Job Interview Techniques: Preparing For Your Interview

by Jacques Sprenger on 2009-01-1227

Some job interview techniques may prove helpful before you walk into the lair of a hiring company. Here are some general tips on preparing for your interview.

For many people, the interview is the most stressful part of getting a job; something like asking the girl you love to marry you — or if you’re a lady, it would be like lending your guy an ear. It’s a serious commitment, although few candidates take it as such, and even fewer prepare adequately for the big moment. Getting a job interview means that the company is interested in pursuing a relationship with you, after culling your resume out of hundreds of applicants (especially in today’s market).

Preparing For Your Interview? Apply These Job Interview Techniques

Did you just find your dream job? If you haven’t gone through an interview process before, or feel that you’re rusty, then here are a few things to do to get ready. Some points to keep in mind while you rehearse for that big day:

1. Remember that the interview is not really about you.

The interview process is about what the company will gain by employing you. So the main arguments at your disposal are related to what you bring that will benefit the business. Yes, they have your resume in front of them, but they are interested in hearing from the proverbial horse’s mouth what special skills you have that will make a difference for them.

2. Prepare to fill in the blanks.

Those resume writing tips may have paid off, helping you secure your job interview. But your resume may not be able to provide the full picture. It may fail to explain why you didn’t work for 2 years or what the real reasons are for your dismissal from X company. Be prepared to be honest — brutally, if necessary.

Try “I couldn’t find work because I wasn’t willing to move to another state” or “I decided to take a sabbatical to forge my character by exploring the Amazon”. Or “I’ve had philosophical differences with my company” can really mean that “my boss and I didn’t get along because he wouldn’t accept my suggestions”.

You can be as euphemistic as possible about the gaps you leave in your resume, but if they do come up in the interview, it’s strongly recommended that you come clean. Falsifying information will eventually bite you in the end.

3. Check the mirror.

Common sense says to dress for the occasion, and an interview certainly qualifies as a formal affair. There are however, some exceptions: I once interviewed a young man who showed up wearing a gaudy t-shirt; he was hired immediately because his talent as a software programmer was top of the line.

Most employers in the corporate universe frown on beards, Pancho Villa type moustaches, long hair (for guys), short dresses, and low-cut blouses (unless it’s an audition, not an interview). So dress appropriately for the job and act naturally. What’s that cliche again? Dress for success. Even if it’s just to snag the job. You can ruminate over your company’s dress code after you get the job!

job interview techniques, preparing for your interview
Image from BetterMondays

4. Sell yourself!

One of the most important techniques to get that coveted position is to sell yourself well, in my opinion. You must suddenly become somewhat of a salesperson, which isn’t easy for a lot of job seekers to do.

But here are some basic tips: assume a good posture when facing the interviewer and remember that he/she is waiting to be convinced that you are the best candidate. Beyond marching down your resume, job history and past work experience, make sure you’re prepared for the “softer” questions which can be some variant of:

  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
  • What do you bring to the table that other candidates don’t?
  • Why should we hire you?

If you work in a technical field, you’ll have more questions to wrestle with that are pertinent to your specific career. You’ll sell yourself well by acing those questions!

5. Stay relaxed.

One way to keep the pressure off? Try to be yourself and show a bit of personality in your interviews. I challenge myself by trying (operative word here) to spice up a technical or dry interview with a little humor. Charm can get you far, although not everyone has the natural ability to be witty. But being relaxed during the interview can help draw more of your personality out, and will avoid those unsightly underarm perspiration stains, awkward handshakes, or nervous shifting that plague many an interviewee. Deep breaths or yoga before the interview, perhaps?

6. Make the first impression count.

I’d strive to make a good first impression, but this comes automatically when you project positive energy with a positive and confident demeanor. So look at your interviewer in the eye, and use a firm handshake. If he/she feels that they grasped a wet noodle, your chances of being hired could plummet. A little formality works (until you know your colleagues better) — I’d wait till the other is seated before taking a seat, and I’d avoid slouching.

