How to ace a job interview

Christian Madsen

Written by Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

Are you failing to impress?

Having spent years in the field of recruitment, I have seen many candidates fail to impress during job interviews, despite having the right skills and experience.

For example, some candidates may not:

  • Research the company and role they're applying for
  • Review their cover letter and resume
  • Dress appropriately
  • Project a positive attitude and appear confident and enthusiastic
  • Maintain good eye contact and have a firm handshake
  • Be concise in their responses and focus on relevant information
  • Listen actively and speak clearly, using minimal filler words
  • Ask thoughtful questions
  • Refrain from complaining about past employers or colleagues
  • Provide tailored responses that address the company's needs
  • Postpone discussion about salary and benefits
  • Provide specific examples of their skills and achievements
  • Strike a balance between confidence and humility
  • Maintain good posture and positive body language
  • Align themselves with the company's culture and values
  • Send a thank-you email or follow-up message after the interview

Avoiding these common interview mistakes and practising good interview etiquette can significantly improve your chances of making a positive impression and securing your dream job.

Are you failing to impress?

How to ace a job interview | Interviewing while employed?

Interviewing while employed?

Scheduling a job interview while you are working can be a delicate process. It's important to be discreet and respectful, as you don't want to jeopardise your current employment before you secure a new opportunity.

Here are some steps to help you discreetly schedule interviews while employed:

  • Schedule your interviews during your personal time, such as before or after work, during lunch breaks, or on days off
  • If your work allows for some flexibility, try to schedule interviews during non-critical work hours or ask your current employer if you can start or end your workday slightly earlier or later
  • If possible, try to schedule remote interviews to avoid having to physically leave your current workplace
  • If you need to leave work for an interview, consider scheduling the interview as a "personal appointment" - you don't need to provide details to your current employer
  • Keep your job search and interviews to yourself - avoid discussing it with colleagues or on social media
  • Use your personal email and phone for all communication with potential employers - don't use your work email or phone for job-related matters
  • Dress in a way that doesn't draw attention to your outfit if you have to change your attire for the interview
  • Be ready to explain any absence to your current employer, but keep it vague - you can say you have a personal matter to attend to, or a medical appointment if you need to give a reason
  • If scheduling interviews becomes too difficult, consider declining some interviews if they don't align with your priorities

Remember that your primary responsibility is to your current employer until you have accepted a new job offer. Balancing a job search while employed can be challenging, but it's essential to do it discreetly and professionally to avoid any potential issues in your current role.

Leading up to your interview

Memorise your application

Review your application

Knowing your application inside out is crucial if you want to perform well during your interview. For example, memorising the content of your resume and cover letter can help you to:

  • Ensure that the information you present verbally aligns with what's in your written documents - inconsistencies can raise red flags and may lead to doubts about your credibility
  • Articulate your skills and experiences more effectively and confidently
  • Respond to questions concisely and provide relevant information
  • Emphasise the parts of your background that are most relevant to the job and the company
  • Be well-prepared for any specific questions regarding your application

However, it's essential to strike a balance and not rely solely on memorisation. You should also be ready to adapt your responses and provide additional information as needed. The interview is an opportunity to expand on the details in your documents and show your personality, communication skills, and how you're a good fit for the company culture.

Research the company

Researching the company before a job interview is essential for several reasons. For example, doing so can help you to:

  • Demonstrate that you are genuinely interested in the position and have taken time to understand the organisation
  • Confidently answer questions about the company, its culture, and its values
  • Tailor your responses as per the company's mission, values, and goals - allowing you to align your answers with what they are looking for in a candidate
  • Ask informed questions at the end of the interview
  • Understand the company culture and determine if it aligns with your values and working style
  • Assess whether the company is a good fit for your career goals and values
  • Reduce surprises, by gaining an understanding of the company's industry, recent news, financial health, and competition
  • Demonstrate proactive behaviour - indicating to your interviewer that you are willing to go the extra mile

There are numerous ways you can go about conducting company research. I suggest you:

