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How to Ace an Interview: 15 Tips from a Career Coach

Learn effective interviewing strategies backed by a top career coach, ace an interview, and land the job of your dreams.
How to Ace an Interview: 15 Tips from a Career Coach

I cringe so hard when I think back on my past job interviews. I was clueless about basic interviewing rules, and my answers were plain and boring. I was also passive, acting like companies were doing me a favor by considering me for a job.

And I know for a fact that many job seekers feel that way.

Today, we’re going to change that.

Researching the existing guides on how to ace an interview, I came across a lot of standard advice like dressing appropriately and shaking the interviewer’s hand. Yes, those are nice details, but they won’t get you the job.

So in this article, we’ll go through different interviewing tactics that will make you more confident and help you land the job. All tips are backed by Pam, top interview coach and career counselor with more than 15 years of experience.

Her expertise will not only help you stand out and win the job, but they’ll also reshape your views on interviewing and set you up for long-term success.

In this article, you’ll read about:

  • Reshaping the concept of job interviewing
  • How to ace an interview by preparing in advance
  • How to get confident in your interviewing skills
  • What to do during and after the interview to stand out
Big Interview: the best interview preparation tool

Don’t waste days compiling overused interview techniques. Get original answers to every single question you could expect.

Rethink the Concept of Job Interviews

I know you’re nervous. Job interviews are weird, one-of-a-kind situations where you feel like everything about you is being evaluated. But luckily, interviewing is a skill that can be learned — and once you get it right, it’ll serve you throughout your career.

Knowing interviewing etiquette means you’ll hold more power and switch from seeing interviews as one-sided assessments to mutual conversations.

This will help you:

  • Get better at all subsequent interviews and prepare for them in no time
  • Win better opportunities
  • Expand your professional network
  • Organize and conduct informational interviews for career progression
  • Present yourself at conferences and professional meetups

In short: Learn how to do it right, and job interviewing will become a two-way street with better opportunities and constant growth for you.

How to Ace the Interview Before It Begins

You know that feeling when you think you’re the perfect candidate but you still don’t get the job?

Here’s what really stings: the job likely went to a candidate who wasn’t “better” than you.

They just knew how to present themselves as a stronger fit through careful research and preparation.

These two elements will often make or break your interview — it’s also the part most people either skip or don’t do correctly.

Here’s how to nail them.

Deep-dive into the company

Before the interview, do everything in your power to obtain as much background information about the company and the industry as possible. Here’s a list of standard things you can do:

  • Comb through the website for their mission and vision, values, and career pages
  • Google the company to check out recent news or important events
  • Check their reputation on platforms like Glassdoor
  • Check if there’s any first-hand intel on the company on forums like Reddit and Quora
  • Check their communication and employees on LinkedIn
  • Go through their social media profiles to see their public persona

And here’s an extra step most people don’t do that will make you stand out:

💡 Use the power of LinkedIn, especially if you’re applying for a big company and can’t find relevant info on what a certain team does specifically. In such cases, you can check out people from that department on LinkedIn and their profiles will often be full of recent initiatives.

Doing all of this will give you a solid foundation, as you’ll see the bigger picture and decide if the company is the right fit for you.

Plus, you’ll easily think of smart, informed questions to ask at the end of the interview. This will provide you with valuable info and leave a great impression on the interviewer.

Pro tip: Check if your questions can be answered by Google or the website first. For example, asking if the company has an employee development process if their Career page clearly says it does, will look lazy.

❌ Does your company have an employee development process? What does it look like?

✔️ Your Careers page outlines a detailed employee development plan. I think it’s a great initiative. Is growth encouraged only within a single team and in a single field, or are you open to people changing direction and departments?

More tips on what to research here:

Look up your interviewers

Know who you’re speaking with. Research your interviewers to find common professional (preferably) or personal (optionally and with caution) interests that can be woven into the conversation.

