8 Steps to Improve Your Interview Skills Instantly

John Krautzel
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No matter how polished your resume is or how much experience you have under your belt, interview preparation is essential if you want to impress a potential employer. Honing your interview skills can take a good deal of practice and dedication. However, there are a few things you can do to take your skills to the next level today so you can excel during your next interview. Follow these eight steps to immediately improve your interview skills and increase your chances of landing the job of your dreams.

1. Don't Go in Unprepared

Don't be caught by surprise. Take time to practice your answers to common interview questions, and come up with your own thoughtful questions for the interviewer. Before each interview, list the points you want to cover. These can be general skills, such as your leadership ability or creativity, or your more specific skills and work experience. You should also memorize your strengths and weaknesses as well as your professional ambitions. Consider doing a mock interview with a friend, or rehearse your delivery in front of the mirror.

2. Learn to Dress for the Occasion

When choosing interview outfits, err on the conservative side, and avoid wearing too many accessories or jewelry pieces. Let the company culture and your intended position guide the formality of your outfit. If you're unsure, contact the company to ensure you follow its dress code.

3. Be Punctual

Arriving late for an interview creates a very bad first impression, so take any steps necessary to ensure you arrive on time. Creative Circle recruiter Lauren Ferarra explains that interviewees should always be in the building and ready for the interview 15 minutes early. Doing this gives you some extra time to calm your nerves and switch your focus to the interview.

4. Learn the Value of Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is another way to demonstrate your confidence and energy to a potential employer. Start with a firm handshake, and make eye contact throughout the interview while maintaining good posture. No matter how nervous you are, don't forget to smile. Interviewees should also avoid nonverbal behaviors that leave a bad impression, such as looking at their watches or chewing gum.

5. Do Your Research

A strong understanding of the company and job position can help you feel more at ease during an interview while also giving you the opportunity to start more in-depth discussions. Visit the organization's website, starting with the About page, to learn about the company's values, mission, products and services. This process also helps you get a feel about whether or not the company would be a good fit for you.

6. Control Your Confidence

Being professional and confident is important, but showing off or being overconfident may make you appear cocky. Maintain a positive, enthusiastic attitude to communicate a balanced level of confidence and convey likability.

7. Practice Active Listening

During an interview, it's easy to get so caught up in your answers that you don't actually listen to what the interviewer is telling or asking you. Respond to your interviewer to communicate that you heard what was said, and bring up ideas that the interviewer mentioned earlier in the interview. This shows that you're interested and paying attention. This can also help you make a positive impression if you progress to another interview, as you can further discuss what the interviewer brought up previously.

8. Polish Your Follow-Up Practices

Showing your appreciation goes a long way in connecting with the hiring manager. After an interview, get the interviewer's card or contact information so you can send a follow-up card or email expressing your gratitude and communicating that you're still interested in the position.

These steps can help you make a good impression on a potential employer, but they can also help you feel more comfortable and confident for a smoother interview process. Remember that if you approach an interview expecting to succeed, you're more likely to do just that.

 

Photo Courtesy of Enri Endrian at Flickr.com

 

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  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @William thanks for your comment. I have heard the same thing - that the hiring manager makes the decision that you are a viable candidate within the first few minutes. So yes - know that you only get one chance to make a great first impression and make sure that's what you are doing. From the way you dress to arriving on time (no more than 15 minutes early though) to that first hand shake and the first few minutes of that conversation. You can also know just by watching the interviewer's body language whether this is going to be a go or not.

  • William Browning
    William Browning

    For me, it all comes down to first impressions. Does the candidate look sharp? Did the person keep the interviewer waiting long? Does the person seem ready to succeed? Several studies show that someone makes a hiring decision within the first few minutes of meeting someone. Knocking someone's socks off in the initial stages of the interview is vital to landing that job.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Jacob thanks for that. Those are the most awesome upbeat interviews ever. I love it when the check list is put aside and the interviewer and I just talk. That shows me that they like what I am saying and I have a good chance at securing the position. All of those nonverbal cues that we are taught to look for - that is definitely a big one. @Laura arriving 15 minutes ahead of your interview time is acceptable. You can let the receptionist know that you are there to meet with so and so and then just take a seat in the lobby or wherever they put you and relax. Take a few minutes to breathe. Since 15 minutes is a standard practice, the interviewer knows that you will be there. It gives them a chance to "peek" at you, also. I remember going for an interview where I was led to a conference room and told to make myself comfortable. Well I sat so that I could be facing the windows in the room which were looking out onto the hallway. Every person who worked there paraded by those windows while I was in there. I found it quite comical which, in turn, helped me to relax so that I was able to just be myself when it came to the actual interview. And yes, I got the job. So you have to use your own judgment.

  • Laura Winzeler
    Laura Winzeler

    As someone who has been compulsively early her entire life, I do like the punctuality prompt. However, if I arrive “in the building” 15 minutes early, should I make that known to the person I’m meeting with? Doesn’t that pressure them into rushing through whatever they’re doing? I’m very good with time management, so when someone arrives 15 minutes early for a meeting I've called, I sort of resent it and feel anxious.

  • Jacob T.
    Jacob T.

    Some of the best interviews I've ever had were ones when the flow of the questions and answers encouraged the interviewer to discard their question sheet. This is not always possible, but actively listening and engaging with the questions asked helps put yourself at ease and can get the interviewer to relax a little and feed you information about the job or company that helps later in the process.

  • Lydia K.
    Lydia K.

