Calling all go-getters! We understand that the interview process can be daunting. From networking in hopes of getting your foot in the door to preparing for questions that may come your way, there’s a lot on your plate as you try to secure the new role.
In this guidebook, you’ll find advice and actionable strategies to guide you through each phase of your interview process. The InterviewFocus Prep to Post-Interview Guide is here to help.
Table of Contents
Pre-Interview Tips and Tricks
Don’t underestimate the power of personal connections. While the term networking may be a buzzword these days, forming mutually beneficial professional relationships with others is at the heart of the practice. Here are twelve ways to get started.
- Get in touch with friends who can connect you to opportunities.
- Reach out to family members.
- Network with colleagues in and outside of your department.
- Become a LinkedIn Expert (join a group you are interested in).
- Join a professional organization.
- Volunteer in your community.
- Work the crowd at relevant meetups.
- Publish creative content in your desired field.
- Do a favor for someone that could help you down the line.
- Set a goal to meet someone new each week.
- Use InMail on LinkedIn to connect with someone in your preferred industry or position.
- Schedule a follow-up outreach with contacts to update them with your job progress and repeat your request for assistance.
Setting Up for a Video Interview
As the number of companies utilizing video interviews continues to rise, you’ll likely have at least one interview in this format. To make the best impression, follow these interview tips and tricks as you set up your space.
- Find a flattering and reliable light source. Setting up the correct lighting for your video interview will make a world of difference. Face a brightly lit window, or place one lamp on each side of your computer screen.
- Check the sound level. Experiment with your distance from the mic to see how the quality is better or worse and where it is ideal
- Test your computer’s webcam. Ensure that the camera quality is clear before heading into the meeting room. Also, make sure your internet connection is fast and stable.
- Properly frame yourself. Frame your face at the center by bringing your camera eye level to simulate direct eye contact.
- Use neutral background. Interviewers can easily be distracted by what is happening behind you, and the focus should always be on you (not the titles of the books on your bookstand).
- Dress professionally and avoid bright colors. You are best set up for success when you get ready, as if you are going to an in-person interview.
- Clear your desktop. Create a temporary folder and drag everything from your screen into that folder.
- Have a pen and notepad nearby on your desk. Take notes when appropriate to show the interviewer your high level of interest in the position.
- Engage with optimal eye contact. Always look at your webcam when you are speaking, and look at your screen when the interviewer is talking.
- Place your phone in silent mode. The last thing you want during your virtual interview is an interruption caused by your cell phone ringing!
If you’re experiencing trepidation about the interview, you’re not alone. In fact, a whopping 92% of job seekers report that at least one element of interviews causes them stress. With limited time to prepare, nerves can soar.
Fortunately, calming your nerves does not have to be a lengthy process. These quick tips are easy to remember and will help you put your best foot forward.
1. Practice interviewing aloud.
8. Eliminate the unknown.
Minimizing Interview Errors
We asked interviewers what factors contribute to a negative impression of a candidate. The list below showcases their responses. If you want to get on the interviewer’s good side, then avoid doing the following:
1. Have a general appearance that is less than professional.
8. Be evasive (making excuses for unfavorable factors in work history).
Making a Great First Impression
First impressions matter. Your clothing, punctuality, and facial expressions are just some of the many tools available to you when impressing the interviewer. Keep these first impression interview tips and tricks in mind so that you can present the best version of yourself on the big day.
- Take a practice drive if it’s in person. The day before the interview, take a practice drive to the interview location to know where to park and the correct building.
- Give yourself a time cushion. Arrive about 10 minutes early, and never arrive late if you can help it.
- Be kind to everyone. Make small talk with the receptionist. You never know what influence he or she has.
- Remember nonverbal communication. Your words are not the only thing that the interviewer will pay attention to. Use positive body language and smile.
- Minimize distractions. Switch off your cell phone once you leave your car.
- Look sharp. Dress well for your interview to boost confidence and exude professionalism. Buy a new shirt or blouse and make sure you look your best.
- Don’t forget to shake their hand. Start the interview with a firm handshake; give a nice firm press and then up and down movement. No exceptions.
- Be warm and open. Smile at the beginning of and throughout the interview.
- Be polite and patient. Always let the interviewer finish speaking before giving your response.
- End on a high note. Shake hands again at the end of the interview and thank the interviewer for their time and consideration.
- Send a thank-you letter within 24 hours of the interview. A good idea is to bring thank you cards and stamps with you. After the interview, drive to a café and write thank you notes while fresh in your mind. Immediately drop them in a postal box.
Interview Tips and Tricks
You’ve done the initial work and landed an interview. The next step is to make it clear to the hiring manager that you are the best candidate for the role. Take a deep breath and heed the words of wisdom below.
