Each job interview, like the principals involved in them, is different. If you approach every interview in exactly the same way, you are sure to be disappointed with the results.
The key to making job interviews work is adaptability. If you really want to impress the hiring manager or human resources pro interviewing you, you have to go with the proverbial flow and stay a step ahead.
Adapting, in many ways, is more about preparation than reaction. The better equipped you are to react to the unexpected, the unimaginative and even downright ridiculous queries, the more impressive your spontaneous responses will be.
1. Research the company and its key players.
(Just remember: no stalking allowed).
Understand the job role of the person across from you – and, if possible, the part that they will play in the hiring decision. What can you do to make this individual’s life easier if you’re hired?
2. Know the job description backward, forward, and upside down.
Trained interviewers will focus on probing your experience for the skills and responsibilities required. Prepare examples that highlight your skills in the top-priority areas of the job description (usually listed first under Responsibilities and/or Qualifications). Customize your answers to questions about strengths and accomplishments to highlight the most relevant.
3. Pay attention.
Take note of the questions asked and how the interviewer responds to specific examples and information. Expand upon those that seem to spark interest or enthusiasm. Watch for eyes glazing over and know when to make your long story short(er).
4. Prepare to think on your feet.
Practice responding to challenging, uncomfortable, and even ridiculous questions. Big Interview’s Interview Roulette offers a great way to practice staying on your toes (try it inside Big Interview). It’s okay to pause briefly or even politely ask for a moment if you need it. Some interviewers ask bizarre questions as a way to see how you will react under pressure. Ask any improv comedian – the more you practice improvising, the better you’ll get at it.
5. Don’t overthink it.
You may not always be able to get a clear read on your interviewer in the moment. Don’t let that distract you or freak you out. Spend too much time analyzing what’s behind the question and you lose your focus on your answer.
6. Show your team spirit.
Beyond your qualifications and technical skills, you must show that you would be a pleasure to work with. Share those stories about how stuff you did spell success for your team in your past business life. Your team spirit will be an asset in any position.
7. Don’t be a cliché.
While we’re sort of on the subject, please, please do not boast about being “a people person” or “team player” without backing your claims up with specific examples. Instead, share an example of a successful team project or describe a specific communication or interpersonal skill that has served you well.
8. Dwell on your weaknesses.
You should always be ready for that question about your greatest weakness or something you did that flopped. Don’t try to wing it with these questions as they can be dangerous traps. For each interview, you should prepare a response that covers a weakness that will NOT raise red flags about your ability to perform that particular job.
Remember that the questioner wants honesty, not that patronizing bit about how you work too hard sometimes or how you care too much about people. Describe a real but relatively harmless weakness briefly, then focus on sharing how you are already working to improve in this area and lessons learned from past mistakes. This shows that you are self-aware and motivated to improve.
9. Keep it real.
So now that you’ve mastered the power to adapt, don’t let it make you too cocky. You don’t want to come across as thinking you are smarter than they are (even if you are). They want you to be smart, of course, but not threateningly or obnoxiously so.
For more tips, read How to Prepare for an Interview (Best Tips).