Job interview skills are perhaps the most critical thing you’ll need to master in order to get hired. We’ve shown you where to look for jobs and how to make a killer resume, but all that preparation is pointless if you don’t ace the interview.
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Fortunately, it’s easier than it sounds!
We’ve found seven essential job interview skills that make all the difference. Here’s what you need to do to ace that interview and get that job!
7 Essential Job Interview Skills
If you’re focused on too many things, you’ll end up distracted and blow the interview altogether. This list summarizes the essential job interview skills into seven easy steps, so you can stay calm, cool and collected during even the most stressful interview.
Step 1: Get to know the job and the company.
The easiest way to stand out from the competition is to be prepared. If you’re well-versed in the job position, what the company does and how you will be able to contribute to the company’s success, you’ll easily stand apart as the best candidate for the job.
Dedicate an hour of time to prepare for your upcoming interview. The work you do before you arrive in the office can make a tremendous difference in your success.
Read, reread and analyze the job description.
Read the job description. Read it again. Analyze it for details that you may have missed. Make sure that you have an in-depth understanding of the job requirements and responsibilities.
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Research the company.
You’ll need to know more than just the name of the company. Research the company to learn more about the history, culture, mission, values and recent projects that the company has undertaken. Seek to understand how the job you’re interviewing for contributes to the company’s overall goals.
Whenever possible, find out the interviewer’s name so that you can use it in conversation. Scientific studies have shown that our brains react to hearing the sound of our own name. Using the interviewer’s name in the interview also shows that you’re paying attention. Learning how to use the interviewer’s name respectfully and professionally is one of the most difficult job interview skills.
Review your resume, cover letter and other information.
Take a look at your own resume, cover letter and any other information that you provided to the company. Look specifically for ways that your resume aligns with the job description and what you know about the company. Take notes.
Research potential interview questions for that position and industry.
Every interview is different but there are some strong common themes across industries. For example, an interview for a nursing position is vastly different than an interview for tech support.
Fortunately, the internet is a great place to get some advance warning about the questions you might encounter! Glassdoor is a particularly great resource for getting the inside scoop on interviews. Whether you’re applying at McDonald’s or Microsoft, Glassdoor has detailed interview information submitted by applicants who actually interviewed at those locations. It’s a great resource!
Prepare your answers to the most likely questions.
Interview question preparation is one of the most fundamental job interview skills. Many people become overwhelmed by the stress of an interview. Preparing your answers in advance (and practicing them to perfection) can help you answer quickly and effectively.
Ideally, at least a few of your answers should draw some connection between your experience and the company overall. Review the job description, company information and resume as needed to develop those connections.
Step 2: Prepare for a professional first impression.
Show up on time, dressed nicely and be well-groomed. Offer a firm handshake and a smile. Make eye contact with the interviewer.
It may seem like common sense, but it’s important to make a good first impression during your interview. If you show up late and you haven’t bathed in weeks, you will have a much harder time getting the position than someone who is punctual and professional.
Unfortunately, this can create some problems for low income families. Many low income applicants don’t have professional suits or even reliable transportation. But that doesn’t mean that all hope is lost!
If you’re relying on public transportation, make sure to leave well in advance of your scheduled interview. You should aim to be 15 minutes early for your appointment under ideal circumstances. Give yourself a generous window of time in case of delays or unexpected mishaps along the route.
We’ve found clothing banks and other resources around the country that provide professional work attire for those who are looking for jobs. To find a clothing bank or work resource in your area, please visit 211.org or GetHelpMap.com.
Hygiene itself is an essential job interview skill. In addition to preparing yourself mentally in step one, you’ll also want to prepare yourself physically before the interview.
In addition to showering and washing your clothes, be mindful of these hygiene tips:
Inspect your nails.
A firm handshake is one of the essential job interview skills, but it can work against you if your hands are dirty or unpleasant to touch!
You don’t need a professional manicure, but you do need to make sure your nails are trimmed and filed. Soak and scrub your hands to remove dead skin cells, push back cuticles and remove all dirt. Moisturize your hands and ensure they aren’t dry or oily. If you paint your nails before the interview, use clear or a neutral color.
Fix your hair.
During an interview, you’ll have the greatest success with clean, well-trimmed hair. Interviewers generally prefer hair that isn’t extreme in style or color.
Don’t forget the rest of your body hair, either! Check your nose hair, ear hair and eyebrows, too.
Mind your smells.
Body odor can be a deal-breaker. Make sure to shower and use antiperspirant. Go easy on cologne and fragrances, though. This can trigger allergies to other people in the workplace.
Oral hygiene can make a big difference during the interview. Your breath should be fresh and your teeth as clean as possible. This can be challenging if you haven’t had access to reliable dental care recently. However, be sure to floss and brush before your interview. Keep mints handy so that you can freshen your breath immediately before the interview.
Step 3: Focus on your speech.
Obviously, most of the interview consists of talking. Although you may be nervous, make sure to speak clearly and calmly during the interview. Be careful not to speak too quickly.
Avoid awkward placeholders like “um” and “uh” by giving yourself time to think about responses. Simply say something like, “That’s an interesting question!” or “I’ll need just a moment to think about that.” Then, stay silent until you’ve formulated your response.
Step 4: Remember that listening is a skill.
Listen intently to what the interviewer is saying. Listening is one of the most underappreciated job interview skills because too many people focus on answering instead of listening.
There are many ways to show that you are listening to what they are saying. Of course, answering their questions competently is one way. Your body language and facial expressions are another. One of the most effective ways to demonstrate active listening is by repeating what is being said to you. You can summarize what the interviewer has said, ask clarifying questions (“Do you mean…?”) or paraphrasing (“I understand that…”).
Step 5: Pay attention to your body language.
“Research suggests that nonverbal communication is up to 13 times more powerful than verbal communication. And it’s not hard to see this. If someone’s nonverbal and verbal cues don’t match, our brains are quick to pick up on it. And more often than not, the nonverbal wins. If you tell the interviewer that you’re excited and passionate, but your tone is timid and your shoulders are hunched, they’re just not going to believe you.”
That’s advice from Jeff Baird, a certified corporate body language trainer. He states that nonverbal communication makes up as much as 93% of all our communication. In one 30 minute interview, two people can send over 800 nonverbal signals!
Jeff said, “That’s a lot of information. Some of that information is being perceived by the interviewer consciously, some unconsciously, but it’s all contributing to whether or not they’re going to hire you.”
Jeff wrote a powerful three-point article that can help you master your body language, so you don’t accidentally mess up your interview by sending the wrong nonverbal signals. You can find his powerful advice here.
Step 6: Remember the three Cs: Cool, Calm and Confident
In many ways, interviewing is very similar to dating. If the interviewer senses your desperation, they may be less inclined to call you back. Therefore, it’s important to remember be cool, calm and confident. These are commonly referred to as the three Cs of interviewing and they are some of the most important job interview skills!
If you’ve prepared well, you don’t need to fear. Take a deep breath. Relax. You’ve got this!
Step 7: Be grateful – and follow up.
As you are leaving the interview, express gratitude for the opportunity and thank the interview for their time. Establishing the habit of writing polite, professional thank you notes is one of the rarest job interview skills.
Within 24 hours, send a thank you email to the interviewer. This thank you note should restate your interest in the position and thank the interviewer for their consideration. Include any details that you forgot to mention in the interview. You can also point out one or two specific things about the interview that you enjoyed, to add a personal touch. For example, “I really appreciated that you took the time to show me around the office.”