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How to Nail a Job Interview and Get Your Dream Job

Acing your next job interview can be easy with these seven tips. From preparing for the interviews to following up after, here's how you can make a strong impression and get the job you want.
Published 1 Feb 2021
Updated 7 Nov 2022
7 min read
How to stand out in a job interview

At some point in your life, you will have to be interviewed. If you look back through your life, there will be countless times when you can remember being interviewed. Whether that be pre-school interviews, school entry interviews, doctor-patient, or parent-teacher interviews.

We haven’t even graduated from school yet and we have already experienced many types of interviews. Slowly these interviews will get phased out and you’ll start being interviewed for higher education opportunities and career prospects.

The point still stands; despite the massive amount of interviews, we still get nervous about being interviewed. But why do we get nervous before a job interview?

The psychology behind interview-induced nerves

Well, it’s simple. Our brains trick us and sense that job interviews are artificial. Your brain recognises that this situation isn’t natural and is manufactured, so your brain doesn’t act normal.

You can’t blame your brain for getting nervous about the job interview because you put on an act to seek approval from the interviewer and to hopefully get chosen—by almost random coincidence, it seems—for that coveted dream job.

For a job interview, you have to dress in a costume and play a character that’s eerily similar to you, but also not. It’s a theatrical experience and people experience stage fright!

Firstly, It’s ok to feel this nervous. Secondly, this is the first step in realising that you can now better control how you perform during an interview.

Read more: Job market recruitment and retention statistics

7 ways you can nail a job interview and leave a lasting impression

Here are some tips on how you can ease your nerves, stand out in your job interview, and feel confident in your ability to impress the interviewer to secure that coveted dream job position.

1. Dress to impress

Research suggests that it only takes one-tenth of a second for someone to start determining how trustworthy someone is.

Not a lot of time, is it? Within seven seconds, people will have a solid impression of who you are and can ultimately make a decision whether you might be the right or wrong person for the job.

Now, this isn’t meant to scare you into rushing into a conversation, eager to explain how amazing you are to an employer within seven seconds. No, this is to let you know that first impressions matter.

Find out if there are any company dress code requirements before the day of the job interview. This depends on the company culture and could range from a button-up shirt and jeans to formal attire.

When in doubt, choose the more formal attire, as you only get one chance to make a great impression!

Dressing well and smelling good is an easy step that almost anyone can follow. So, dress to impress, and it can already significantly boost your chances of succeeding in the job interview.

Pro tip: Impress your prospective employers with a professional LinkedIn profile

2. Pay attention to your body language

Your body language is a form of nonverbal communication and it makes up the majority of how we communicate with others.

We often don’t realise how important our body language is, but it’s essential to be aware of how you’re carrying yourself.

In a job interview, you want to come across as confident, relaxed and engaged. You don’t want to appear fidgety, anxious, or closed off while interviewing.

Sit up straight, make eye contact, and try not to cross your arms or legs. These are all signs of a confident individual who is interested and engaged in the conversation.

Smiling is another form of nonverbal communication that can go a long way and has been scientifically proven to make you appear more likeable, trustworthy, and competent.

So, when you’re feeling nervous before your interview, take a deep breath and smile. It’ll help ease your nerves and make you come across as more confident to the interviewer.

Read more: Unconcious bias during interviews

3. Be ready for small talk and ask questions

Now, a job interview will mostly focus on determining whether you’re the right person for the job. However, interviewers also use this time to determine your character and whether you’re a right fit for the workplace culture.

A job interview is a lot like a date. Two sides coming together to determine if you’re both the right fit and whether you’d like to continue. Now, imagine on this date only one party was talking and asking questions—boring, right? That’s why the second tip you need to learn is when to make small talk and ask questions. Simply showing initiative and discussing the role further shows the employer that you’re interested in the position and that you have a genuine curiosity about the position.

Employers love this. Now, don’t go overboard with this. There is a time and place for questions related to the position, typically towards the end of an interview. It’s best not to go personal with your small talk; try to focus mostly on the job position, company, and culture.

4. Answer the employer’s questions concisely

You’re probably reading this and thinking, isn’t that what I’m already doing? Yes and no. Whilst your brain responds to questions asked to you by an employer, what you say might not actually answer their question.

