job offer is right for you.
If you tell the interviewer you don’t have any questions, it may be considered as a sign that you are not interested in the position or you’re not taking this opportunity seriously. We recommend you to prepare a list of 4-5 questions to ask before the interview. Here is an example of questions you can ask:
- What are the main responsibilities?
- What are the challenges the company and the employees encounter?
- Can you tell me about the company culture and its values?
- Can you give me more information about the team I will be working with?
- What are the next steps after the interview process?
Your body language
The way you present yourself at a job interview tells many things about your personality and it is an indicator of your comfort, confidence, and interest. So to make a great impression in your interview, be aware of how you use your body language.
Body language is the way you communicate using your movements, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice, and posture. During a job interview, all these unspoken elements play an important role and reveal your emotions (nervousness or ease). Keep neutral and positive body language, in this way the interviewer will stay focused on what you are saying.
The main unspoken communication elements you should take into consideration are the followings:
- Good posture
- Firm handshake
- Effective eye contact
- Responsiveness: smile and nod
- Deep Breath: it helps to calm the body and reduce stress
Copy of your resume
Even if the company already has your resume, it is recommended to print a copy and bring it with you to the interview and use it to address their doubts and questions. This shows that you are an organized and prepared person.
Eating a healthy meal before your interview can help you reduce stress and to increase energy and concentration. Foods that contain protein, fiber, and carbohydrates are highly suggested, such as Porridge, whole grain toast, or eggs for breakfast and salad or fruits for lunch.
Make sure you have a clean and ironed set of formal clothes at least one day before your interview. An appropriate formal dress and a good perfume will have a big impact on your performance.
Punctuality is very important and shows professionalism and respect to people you are interacting with and makes a good first impression. On the other hand, arriving late the day of your appointment shows the interviewer your lack of organization and consideration for others. It is suggested that you come even ten or fifteen minutes earlier. In the case you arrive late because something unexpected happened, you should send an email and inform the hiring manager and apologize for your delay both in the email and also when you arrive.
Control your manners
The following manners and behavior tips show how you should present yourself and interact with people:
- Be friendly: Remember to be nice and to keep a smile on your face.
- Listen: listening is one of the most important strategies and shows your communication skills and your interest in what the interviewer is saying.
- Don’t be too familiar: It is good to bring passion and energy to the interview, as well as to ask questions, but do not overstep your role as a job seeker and make sure you keep it professional.
- Don’t talk too much: Giving the interviewer more information than he asked could be a big mistake, therefore be concise and keep it simple and clear.
- Use appropriate language: Using appropriate and respectful language will allow you to establish yourself as a confident professional and to define your credentials authoritatively.
One of the common questions asked during a job interview is “what are you passionate about?”, to this kind of question, answer with sincerity and give just enough information without oversharing. The aim of the interviewer is to learn more about who you are outside the office and if you are a committed person.
Talk about your volunteer experiences
This question can be considered the best opportunity to boost your chances to get hired, indeed by highlighting your volunteer experiences, you show your interest in social impact work and the competencies you learned, such as creativity, problem-solving, leadership, and communication. Make sure you mention how these skills will help you in the position you applied for.
Your strengths vs weaknesses
When the interviewer asks you about your strengths and weaknesses, try to focus more on the first one and be honest on the second one, without providing too many details. About your strengths, stress how these elements make you the best candidate for the role and the company. When it comes to talking about your weaknesses, relax and don’t panic. Here you should talk about a weakness that is not related to the job position and does not prevent you from doing your tasks as they should be.
Sell your points
During an interview, you should communicate to the interviewer all the selling points that make you the perfect match and differentiate you from the other candidates. Selling yourself means talking about your key strengths honestly and concisely.
How to handle illegal/ inappropriate questions
Questions related to family, nationality, gender, race, and religion are considered illegal and should not be asked during a job interview, but still, there are a lot of interviewers who ask them. This is why it’s good to know how to deal with them. The best approach is to avoid them indirectly and to turn the conversation and focus on your skills and experiences.
How to reduce anxiety
Anxiety has advantages and disadvantages, indeed it can motivate you, keep you alert and give you more energy to do your best, but if the level of anxiety is high, this can cause agitation, distraction and it can weaken your memory. So to avoid the bad side of anxiety the day of your interview here is some advice that might help you:
- Avoid drinking alcoholic drinks and heavy meals
- Research the company and all the preparation the day before and not the same day of the interview
- Read your favorite book or write down your thoughts
- Practice breathing exercises
How to answer the question “tell me about yourself”
The interviewer usually begins the interview with this question. Don’t be fooled by this question, it seems easy but it gives the interviewer a general idea about you and your educational background, and your plans for the future. In addition, avoid going into detail and talking about your personal life and your problems. The best way to respond is, to sum up: your studies, your work experiences, and your passions. Don’t forget that this is a golden opportunity to sell your points and to make a great first impression.
About your previous work experiences
This is one of the most important questions that you should prepare for. Respond to this question by resuming your work history and focus on the challenges you faced, on your responsibilities, achievements, and on the skills you learned. So we recommend highlighting the positive aspects and avoiding the negative ones.
Salary and benefits expectations
This question is a tricky and sensitive question that can be answered in different ways. The first strategy is to turn the question around and ask the interviewer’s best offer. The second way is to give a specific and reasonable price. In this case, search what is the common salary range for this kind of job and take into account your skills and your career.
Avoid these common mistakes
There are some mistakes that many applicants make without even realizing it, mostly because of stress and panic. But as mentioned before it is empirical to appear professional and polished during your interview. So for a good impression, avoid these mistakes:
- using your phone while you’re waiting or during the interview
- bringing drinks with you
- Talking bad about your previous bosses
- Not listening while the interviewer is talking
- Being too familiar and using jokes
A thank you note
Write a good thank you letter or note after every interview. In these notes thank the interviewer for the opportunity they gave you and for the information they provided. Additionally, refer to what you discussed in the interview and apologize in case you arrived late or you didn’t perform as was expected.
Never give up
Don’t give up if your interview went bad. That does not mean you are not prepared or not the right person for this job. Contact the interviewer and explain to him or her the reasons you had a poor performance and ask if there is an opportunity to show your skills and how you can contribute.
Souad is a student in the first year of a master’s degree in Languages for Communication in International Enterprises and Organizations (LACOM) at the University of Modena. She holds a degree in Languages and Modern Literatures from the University of Ferrara (Italy) and speaks 5 languages fluently: Arabic, Italian, French, English, and Spanish. Her passion is traveling, discovering cultures, and learning new languages.
In 2019, Souad worked for two months as an English teacher in a volunteer project in Istanbul with AIESEC (a non-profit organization) and in 2021, as an intern in Global Voices (a translation agency) for three months.