Successful interviews don't just happen. Learning interviewing skills and being prepared will help you make a winning impression and get the job you want. Here are 7 steps to a successful interview:
- Research the Company
- Match Skills with the Job Description
- Prepare & Practice Your Responses
- Plan What to Wear
- Plan What to Bring
- Non-Verbal Communication
- The Close & Follow-Up
1. Research the Company
Find out as much as possible about the company, be prepared to respond to interview questions, and be ready to ask the interviewer(s) questions about the job and company. This can help you stand out from other candidates.
- Research the company to gather info about the background, mission, culture, services & products.
- Read the company’s recent press releases for insight into projected growth and stability.
- Review trade/business publications. Seek perspective and a glimpse into their industry standing.
- Visit the organization’s website and use online tools like Firsthand or The Muse.
- Use Glassdoor and LinkedIn to find employees and hear what they say about the company.
- Research and develop questions about the job and organization to ask at the end of the interview.
2. Match Skills with the Job Description
Analyze the job description to identify the skills the company is seeking. Compare and match your skills to the job description and practice formulating interview responses that showcase how you are a great fit.
- What education, knowledge, skills, abilities, and strengths are desired on the job description?
- Compare your qualifications to the job description and be prepared to connect the dots. Which skills do you have? Where does the position fit within the organization?
3. Prepare & Practice Your Responses
While you can’t predict the interview questions, you can prepare and practice relevant responses that showcase your skills, knowledge, and abilities. Here are tips to help you prepare answers to commonly asked questions:
Behavioral questions can be difficult, but you won't be as nervous if you prepare and practice relevant STAR stories that showcase how you handled specific situations and challenges. Use the STAR Method to master the art of interviewing with storytelling.
Situation: Provide context and background information. Where, What, When?
Task: Describe expectations. What needed to be done and why?
Action: What did you do? How did you do it? What tools did you use?
Result: Explain the positive results, how you resolved the problem/improved processes.
- Learned | You can also share what you learned and would do differently in the future.
- STAR Method Example | video example of dealing with a difficult coworker.
- STAR Method Explained | behavioral questions and response preparation.
- STAR Method Post-It | draft your 4-6 stories (one per post-it) then practice out loud.
- StandOut | practice/improve your interviewing skills 24/7 (use FPU login credentials).
Sample Interview Questions & Answers
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why are you interested in this job?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your greatest weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
- Why should we hire you?
Additional Questions & Answers Resources
- Top 50 Questions & Answers | common behavioral, education, and salary questions & answers.
- Glassdoor Interview Guide | tips to prepare for the various interview stages.
- Philosophy Statement | interview preparation for Teaching, Counseling, or Education.
4. Plan What to Wear
Your appearance will be evaluated in an interview. Here are a few tips to give that great first impression:
- Wear conservative business attire such as a neutral-colored suit & professional shoes.
- Err formal. If instructed to dress “business casual,” use good judgment. Try to dress one level higher than the best-dressed person at that company.
- Dress to impress. Have an overall neat and clean appearance.
- Fingernails should be neat and trimmed.
- Make sure to have no visible body piercings or tattoos.
- Use minimal fragrance, empty your pockets & ensure your shoes are clean and polished.
- Wear a suit with a jacket or a professional dress with a blazer
- Conservative hosiery (no designs)
- One pair of earrings
- Shoes with conservative heels
- Use makeup sparingly (keep it natural)
- If you have long hair, ensure it is neatly styled or pulled back
- Wear a suit with a jacket, long-sleeved dress shirt & tie
- Wear dark shoes
- Make sure to be clean shaven
- Do not wear rings aside from a wedding or class ring
Additional Interview Attire Resources
- FPU’s Career Closet | offers free gently used interview & business casual attire. Shop 8am - 5pm, Monday - Friday, in Campus Life (Main Campus, Steinert Campus Center).
- Dress for Success | market yourself with a professional image.
5. Plan What to Bring
Knowing what to bring to your interview is important. Bring a padfolio with the following to share with the interviewer:
- Extra resume copies (high-quality paper)
- Notepad and pen
- A References Page
- A list of questions to ask the interviewer
- If you are a graphic artist or in marketing bring samples of your work
6. Non-Verbal Communication
Your interview starts when you enter the company’s building. Pay attention to your non-verbal communication, as this speaks volumes. Be polite and greet everyone. Your behaviors may be reported to the interviewer.
In the Waiting Room
- Turn off your cell phone
- Project confidence, smile, establish eye contact & use a firm handshake to introduce yourself
- Posture counts; sit up straight yet comfortably
- Be aware of any nervous gestures such as foot tapping or fidgeting
- Do not cross your arms
During the Interview
- Facial expressions give clues to feelings; manage reactions and project a positive image
- Try to relax and be confident
- Be honest and authentic
- Show attentiveness and maintain good eye contact (don’t stare)
- Listen carefully and ask for clarification when needed
- Consider your answers before speaking and address all aspects of each question
- Use a strong voice to project confidence and don’t say anything negative
- Use good grammar, not slang
7. The Close & Follow-Up
Toward the end, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. Not asking questions may make you seem unprepared or uninterested. This is your chance to show your interest, ask your researched-prepared questions, and assess if it’s a good match for you.
Sample Questions to Ask
- In your opinion, what makes this organization a great place to work?
- What are the challenges a person might face in this position?
- What are the most important criteria for success in this position?
- Can you tell me about the organization's culture?
- What do you most enjoy about working for this organization?
- Can you tell me your approach to (something you read about in your research)?
- About salary or benefits
- What is already on the website
- About time off for vacation
- About your work schedule
Closing the Interview
At the end, thank the interviewer(s) for their time and consideration. Ask for their business card(s). If you are sincerely interested in the position, tell them so and share the added value you can bring:
“From what you have been telling me about this position and what I already know about your company, I know that I have the right mix of experience [be specific] and education to bring value to this position. Based on these past experiences, I can quickly get on board with projects within the first few weeks."
Follow up the job interview with a thank you email within 24 hours to each interviewer to reiterate your interest in the job, your qualifications, and how you will contribute to the role. Also, send a handwritten thank you note (it will arrive a few days after to keep you fresh in their minds).