How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

Success or failure in an interview is neither a question of luck, nor a question of education or your previous working experience. Whether you ace your interview depends mostly on whether you understand what matters in the meeting with the employer. You should learn what the interviewers want to hear from a perfect candidate from the job, and how to make a good impression on them.

At the end of the day, job interview does not differ to any other oral exam: you can prepare for it in advance, and improve your chances of passing the test with flying colors (and with a new job contract waiting for you).

Though your chances depend also on a few factors you cannot influence, for example the number of other candidates who compete with you for the job, and on their interviewing skills and qualities, you should not bother with that. You should focus only on things that you can control. We will have a look at them right now, in our step-by-step guide on how to ace a job interview.

Table of Contents

1. Step – Perfect interview preparation.

Prepare mentally, prepare physically. Research about the company, check the most common interview questions, practice your answers with a friend. Practice makes perfect, practice helps us to get rid of stress. The more you know about the employer and the better you understand the interviews and what happens in them, the less stress you will experience on a big day.

You can check our interview preparation guide to understand how to prepare for an interview, or our Interview Success Package to see up to 10 premium answers to all common interview questions, from each category, and learn how to make the best possible impression on the hiring managers.

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

2. Step – Try to improve on your soft skills

Times when people with the highest IQ got the best jobs are long gone. The same is true about people with the best education, those who have the most prestigious degrees from the most expensive universities. While a degree can and will help you, it is not a decisive factor in an interview anymore. At least not in a corporate interview.

Emotional intelligence is the real deal today. Do you know how to win your interviewers over? Can you connect with them in a rather personal way during your meeting? Do you know how to recognize their strengths, and praise them in the interview? Can you read their expectations in a course of an interview, and adjust your answers in order to meet the expectations?

Once you improve on your soft skills, getting a job of your choice will become much easier. Purchase some books that will help you with your communication skills and emotional intelligence, and work on your listening skills. Try to liberate yourself of your ego, to be free to truly listen to, and to understand the person sitting opposite to you. It is the only way to make a truly meaningful connection with them. And if you manage to make such a connection, you’ll be just a step away from a new employment contract.

3. Step – Follow up your interview

Most people believe that once they leave the interview room, there is nothing more they can do in order to get the job. They just go home and wait for the employer to give them a call, which may as well never happen.

Keep in mind that your success (or failure) in an interview starts in a moment of composing your first job application, and ends no earlier than after a follow-up letter, or call. Check our interview follow-up section to understand how to write a great letter, and send one to the employer after every interview you go to. You can lose nothing but you can definitely win something sending your letter.

4. Step – Choose the right job, one you can realistically get, one you will enjoy doing

Many job seekers waste their time applying and interviewing for jobs they cannot realistically get (at least not in a present period of their professional career, with the experience and education they have, simply not meeting the requirements).

You should realistically evaluate your experience, education, and skills, and apply for jobs you can realistically get, following the job description.

What is more, you should try to get a job you will enjoy doing. You won’t be happy earning a lot of money while hating the nature of your new job, and what is even more important, your enthusiasm and motivation plays a role in every interview. Unless you really want the job (and not only need one), the interviewers won’t hear any enthusiasm in your answers. And in such a case they won’t hire you, unless you really apply for some third-class job nobody else wants to do, and you happen to be the only candidate. Choosing a job you’d enjoy doing, and can realistically get, is actually the first step in a process of acing an interview…

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

5. Every detail counts

More often than not, you will compete with other people for the job. Some of them will be older than you, some of them will have more experience, or a better education. Just like in any other “competition”, each of you will have some strengths and weaknesses.

Nevertheless, you can still outclass everyone. You just have to understand all parts of the equation, and get everything right, each part of the puzzle. One of them is choosing the right clothes for the meeting with the employer. Another one is to show the right emotions in the interview, the non verbal communication.

Then we have the documents, your job application, resume, or perhaps even your work portfolio–an ace in your sleeve that alone can secure you a job contract, if we talk about technical jobs and job interviews in which demonstration of your previous successes play a major role. Do not underestimate anything in the meeting with the employer, because every detail counts, and can make a difference between you and the 2nd best candidate.