They could ask something as simple as “what is your biggest weakness?” You might think you’ve answered this, but you actually rambled on about how a previous employer was bad at their job, and you suffered because of it.

This is a big problem for employers as they are looking for direct and straightforward answers, and giving them long-winded and irrelevant answers signals to them you’re incapable of following tasks and appears to be a red flag.

Employers will typically ask very similar questions, so once you understand the common types of questions asked, you can begin practising how to answer these. Employers will still ask curveball questions that are more specific to the role, however, they will always ask generalized questions which you can prepare for.

5. Answer questions using the STAR method

This follows from the previous tip of answering the employer’s questions. You might be thinking ‘Wow great! I know I need to answer the employer’s questions but how do I go about answering them?’

The STAR method is an excellent method to answer behavioural questions. STAR is an acronym that stands for:

  • Situation: Give details on how your situation occurred
  • Task: Describe the job you had to do
  • Action: Explain exactly what steps you implemented to achieve this
  • Result: Share what outcomes your action created

Using this acronym allows you to create a digestible but compelling narrative that an employer can use to determine how you can fit into the job. A structured response is more likely to impress employers than one completely given on the spot.

6. Don’t throw a former or current employer under the bus

No one likes a Debbie Downer or a Negative Nancy. Starting off negatively can severely impact the success chance of your job interview. Trash talking about your past employer reveals to your interviewer that you may talk negatively about them in the future, which is a big red flag.

It shows that you may be incapable of handling constructive criticism or feedback and you seem unable to take ownership of mistakes. Now, this does not mean being honest about your past work situations.

However, speaking in neutral or positive tones about what you were able to learn from that experience or why you didn’t fit is more likely to benefit you than bad-mouthing. Employers also appreciate honesty if they ask you to criticise their own practices, but that doesn’t mean you should trash their operations.

Constructive criticism and honesty will go a long way by showing that you’re a good potential hire and that it won’t come back to haunt them if they do hire you.

Read more: What is a reference check?

7. Bring new ideas to the table

One of the ways best ways of interview preparation is to thoroughly research the company’s story you are interviewing for. Study the job description carefully and prepare an elevator pitch on how to do things better.

Now, you might ask why would you bring ideas to an employer when there’s a chance they can just take your ideas and not hire you. It’s a risk you’ll just have to take because the rewards can be immense. Bringing ideas that you’d implement if you were given the role shows two things.

One is that you’re confident and this can positively impact your chance of success. Secondly, it shows the employer you’re in the mindsight from day one to help the business and that you’re a forward thinker.

Read more: Transferable skills employers are looking for Now, you don’t need to have a detailed plan prepared for each job interview, but just simple initiatives can go a long way by separating yourself from the competition and allowing you to ace that job interview.

8. Thank the employer and follow up after the interview

A simple way to tie up your candidacy is by thanking your potential employer. We mentioned earlier how a good impression starts you off on the right foot, but finishing strong is also critical. By sincerely thanking the employer for their time, it shows that you’re appreciative of the time and hard work they’ve put in interviewing you.

Remember, job interviews aren’t just the one time where you’ll need to impress the interviewer, as in most cases, they will end up being your boss. Starting and ending on a good note will significantly improve your chances of standing out and will allow the interviewer to make a decision about the success of your interview quicker.

Also, sending a thank you or follow-up email is another good idea to show and express interest in the position. The point earlier mentioned how showing initiative reveals to the interviewer how committed you are to the position.

The same goes for a thank you email. Make sure it’s still in a professional manner so as to not seem overconfident about successfully acquiring the job.

The bottom line

The bottom line that you should take with you is that interview skills matter. No matter whether or not you get that dream job, at some point or another, you’ll need to interview for another position or you might try to get that promotion.

You now have steps in place so that you can ace that interview, no matter the occasion.

Whilst these tips can help you stand out from the competition, your personality and fit for the role will ultimately be the decider.

What should you expect after a successful interview? Some employers may require a reference or employee background check before offering you an employment contract.

These tips are here to boost yourself to the interviewer, helping them by providing more reasons why they should pick you over other candidates.

Kate Jolly
Talent Acquisition Manager - Employment Hero
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