IT Employment

Five tips for acing a job interview

When the time comes to hit the interview trail, your preparation, attitude, and presence all count. Jack Wallen offers some proven tips for making your interviews a success.

Whether you are fresh out of school or trying to restructure your career, the job interview is one area you must learn to nail. Without a solid interview, you'll be lucky to get a second look from any company. Here are five quick-hitter interviewing tips that will help you be one step ahead of your competition.

1: Know as much about the company as you can

The last thing an interviewer wants to see is a job candidate who hasn't taken the time to research the company. Why should they bother getting to know you (and hiring you) if you haven't done your homework? Know what the company does, know the company's history, know a bit of trivia about the company, know its mission statement, and know something about the person interviewing you. With this knowledge in hand, the interviewer will recognize, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you mean business.

2: Dress for success

This should be a no-brainer, but I'm always surprised when I hear about people say they're going in for an interview and don't know how to dress. "Should I go casual or dressy?" You should dress like you respect the company interviewing you, like you respect yourself, and like you're serious about your job hunt. You should certainly have good hygiene. Most of those reading this article are going to be interviewing for IT, IT-related, or business-related positions. That dictates a decorum that applies to attire as much as it applies to attitude.

3: Bring a resume

Yes, you have already sent in your resume. And yes, they may have already looked at it. That doesn't necessarily mean that interviewer has brought a copy to the interview, especially if you're having the interview offsite. Always be over-prepared and bring a copy of that resume (and even your cover letter, for good measure). And don't wait to see if your interviewer says, "I forgot to bring a copy of your resume." After you introduce yourself, be proactive and hand your copy over. It will show the interviewer you are serious and well prepared.

4: Be positive

No one likes a person who is, by default, negative. This applies not only to how you approach the interview overall, but to how you refer to former employers as well. If you are willing to cut down your former employers, you are going to be willing to cut down your current employer. Interviewers know that a negative attitude can be like a plague within a company. Be positive. If the interviewer asks why you left your former employer, always put a positive spin on the reason. Instead of saying, "There was no room for growth in the company," spin it like this: "I felt as if my skills could be more effectively used in positions that either didn't exist or were unavailable."

5: Stay relaxed

Throughout my years of being interviewed, one thing that has always ensured the best possible interview has been relaxation. If you're nervous, tense, or uptight, it's going to be obvious to your interviewer. You will sweat, you will shake, you will stutter, you will have trouble answering the barrage of questions thrown at you. One trick I use to try to avoid this is to occupy my brain before the interview with a different task. This could mean reading a book, playing a game -- anything to get my mind off the upcoming interview. Try doing this right before the interview. Arrive early and sit in the waiting area with your book. Read and relax. You could read a book, the paper, anything to keep your mind occupied. Such activity will help keep your nervousness at bay, so your interviewer will see you as a calm, collected prospect.

Other tips?

These tips have helped me over the years -- and I have aced plenty of interviews. Do you have any interview tips that have given you the edge over your competition? If so, share them with your fellow TechRepublic readers.

About

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.

27 comments
amoghnatu
amoghnatu

In the "Be Positive" section, you have mentioned that 

"Instead of saying, "There was no room for growth in the company,".................

But what if someone has a situation where he/she is quitting the job before completing a year in the organization for the exact same reason that there was really no growth in the company, then in that case, is it wrong to say the same; of course with a positive tinge, something like, "I didnot see myself contributing to the organization and also increasing my skills. So I'm afraid I might not remain marketable in the long run........"


Would saying something like that cause a bad impression in the interviewer's mind about the candidate?

masud561
masud561

Ugh, a job interview is the worst. I never know how to prepare and what questions they are going to ask. Resume-Help.org has a great outline of the most common job interview tips and how to best answer the tough questions. [url=http://www.resume-help.org/interview_tips.htm]See more[/url]

lolfml
lolfml

regarding #4: isn't it about time that interviewers grow up and realize that I'm not there to blow sunshine up their butts about the train wreck of an employer that I'm trying to escape from? If you can't handle the honesty, maybe I don't want to work for YOU either.

davidmartinomalley
davidmartinomalley

Nothing is more frustrating than asking a candidate "do you have any questions for me?" and getting a "no" or "not at this time". You MUST have questions. Anything! And if you've done your homework on the company, you could at least ask about how the business operation works, areas of growth, etc, etc.