6. Believe and succeed

Last but not least, you should truly believe that you will succeed. Set your mind the right way. Repeat to yourself (in a quiet voice, or even in a loud one) that you will make it, that you will impress the HR managers and sign that coveted employment agreement.

Confidence can do wonders for you. If nothing else, it will liberate you from anxiety, and help you to deliver your very best on a big day. Who cares what the others think or say about you? You know the best. You can succeed. Believe in it, and make it happen…

You’ve done it! You’ve captured the attention of your boss or other senior leaders, or you’ve applied to an internal job posting and have been selected for an interview. So, what do you need to know about how to ace an internal interview? For some, there may be a tendency to view an internal interview as simply a formality or even a “necessary evil.” Avoid that tendency! This is your opportunity to shine—and to share information about your accomplishments and goals that even those you’ve worked with for some time may be unaware of.

5 Tips on How to Ace an Internal Interview

1. Get Your Boss’s Support

One critical first step, according to Paul Harris, president of Global Recruiters Blackhawk is to make sure your immediate supervisor or manager is aware of your interest in the position and that you plan to, or have, applied. Then, enlist their support Harris recommends. “Make sure you and your current boss are on the same page in terms of the answer to the question, ‘Why do you want to leave your current role and boss?’,” he says.

Also read: 5 Signs You’re Ready for Promotion | Promotion and Performance Series

2. Take it Seriously

Just because you’re an internal candidate and a known commodity doesn’t mean you’re a shoo-in for the position. Other internal candidates may also be applying, and your company may also be reserving the opportunity to explore external candidates if they don’t find the talent they’re seeking within.

Gina Curtis, an executive recruiting manager and trainer/career coach with Employment BOOST, says that one of the biggest missteps that internal candidates make is “feeling too comfortable and not taking it seriously enough.” Prepare for internal opportunities in the same manner you would external, she advises. She suggests taking the time to think about your successes and what you’re most proud of in your work with the organization, as well as any challenges you may have faced and how you learned, or grew, from them. That will put you in a good position to ace the internal interview.

3. Do Your Homework

David Bakke is a career expert with Money Crashers. He recommends that internal candidates do a thorough job of preparation prior to the interview. “Talk with coworkers or managers about exactly what the position entails and make sure you can answer questions about how you’ll be able to handle the new responsibilities,” he says.

In larger organizations where you may not know the hiring manager, Helen Godfrey, a career counselor with The Authentic Path, recommends finding the hiring manager through colleagues and asking for an introduction. “Connect with the hiring manager, express your interest, and find out more about the job,” she suggests. Convey your interest in the job and why it caught your attention.” But, she stresses, “always ask for advice rather than the job,” at this point in the process.

4. Take Nothing for Granted

While you may feel as though the interview team, and hiring manager, are well aware of your tenure with the organization and all of the great things you’ve done, avoid making assumptions, says Deborah Ostreicher, CEO of Distinguished Communications. “Sometimes internal candidates wrongly assume that interviewers are intimately aware of their work and projects, just because they are internal,” she says. “This can backfire if the judges don’t know what the candidate is talking about so it’s important to explain your experience and work as if you’re telling it to a stranger, just in case.”

Also read: People Who Always Get Job Offers Have These 5 Things in Common

5. Don’t Skip the “Small Stuff”

The same niceties you would observe when applying for a position at another company can help you make a position impression at your current company and shouldn’t be overlooked.

As Bakke notes: “Although this might sound irrelevant, you do need to prepare and bring your resume. Make sure it has been updated with all of your most recent accomplishments.” He also suggests being prepared with a list of references—even if they’re also with the organization. And, just as you would (or should) with an external interview, don’t overlook the step of sending thank you notes to those who are part of the interview.

“Although you might know the interviewer and all other parties associated with the interview you still want to come off as being 100 percent professional,” says Bakke.