Performing Well During an Interview
Want to nail your next interview and land that job you’ve been seeking? These are 10 interview tips and tricks to help you prepare. Whether it is your very first job interview or another in a long list of them, following these guidelines enhances your chances of success.
- Research the company and your interviewer. It’s essential you thoroughly look over the company’s website, recent press releases, and blog/social media postings, as well as the interviewer’s LinkedIn profile, to gather as much pertinent information you can.
- Have your stories ready. Be prepared to go into every interview with 4-5 professional and personal stories in mind, which all speak to the reasons you’re the best fit for this position.
- Prepare for common industry-specific questions. Select a list online of anticipated questions and then prepare your appropriate answers.
- Have 3-4 questions to ask your interviewer. These questions should demonstrate both your knowledge of the company as well as your serious interest.
- Practice. Practice. Practice. Rehearsing your answers in your mind doesn’t work. Practice speaking your responses out loud to be interview proficient.
- Score a success in the first 2 minutes. Approximately 33% of recruiters know whether they’ll hire someone within the first 90-120 seconds of the interview. Start off with high energy and enthusiasm so you can nail the “tell me about yourself” initial question.
- Make your stories and key selling points clear. It’s your responsibility to ensure the interviewer walks away knowing your best attributes and why you are an excellent fit for the position.
- Pay attention to nonverbal communication. Have the right body language. Make good eye contact, stay engaged, be excited and enthusiastic, and speak clearly to stand out from the crowd of other applicants.
- Be ready for behavioral interview questions. Use the S-T-A-R (Situation-Task-Action-Result) method to answer the ‘tell me about a time when you’ questions.
- Make sure to send thank you notes. Whether you send the thank you notes by email or via US mail, the notes should be sent the same day as the interview.
Acing a Phone Interview
For many, a phone interview is less intimidating than a video or in-person format. But this does not mean you can glide through. Mastering the phone interview takes some good old-fashioned preparation. Read on so you can rock the over-the-phone conversation.
- Choose a quiet space. Find a quiet space where you’ll be able to hear the interviewer loud and clear and avoid places like the outdoors, your car, or any other noisy area.
- Eliminate distractions. Turn off notifications on your cell phone if you’re using it, so you’re not dinged with unnecessary social media and text message sounds.
- Outline your talking points. A benefit to doing a phone interview over a video or in-person interview is that you can easily have notes in front of you, such as a 30-second elevator speech explaining why you’d be a good fit for the position.
- Consider what you wear. Dress in a way that will make you feel your best, even if your interviewer won’t see what you look like.
- Test your tech. Before an interview, check your internet connection, if needed, to make sure it’s fast and reliable.
- Properly prepare. While you can’t anticipate every question that will come your way, you can utilize a list of questions that you’ll likely be asked. Practice answering these common interview questions to get comfortable.
- Smile. The power of the smile can do wonders in an interview. Make no mistake about it — the sound of a smile comes through in your voice, even over the phone!
- Don’t interrupt the interviewer. You should give more time than you would normally after an interviewer is speaking to ensure they’ve finished talking.
- Ask questions. Have a list of 3-4 pertinent questions written down next to you that cannot be answered simply by researching the company’s website.
- Follow up. Send a thank-you email to the interviewer the same day as the interview — bonus points are given for a mailed-in thank you letter.
Acing a Video Interview
We covered how to set up for a video interview earlier. So let’s turn our attention to the main event. Here are some dos and don’ts to follow for a stellar video interview.
- Start with a digital handshake. When you first meet your interviewer on screen, do these four things: look right into the webcam for instant eye contact, give a head nod (like you’re saying ‘yes’), add a natural smile, and then say, “Hi. It’s nice to meet you [name of interviewer].”
- Maintain good posture. Never slouch — it makes you look lazy, incompetent, and less engaged.
- Um, don’t use filler words. Try to refrain from using ‘like,’ ‘so,’ or ‘you know’ as they hurt your credibility during a job interview.
- Smile appropriately. The goal should be to smile at least once during each response. The smile relays your trustworthiness and enthusiasm to the interviewer.
- Slow down your speaking rate. When you are initially nervous in an interview (which is quite common), try slowing down your rate of speech so the interviewer(s) can easily understand you.
- Always look into the webcam when talking and look at the screen when listening. If you do this consistently, you build trust with the interviewer and show genuine interest in the position.
- Don’t fidget since it shows a lack of preparation. Your body language is vital in the success of an interview. Try not to tap your foot, play with your hair, check your phone, or cross your arms during the interview.
- Use a positive tone of voice. This is essential as this shows confidence. Whatever the content of the things you say, your tone communicates what you’re feeling when you say the words.