  • Visit the company's website - look for information about its mission, values, products or services, history, and any recent news or press releases
  • Look for information about the company's leadership team - knowing who the top executives are can give you a sense of the company's leadership style and values
  • Use search engines to find recent news articles or press releases about the company - this can give you insights into the company's recent developments, challenges, and successes
  • Visit the company's social media profiles to see how they engage with their audience, what kind of content they share, and any recent updates
  • Look at employee reviews on websites like Glassdoor and Indeed to get an idea of the company's culture, work environment, and what current or former employees say about working there
  • Research the profiles of current and former employees on LinkedIn to learn more about their career paths and the types of people the company hires
  • Research industry trends, challenges, and opportunities - this will help you discuss how you can contribute to the company's success
  • Know who the company's main competitors are and how they compare in the industry - this knowledge can be useful in discussions about the company's position in the market
  • Try to understand the company's core values, culture, and any diversity and inclusion initiatives - this information can help you tailor your interview responses to align with the company's culture
  • If the company is publicly traded, review its financial statements to get a sense of its financial health and stability

By conducting comprehensive research, you'll be well-prepared to discuss the company and its industry during your job interview. This will not only impress the interviewers but also help you make an informed decision about whether the company is the right fit for you.

How to ace a job interview | Research the company

Study the job description

Study the job description

Studying a job description is a critical step in preparing for a job application, as it helps you understand the role's requirements and tailor your application to match the employer's expectations. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to effectively study a job description:

  • Start by reading the job description carefully from start to finish - pay attention to the key responsibilities, qualifications, and any specific requirements or preferences
  • Try to understand the core responsibilities and tasks associated with the position - this will help you determine if you are a good fit for the role and if it aligns with your career goals
  • Highlight or make a list of keywords and phrases used in the description - these are often the skills, qualifications, and attributes the employer is looking for
  • Pay attention to the qualifications and requirements section - be honest with yourself about how well you match these criteria
  • Sometimes, job descriptions contain hints about the company culture and values - these can give you insights into what the company values in its employees
  • Evaluate how your skills, experience, and qualifications match the job description - be honest with yourself about whether you're a good fit for the role and consider how you can address any gaps

Remember that your goal is not only to show how you meet the job requirements but also to demonstrate that you'll be a valuable and enthusiastic addition to the team.

Practice interview questions

There are some common interview questions you should be ready to answer. For instance:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What interests you about this position and our company?
  • Why should we consider hiring you for this position?
  • What do you consider your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
  • Could you share a personal area for growth or improvement?
  • Describe a time when you had to work on a team project - what was your role and what was the outcome?
  • How do you handle high-pressure situations and tight deadlines?
  • Describe a challenging problem you've faced in a previous job - how did you resolved it?
  • What are your short-term and long-term career goals?
  • How do you stay updated with industry trends and developments?
  • Describe a time where you experienced a major change at work - how did you adapt?
  • What skills or qualifications make you a strong candidate for this role?
  • Can you describe a situation where you demonstrated leadership or took initiative?
  • How do you prioritise and manage your workload effectively?
  • What motivates you in your work and helps you stay engaged and productive?
  • Can you provide an example of a time when you successfully worked with a difficult coworker or client?
  • What do you know about our company's products, services, or mission?
  • How do you handle constructive criticism and feedback from supervisors or colleagues?
  • Can you tell me about your experience with [specific software or technology relevant to the job]?
  • How do you maintain a work-life balance, and what do you do for self-care?
  • What would you do in your first 30, 60, or 90 days on the job if you were hired?
  • How do you envision your professional journey five years from now?
  • If I were to contact your current or former employer, what impression would they have of you?
  • Can you tell me about a notable challenge you tackled and conquered?

Remember to tailor your responses to match the specific job and company you're interviewing with. It's also a good idea to practice your answers, so you can confidently articulate your qualifications and experiences during the interview.