And one final piece of advice on how to ace an internal interview from Lori Scherwin, founder of Strategize That: make sure your behavior after the position has been filled, whether by you or someone else, remains professional. “If you get the job, it’s OK to be excited, but be mindful of other colleagues who may also have wanted the role and didn’t get it,” she says. “If you don’t get it, diplomatically ask why, and how you could improve to get there next time.” And, she recommends: “Know your Plan B is it doesn’t go your way. While it’s important to be optimistic, it’s smart to scenario plan just in case you don’t get the promotion.”

Your resume blew your future employer away, you got an interview and now you need to ace it to get the job. Interviews can be quite intimidating, but in the end, success comes down to being well prepared, likable and confident.

Here are our top 10 tips for how to ace a job interview:

  1. More knowledge = more confidence

You started the research process with a tailored application, now it’s time to up the ante: Find out about the company’s mission, achievements and milestones. Social media channels are as much of a must-read as profiles about the industry, the competition and the person you’re interviewing with. The more you know, the more empowered and confident you will feel.

  1. Dress the part

Interview clothes should always look professional, be comfortable and make you feel confident. Find out what the company culture is like and how people dress before deciding on what you’ll wear (think suits for banks, something business casual for ad agencies etc.). And remember that if you never wear suits and want to wear one for the interview, practice wearing one in advance (you might end up looking and feeling uncomfortable otherwise.) Don’t forget to shine your shoes and make sure they don’t give you any blisters before you head out the door.

  1. Master the warm-up questions…

You can bet money that you will have to tell the interviewer about yourself, why you should be hired and what your career goals are. Practice the answers but don’t sound like a broken record. Don’t just memorize your resume and basically read it out when asked to talk about yourself. It’s smart to use it as a reference point as your interviewer is likely to have it in front of them and to mention key events or points when appropriate, just make sure your answers always add something interesting to the story your resume already tells.

  1. …and get ready for the tough ones

Why don’t you tell me about your weaknesses ? Here’s how you score bonus points with tricky questions like these: Pick a weakness and elegantly turn it into a strength that relates to the job. “I’m a little impatient, but it’s simply because I like to finish projects on time and not disrupt the workflow of the whole team.” The key thing is, to be honest, and never ever answer with: “I have no weaknesses.”

  1. Prepare for some brain-teasers

If you were a kitchen tool, which one would you be and why? These questions don’t always come up, but if they do, try to be relaxed and confident when answering them. They’re there to test you on your critical thinking skills and how well you think on your feet. Make sure to highlight your personality with your answer and make your answers as fun and interesting as you can (without being inappropriate, of course.) And what about that kitchen tool then? Consider an answer like this: I’m a can opener. Even though it’s not the first tool that comes to mind in the kitchen, it can be crucial for every course of the meal.

  1. Know when to ask for a time-out

If you don’t know the answer to a question or you feel yourself panicking a little, take a deep breath and ask confidently and calmly if you can get back to the question later. Avoid rambling on and on and don’t let any panic show. It’s much better if you build up your confidence with some other (easier) questions and then return to this tougher one later. (Who knows, your interviewer might forget to ask it in the end anyway!) Word of warning though: Don’t rely on this too much and only skip questions if absolutely necessary; asking to skip a question too many times could make you seem unprepared.

  1. Be honest

Gaps or detours in your resume are no reason to freak out. You got an interview, after all, so they clearly liked your profile and want to get to know you better. Be honest and explain what you learned during that time off (whatever the reason was) and how it will benefit you in the job you’re applying for; even a period of unemployment can be turned into an advantage if you used that time to develop yourself somehow and kept actively looking for work.

  1. Avoid these

Don’t be late, rude or talk bad about your former bosses or colleagues. Lying, oversharing, making inappropriate jokes or dominating the conversation are other great ways to make a bad impression. If you show up on time, look presentable and come across as nice and sociable, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get off to a good start.

  1. Always have a question prepared

Questions are easy to prepare so never miss the opportunity to show off your critical thinking skills with gems such as “What speaks against hiring me? ”. If there are any doubts or hesitation, this is your chance to clarify something about the job on offer and provide more information about yourself.

