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Tips to improve your interview performance

An interview requires you to SELL your experience and skills to a future employer. However, most individuals involved in a job search are not sales professionals, which is why the process is usually uncomfortable. Even the smartest and most qualified job seekers need to prepare for job interviews to feel comfortable during the interview process. There are no second chances to make a great first impression, so practice these 10 strategies to improve your interview skills and secure the job offer.

Interview Tips

Interviewing is a skill that you can develop and refine, but it takes practice. With a positive attitude and time set aside to practice, you can enhance your interviewing success. Below are tips to improve your interview performance.

  1. Research the Company

    Be prepared to tell the interviewer why their company is attractive to you! Utilize the internet to review the company, their products and services, and industry statistics. Annual reports, trade magazines, articles, and the company’s website are all good sources of information.

  2. Practice!

    It’s important to understand the requirements of the job so you can prepare how you will present yourself in your interview. In a job interview you need to focus on the skills and experience consistent with their opportunity so that the interviewer actually starts to “see you in the role.” Be sure you can answer questions about your strengths, weaknesses, accomplishments, why you are seeking a new job, and most importantly, why you should be hired for the position.

    The best way to prepare is to roll play the interview with a friend or your recruiter. Provide them with some practice questions to ask as well as your resume and the job description. Test different techniques while talking with them and be well versed in specific examples of your accomplishments. Consider taping your conversation and listening to yourself afterwards. Finally, ask yourself, ‘Would I hire this person?”

  3. Arrive Prepared

    You should bring the following 3-4 items to your interview:
    1. Clean copies of your resume
    2. Samples of your work, if appropriate
    3. A notepad or portfolio to jot down notes. You can bring along a few questions to ask your interviewer.
    4. Three references, ideally with three former managers or supervisors who are familiar with your work. Include their name, company name, relationship, as well as cell or work phone numbers. Always consult with references for their approval prior to submitting their names.

    The day of the interview, you will want to ensure you make a good first impression by arriving on-time and looking relaxed and confident. Be sure to set yourself up for success by following the following the following advice:
    • arrive approximately 10-15 minutes before your interview.
    • Make sure you know exactly where the interview is to take place. Take a trial run if you think you may run into traffic or other delays.
    • Review your notes and go in with confidence
    • If asked to complete an application, make sure you complete it fully; do not leave anything blank. (Respond to ‘expected salary’ questions as ‘negotiable’. If asked about your current salary, answer truthfully.) List references if requested. Your recruiters name should be your response to any ‘referred by’ questions.

  4. Dress for success

    Overall, your appearance should be neat, clean and professional. Today's casual dress codes do not give you permission to dress as "they" do when you interview. A conservative suit is recommended. Something less formal depends on the company culture and the position you are seeking. If possible, call to find out about the company dress code before the interview.

    Also, keep jewelry at a minimum and avoid strong smelling colognes and perfumes. Fingernails should be clean, simply manicured and avoid bright colored nail polish. Cloths should be ironed, hair should be neat, and it is recommended that women avoid excessive makeup. You want to be remembered for your qualifications, not for your appearance.

  5. Be aware of nonverbal communication

    It's about demonstrating confidence: Maintain a high energy level; sit up with your back straight, make eye contact and connecting with a firm handshake. Your nonverbal impression can be a great beginning -- or quick ending -- to your interview. Always remember to breathe. It will help you stay calm and sound more relaxed.

    Some actions and habits are unconscious so you may need to practice. Here are some nonverbal cues that you want to recognize and avoid.
    • Avoid fidgeting – it shows a lack of self-confidence
    • Avoid “over the top” hand gestures – they are distracting
    • Avoid biting your lips – it gives the impressing your making things up
    • Avoid crossing your arms – it appears you are defensive
    • Avoid shrugging your shoulders – it appears you don’t know the answer
    • Avoid nods and head shaking – use words to answer questions You never get a second chance to make a first impression! There are several things you can do to put your best foot forward.

  6. Listen

    From the very beginning of the interview, your interviewer is giving you information, either directly or indirectly. If you are not hearing it, you are missing a major opportunity. Good communication skills include listening and letting the person know you heard what was said. Observe your interviewer, and match that style and pace.

  7. Take care to answer the questions

    When interviewers ask for an example of a time when you did something, they are asking behavioral interview questions, which are designed to elicit a sample of your past behavior. If you fail to relate a specific example, you not only don't answer the question, but you also miss an opportunity to prove your ability and talk about your skills. It’s important to know yourself and be prepared with examples of how you work within a team, how you showed initiative and self-motivation and how you’re a problem solver.

    Telling the interviewer more than he needs to know could also be a fatal mistake. When you have not prepared ahead of time, you may ramble when answering interview questions, sometimes talking yourself right out of the job. Prepare for the interview by reading through the job posting, and by having concise, honest responses to the more commonly asked questions.
    Verbal communication skills impact almost every hiring decision. It's a given that you should use professional language and refrain from slang terms. Be aware of any references to age, race, religion, politics or sexual orientation -- these topics are sensitive and should be avoided.

  8. Ask questions

    Part of knowing how to interview is being ready to ask questions that demonstrate an interest in what goes on in the company. Always prepare questions before the interview and you can ask these same questions of the different people you see. Asking questions also gives you the opportunity to find out if this is the right place for you. The best questions come from listening to what you're asked during the interview and asking for additional information.

    Be sure to ask questions that you can use in highlighting your qualifications. You should ask: “what skills are most important For this position?” or “ What will the top priority be for the person you hire?. You can then close the interview by highlighting how you can meet the interviewers’ expectations.

    There are questions that you should reserve for Human Resources and asked later in the process. Detailed questions concerning benefits should be addresses after the interview during follow up conversations. Remember, the interviews are trying to see how you can contribute to the company.

  9. Closing the Interview

    If you are interested in the position, make a positive statement about the position and your level of interest before you leave the room. In fact, ask the interviewer if he/she feels that you are qualified for the positions or ask if there is anything in your background that would prevent you from attaining the position. This will give you the opportunity to review points that may need clarification.

    You should end the interview by demonstrating confidence in your abilities and convince the interview that you are capable of handling the position successfully.

  10. Thank you note

    It is always a good idea to send a short note of appreciation to thank the interviewer for their time. It can be an email or a hand written note, and should be sent to everyone you met. Reiterate your interest in the position as well as your ability to do the job. State the reasons you are interested in working for their company. Be sure to get their business card so you have the correct name, email and mailing address. Double check your note for correct grammar and spelling.