How to ace a job interview | Practice interview questions

Prepare questions to ask

Prepare questions to ask

Asking thoughtful questions during a job interview is a great way to demonstrate your interest in the position and to gather important information about the company and the role. Here are some questions you can consider asking:

  • Could you shed some light on the current team structure?
  • What prompted the need for this vacancy in your team?
  • What's been the most rewarding aspect of working here for you?
  • Could you outline the next steps in the selection process?
  • Can you describe the day-to-day responsibilities of this role?
  • What are the key goals and objectives for the person in this position?
  • How does this role fit into the larger team or department's goals and the company's overall mission?
  • What is the company's culture like, and how would you describe the team's dynamic?
  • What opportunities for professional development and growth does the company offer?
  • Can you tell me more about the team I would be working with and their backgrounds and strengths?
  • What are the key challenges or projects that the team or company is currently facing?
  • How does the company support work-life balance and employee well-being?
  • What is the company's approach to performance evaluations and feedback?
  • Can you provide more information about the onboarding process and the training or resources available to new employees?
  • What is the typical career progression for someone in this role?
  • How does the company stay competitive in the industry, and what are its future plans or strategies?
  • What is the company's stance on diversity and inclusion, and how do they promote it within the organisation?
  • Can you share any specific examples of successful projects or initiatives the team has worked on recently?
  • What does the company value most in its employees, and how are those values reflected in the workplace?

These questions can help you gain a better understanding of the company and the role, and they also show the interviewer that you are serious about the position. Remember to tailor your questions to the specific job and company, and avoid asking about topics that have already been addressed in the interview unless you need clarification or additional details.

Plan your outfit

Planning your job interview outfit is crucial because your appearance can make a strong first impression on potential employers. Here's a step-by-step guide to help you choose the right outfit for your job interview:

  • Consider the specific role you're applying for - dress slightly more formally than the job requires to demonstrate your professionalism
  • Ensure that your clothing fits well - ill-fitting attire can be distracting and may not leave a good impression
  • Your outfit should be comfortable, allowing you to move and sit easily.
  • Pay attention to personal grooming and hygiene - trim your nails, comb your hair, and be mindful of your scent (avoid strong perfumes or colognes)
  • Ensure your shoes are clean and well-maintained - appropriate footwear might include closed-toe shoes or professional flats
  • Keep accessories simple and minimal - a watch, subtle earrings, and a small necklace are generally sufficient
  • The night before the interview, lay out your outfit and accessories to ensure everything is ready
  • Check for wrinkles, stains, or loose threads on your clothing
  • Carry a professional folder or portfolio to hold copies of your resume, notes, and a notepad
  • If possible, ask a friend or family member for their opinion on your outfit

Remember that first impressions matter, and your outfit is a crucial part of that initial impression. Dressing appropriately for the job interview not only reflects your professionalism but also shows your respect for the opportunity.

How to ace a job interview | Plan your outfit

Plan your route

Before the day of your interview, you should plan your route and mode of transport to avoid unnecessary stress and reduce the likelihood of arriving late.

Face-to-face interviews

If your interview is taking place in-person, I recommend you:

  • Use Google Maps to familiarise yourself with the route
  • Aim to arrive about 15 minutes early so you have enough time to settle your nerves and mentally prepare
  • Save your interviewer's office number and email address in your phone in case you run into unexpected delays

If you are driving to the interview location, then you should:

  • Find nearby parking options in advance to avoid last-minute stress
  • Park somewhere out of sight from the office on the day of the interview if your car is not in the best condition

Online interviews

If your interview is taking place online, I recommend you:

  • Find a quiet space for your setup with reliable internet access or reception (if using mobile data).
  • Ensure your background is neat and free from clutter
  • Use a ring light or position yourself facing a natural light source
  • Be mindful of your webcam placement - eye level is ideal
  • Test your setup in a call with a friend prior to your interview to ensure there are no issues
Plan your route

On the day of your interview

What to bring

Bringing the right items to a job interview can help you make a positive impression and be well-prepared for the conversation. Here's a list of items you should consider bringing to a job interview:

