How to Master Your Next Job Interview

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Two people in business suits shake hands.

At times, job hunting can seem like a never-ending endeavor. Sending resumes and carefully constructed cover letters to hiring managers with little feedback can become frustrating and tedious.

But when you finally hear back from a company and schedule an interview, you know all that hard work is about to pay off. All you need to do is ace the interview. Even though you impressed the company with your qualifications and on-paper skills, it’s important that you take some extra time to prepare for your interview.

Research the company

When you walk into an interview, remember, you’re not the only one who needs to carefully navigate the conversation ahead. Hiring managers know they have a big decision on their hands when hiring a new employee, and they know it’s crucial they choose the candidate that’s best for the company, Entrepreneur pointed out.

Additionally, today’s ever-more competitive business landscape means that hiring managers must know how to add value to a company through the people it hires. This is not always calculated on training costs or days to hire anymore, Mark Huselid, a Northeastern University’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business professor of workforce analytics and director of the Center for Workforce Analytics, told the Society for Human Resource Management.

“The things that helped us win before won’t necessarily help us win in the future,” Huselid explained. “There’s hope. There’s opportunity. But there’s also a lot that needs to be done.”

To prove yourself in this highly competitive business landscape, you need to be prepared to demonstrate that you truly will bring value to the role. To show that you’re prepared to take on the position, bring as much knowledge about the company as possible. That doesn’t just mean knowing who founded it and when. It also means knowing the industry, who the competitors are and identifying areas where you can benefit the company.

Come with examples

The best way to prove that you are capable of doing the job, and doing it well, is by showing that you’ve handled similar situations before. Come with examples of your successful projects and campaigns, Rob LeFever, senior manager of university leadership programs at Avaya, a New Jersey-based company that sells enterprise telephony systems, told job board website Monster. Simply stating that you did something—led a project in your Online MBA program or initiated a campaign—isn’t enough. You must show that you were successful through measurable results.

Past examples are important, but aren’t the only building blocks you’ll need to bring. It’s also a good idea to show what you have planned for when you take on the position. Explain clearly what you hope to accomplish, how and in what time frame. Come with a detailed plan that maps out how you will approach the role.

Be prepared for surprising questions

You can expect your interviewer to ask certain standard questions like, “What interests you about this position?” or “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” Reviewing answers prior to heading to your interview is a good practice, but don’t count on being able to predict every question you’ll be asked.

Hiring managers want to find a candidate who can think on the fly, Business News Daily pointed out. As such, more companies are employing alternative interview techniques.

“Behavioral interviewing is a pretty common technique among hiring managers,” Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., told Business News Daily. “That means fewer questions involving recitation of your accomplishments and more about how you produced a particular result and what you learned from that experience. Prepare yourself by reflecting on your key accomplishments and … what you learned from each.”

Check your body language

As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words. It’s true that you need to know the right way to convey your interest in the company and your qualifications for the job, it’s also important to make sure that your body language is expressing the same message.

Interviewers keep an eye out for nervous habits, tics and tells that might indicate anxiousness or worse—lies. While you wouldn’t go into an interview with the intent to deceive, a hiring manager will be quick to notice signs that you could be telling a fib.

Before you head to your interview, be sure you know what your bad body language habits are, and practice toning them down. According to Business Insider, some common examples include:

Sitting stiffly—You don’t want to be fidgety during your interview, as it can look unprofessional and be distracting. But tipping the scale too far in the opposite direction isn’t good, either. Overly stiff people make others uncomfortable. Loosen up a bit before walking in, and remember to relax during your conversation. Show the hiring manager that you’re someone he or she can have a conversation with.
Putting up blockades—You need to show the interviewer that you’re open: open to new ideas, conversations and challenges. While you might not be intentionally sending a closed-off signal, certain actions will come across as an unwillingness to connect with others. Placing objects between you and your interviewer, like a purse, folder or menu, puts forth the message that you’re closed off—almost like you’re hiding. The same goes for touching your chest, face or shoulders; covering your mouth; or crossing your arms. Keep yourself open so you look comfortable and welcoming.
Biting—Whether you’re biting your nails, your lip or your inner cheek, stop. Habitual biting is a telltale sign of nervousness, and you want to exude confidence in your interview. Plus, all this chewing will leave you with jagged fingernails and chapped lips.

Say thank you

Sending a thank you email immediately after your meeting is a good practice. Sending it from your smartphone in the parking lot doesn’t seem too eager; it seems prepared.

When sending a follow-up email, be sure to make it unique. You should have picked up on specific qualities or experiences the company is looking for during the interview, so go ahead and highlight those factors.

“Give them something that will remind them why you’d be successful in meeting those objectives—especially if you’ve given it more thought and have a new thought, idea, perspective or solution,” Maroney advised.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of handwritten notes. In addition to your email follow-up, a handwritten thank-you card can really distinguish you from the crowd.

Remember, you probably aren’t the only professional the managers will speak to. And your education and experience may not be all that different from that of your competitors. The best way to stand out is through your personality and unique characteristics you’ll bring to the position.

Recommended Readings:
International New Venture: Israel, The Start-Up Nation
Redefine Your Future with Our Online MBA


Northeastern University’s Online MBA Program