  1. Follow up

Last but not least, always follow up with an email or even a handwritten card thanking your interviewer for the opportunity. It’s a good chance to quickly mention, once again, why you’re a good fit and how lovely it was to meet everyone. Keep it short, sweet and friendly, and remember to send it within 24 hours of your interview.

Are you ready to test out these interviewing tips? Contact your local Diverse Staffing office and set up an interview. Or just stop by. Walk in interviews are available.

Related Stories:

A “cheat sheet” is an interview hack you can use to ace your next virtual interview. While virtual interviews are less formal than traditional in person interviews, virtual interviews allow you to shine with the help of aids you usually can not use.

Think of a cheat sheet as a bullet point list you can secretly refer to without the interviewer knowing.

Designing a cheat sheet to use for a virtual interview will help you show you’re a top notch candidate who has done their research.

So how does a cheat sheet help you? By using a well designed interview aid, you can avoid those long awkward pauses while you try and remember the year the company you are interviewing for was founded.

How to design the perfect ‘cheat sheet’

As previously stated, your interviewer should not know you are using any type of interview aid. If you write down a bunch of information on a piece of paper, the other person will quickly notice you are reading and not interviewing naturally.

By design, interviews are made to elicit your ability to deal with pressure and form intelligible thoughts on your own. Because of this goal, most job interviewers do not allow you to bring in notes to your interview.

This is where the virtual interview allows you to discreetly use a cheat sheet to help you stay on track.

Use bold bullet points

Before any interview, you need to prepare by rehearsing potential questions and answers as well as doing a mock interview with family or friends. Virtual interviews are no different. The same amount of preparation and practice is still essential.

When you design your cheat sheet, use bold bullet points to remind you of your pre-rehearsed talking points. When your notes are bullet-pointed, you can quickly and casually look down without appearing you are looking at notes.

In addition, you can also design a digital cheat sheet on your computer screen that you can casually glance at. If your eyes shift from the left to right as you read through a paragraph, you will quickly be found out and may be disqualified from the interview.

Things you should include on your cheat sheet

As you design your cheat sheet, there are certain things you should include to give you the upper hand during the interview. Be sure to include the following information to help you ace your next virtual interview.

The company history and unique details

Use the cheat sheet to help you remember the main points about the company you are interviewing for. Before the interview, understand the company’s history and culture to include when it was founded, by whom, current goals and missions, and any other company information that would be pertinent to mention in an interview.

Do your homework on the company ahead of time, but give yourself the upper hand by being able to rattle off statistics and organizational information without relying solely on memory.

Your resume and professional development

You should have a good grasp of your resume, including your prior work history, qualifications, education, and skillset. However, during an interview, there are moments when you may lose focus and forget to mention an essential part of your resume.

Use the cheat sheet to bullet point some of your professional development and education to ensure they are included during your interview.

Questions for the interviewer

If you have a few well thought out questions for the interviewer at the end of the interview, it can increase your chances of looking competent and energetic about the position. This is not the time to ask how many vacation days a year you get.

Use this time to ask questions such as, “If I am fortunate enough to get this position, what additional steps could I take right now to ensure I’m successful?”

By asking how you can improve yourself to benefit the company speaks volumes and may be difficult to remember if you don’t have it written down.

Use a cheat sheet with caution

To be clear, you should use a cheat sheet at your own risk. In the best-case scenario, you should not need a cheat sheet during an interview. However, when used appropriately and discreetly, it can give you an edge above your competitors if additional details are added that may be difficult to remember.

If your interviewer explicitly says you may not use notes or a cheat sheet during the interview, I would avoid using a cheat sheet. Use the skills and abilities you already have and practice ahead of time to ace your next virtual interview.

Interview preparation is not what it used to be!

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisorThis is the first installment of a two-part article covering 10 quick and dirty tips for acing your interview.

How to Ace Your Interview

When I talk with professional recruiters, the number one complaint they have is that too many people come unprepared to interviews. (Interestingly quite a few also mention bad breath as a big problem!)