Avoiding Common Interview Mistakes
We all know that the words we use in an interview carry a lot of weight. But don’t forget that your nonverbal communication is impactful as well. These 12 body language blunders can make you look bad during a job interview.
- Exaggerated gestures. Over-the-top motions are off-putting, can make you look arrogant, and do not communicate confidence.
- Crossed arms. This can signal defensiveness and resistance. It also demonstrates insecurity and a lack of confidence. To top it off, crossed arms make you look impatient and emotionally detached from the conversation.
- Inconsistency. When your tone doesn’t match your facial expression, the answer does not translate well to the interviewer.
- Turning yourself away from others. This will make you look inattentive, which is never a good message during an interview.
- Slouching. This hunched position makes you look lazy, tired, unenergetic, and disinterested. Conversely, sitting tall in the chair will make you look more confident and attentive.
- Avoiding eye contact. This blunder portrays a lack of confidence, certainty, or truthfulness. It makes you look untrustworthy. Be sure to keep eye contact levels in mind when speaking and listening to the interviewer.
- Watching the clock. Resist the urge to check the clock during an interview. It implies you have more important things to do!
- Exaggerated nodding. You do want to look attentive. But too much nodding undermines your focus and can leave you looking like a bobble-head doll. It is good to mirror the interviewer’s mannerisms, but you should not mirror them to excess.
- Weak handshake. This signals a real lack of confidence.
- Fidgeting. This common mistake communicates nervousness and powerlessness. You come across as underprepared, anxious, and dishonest.
- Getting too close to the interviewer. Respect boundaries and avoid invading the other person’s space.
- Frowning. A sour face leaves your interviewer uncomfortable and nervous around you. When in doubt, smile!
Post Interview Tips and Tricks
With the interview in the rearview mirror, you can breathe a sigh of relief. You got through it! Now, keep the energy high by following the post-interview advice below.
Negotiating a Salary
Salary negotiations are tricky conversations. For many people, talking about money is uncomfortable. It can feel impolite to ask for more money than what you’re offered or bring up the issue of pay before the company does. You might be afraid that an employer will withdraw their offer altogether if you dare try to negotiate. But you’ll never get paid more if you don’t ask for it.
Here are eight do’s and don’ts to help you tactfully and confidently negotiate the starting salary for your next job:
- Don’t fail to ask. If you’d like to get a better starting salary offer, you have to ask for it. Many companies set positions’ starting salaries as a range, with a 5 or 10 percent variance. All it takes to find out if there is wiggle room in the budget is a simple question: “Can you do any better?”
- Do get familiar with industry salary trends. You may think you deserve a higher starting salary in your new position. But what do the national and local job markets say? To enter a negotiation fully informed, research online and ask peers in the industry so you can determine the going rate for your position and experience.
- Don’t negotiate too early (or too late). Asking about a job’s salary in an initial interview is typically too early. And trying to negotiate a salary after you’ve signed the contracts and agreed on a starting date is definitely too late. The best time to talk about salary is when a verbal offer has been made or they have clearly expressed that you are the #1 pick.
- Do give a specific ideal salary. After doing your research, you should know your baseline salary — the number under which you’d be willing to walk away from a company. Being willing to state a specific number or range will help you and the potential employer figure out if you’re on the same page and if it makes sense to continue the interview.
- Don’t make it only about you. Salary negotiations are a two-way street. When talking about your capabilities and career, frame your request for higher compensation in away that conveys what the employer will gain in return. Also, give concrete examples of how your skills will benefit your new company.
- Do be honest. Successful salary negotiations depend on honesty from both parties. Skip the bluffing, and be honest about your needs and expectations, just like you were candid with your interview answers. If your past salaries don’t reflect your worth on the market, be able to explain why you deserve to be paid more now.
- Don’t overlook the benefits. Salary negotiations often include some give-and-take on benefits. It may be less costly for the employer to give ground on extra vacation, flexible hours or a work-from-home schedule. Consider what’s valuable to you and what would make an offer more attractive to you and your lifestyle.
- Do know when to wrap it up. If the employer has made a reasonable offer, consider accepting it as is. A reasonable employer won’t withdraw an offer just because you tried to negotiate. But dragging out the salary negotiation can frustrate the hiring manager. If the company can’t meet your requirements after a few discussions, respectfully withdraw your application.
Meet the Versatile Tool Your Job Hunt Needs – InterviewFocus
As you can see, there are many moving parts at play when it comes to interviewing for your dream role. The good news is that you have a professional development powerhouse ready to help you navigate the process’s challenges and triumphs.
InterviewFocus helps everyday job seekers land the roles they’re after with confidence. Our easy-to-use platform equips you with the feedback and coaching you need to crush the upcoming interview. From our filler word counter to our eye contact analysis tool, InterviewFocus goes far beyond the typical mock interview.