It can be a nice ice-breaker and will help you connect with them in a meaningful way.

Do this subtly so you don’t look like a stalker.

I’d suggest keeping it professional and gathering info from LinkedIn or other professional, publicly available sources. If they spoke at a conference recently, gave an interesting interview, or were on a podcast, those are nice topics to mention.

Be careful with personal details you come across, though. You don’t want to mention you went to the same school as your interviewer’s son. But a mutual hobby they wrote about on LinkedIn is cool.

Prepare a “fail portfolio”

Interviewing is mostly about showing your best sides, but you’ll often hear questions about your failures and weaknesses.

That’s why you need to prepare your “fail portfolio,” a list of situations where you failed or showed your weaknesses.

Then, create an engaging narrative around each failure to show that you:

  1. Are aware of the failure and its impact
  2. Managed to learn something from that situation
  3. Stopped it from happening again

Having a collection of your failures might seem counterintuitive, but interviewers love this. A candidate who has failed, perhaps even many times, and learned from those failures is more valuable than someone who just played it safe throughout their career.

Get ready for common interview questions

Like it or not, there is a list of standard and frequent questions you’ll hear in 99% of interviews.

Expecting them and knowing why interviewers ask them is the only way to give informative, high-quality answers.

If you don’t have a lot of time to prepare for all of them, here are our 4 crucial guides everyone should read:

And if you want to be diligent and prepare for all common interview questions, here are comprehensive guides:

Get Confident in Your Interview Performance (Practice, Practice, Practice!)

Repetition is the mother of learning. And with enough practice, you can become confident and master job interviews in no time.

Luckily, there are a bunch of techniques and tools for practicing nowadays. Let’s go through some of them.

Simulate the real experience

Simulate the real experience — this will boost your confidence, as you’ll have a sense of interview structure and know what to expect.

Set up a mock interview environment that closely mimics the actual interview setting. This can include dressing up, setting up a webcam if it’s a virtual interview, and having a friend or mentor act as the interviewer.

Record the mock interview to observe your body language, the quality and delivery of your answers, and overall demeanor.

Ask your friend or mentor for feedback, as you sometimes won’t be aware of the things you do or mistakes you make.

Use technology

There’s a variety of platforms you can use to practice interviewing. These are designed to help you prepare, give you feedback, and even connect you with industry professionals for mock interviews.

If you’re looking for a platform where you can record yourself and get instant feedback, our Interview Simulator can help.

You can choose what questions you want to practice (or choose from 1100+ occupation-based question sets) and record yourself answering them. Then, you’ll get AI feedback focused on the quality of your answers, your delivery, body language, pace of speech, eye contact, and other crucial details.

Inside Big Interview's mock interview tool

Focus on difficult questions

Your weak areas, like uncomfortable questions or questions you’re not sure how to answer, need to be addressed.

Usually, job seekers struggle with not knowing what story to use to answer a common behavioral question or not knowing how to stay positive when speaking about an unpleasant situation.

This can be fixed, so don’t ignore these weak areas hoping interviewers won’t probe at them.

Identify them, pin-point what makes you uncomfortable, and then work on it.

Write down your key points, the order of your arguments, or the tips on how to frame answers positively. Then practice as much as you can until your answers come across as natural and confident (don’t learn them by heart, though, you’ll sound robotic).

Our guide on unique interview questions will tell you which ones to anticipate and how to answer them.

Seek professional assistance

If you’re in the position to invest in one, hiring a career coach or an interview coach for a session might be a good idea.

This will be especially useful if you’re changing careers and you’re not sure how to prepare and align your experience with new requirements.

It’ll also do wonders if you’re interviewing in a competitive industry or if you have a high-stakes interview incoming.