JamesRL
JamesRL

BE ON TIME. First impressions count. I interviewed someone last week who was 50 minutes late. My office location is 2 minutes from a major highway exit. The interview was early afternoon, so traffic should not have been an issue. If you can't make it on time to an "important meeting" can we expect you to be on time on a regular basis? Best advise on the subject is to visit the place before hand so you know where it is and how to get there.

RodNichols5
RodNichols5

Jack, the best advice I ever got was to ask for the job. I found when I was in the interview and I liked what I saw I would tell the interviewer that I wanted the job. This has worked I believe most every time. Also, if one of the people interviewing me is the person I will be working for and I felt good about everything, I would tell them "I would like to work for you", or something similar. Of course I wouldn't say that if there were bad vibes or we didn't hit it off, I was always honest. But this goes along with finding out about the company and making sure this is a place you would like to work. If they are interviewing several prospects and you tell them you like what you see and you want the job and you are eager to work there, I think you would definitely be considered for the job, providing you have the qualifications they are looking for.

richard.tatschner
richard.tatschner

Always remember that the interview is a two way process. Yes, you want a job, but it is often more constructive and stress reducing if you approach the interview with the view of assessing if the job and company are suited to your talent set. Of course arrogance won't go down well either, but there is a balance.

four49
four49

Blah. These same tips have been in EVERY interviewing article since the beginning of time. Nothing but old recycled cliches (dress for success, are you kidding?) Really lazy reporting on behalf of somebody here.

fstallin
fstallin

It never hurts to research your interviewer as well. Many managers, Directors, and VPs can be found on LinkedIn as well as some cursory details about their professional career, including their education credentials. If you have some common ground with the interviewer, he/she may be equally impressed with the depth of your research into their profile.

Audiblenod
Audiblenod

Don't pause with "umm" or worse guess at the answer to a question. Practice your interview with someone else beforehand. Take time before you respond to structure your answer so that it makes sense and doesn't seem like you're searching for the answer. Be frank and open if you do not know what the interviewer is talking about. Wait for the interviewer to finish asking a question before answering it. I know I lost at least one job opportunity for stepping on the interviewer's question. Additionally, I try to add a dollar figure to tasks I mention in my resume. Try the same thing, this shows you're concerned about the bottom line of the company. Don't fudge the number though. Lastly, ask to take notes during the interview. Highlight key terms about the industry and company, take down names of key people mentioned. Once the interview is over send a 'thank you' letter to the lead interviewer going over topics and reinforce the idea you're the person for the job.

JamesRL
JamesRL

Hey we interviewers know there was a reason you left. But if you are bitter at your previous employer, and haven't decided to move forward, it may impact your job performance, especially when you realize the grass isn't always greener at the new place. The last person you want to hire is the one who spends more energy complaining than working. Its not a game. We expect you are ging to be showing us your best in an interview. Whining about your previous employer is not attractive.

Slayer_
Slayer_

You have to play the game, there is no alternative.

yechuri
yechuri

by so and so minutes/hours.. many interviewers would appreciate that.

IT Security Guy
IT Security Guy

Along with knowing the company and the interviewer, I would have questions ready to ask about the company, the job and even the interviewer like: - how long have you been with the company/this position - what brought you to move to this position - what are your expectations for the hiree for the first 30-60-90 days on the job - what is the most pressing issue that you would like the hiree to work on - what are you looking for in your ideal candidate?

JamesRL
JamesRL

I once came second out of 500 applicants for a government position. I did call the interviewer and ask her for some insight. She said I was confident, but I needed to sell myself more. Confidence is good but you have to find the right line. You don't want to come across as arrogant. You do want to send the signal that you think this is a good job for you, and you'd be happy and excited to work there. Of course you shouldn't do that unless its true. Insincerity does come across sometimes.

itzumang
itzumang

What you said Richie is the most important aspect which most fail to look @ :) They just end up cussing the interviewer on how arrogant he was & blah blah, also end up bad mouthing about him