A few more tips from the trenches: try to speak clearly and to put some emotion into your answers. Show how much you’re interested in the job by displaying enthusiasm. Hopefully, you don’t have to fake how excited you are about the position. But avoid being dramatic as well, as your body language can reveal more than your words to a trained interviewer; a lot of them can tell when you’re pulling their leg. Smile when appropriate, but never use laughter, especially the guttural kind. And overall, be as passionate as you can about getting the job, without going overboard.

Burning (or Building) Bridges

If you’re holding a job but feel that you’re on the verge of getting laid off, then turn to Plan B. Send out some resumes making sure that your boss doesn’t find out, unless he’s already told you to be prepared.

If a company shows interest in your skills, the worst thing you can do is snub them when your present employer suddenly tells you that you’re safe. You have just burned a bridge and word can get around among HR departments that you’re a “tease”; more than once, I’ve encountered just how small the world truly is in my field of work. Our career actions and moves have their consequences.

Some other things you can do? Keep lines of communication open at all times, and make and stay friends with people in similar positions in your town. They might just help you with a new job when you most need it!

Contributing Writer: Jacques Sprenger

Copyright © 2009 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Eric January 12, 2009 at 7:36 pm

Great advice SVB! I get so nervous when I’m being interviewed and end up berating myself afterward for forgetting what I’m supposed to do. I’ve gotten better with more practice but nothing’s like sitting in that hot seat!

Shadox January 12, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Excellent post, as always. Regarding dressing appropriately, I always ask the recruiter in advance what attire is appropriate. Since I have always worked in high-tech, the answer is not trivial. Some companies look at you strangely if you show up wearing a suit, and find that business casual is more appropriate.

Another good tip is to do your research about the company. I am really impressed when someone I am interviewing makes an insightful comment about the company, our products, our recent deals or our industry. I always make it a point to study the company and its business for at least a few hours before going to interview.

Finally, practicing your answers in advance is always a good idea. A good friend of mine is a Stanford PhD student who is completing her studies this year and a couple of weekends ago had a job market – a concentrated weekend where she interviewed with 17 different organizations… whew! Prior to the big weekend, she asked me to interview her. She asked the same of several other people she knew. Always pays to be prepared…

Stock Investing Guru January 12, 2009 at 8:57 pm

Very good article. You’d be surprised at some of the horror stories I’ve heard from recruiters talking about how awful the candidate was.

Most of all, you should connect with that person that is interviewing you. They want someone with a personality, your resume obviously passed the test already.

Yaz January 13, 2009 at 12:25 am

nice advice here…im jsut gonna go to interview next week ^_^

Sharon January 13, 2009 at 3:08 am

Those are very good tips! They will help a lot of applicants especially now that there are millions who were laid off from work. Nice article!

Jacques Sprenger January 13, 2009 at 7:17 am

Shadox, I especially liked your suggestion of practicing with a friend before the actual interview. Unless you are cool customer, you should really rehearse. Then the words will come out naturally. What you say also about doing research on the company is very valuable, as it shows that you prepare for your assignments, though that friend of yours had her work cut out by preparing for 17 different organizations.

Excellent post, Shadox

jim January 13, 2009 at 11:35 am

Rehearsing is great idea but you need to rehearse with someone who is familiar with interviewing. Otherwise you’re just chatting. 🙂

Silicon Valley Blogger January 13, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Everyone shares some great points. I’ll admit a few things — I get way too excited and nervous before an interview, so I take a lot of effort to calm myself down and “unwire” myself (I am known to be highly wired, just naturally that way). By being as prepared as I possibly can, and by practicing a Q & A both with myself and with someone else as a sounding board, I am able to put a lid on my unproductive emotions and excess energy. I also do deep breathing exercises and apply visualization techniques quite often.

I visualize myself getting the job and acing the interview. My most intimidating interview was when I had to face an interview panel (group!) of 5 serious Cisco engineers who kept rattling away technical questions at me. Needless to say, I may not have answered all the questions right, but I tried to make my personality shine. I managed to make some of them chuckle and they congratulated me on a great interview and immediately sent me a hiring packet!