Working with a career coach will help you:

  • Get personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation and goals.
  • Hear expert insights, as career coaches have extensive experience in recruitment and know a bunch of useful tips you might not have considered otherwise.
  • Refine your technique, create impactful responses, and anticipate curveballs.
  • Get constructive feedback on your resume, professional persona, and interview performance.
  • Spot your strong and weak areas and quantify your achievements, which is something a lot of candidates struggle with.
  • Learn how to approach career development in general, as interviewing is not just a one-off thing.

Prepare mentally

I know job interviews are stressful. Nobody likes feeling like they’re being inspected.

But coming to the interview prepared will ease your anxiety because you’ll know what to expect, you’ll know the company, and you’ll have your answers ready. The interview won’t feel like uncharted territory.

For a bunch of useful tips (besides practicing), check out our article: Interview Anxiety: How to Calm Nerves Before an Interview.

Finally, here are additional tips on how to be confident in an interview:

What to Do During the Interview to Rock It

Use storytelling via the STAR method

Whenever possible, use the STAR (Situation-Task-Action-Result) method when answering interview questions.

This framework is mostly used for answering behavioral interview questions, but you can use it for any other question that requires storytelling. It’ll help you provide sufficient and relevant information and make your answers interesting and engaging.

Here’s how to use the STAR method:

For more details and examples of STAR answers, check out this guide: The STAR Interview Method: How to Answer + Examples.

Use behavioral mimicry

Using behavioral mimicry simply means mirroring the communication style, gestures, and expressions of your interviewer. It’s a subtle and effective tool for building a great rapport with the interviewer, which might increase your chances of landing a job.

People naturally gravitate towards people similar to them, and mirroring will make you look more relatable. Communication will be smoother, trust will be increased, and you’ll demonstrate your ability to adapt.

Here’s how to properly use behavioral mimicry:

  • Don’t imitate every word or gesture of the interviewer; be yourself, with slight adjustments.
  • Start by subtly mirroring their body language and speech patterns. This can be done using a similar posture, matching their gesture, and adjusting your speaking pace to theirs.
  • Nod in agreement when they give you the cue and smile when they smile. Match their energy levels.
  • Use a similar vocabulary to theirs to help create a sense of alignment.
  • Be subtle and natural in order not to come across as insincere.

For 5 tips to stand out in an interview (including mirroring!) check out this video:

Ask great questions

Asking interesting, informed questions at the end of the interview will demonstrate that you did your research, are able to think strategically, and have a genuine interest in the company.

Depending on the situation and what you find during the research, there’s an endless list of questions you can ask. But here are a few evergreen ones:

  • A year from now, when you’re looking back on this hire, what would I have done to exceed every expectation?
  • In terms of professional qualities, what do you believe sets apart the most successful employees in this organization?
  • What’s one of the most interesting projects you’ve worked on here?
  • Why is this position open?

For a full guide and tips on how to come up with questions, read 40+ Smart Questions to Ask at the End of Any Job Interview.

How to Double-Ace an Interview (Or What to Do When It Ends)

Follow up

After the interview, write a personalized, short, and sweet thank-you note that references a specific part of the interview conversation.

Although this email won’t win you the job (if you rocked the interview with your outstanding experience, they won’t not-hire you because you haven’t sent it), it will increase your chances if they’re on the fence. And it’ll show you have good manners, which will help you establish a nice connection with the interviewer for potential future collaborations.

If you don’t hear from them by the time they told you they’d get back to you, send a follow-up email.

For details and instructions on how and when to send these emails, check out How to Write a Follow-Up Email After an Interview: 6 Templates.

Initiate a value-adding conversation

After the interview, you can share relevant content (article, paper, podcast, study) that ties back to some key points from your interview.

Add your insights or ask for their opinion to initiate a meaningful conversation.

This is an optional step that might bring you bonus points and keep you top-of-mind. And even if you don’t get the job, it’s a great conversation starter between you and the interviewer based on which you can deepen and nurture your connection.

Message template: 

Hey [Interviewer name],

I was thinking about [the topic you discussed during the interview]. I came across [relevant content on the topic] that says [key takeaways]. [Add your thoughts on the topic]. I’d love to hear your thoughts! 