OH Smeg
OH Smeg

From my prospective of being the Interviewer rather than the Interviewee I can not remember just how many people show up without following any of the above. [b]1 Know as much about the company as you can[/b] Many of the people who get ruled out immediately don't know anything about the company that they are applying for a job at they just casually look at the Employment section of a Newspaper or whatever and then apply. [b]2 Dress for success[/b] They don't come to the interview clean & tidy, so many look as if they are living on the street and have graced you with their presence on the way to the nearest pub. I've even been told on numerous occasions by these people that I shouldn't look at the appearance. Yea Right. :D [b]3 Bring a resume[/b] Many of the people that I used to see didn't so much as bring the absolute minimum and quite often I was convinced that they didn't bother bringing their mind along for the ride. [b]4 Be positive[/b] Again if you heard the stated reasons why they left their previous employer that I've been given over the years it leaves a cold feeling in your Guts and your first thought is I don't need this person here. [b]5 Stay relaxed[/b] While not as common you don't want to be too relaxed either you need to strike a balance between being wound so tight that you make the person doing the interview believe that you are going to jump the desk or whatever and strangle them, to at the other extreme being so laid back that you don't seem to be involved. Are the above [b]Common Sense?[/b] I sure as hell would have thought so but it's been my experience that not many have even the most basic idea on how to present themselves that this has to be constantly [b]POUNDED[/b] into them. Col

SirWizard
SirWizard

Try rephrasing the question that the interviewer asked you. This helps in two ways: 1. The interviewer knows what you're answering, if you misinterpreted the question or the interviewer posed an unclear question. You save face for misunderstandings, or you save face for the interviewer who asks sloppy questions. 2. You can shift ground, and answer something positive when you get a question that you really don't want to answer.

minstrelmike
minstrelmike

Most folks think "sell yourself" means gab like a salesman but I have found on both job interviews and dates that if I can get the other person talking about himself or herself, I win. They think I'm real smart because they only have to listen to themselves.

Slayer_
Slayer_

Don't ask why someone left if you don't want the whiny answer (which is probably the truthful answer). That's why I say it's a game, your expected to lie about why you are leaving, or spin it in a good way. It's almost more of a test by the interviewer to see if you can spin a negative to a positive or lie well.

JamesRL
JamesRL

I work for a multi billion dollar worldwide Fortune 500 company. A quick google will bring up tons of information about who we are what we do, what challenges our industry faces etc. When I interviewed here, I found a great presentation on the products we sell. Its still there. Five minutes is all it would take, but some people don't make that effort. Be Positive - I have eliminated candidates simply because they trashed talked their previous employer or manager. If they seem fixated or focussed on a negative experience in the past, you have to think they might carry over that negativity to your workplace. Thats why most employment counsellors will advise job seekers to not interview until they are really truly "over" their last job, and ready to look forward, not back. Common sense isn't so common as some people think.

Justin James
Justin James

I've interviewed a zillion people too, and there is a certain subgroup of folks who are just out to lunch on the ideas that I thought were common sense. That being said, having seen so many people bungle this time and time again, I am now rather pessimistic that another article explaining these kinds of "pull your zipper up before you leave the bathroom" tips will make a difference. :( J.Ja

JamesRL
JamesRL

Its good to get the interviewer engaged and talking, but in the end, many jobs require you to be talkative, and if you can't manage that, then you don't get the job.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

I always remember one of my bosses asking me why I came to work. I said for the money He said that wasn't good enough I said for the money to support my family He said that wasn't good enough either. I said, best start looking for a replacement then... That was in my young and foolish days, of course. I've had a great deal of practice lying my arse off since then. It's expected of us. Hurts their feelings if you don't.

Slayer_
Slayer_

It's a question to ask you to lie. It's just like "the money is not important" thing, that's completely BS.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

was why don't you ask your last boyfriend he's going out with her now. You want a laugh, ask a potential employer, what happened to the person you are replacing. On a more serious note, there is a reasonable dimension to the question. Are you good enough at communicating to tell the person on the other side of the desk what they want to hear and what you want them to hear. Note a very different thing from the truth. The question is begging for a lie, it's then a question of how well you do that.

JamesRL
JamesRL

If you are on a first date with an attractive person that you'd like to persue, and she asks you what happened to your last relationship, she doesn't want to know about your psychotic ex, she wants to know that you are over any issues you had with your ex, and you are ready to move on to a new relationship. If you are still pissed with your ex, you aren't going to be focussed on the new relationship.....