8 Practical Interview Tips to Build Confidence and Composure

Like communicating well, doing algebra, and speaking a foreign language, being confident in interviews takes time and practice. You’ve already taken a step in the right direction by looking for interviewing tips. 

While there are many different types of interviews, the focus here is the 8 best tips for interviewing for a job. These top interviewing tips will help you be confident and composed during your next interview. 

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Best Tips for Interviewing

How do I impress at a job interview?

The keys to making a good impression in a job interview is preparation, a clear message, and follow up. By preparing well, you show the employer that the open job position is important to you. As are the company’s goals.

The clear message that you need to send before, during, and after the interview is that your job experiences, interests, and skills make you a perfect candidate for the position. You want to show them that if you are selected for the job, then you would use those skills and experience to solve the company’s problems in your new job role.

Lastly, your follow up shows that you are willing to go the extra mile for the job. It shows you are professional, courteous, and invested in the job position and interviewing process. More about how to do that in the last interview tip.

What things you should do to prepare for or at an interview?

I’ve interviewed in person, via Zoom, and video recording. Some interviews I’ve had were with a panel of participants while others had a panel of interviewers. 

I’ve had interviews that resulted in job offers and some that did not. I’ve also interviewed others for roles on my consulting projects.

With these various experiences, I bring 8 top interviewing tips to impress an employer. 

  1. Research the Company Before
  2. Practice and Rehearse Interview Questions
  3. Dress to Impress
  4. Arrive Early
  5. Take Notes
  6. Take Time to Think before Answering
  7. Ask the Interviewer Questions
  8. Follow Up After the Interview

Note that this list is not exhaustive. But for fear of overwhelming you, I’m highlighting the most impactful interviewing tips. We’ll follow up later with more posts for the nitty gritty details. 

The best tips for interviewing begin with things to do before a job interview.

1 – Research the Company Beforehand

If you’re looking for a job, chances are you’re applying to more than one position at once. In which case, you want to be sure you can speak intelligibly about the company and position that each specific interview is for.

By researching the company, you gain an edge over other interviewees. Because now you can converse with the interviewer about recent company news, showing that you’re knowledgeable and interested in their industry.

Secondly, you can tailor your answers to interview questions based on what you learn about the company and its culture. For example, if you know integrity and teamwork are core values of the company, then try to use relevant examples that show your capacity to work in a team and display your integrity.

2 – Practice and Rehearse Interview Questions

Speaking of interview questions, the next interview tip is to practice answering questions. This advice might seem obvious enough to shrug off. 

If you’ve been on several interviews at this point, it’s tempting to consider yourself “prepared” for any questions the interviewer could throw at you. But going back to the previous tip, it’s important to tailor your interview questions and answers to the position for which you are applying.

So, I implore to take your practice to the next level and rehearse. Here are some straightforward steps to prepare for interview questions and answers:

  1. Look up a list of common interview questions. Somewhere around 20 – 30 questions is usually a good starting point. I always use: The MUSE interview questions.
  2. Copy the interview questions into a blank document.
  3. Go through each question and write out a response or detailed bullet points for each one.
  4. Read through your responses. Is the cohesive message that you’re the right person for this position? Use the job description as a guideline, and then edit as needed.
  5. Rehearse. Read through the answers out loud. Then, pretend someone has asked you the question and answer the question without looking at your document.
  6. Optional – Record yourself to hear your answers and see your body language and facial expressions. Or ask your career mentor to interview you and give you feedback.
  7. Repeat #6 as necessary until you feel confident.

In your reponses, be sure to highlight your skills and experiences that make you stand out or match well with the job. Some examples are being resilient and finding ways to overcome failure, stepping outside of your comfort zone, and successful ways to plan and prioritize a busy workload.

3 – Dress to Impress

Another key preparation tip for an interview is what you wear. Your outfit is the first cue an employer will get for your professionalism.

Going back to the previous interviewing tips, when you research the company, try to get a sense of their dress code. For financial institutions, business formal is often a necessity. So, you should be sure to have a collar on your shirt and a nice blazer or suit jacket.

However, if you’re applying to a less formal job, such as an electrician or a customer service rep, then perhaps khakis and a nice polo would be professional attire in that setting.

See tips for curating a professional wardrobe for recommendations on professional pieces and explanations of different dress codes. 

When in doubt – aid on the side of being more formal. Pull out the suit or the blazer and a nice blouse. Go for business casual and make sure you’re dressed comfortably.

4 – Arrive Early

Showing up late says to an employer that you’re not a reliable worker.

As someone whose clock is always running behind, I strongly suggest taking additional measures to be on time, such as:

  • getting directions a couple days before
  • planning for traffic
  • leaving much earlier than the time the GPS tells you
  • verifying parking information.