  • Bring at least two printed copies of your resume, one for the interviewer and an extra in case there are multiple interviewers or someone unexpected joins the interview
  • If you submitted a cover letter with your application, it's a good idea to bring a printed copy of it as well, even if it's not requested
  • If your job involves a portfolio or samples of your work (e.g., graphic design, writing, or programming), bring them in a professional folder or online on a tablet or laptop
  • Have a list of professional references and their contact information ready in case the interviewer asks for it - it's also a good practice to inform your references in advance
  • Some companies may ask for a photo ID to verify your identity - it's a good idea to have it with you just in case
  • It's a good idea to have a notepad and a pen to take notes during the interview - you can also use it to jot down any questions or key points you want to remember
  • Prepare a list of thoughtful questions to ask the interviewer about the company, team, and role - having questions demonstrates your interest and preparation
  • Bring notes on the company, industry, and the job role that you've researched - it can be helpful to refer to these notes during the interview

Remember to pack these items neatly and professionally in a folder or portfolio if applicable. Arriving well-prepared and organised will help you feel more confident and make a positive impression on your potential employer.

How to ace a job interview | What to bring

Running late?

Running late for a job interview can be stressful, but it's essential to handle the situation with professionalism and courtesy. Here's what you should do:

  • As soon as you realise you'll be late, call or email the person you're scheduled to meet with to inform them of your situation - be honest and provide an estimated time of arrival
  • When you contact the interviewer, apologise for the delay and express your regret for any inconvenience caused
  • If there's a specific reason for your lateness (e.g., traffic, public transportation delays, or unforeseen circumstances), briefly explain it - avoid making excuses or blaming others
  • If you anticipate a significant delay and it's feasible, suggest rescheduling the interview to a later time that day or on another day
  • While you're en route, try to remain calm and focused - being flustered can affect your performance during the interview
  • When you arrive, apologise again and thank the interviewer for their understanding - be sure to maintain a positive and professional attitude throughout the interview

Remember that punctuality is highly valued by employers, and running late for an interview is not an ideal situation. However, how you handle the situation can also leave an impression. Being courteous, honest, and respectful can mitigate some of the negative impact of your lateness.

For a more comprehensive guide on what to do if you're running late for an interview, click the button below to read my article on the topic.

Running late?

Upon arrival

Arriving for a job interview can be a critical moment in your job search process, as it sets the first impression for the potential employer. Here's what you should do when you arrive for a job interview:

  • Ensure your phone is on silent mode or turned off during the interview to avoid any disruptions
  • When you arrive at the location, walk with confidence - maintain good posture, make eye contact, and offer a friendly, professional demeanor to everyone you meet
  • Greet the receptionist or anyone you meet with a polite and friendly attitude - they may provide feedback to the interviewer about your behavior
  • Be prepared for some small talk as you may engage in conversations while waiting for the interview - be positive and professional in these interactions
  • If you're feeling nervous, take a few deep breaths to calm your nerves before the interview
  • Quickly review your notes on the company, the job description, and any questions you plan to ask during the interview
  • When you meet the interviewer, listen actively, and be attentive to their instructions - a firm handshake, along with good eye contact and a friendly smile, can help create a positive first impression
  • Be sure to follow any directions or instructions given by the interviewer regarding the interview process

If you're interested in learning more about how you can make a great first impression on everyone you meet on the day of your interview, click the button below.

How to ace a job interview | Upon arrival

During your interview

What to do

Conducting yourself appropriately during a job interview is crucial to making a positive impression and increasing your chances of securing the position. Here are some tips for conducting yourself effectively during your next interview:

  • Maintain good posture, make eye contact, and offer a firm handshake - these non-verbal cues can convey confidence and professionalism
  • Answer interview questions using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) method to structure your responses to behavioral questions
  • Pay close attention to the interviewer and ensure you answer their questions directly - avoid going off on tangents or speaking too long
  • Use specific examples to showcase your skills and accomplishments - explain how your experience is relevant to the job you're interviewing for
  • Be truthful in your responses - if you don't know the answer to a question, it's okay to admit it
  • Customise your responses to align with the job requirements and company culture - emphasise how you can add value to the organisation
  • Maintain a positive attitude throughout the interview - even if you've faced challenges in the past, frame them as opportunities for growth and learning
  • Many interviews include questions about how you've handled situations in the past - be ready to discuss specific examples of your skills, abilities, and experiences
  • If asked about your weaknesses, discuss how you've worked to improve or overcome them - don't be overly negative or dismissive
  • Pay attention to the interviewer's style and cues - adapt your behavior accordingly

Remember that an interview is not just an opportunity for the employer to evaluate you; it's also a chance for you to assess whether the company and role are a good fit for your career goals and values. Be yourself, be confident, and stay genuine during the interview process.