The outcome though was that I decided to work for another Valley company instead, and they were stunned that I turned them down. But as life would have it, I ended up working for Cisco later on — on two separate occasions as a consultant.

To this day, I remember that one interview as being the most memorable. I was a nervous wreck inside, but put on a happy face. It worked!

Craig January 13, 2009 at 12:37 pm

Great tips, being relaxed is key. Nothing wrong with bringing your own personality out in the interview, because not only do they want someone who can perform the job, but someone they don’t mind seeing every day. Another tip would be to have a few key examples ready. Most interviews these days are behavioral and ask for how you handled extreme situations. Try to have a few ready and be prepared.

Doctor S January 13, 2009 at 8:13 pm

A great comprehensive look at the interview situation. I have been working for almost 3 years now and when I look back at when I was interviewing for jobs out of college, I broke tons of rules! I was absurdly nervous and would ramble on and on and on in responses to their questions.

Even though I have a steady and secure job now, I kind of am looking forward to going on interviews in the near future to see how I have grown and evolved as a business mind. I have 10x more confidence in answering any questions about my experience and skills.

Great post on a topic that I’m sure tons of people can benefit from!

Mitch Santos July 12, 2009 at 11:09 am

People generally advise you to dress up at least two levels higher than the current job for which you are appearing. It will create a good first impression. For professional and senior management positions, a suit, with a tie and dress shoes is quite suitable. For women, a formal pant suit will be very apt. Women should wear only minimal and simple jewelry. Women candidates should opt for only moderate heeled shoes.

AJ August 15, 2009 at 8:44 pm

I am in desperate need to do well on a job interview. I have had at least 10 interviews with nothing to show for it. I have gotten deep into the process with some people and not far with others. I think it is because I am uncomfortable talking with other people. I do not sell myself well. I feel weird and awkward trying to sell my skill set. Sometimes I think people will think I am a fraud and I did not really accomplish anything when I clearly did. I just have a whole lot of insecurity I need to deal with.

VMSol August 30, 2009 at 1:06 am

Wow! Happy for the tips that you shared. I know the advantages of being prepared. Thanks.

Igor September 11, 2009 at 7:20 am

Nice tips, undoubtedly, they will serve the good turn to many interviewees.
To tell the truth, being nervous in the interview is a natural reaction of the organism to stress (interview is really a stress), and it is not necessary to try to get rid of it, we all are people, including interviewers, who also went through the interview sometime in the past.

Moreover, if a candidate is not nervous at all, it is already thought-provoking. On the other hand, the aforementioned practices will just help to calm down your emotions a little bit. Another fact, I also agree with is being honest. Surely, it depends on the market you are in, but some of them are really just a big village, where all the rumors are spreading at the velocity of sound. Even without asking you any references, the potential employer can check the references and it’s very difficult to take off the “labels” in future.

When it goes about sales, it really makes sense to operate with numbers and digits, means, the quantitative indices, but not to “pour the unnecessary information”, any professional will reveal it straight away.

Besides, I also agree that collecting of information about the company you’re going to get interviewed into is really useful and works in your favor, as well as, asking more questions about functional duties, about team, trainings and etc. (but not about salary, working conditions), it will show that you are really motivated to work in this company.

SteveYeap December 16, 2009 at 9:07 pm

Some employers would like you to build up some self-confidence, and to do test how much confidence you have in yourself, they would ask you this question, “What makes you think that we will hire you for this position?” This is definitely one difficult question to answer if you are not that confident that you can handle the responsibilities that will be given to you for this position. However, if you have enough experience and you are more than familiar to answer to job interview questions for the position that will be awarded to you, you can easily say that you can assure them that you will be an asset to their company by stating your related achievements.

Andrew December 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

Steve is right almost half the questions I ask in interviews are to see if you do have confidence. The truth is a hard working person will figure things out that they don’t already know, but a shy person will not even try to figure them out.

RICHARD August 27, 2012 at 10:51 am

I have never attended an interview before,what do i do? Am scared.

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