    @Andrew, I agree, not every friend makes the best interview coach. In the digital age there are solutions. I like to practice for interviews and presentations in my webcam. There are plenty of practice interview questions available online and you can even watch simulations on some social media sites. Video yourself applying what you've learned from the simulations. Then you can also show your video to a trusted friend or mentor and ask for feedback.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for the comments. @Catherine I do the same thing - jot down some responses so that I have them in front of me in case my mind goes blank! @Andrew it is tough to do a mock interview and be serious enough about it to get some pointers and learn from it. If I tried to do a mock interview with my best friend, it would end up with us in giggling fits. A professional career coach would be great if you can afford to spend the money. How about your local community college or your alma mater. They will certainly do mock interviews with you and they will be more professional than if you tried it with a family member or a friend. My advice - just go there and be yourself. Don't try to come back with stock answers - answer your own way and you just might get called back for a second interview or receive a job offer.

  • Erin H.
    Erin H.

    Yes, but what if you don't have access to a professional career coach? What if a friend or a family member giving you a mock interview is your only option? I think a friend would be in a good position to tell you when you are not at your best and perhaps give you some encouraging pointers.

  • Andrew  S.
    Andrew S.

    I think the idea of a mock interview with a friend or in front of the mirror is a very good one. But what if your interview skills are really rusty? Would a friend have the ability to really evaluate your performance and identify weak areas that need addressing? I think some job seekers would really benefit from doing a mock interview with a professional career coach.

  • CATHERINE S.
    CATHERINE S.

    I agree with almost everything in this list. Active listening is so key. It is always very clear when people are not practicing active listening and are simply waiting for the chance to speak again and hear themselves talk. I've also found it helpful in preparing for interviews to write down the answers to basic questions that are bound to be asked during the interview. This helps calm my nerves and think about the best ways to sell myself during an interview.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    Thanks for your comments. @Shaday it can be true that trying to follow a script can ruin any interview. As a job seeker, we should be prepared for anything and should really know some of the basic questions that the interviewer might ask: what are your greatest strengths/weaknesses; tell me about a time when... and so on. If you feel that you are going to be too nervous to remember, jot down some notes and have them in front of you during the interview. Also take notes during the interview on any point that you may not have thought about prior or to jot down additional questions you may have that you can ask at the end. @Katharine - active listening goes a long way for sure. @Hema absolutely you can do that. Always send a thank you after the interview. Most people will send an email - nothing wrong there. But personally, I have found that a handwritten thank you note, sent to the interviewer through snail mail, means a lot more than a hurried - thanks for meeting with me today email. You certainly can send an email to ask why you did not get the job but know that you probably won't get an answer. There may not have been anything wrong with the interview or your responses, etc - just might be that someone else was better suited for the position.

  • Shaday Stewart
    Shaday Stewart

    Most interviews can't really be organic when the entire exchange is rehearsed. Both sides have scripts they are following, and while they may have conversational moments, the interviewer and the interviewee are both having internal conversations with themselves that don't match up with what's going on in the room.

    I've always found the concept of nonverbal cues to be especially troubling because the interviewer is basically scrutinizing normal human behaviors and adding unreasonable interpretations to them. It's difficult to be yourself or be conversational when you're trying to avoid any little action that might fuel the interviewer's imagination and lead to unfair assumptions about you.

  • Hema Zahid
    Hema Zahid

    If I send a follow-up email right after the interview, can I send another one asking for feedback if I end up being rejected? I think it’s important to get feedback, particularly for those interviews that did not go well. However, I’m also worried that the interviewer might get annoyed with so many emails, especially if I wasn’t chosen for the job.

  • Katharine M.
    Katharine M.

    Listening is definitely so important. I've been part of a lot of interviews where the interviewee clearly came in planning what to say, and began giving answers that only tangentially related to the question I had asked. Listening is helpful! It gives you information about the interviewer, the company, and the kind of employee they're looking for.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Kellen thanks for that. Bringing up points or reframing their question back to them really shows that you are paying attention. I know so many job seekers come into an interview expecting to just listen to the interviewer instead of really taking part in the interview. Those are the ones whose resumes hit the round file before they are out the door. An interview is a two way conversation and so many of us forget that. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Kellen P.
    Kellen P.

    Active listening is very important! As a manager, I have conducted job interviews with candidates that contribute very little to the conversation, and they are always the least impressive. I think the interview needs to feel organic! Don't think of it as an interrogation. Instead, treat it like a professional conversation. I agree that bringing up previous points in the conversation is a nice way to show that you are listening.

  • Nancy Anderson
    Nancy Anderson

    @Shannon thanks for your comment. I think this is a judgment call. For me, personally, I always wear a nice pair of dress slacks with a blouse and a sweater or jacket. Just clean and neat - regardless of what the interviewer is wearing. Always dress for the position you want, not the position you have has always been my rule of thumb. @Abbey well said. I am with you but some people are terrified when it comes to the interview and rehearsing it ahead of time seems to help them. Of course we never know what questions we are going to be asked, either, so yes - just come prepared with your information - your resume, cover letter, references, etc. and just answer the questions honestly. Thanks again for your comments.

  • Abbey Boyd
    Abbey Boyd

    I agree that being prepared is extremely important, but I have always felt that rehearsing an interview can go wrong. When you are sitting in an interview, you don't want to sound rehearsed, like everything you are saying was planned out. Yes, you want to appear prepared and ready, but not so much that you risk sounding fake. I think it's okay to have an idea of some of the questions that might be asked, and how you might answer some of those questions. Come prepared with some general ideas of what you may say, but never come with a script. Let the interviewer know that you are actually putting thought into your answers and not just using someone else's.

  • Shannon Philpott
    Shannon Philpott

    The formality of dress has always been tricky for me. I once wore a dress suit and the interviewer was wearing jeans. To be honest, I felt way overdressed. The article mentions contacting the company about the dress code. How would you recommend approaching this? Should we ask for someone in Human Resources or the contact person for the interview?

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