Seven tips for job interviews: How to get your dream job

You might think that a good education will guarantee you a good job. After all, recently graduated students have youth, energy, and an impressive education – why would someone like that have trouble finding a job? 

The answer can be a dismally practical one. All too often, students don’t conduct successful interviews. In between a lack of confidence and not following the unwritten rules, students are often passed over. And that’s even if they land the job interview in the first place. (Check out a graduate resume example for help.)

Interviewing can be difficult, and there’s no one-size-fits-all advice to guarantee you’ll get the job. How your interview goes can depend on elements you can’t control, such as your interviewer. You’re going to be nervous, and that can lead to an unfavorable impression during an interview.

There are also lots of unspoken rules when it comes to a successful interview. Unfortunately, many students either don’t know about these rules or don’t realize how important they are. Interviewing is hard and nerve-wracking, and there’s no point in pretending otherwise. However, being prepared and knowing what to expect is the key to conducting a good interview. 

So, let’s discuss seven tips that could make the difference between a good interview and a disastrous one.

Seven tips for a successful interview

First of all, a successful interview doesn’t necessarily mean an interview where you get the job. Of course, that’s the whole point of the interview – you hope to hope to get the job. However, leaving a good impression (and your resume, of course!) with an interviewer could lead to them contacting you later on about a different job. 

Whether or not you get the job you’re interviewing for could be dependent on many factors. For instance, your interviewer may feel that you’re not the right fit for the company. There may be somebody more qualified than you, or there may simply be so many applicants that the odds aren’t in your favor. 

Don’t be disheartened if you don’t get the job. At the very least, you can gain valuable experience in the delicate art of interviewing well. 

1) Be punctual

The importance of arriving on time simply can’t be overstated. Arriving on time for your appointment is the absolute minimum an interviewer will expect. If you turn up late, you can almost guarantee that you won’t get the job – presuming the interviewer will see you at all.

Turning up on time shows that you can keep appointments and that you’re respectful of the time of others. If you are late due to something beyond your control, explain your situation to your interviewer. 

However, for things such as traffic or catching public transport, you will be expected to take this into account. After all, if you can’t arrive on time for your interview, what does that say about your punctuality in the workplace? 

2) Be prepared

You should always prepare everything you need the night before. This includes your outfit, the route you plan to take, or any documents you think you might need. 

Getting everything ready the night before reduces the chance of last-minute issues. Turning up in a crumpled outfit because it turns out your best suit was in the laundry basket isn’t going to look good. 

Take care of the basics, like making sure your outfit is clean, ironed, and tidy. Leave with plenty of time to spare. It’s better to arrive a few minutes early than a few minutes late. 

Think about what kind of documentation your interviewer might want to see, besides your resume and any references. If you aren’t sure, bring it along anyway. 

You should also know exactly what you’re applying for. This sounds basic, but what if the interviewer asks you a question about the company, and you don’t know the answer? That can give the impression that you haven’t researched the job you’re applying for, and you aren’t genuinely interested in working for the company. Spend some time researching the company, reread the job description, and make sure you know exactly what you’re applying for. 

3) Be honest

It can be tempting to embellish your accomplishments. Especially if you’re interviewing for a job you really want, you might feel that you need to “wow” the interviewer. However, outright lying or just stretching the truth won’t get you anywhere.

A prospective employer can easily find out if you aren’t being honest with them. In fact, many interviewers will be able to immediately tell if you don’t tell them the whole truth. 

Telling the truth in a job interview is common sense. Most of us wouldn’t tell outright lies. However, freshly graduated college students might feel as if their resume needs a little extra padding. Honesty is always the best policy. 

4) Be observant

Presuming you’ve prepared well and left in good time, you should reach your interview location nice and early. Instead of spending the time fidgeting and worrying about your upcoming interview, try and relax. Observe other people in the office, and try and work out what kind of working environment you can expect.

You should also be observant when sitting down for the interview itself. Remember, the hiring manager is watching how you behave as well as what you say. It’s generally a good rule of thumb to let your interviewer set the tone for the meeting. For example, if the interviewer is formal and professional, you should follow suit, even if the workplace is more relaxed and informal. 

5) First impressions count

A job interview is all about first impressions. Chances are, your interviewer is already impressed by how you come across on paper, which is why they’ve called you in for a face-to-face interview. Now, you need to make a great first impression. 

This means doing well in the introductions. Simple things such as a firm handshake and remembering your interviewer’s name (try saying it aloud when you greet them) can go a long way to impressing an interviewer. 

Relaxed and confident body language is important, but you need to stay balanced. Don’t relax too much – lounging over a chair won’t impress an interviewer. Be careful not to mistake confidence for arrogance, as this will put off an interviewer. 