[Your name]

Acing Interviews: Popular Opinion vs. Expert Advice

Now, let’s see what people on popular forums have to say on this topic and how their opinions stack up against expert advice.

A deleted user from this thread said:

I’ll tell you the secret [to acing interviews]: Having worked your [butt] off, knowing your [stuff], and having taken abuse in your past job. These three will give you all the tools you need to succeed in an interview because they give you the special “seen-it-all-succumbed-to-abuse-givenup-on-personal-life-givemethejob-already” confidence/attitude. And because that’s exactly what the future employers want to put you through too, they will be happy to hire you. Here. That’s the secret sauce.

Career expert comments:

This stance is a bit extreme, and I wouldn’t say that every employer expects you to give up on your personal life and is ready to abuse you if you don’t. But let’s also be realistic. You will likely face some tough and unpleasant situations in your next job. If you’ve experienced challenges before, overcame them, and learned from them, this is definitely your strong selling point. If your track record proves that you can pull your weight when the going gets tough, don’t shy away from saying so — as long as you have concrete examples to back such a claim up. — said Michael Tomaszewski, CPRW.

Switterloaf9 said:

Practice first. Pull up some potential interview questions and practice in front of a mirror or have someone ask them to you. Research the company and/or the people you are interviewing with so you feel more connected to the position. Bring some levity, humor, enthusiasm, and confidence into the interview. The interview is where you want to showcase all your skills, so get good at talking about all your accomplishments and be proud of them! Try to include why you are excited about the position and what you are looking forward to accomplishing.

Career expert comments:

Yup, that pretty much sums it up. All the things listed in this tip can be accomplished by practicing before the interview — and I can’t stress this enough. Not practicing would be the same as auditioning for a role in a play and not learning the lines and studying the character. They invited you for an interview which means they’ve already got their eye on you. And you have the perfect chance to prove you’re the one, so use it.

What to Do If You Don’t Get the Job

Didn’t get that job? It sucks, but it’s not the end of the world. You can learn from this experience and apply that knowledge to your future endeavors. Here’s how.

Ask for feedback

If they don’t give you feedback, or if they say you seemed great but another candidate was more suitable, dig a bit deeper. It’ll help you see where you stand and figure out your next steps.

Ask for their feedback in a way that demonstrates your willingness to grow and improve, rather than just seeking to understand why they didn’t hire you.

Keep it simple. Here’s a template you could use:

Dear [Interviewer’s Name],

Thank you for considering me for [Position Name] at [Company Name]. I’m sorry that I didn’t get the job, but I’m thankful for the interesting discussion we had.

I respect your decision and would like to use this opportunity to get your feedback on my interview performance so that I can improve.

Would you be willing to share your opinion on my strengths, areas for improvement, and how I presented my experience? It would be greatly appreciated and instrumental in helping me refine my interviewing skills.

Thank you once again for your time!

Best regards,

[Your Name]

This is a win-win approach, it will help you get better at interviewing and prove to interviewers you’re dedicated to constant improvement. They’ll remember you as that awesome candidate and keep you in mind for any future opportunities 😉

Stay in touch

Staying in touch with the interviewer and nurturing that connection might keep you in the interviewer’s consideration for future opportunities.

But more importantly, it’ll help you expand your network. And professional networks are important not only because of job opportunities but also because they’re a unique way to learn and develop. Through them, you’ll give value and support to others and get it in return, have access to different resources, and increase your visibility and credibility in relevant circles.

So, after the interview:

  • Connect with the person on LinkedIn.
  • Along with a connection request, send a short message explaining you enjoyed getting to know them and would love to stay in contact.
  • Engage with their content and leave meaningful comments.
  • Congratulate them on their successes and help them out when they need support.
  • Occasionally share interesting resources.
  • When appropriate, ask them for their advice or opinion.