What to do

What NOT to do

During a job interview, it's important to present yourself in the best possible light and make a positive impression on the interviewer. To help you with this, I recommend you avoid:

  • Speaking negatively about past employers, coworkers, or experiences - this can make you appear as a complainer or someone who is difficult to work with
  • Sharing overly personal or unrelated information
  • Rambling or providing excessive detail - this can make you appear unorganised or lacking communication skills
  • Being overly vague or not providing specific examples of your accomplishments and skills - this can leave the interviewer unsure about your qualifications
  • Interrupting the interviewer and not allowing them to finish their questions before responding - this can come across as rude or impatient
  • Showing a lack of enthusiasm - employers want to hire individuals who are excited about the opportunity
  • Discussing salary and benefits too early in the process - this can make you seem more interested in the money than the role itself
  • Failing to address weaknesses when asked to - rather, you should discuss a weakness you've recognised and how you're working to improve it
  • Using slang, profanity, or inappropriate language
  • Being unresponsive or dismissive - this can make you seem disengaged or unintereste
  • Being overconfident or arrogant - instead, be humble and willing to learn and collaborate
  • Neglecting body language - make sure you maintain good posture, make eye contact, and offer a firm handshake

Remember that a job interview is not just about showcasing your skills and qualifications but also demonstrating your professionalism and cultural fit within the organisation. Avoiding these common mistakes can help you leave a positive impression on the interviewer.

How to ace a job interview | What NOT to do

Finish strong

Finishing strong at the end of a job interview is crucial because it leaves a lasting impression on the interviewer. Here are some tips to help you conclude your job interview on a positive note:

  • Ask some of the questions you prepared earlier - as well as any you thought of during the interview
  • Briefly reiterate why you believe you are a strong fit for the position - mention key skills, experiences, or accomplishments that make you a valuable candidate
  • If you have any concerns or doubts about the position or company culture, now is the time to express them - be diplomatic and use this as an opportunity to seek clarification or express your expectations
  • Reiterate your interest in the role and the company - you might say something like, "I'm really excited about the possibility of joining your team and contributing to [specific project or goal]"
  • Ask about the timeline for the hiring process - inquire when you can expect to hear back or if there are any additional steps you need to take, such as providing references or completing a test or assignment
  • Summarise your desire for the job and express your commitment to moving forward - for example, "I'm very enthusiastic about the opportunity to join your team, and I look forward to the next steps in the process"
  • Before leaving, thank the interviewer for their time and for considering you for the position - show appreciation for the opportunity to interview
  • If the interview is in person, offer a confident and professional handshake
  • After the interview, send a thank-you email within 24 hours - express your gratitude, briefly mention something specific from the interview, and reiterate your interest in the position
  • If the interviewer mentioned a specific timeline and you haven't heard back, don't hesitate to send a polite follow-up email to check on the status of your application

Remember to be polite, professional, and confident throughout the conclusion of your job interview. A strong finish can leave a positive impression and increase your chances of being considered for the position.

Finish strong

Are you looking for a job?

Are you looking for a job?

Now that you know how to ace a job interview, you should take a moment to check our current vacancies page.

At 11 Recruitment, we have a range of white-collar temp and perm jobs available. We're always on the lookout for top talent to place with our clients, so we encourage you to apply for any positions that are of interest.

If none of our current vacancies are right for you, you should register for job alerts. Then we’ll be able to notify you when we receive a position that matches your profile.

Christian Madsen

What are your thoughts?

I'd love to have a conversation with you about this topic - please leave a comment below if you have any thoughts or opinions 🙂

Christian Madsen

Managing Director of 11 Recruitment

  • Louise Davis says:

    Another great article, Christian. I found your tips on how to conduct research particularly useful – I was definitely lacking in this area before. Thanks again!

    • Christian Madsen says:

      Hi Louise, thank you so much for your comment. I’m glad you found the article useful. Good luck in your job search 🙂

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