Eye contact (but don’t stare!) and listening closely will also impress an interviewer. 

A good first impression is also tied up in the importance of being prepared. You’ll be expected to present yourself as neat, clean, and tidy. If you’re not sure about the dress code for the workplace you’re applying to, it’s best to be safe than sorry. You’ll feel more comfortable if you’re overdressed than if you underdress. Having any documents or references an interviewer asks for ready and on hand is also a good idea. This shows the interviewer that you came prepared. 

Most of these tips seem like basic common sense. However, you might find yourself nervous and flustered in a job interview, and it’s easy to forget the basics. 

6) Show respect and courtesy

You’ve probably heard horror stories about a hopeful applicant cutting someone off in a car park, only to find out that person was their interviewer – and the interviewer was not impressed. 

Most of us tend to get a little tetchy when we’re stressed, and job hunting is extremely stressful. However, snapping at somebody on your way to your interview could ruin your chances at your dream job. Even if you don’t accidentally offend your interviewer, being rude to anyone could come back to haunt you. 

For example, suppose you’re rude to the cleaning lady on your way through the building. The hiring manager is nowhere to be seen, but their assistant overhears you. You do extremely well in your interview but later, the assistant mentions to the hiring manager how you spoke to the cleaning lady. The hiring manager is not impressed and decides not to hire you after all. 

This scenario isn’t a far-fetched one. You never know who’s watching at any given time, and interviewers will be looking for clues as to how you’ll get on in the workplace. Even after you get the job, it’s always wise to show respect and courtesy to everyone, not just your superiors and people that you deem worthy of respect. 

This respect extends to your previous employers. Never complain about your previous employer or coworkers. For most interviewers, a prospective employee who speaks badly of their last position is a serious red flag. Not only is it bad manners, but it smacks of bitterness and indiscretion. 

Of course, if you left your last position under a cloud that wasn’t your fault, you may decide to tactfully explain why you weren’t to blame. However, tread carefully. 

7) Follow up after the interview

One tip for a successful interview that’s commonly forgotten is that of following up. Most people leave their interview in relief and wait for a phone call. 

You should always send a thank-you email to the hiring manager after an interview, within twenty-four hours. Briefly thank the interviewer for their time, or maybe even mention some of the subjects you discussed. Try and send personalized emails – no one wants to get a standard-issue formality note. 

The value of sending a thank-you note is that it reminds the interviewer about you. It shows good manners and can make you stand out among a sea of applicants. If you really felt a connection with the hiring manager, you could even consider sending a hand-written note, too. 

Even if you feel that the interview didn’t go well, or you’re reasonably sure you won’t get the job, you should still send a thank-you email. This leaves a good impression on the hiring manager. 

Interview etiquette is more important than you think

Newly graduated college students often aren’t taught the finer points of interview etiquette. Of course, it isn’t hard to work out that you’re expected to look neat and clean and arrive on time. Older employers may place a high value on proper interview etiquettes, such as professional clothing and follow-up emails. 

For example, what about interviews conducted over dinner? What about video conferences and phone interviews? Here are a few points to review when it comes to alternative interviews:

  • For dinner interviews, always remember your table manners. This means no elbows on the table, napkin on your lap, small bites, waiting for everyone else to be served, and so on. Table manners might not seem to have much to do with the job you’re interviewing for, but it will have an impact on whether you’re hired or not. 
  • For video chat interviews, make sure you can be clearly seen and heard. Check that your background is clean and professional. Sit up straight, as if you were in the same room as the interviewer. If you share a home with others, make sure that you won’t be disturbed during your interview. If possible, keep pets out of the room. 
  • For phone call interviews, make sure you can be clearly heard, and minimize any background noise. Even though the interviewer can’t see you, it’s good to smile and gesture while you speak. This can affect your voice and how you sound, making you sound more genuine and emotionally invested in the subject. 

Last, but certainly not least, it’s important to be human and genuine. Not every interview will be a perfect one, but you can still connect with the interviewer and conduct yourself well. If you don’t get the job, you could always ask the interviewer for some tips about how you could have done better. 

However, be careful here. You don’t want to sound as if you’re demanding to know why you weren’t hired. Politely and respectfully ask for advice, and take the advice to heart. Not every interviewer will respond, but the ones that do should offer helpful advice for the future. 

Make your first impression count!

A string of failed interviews is depressing and can knock your confidence for future interviews. Career counseling for students can help students approach job interviews with confidence, as well as emphasizing the importance of proper preparation. Remember, you don’t get a second chance at a first impression – so make this one count!