Not many candidates will take the time to do this — but if you put in some effort, you’ll stand out for potential collaborations in the future.

Summary of the Main Points

  • Job interviewing is a valuable lifetime skill, not just a one-off thing.
  • Mastering it will help you in all future professional situations, including job and informational interviews, conferences, networking events, and similar.
  • Interviewing like a pro will allow you to actively participate in the process and tailor your career vision.
  • Research is key, so make sure you have solid background knowledge of the company, industry, and your interviewers.
  • Preparation is everything: simulate interview experiences, anticipate common questions, and practice answering them.
  • If you can invest in it, working with a professional coach or using relevant technology will set you up for long-term career success.
  • After job interviews, make it a habit to ask for feedback and stay in touch with your interviewers, making them a part of your professional network.


Need a hand? There are 3 ways we can help you:

  1. Learn how to turn more job interviews into job offers here. (Rated with 4.9/5 by 1,000,000 users).
  2. Discover if you should take career advice from TikTok.
  3. Learn how to ace a panel interview.


What should I prepare for an interview?

Prepare an elevator pitch, a list of your proudest accomplishments, strongest soft and hard skills, and weaknesses and failures. Think of situations where you achieved them, displayed them, or failed. Come up with relevant details to paint a picture and create interesting stories that will help you answer common interview questions.

How to get better at interviewing in the long term?

Make it a habit to research, practice, and ask for feedback. No matter the interview outcome, asking interviewers for their genuine feedback will help you objectively assess your efforts, spot your strengths and weaknesses, and work on them. If you wish to, you can apply for jobs and go on interviews just for the fun of it, even if you already have a job you’re happy with. However, using a mock interview tool would be a safer, better, more effective, and time-efficient way to practice.

What are the most essential skills for successful interviewing?

Research skills, communication, staying calm under pressure, confidence, active listening, and adaptability are key skills that will help you with preparation, performance during the interview, and the follow-up period.

I’m always super stressed during job interviews and I just freeze. How to overcome this?

Prepare and practice in advance. When you anticipate specific interview questions and practice your answers, you’ll know what exactly you want to talk about, and you won’t freeze. Practicing with your mentors, friends, or family members will help, as will using mock interview tools. But you can get slightly nervous even if you do prepare — this is completely normal. To relax, try different techniques like mindfulness, deep breathing, visualization, and positive affirmations. If your anxiety is super strong and you can’t function properly, consider seeking professional help from a therapist or a counselor who can provide strategies for managing stress.

How to ace an interview if I’m feeling underqualified for the job?

First, remember that if you check 100% of the boxes in the job ad, you’re probably overqualified. That said, you’re likely to feel underqualified for the majority of the jobs, but that’s often just your mind playing tricks on you. Remember that you were invited to an interview for a reason, and they see potential in you. So when you feel underqualified, focus on the transferable skills that are relevant to the position. Make sure to express genuine enthusiasm for the role and the willingness to learn and take on new challenges. Finally, researching the company and preparing examples and stories from your past experiences will help you answer interview questions easily and even ask interesting questions in return.

I only have one day until my interview. How can I best prepare?

Spend some time researching the company and the role. This shouldn’t take more than an hour, and it will help tremendously with tailoring your responses and demonstrating interest in the company. Make a list of your achievements, failures, and key skills, and think of stories that demonstrate them. Then, prepare for the most common interview questions (hint: there’s a full list of those at the beginning of this guide) and practice answering them using these stories. It might seem like a lot of work, but it’s manageable to do it within a single day. Good luck!

Maja Stojanovic
A writer specialized in interview preparation and resume building. Spent 5+ years tirelessly seeking a meaningful, rewarding job. Which is exactly what I’ll help you find.
Edited By:
Michael Tomaszewski
Michael Tomaszewski
Fact Checked By:
Briana Dilworth
Briana Dilworth
Industry Expert Contributions:

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