Ask the employer about parking beforehand so that you’re not scattered looking for parking when your interview is supposed to be starting. Another option is to have someone drop you off, so you don’t have to worry about parking or walking in bad weather.

What are some Zoom Interview Tips?

If your interview is online, then “arrive early” has a different meaning. 

  • Verify the Zoom link or video link the day before with the employer. 
  • Make sure your video software is up to date. (I’ve had a meeting get delayed because my Zoom just had to update at that moment.)
  • Tell everyone in the house / apartment that you’re having an interview and to be quiet or leave during that time.
  • Find a neutral background and well-lit room. Test your interview area on a camera beforehand.
  • Still dress up! Just because you’re not face to face doesn’t mean your outfit won’t make an impression. You decide whether it’s a positive or negative impression.

5 – Take Notes

Moving on to interview tips for the actual interview,  the first tip is to take notes during the interview.

While the interview is time for the employer to get to know you, it’s also time for you to learn more about the employer and the job. 

Generally, there is time for the employer to talk about the position and the company as a whole. Take notes! 

Jot down position criteria that they stress and information about the company culture and objectives. Also, write down any questions that come up while the employer is talking.

Note—you don’t want to be writing so much that you’re not making any eye contact while the employer is talking. So, try to write bullet points and succinct sentences, not paragraphs.

Taking notes during the interview matters! I received my first job offer because I dressed up and took notes, which showed the employer that I was serious about the job. In addition to making a good impression, taking notes will help with one of the later interviewing tips.

Bonus Tip – when the interviewer introduces him or herself, write down their name! If there is a panel of interviewers, this will help you address your questions and answers to each person and keep track of what they said.

6 – Take Time to Think before Answering

Since you’ve rehearsed your interview questions already, hopefully you’re already feeling more confident about the interview as a whole. But that doesn’t mean that you’ll have a complete, thought-out response for every interview question thrown your way. 

The goal of rehearsing interview questions and answers is to:

  • Build confidence before the interview (see difference between confidence and arrogance to tailor your answers appropriately).
  • Provide a core set of work experience examples to draw on during the interview
  • Prepare for common, difficult interview questions
  • Become more comfortable with answering questions during an interview

However, the employer may ask different questions than what was rehearsed or job-specific questions that won’t be on a generic list. In interviews, we are often pressured to answer right away. 

Yet, people don’t notice if you take a few seconds before answering. Use that time to gather your thoughts and calm your nerves.

On top of that, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification about the questions. Rephrase the question and repeat it to the employer to ensure you understand the question before answering.

Answering a question the employer did not ask shows poor listening and communication skills.

7 – Ask the Interviewer Questions

At the end of most interviews, the employer will give you the floor. Do you have any questions for me?

You may think, That means the interview is over. I’m done. Let me say No and get out of here. But that’s not a smart move.

Hiring managers want to see that you’re invested in the company, seriously interested in the position, and an active listener. You demonstrate all three of those things by asking questions to the interviewers at the end of (and during) an interview.

I suggest first preparing questions to ask the interviewer ahead of time. These questions can be about the hiring process, the company culture, and the job responsibilities for the position. Write them on your note pad before going to the interview.

Be thoughtful in the questions you choose here. You don’t want to ask about things that were obvious on the company’s website or blatantly clear in the job description.

Then, use the notes you took during the interview to think of additional questions to ask. Propose clarifying questions about things the person said about the job and company. Ask any questions that came up during the interview or that you scribbled down earlier.

8 – Follow Up After the Interview

Though you have left the interview room by now, there is still an opportunity to make a good impression with a Thank You note.

Whether you send a hand-written note or one via email, a thank you note demonstrates your willingness to go the extra mile for this position and your desire to join the company.

What do you put in a follow up interview thank you note?

First, you want to tell the hiring manager that you appreciate their time and consideration for the job. Thank them for the opportunity to be interviewed and share how your experience and skills make you the right fit for the position.

Next, write a couple of sentences highlighting your experience and skills as they relate to the job. Close with a note about looking forward to hearing from them soon.

With this step, as well as the other interviewing tips, you are sending a cohesive message that you are the right person for the job.

Top Interview Tips

In preparation for graduation, I applied to a lot of jobs my senior year of college. After a couple years in corporate, I was ready for more challenging work, and did a massive round of applications, too.

If I had to distill those experiences to a few pieces of advice, the first is that preparation lays the foundation for a positive interview experience. 

Second, even with applying these top interviewing tips, you won’t get every job. But hopefully you’ll learn a lot about yourself and the jobs you want to go for in the future. 

What do you think? What are good tips when interviewing for a job?

Leave me a comment below!

Don’t miss this! More posts about Working and the Young Professional Lifestyle:

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