A guide on how to ace an interview (with tips and examples)
Whether you are applying for an entry-level job or a senior role, employers are likely to offer you a formal interview to meet you. In these interviews, they may aim to find out more about your skills and experience and determine if you can be a suitable candidate for the position. You can greatly increase your chances of getting the job if you prepare for a job interview. In this article, we discuss how to ace an interview and review some common interview questions.
1. Research the employer
Once a company has offered you an interview, you can research the company to build up your knowledge of them and what their business involves. Interviewers like to ask the question, ‘what do you know about the company?’. Whilst they may not expect you to have in-depth, expert knowledge, being able to give a brief and accurate description can show your knowledge and reaffirm your interest in joining them. You can browse the company website to find about the culture and values. They may also have social media profiles detailing recent news and announcements.
2. Review the job description
The job description for the role you applied for can give good clues as to what the interviewers may expect when meeting you. Job listings often detail the role responsibilities, so try to think of some examples of how you have dealt with similar responsibilities in previous roles. Additionally, they may list some of the desired skills, so try to think about how you can demonstrate that you possess these skills.
3. Practice answering common interview questions
There are several forms of interview questions that employers frequently ask, so it’s a good idea to practice answering them if they come up. Common interview questions can range from basic ones like, ‘tell me a little bit about yourself’, to more complicated ones such as, ‘if you could compare yourself to any type of biscuit, which one would you be?’. Researching and familiarising yourself with common interview questions can help you formulate structured and compelling answers that may impress your interviewer.
4. Practice using the STAR method
. This stands for situation, task, action and result . The specific questions are usually easy to spot, as they start with a sentence like, ‘Give me an example of a time when. ‘. You can begin by describing the situation, then explaining the task that you had to do. After that, you can state how you addressed approaching the task or challenge, before detailing the outcome and end results. They often form the basis of competency-based interviews, where employers ask several ‘STAR’ method questions consecutively.
5. Plan your interview attire
Your interviewer may take their initial impression of you based on what you are wearing, so you may wish to plan an appropriate outfit for your interview. Typically interviewees wear either business casual attire or smart business to an interview. If you are unsure, try looking at the company website or social media profiles to understand the company dress code. You can also phone or email ahead to ask what the dress code is, which can show employers your appreciation for wanting to dress appropriately for the meeting.
6. Prepare questions
At the end of your interview, your interviewer may likely make time to answer any questions that you have. Asking questions at the end of your interview shows your interest and value in the role and company. It is advisable to have some prepared and informed questions ready to ask if you can’t think of any specific questions during the interview. Some good questions to ask include, ‘If you give me the role, where could I be in five years?’ and ‘What do you like about working at this company?’.
7. Bring a notepad and pen
It can be useful to bring a notepad and pen to your interview, in case there are any important pieces of information that you want to note down. If you like, ask your interviewer if it’s okay for you to take notes during the meeting, as this can show your desire to learn about the role and your dedication to retaining all information that your interviewer gives to you. In addition, it is advisable to bring a paper copy of your resume, in case your interviewer asks to see it again.
5 common interview questions
Interviewers often start with this question to learn about your background. When you answer, try beginning by mentioning where you are now before briefly explaining how you advanced to your current position. By following this approach, you can establish your professional history and emphasise the most important aspects.
Example answer: ‘Currently, I am a junior personal trainer and I have 25 recurring clients. In my three years as a fitness instructor, I have earned certifications in yoga and pilates, allowing me to specialise in these rapidly growing areas. Because I maintain a full client roster, I have also taken online sales courses. As a fitness enthusiast, I am also highly self-motivated and driven to share my excitement for health and well-being with my clients.’
2. What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
Employers typically ask about your strengths and weaknesses to learn more about areas where you excel and where you could improve. When you respond, mention your best technical and soft skills. To discuss your weaknesses, try to choose an area where you have already taken steps to improve. Using this strategy can allow you to add a positive aspect to a question that has the potential to be negative.
Example answer: ‘After seven years of working in web design, I have mastered technical skills like visual design and user experience. Combined with my natural ability to solve problems and think analytically, these skills give me the power to work seamlessly with clients. During my first year of working in web design, I realised that I was not communicating clearly enough with clients, often resulting in extra work for me and frustration for my clients. I researched techniques for improving written and verbal communication, and as a result, I improved my productivity by 15%.’
3. Why do you want this position?
Hiring teams often include this question in interviews to determine how well you understand the job and the company. When you receive this question, you may have an opportunity to demonstrate how much you have researched the organisation and the job opening. In your answer, try mentioning the company’s mission or accomplishments and the unique opportunities that the position offers.
Example answer: ‘The role aligns well with my experience and future goals. After working in a supervisory retail sales position for three years, I want to advance to a managerial role in the field. I am enthusiastic about the management and financial skills I can acquire through this position. I am excited about working for an accomplished company that frequently exceeds its quarterly sales goals by 10% or more.’
4. What are your hobbies and interests?
Interviewers usually want to find out if you’re suited for the role, but they may also want to learn about your hobbies and passions outside of the working environment. This way they can observe if you are a team player and can balance your personal and professional well-being. Try mentioning a few interests that you like to do in your spare time, along with a brief description.
Example answer: ‘ Football is a big passion of mine. I play for a Sunday league team and a six-a-side team on Wednesdays and own a season ticket for the club I support. I also enjoy exercising and working out, going to the gym five times a week. I also love reading, especially sci-fi novels, regularly getting through two books a month.’
5. Why should the company hire you?
Interviewers may ask this direct question to prompt you to explain why you are the best candidate for the job. In your response, try emphasising your skills, experience and accomplishments while explaining how well your objectives fit with the company’s goals. You can also mention your achievements throughout your most recent role.
Example answer: ‘I am passionate about the marketing field and have taken steps to improve my skills and reach increasingly higher goals throughout my career. During 10 years in the field, I have advanced from a junior marketing role to a marketing manager position. Also, my objectives align well with the company’s mission to give back to the community while practising smarter marketing.’