What I’ve found is that many people just don’t know what they need to do. Interview preparation just isn’t the same as it was even a few years ago. There’s much more to it now. In fact, I had a hard time choosing just 10 tips and I had to split them up into two episodes.

So here are the first five.

Interviewing Tip #1: Research

Research. Research. Research. You should learn as much as you can about the industry, the organization, the key leaders, and the specific people who will be interviewing you. (At a minimum get the name and title of the hiring manager, but try to get this info for everyone).

Obviously the best place to start your research is the organization’s website; but don’t stop there. Google everyone who will be part of your interview process. Your goal is to discover common ground that you can use to build rapport quickly during the interview.

You’ll also want to use LinkedIn to find people who used to work at the company and contact them. My husband even found the last guy who had the job that he was interviewing for and talked with him on the phone. Don’t forget to search Google news for recent headlines about the industry, the company, and its key competitors. That adage, “Knowledge is power,” is true, especially during the interview and when it comes to evaluating an offer.

Interviewing Tip #2: Google Yourself

Of course the recruiters are also doing their homework. They’re Googling you. Ideally, you already know what’s “out there,” but you’ll want to check again before an interview. You might be surprised. (Oh, and if you haven’t done it already, create Google and Twitter Alerts, which will automatically send you updates.)

What? Nothing shows up when you Google your name? At a minimum you should create a profile on LinkedIn . Depending on what you do, you might also want to join a niche network. Why? Because you want the interviewers to discover more positive things about you and get to know you better. You also want them to read the fabulous recommendations you’ve gotten from your old bosses and colleagues.

Speaking of recommendations, you’ll want to review your reviews! Of course, you should you be regularly asking for recommendations, but the interview gives you a good excuse to ask for a few more. For your interview, make sure you remember one or two of them so you can work them into the conversations. Having others sing your praises really is a proven persuasive technique. Oh, and you’ll also want to begin to think about which of your references will make the best references for this particular opportunity.>

Dos, Don’ts and Expert Advice to Help You Land the Job

Meet the Experts

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

Sharon Hulce is the president and CEO of Employment Resource Group, and has nearly two decades of experience as an executive recruiter. She has been honored with numerous awards, including Women in Management’s Manager of the Year for 2006 and the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Award in 2005.

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

Dana Manciagli is a nationally-syndicated Business Journal columnist and provides speaking, coaching and expert career advice on a global scale. Leveraging her 30-plus years as a corporate executive and hiring manager, she has been featured in Forbes, The Fiscal Times and on NPR, and is the author of “Cut the Crap, Network for Success!”

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

Stephanie Kinkaid is a job outlook expert, published career journalist and assistant director of the Wackerle Career and Leadership Program at Monmouth College. She has counseled hundreds of students during her tenure as a career counselor, and has written for a number of career publications including Yahoo! And CareerBuilder.

Getting Started

Job hunting can be a nerve-wracking experience, from painstakingly recording every qualification to drafting the perfect cover letter. But even more challenging is the interview itself. The piercing eyes of a stranger asking questions about salary and past job mistakes is enough to make even the most hardened job-seeker nervous. When armed with the right information, though, interviewees can relax and focus on what’s really important: selling a professional image and highlighting relevant experience. From before to during and after the interview, this guide brings practical tips from human resource managers and recruiters that can give job seekers an edge over the competition.

Before the Interview

Do your
homework

Hiring managers want to hire employees who are truly interested in their organization and the position. Company knowledge shows a potential employer that you will go the extra mile as an employee and are genuinely interested in working for them.

Read as much information about the organization as you can before the interview. Visit the company’s website and prepare some questions about the organization to ask during the interview. Research competitors, the position and the industry as a whole to show the potential employer you are serious about joining their team.

Professional interviewers admit that they favor the first item in a sequence and are more likely to hire someone they meet early in the day.

Don’t
dress casually

Casual attire suggests a casual attitude about the job. Even if the office dress is casual, dress in business attire for an interview.

Wear office-appropriate clothing to an interview. Men should wear a suit or slacks, a dress shirt and a coat or tie. Women should wear a suit or dress slacks or a skirt and a professional blouse. Showing a lot of skin is unprofessional for a woman or man.

When choosing between two candidates with the same qualifications, 65 percent of employers say they may make their decision based on what the interviewees wore.

Do smile

It sounds simple, but smiling will set the mood for the interview. Smiling increases likability and shows a positive, confident energy. Hiring managers tend to favor candidates that are positive and engaging.

Be friendly and professional. Smile often where appropriate during the interview. Smiling is most important during the initial greeting.

Don’t violate the interviewer’s personal space

Personal space is important in our culture, and violating it makes an interviewer feel uncomfortable. An interviewer will remember feeling uncomfortable in your presence if their personal space is violated.

Stand at least four to five feet away from the interviewer. Do not get close to the hiring manager’s desk and definitely do not touch anything on it.

Employers decide if they will hire a candidate within the first 90 seconds of the interview.

Do arrive to the interview early

Arriving early tells the hiring manager you’re serious about your work. If you can’t make it to your interview on time, it shows a potential employer that you are not reliable.

Leave for the interview early and plan for weather and traffic to make absolutely sure you arrive on time.

Don’t mistreat the support staff

Mistreatment of the interviewer’s support staff will get back to the hiring manager. Upon arrival at the office, treat everyone present with equal respect.

Be as courteous with support staff as you are with your interviewer.

Twenty-three percent of employers will pass on a candidate they believe will not fit into their company culture.

Do bring notes along to calm nerves

“There is nothing wrong with having a notebook full of notes; the person interviewing will think you’ve done your homework,” said Sharon Hulce, President and CEO of Employment Resource Group.

Write down answers to some common interview questions, like “what are you good at and passionate about?” and “what are your weaknesses?” Reference these written answers if your mind goes blank during the interview.

Don’t stand out for the wrong reasons

Too much makeup, cologne, jewelry or flamboyant colors can turn off an interviewer or be distracting. The goal is to look professional and confident, not over-the-top.

Stick to a neutral color pallet and tone down smells and accessories.

Do offer a firm handshake

A firm handshake shows the interviewer that you are confident, enthusiastic and positive. A handshake is the beginning of a successful interview since many interviewers decide whether they will hire someone within the first 90 seconds of an interview.

Offer a firm handshake, but avoid aggression. Practice the handshake on a few people before your interview to find the perfect handshake.

Do visualize a successful interview

What you think about your interview chances can significantly influence your chances of doing well in the interview. If you feel defeated by the job hunt process, it will decrease your chances of doing well in an interview.

Visualize acing the interview and imagine that you landed the position. This will make you feel more positive about the interview and those feelings will show during your conversation.

Related Stories:

A “cheat sheet” is an interview hack you can use to ace your next virtual interview. While virtual interviews are less formal than traditional in person interviews, virtual interviews allow you to shine with the help of aids you usually can not use.

Think of a cheat sheet as a bullet point list you can secretly refer to without the interviewer knowing.

Designing a cheat sheet to use for a virtual interview will help you show you’re a top notch candidate who has done their research.

So how does a cheat sheet help you? By using a well designed interview aid, you can avoid those long awkward pauses while you try and remember the year the company you are interviewing for was founded.

How to design the perfect ‘cheat sheet’

As previously stated, your interviewer should not know you are using any type of interview aid. If you write down a bunch of information on a piece of paper, the other person will quickly notice you are reading and not interviewing naturally.

By design, interviews are made to elicit your ability to deal with pressure and form intelligible thoughts on your own. Because of this goal, most job interviewers do not allow you to bring in notes to your interview.

This is where the virtual interview allows you to discreetly use a cheat sheet to help you stay on track.

Use bold bullet points

Before any interview, you need to prepare by rehearsing potential questions and answers as well as doing a mock interview with family or friends. Virtual interviews are no different. The same amount of preparation and practice is still essential.

When you design your cheat sheet, use bold bullet points to remind you of your pre-rehearsed talking points. When your notes are bullet-pointed, you can quickly and casually look down without appearing you are looking at notes.

In addition, you can also design a digital cheat sheet on your computer screen that you can casually glance at. If your eyes shift from the left to right as you read through a paragraph, you will quickly be found out and may be disqualified from the interview.

Things you should include on your cheat sheet

As you design your cheat sheet, there are certain things you should include to give you the upper hand during the interview. Be sure to include the following information to help you ace your next virtual interview.

The company history and unique details

Use the cheat sheet to help you remember the main points about the company you are interviewing for. Before the interview, understand the company’s history and culture to include when it was founded, by whom, current goals and missions, and any other company information that would be pertinent to mention in an interview.

Do your homework on the company ahead of time, but give yourself the upper hand by being able to rattle off statistics and organizational information without relying solely on memory.

Your resume and professional development

You should have a good grasp of your resume, including your prior work history, qualifications, education, and skillset. However, during an interview, there are moments when you may lose focus and forget to mention an essential part of your resume.

Use the cheat sheet to bullet point some of your professional development and education to ensure they are included during your interview.

Questions for the interviewer

If you have a few well thought out questions for the interviewer at the end of the interview, it can increase your chances of looking competent and energetic about the position. This is not the time to ask how many vacation days a year you get.

Use this time to ask questions such as, “If I am fortunate enough to get this position, what additional steps could I take right now to ensure I’m successful?”

By asking how you can improve yourself to benefit the company speaks volumes and may be difficult to remember if you don’t have it written down.

Use a cheat sheet with caution

To be clear, you should use a cheat sheet at your own risk. In the best-case scenario, you should not need a cheat sheet during an interview. However, when used appropriately and discreetly, it can give you an edge above your competitors if additional details are added that may be difficult to remember.

If your interviewer explicitly says you may not use notes or a cheat sheet during the interview, I would avoid using a cheat sheet. Use the skills and abilities you already have and practice ahead of time to ace your next virtual interview.

Interview preparation is not what it used to be!

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisorThis is the first installment of a two-part article covering 10 quick and dirty tips for acing your interview.

How to Ace Your Interview

When I talk with professional recruiters, the number one complaint they have is that too many people come unprepared to interviews. (Interestingly quite a few also mention bad breath as a big problem!)

What I’ve found is that many people just don’t know what they need to do. Interview preparation just isn’t the same as it was even a few years ago. There’s much more to it now. In fact, I had a hard time choosing just 10 tips and I had to split them up into two episodes.

So here are the first five.

Interviewing Tip #1: Research

Research. Research. Research. You should learn as much as you can about the industry, the organization, the key leaders, and the specific people who will be interviewing you. (At a minimum get the name and title of the hiring manager, but try to get this info for everyone).

Obviously the best place to start your research is the organization’s website; but don’t stop there. Google everyone who will be part of your interview process. Your goal is to discover common ground that you can use to build rapport quickly during the interview.

You’ll also want to use LinkedIn to find people who used to work at the company and contact them. My husband even found the last guy who had the job that he was interviewing for and talked with him on the phone. Don’t forget to search Google news for recent headlines about the industry, the company, and its key competitors. That adage, “Knowledge is power,” is true, especially during the interview and when it comes to evaluating an offer.

Interviewing Tip #2: Google Yourself

Of course the recruiters are also doing their homework. They’re Googling you. Ideally, you already know what’s “out there,” but you’ll want to check again before an interview. You might be surprised. (Oh, and if you haven’t done it already, create Google and Twitter Alerts, which will automatically send you updates.)

What? Nothing shows up when you Google your name? At a minimum you should create a profile on LinkedIn . Depending on what you do, you might also want to join a niche network. Why? Because you want the interviewers to discover more positive things about you and get to know you better. You also want them to read the fabulous recommendations you’ve gotten from your old bosses and colleagues.

Speaking of recommendations, you’ll want to review your reviews! Of course, you should you be regularly asking for recommendations, but the interview gives you a good excuse to ask for a few more. For your interview, make sure you remember one or two of them so you can work them into the conversations. Having others sing your praises really is a proven persuasive technique. Oh, and you’ll also want to begin to think about which of your references will make the best references for this particular opportunity.>

How to ace an interview 10 tips from a professional career advisor

How to answer questions and make a good impression at interviews.

What’s on this page?

  • First impressions count
  • How to answer interview questions
  • Common interview questions
  • Answering questions about a gap in your CV
  • Find out more

First impressions count

Interviewers will start assessing you as soon as they meet you, so your presentation and attitude are important. To make a good first impression:

  • arrive on time
  • dress smartly
  • smile when you meet people
  • be professional as soon as you enter the building. The receptionist and anyone else you meet might tell the interviewer what they think of you.

How to answer interview questions

  • Speak clearly and vary your tone to show you’re interested and enthusiastic.
  • Take time to think about each question before answering so you can give a good response.
  • Listen to questions carefully and let the interviewer lead the conversation. If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be explained or repeated.
  • If you’ve had a job before don’t criticise previous employers or co-workers.
  • Give examples from your experience that demonstrate your knowledge and skills.
  • Show confidence in your skills and be positive about what you have done. For example, instead of using phrases such as “I only have. ” or “I don’t have…” tell the employer what you do have to offer.

Questions about your experience

When you answer interview questions about something you’ve done it’s best to use the STAR method (situation, task, action, result).

  • Situation – describe what the situation was.
  • Task – describe the task you had to do.
  • Action – describe what you did to achieve the task.
  • Result – describe the final result.

“When I was an assistant manager at Sally’s Sandals we hosted a VIP sales event for our loyalty card customers, and I was in charge of organising it. I needed to make sure that the store was decorated, we had food and drink for the customers, and we had enough staff members to work that evening. The event went very smoothly and we exceeded our sales targets for the evening by 50 percent.”

Common interview questions

Can you tell us about yourself?

Summarise your work and study experience and talk about your goals.

Why do you want to work for us?

Use your research about the job and organisation to answer this question.

What made you apply for this job?

Talk about your interest in the job and the organisation

What makes you the best person for this job?

Explain how your personality, skills and experience make you ideal for the job.

Have you done this kind of work before?

Discuss any skills or experience you have that will help you do the job.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Discuss your strengths and then talk about how you overcome your weaknesses.

Tell me about a time when you…

Describe a specific task or situation, what you did and what the result was using the STAR method.

Answering questions about a gap in your CV

When answering questions about a gap in your CV it’s important to:

  • address the gap directly
  • explain why you chose to or needed to take a break
  • explain the issue around having a gap and make it clear it’s sorted out
  • provide evidence of your strong work performance if the gap was due to redundancy.

Gaps due to long-term illness

Employers will usually ask you if you have any mental or physical conditions that could prevent you from doing the job you’ve applied for.

  • If you’re fully recovered from an illness, be honest and make it clear that your health won’t be a problem for the employer.
  • If you have an illness that could affect your ability to do the job, be honest and answer the question positively. For example, “I have arthritis in my foot that prevents me from standing for more than an hour at a time. This has never been a problem in my 10 years of working at a desk, but I’ve been told it could spread to other parts of my body in time.”

Workbridge offers a free service to help people with any form of disability to find work. You can contact them for support with your job search and interviews.

Gaps due to prison time or serious criminal convictions

If you’ve been in prison or have serious criminal convictions, approaching previous employers could be useful when job hunting. They will know what you’re like as an employee and may offer you another job. They may also give you a good reference.

If you get a job interview you may be asked if you have a criminal record. Consider the employer’s concerns and discuss what you’ve done since the conviction. For example, “I have to tell you I have a criminal record. However, I’ve taken an anger management course and I’ve learned how to control my anger in difficult situations.”

It’s important to tell the interviewer about any convictions to demonstrate your honesty. If you don’t mention a serious conviction before you get the job and they find out about it, you risk being dismissed. The Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004 allows you to conceal some convictions that are more than seven years old.