Interview Tips: 33 Tips That Help Make a Great First Impression

interview tipMany think that some people are natural interviewees and that those with outgoing personalities will surely do better in an interview. But with practice everyone can learn how to interview effectively. Here are some quick interview tips for creating a more powerful interview strategy.

1. Your interview starts the moment you walk into the building; anyone you meet may be connected with the hiring manager or the hiring team.

2. Be nice to everyone you meet from the receptionist up to the senior-level executives; everyone's opinion counts.

3. Your elevator pitch is a quick overview of who you are and the value you can bring to an organization.

4. Craft one pitch you could deliver riding up to the 50th floor of the elevator and another for a ride up to the fifth floor.

-- Find out what your dream job pays.

5. Practice your elevator pitch by calling your voice mail and recording your spiel; play back the message to determine what needs editing.

6. When asked why you are in job search, say something positive about the current or past employer first, then explain your reason for looking.

7. If you were downsized, explain the business reason why you were let go. Don't personalize the situation -- it wasn't about you.

8. If interviewing with several people at the same time, give everyone equal attention; you never know who the real decision maker is.

9. When participating in a phone interview always use a land line and don't put your phone on speaker.

10. Answer interview questions by communicating strong stories of success; prove what makes you unique rather than just explaining what you did.

11. Try to ask questions throughout the interview; it should be a conversation not an interrogation.

12. Asking questions during the interview helps you uncover key issues and better prepares you to answer questions throughout the interview.

13. Be sure to ask what the next steps in the interview process are so you can prepare an appropriate follow-up strategy.

14. Create a brief and visually interesting presentation about your skills and achievements to give to the hiring manager during the interview.

-- Applying for jobs? Find out what they pay.

15. When asked questions about mistakes you have made, be authentic, explain what you learned from the experience, and don't get defensive.

16. If asked about your weaknesses, don't spin weaknesses into strengths; it's not credible and who wants to hire someone they don't trust?

17. Ask big-picture questions about the company and how the department you are interviewing with fits into the company's long-term goals.

18. People think they should talk in general terms about career successes, but you build trust with interviewers by talking about specifics.

19. If recruiters ask you to "walk them through your background," focus on your core message of value, not the five positions you held pre-1985.

20. Interviewees are a risk to hiring managers because they don't know you. Prove success that can be duplicated in their company to earn trust.

21. A good interviewee is also a good listener. The questions asked provide clues to what the hiring manager needs and expects.

22. If you are the No. 2 candidate for a job, stay in contact with the company; many follow their "silver medalists" and recruit them later on.

23. Hang out in the company lobby the day before your interview to see how people dress; then dress at least one level up from that.

24. For lunch interviews, pass on the alcohol, garlic, and messy foods; and don't order the most expensive item on the menu.

25. For women, avoid heavy perfume, makeup, and jewelry on interviews. For men, go for a clean-shaven look, short hair, and polished shoes.

26. For men and women, cover up any tattoos and remove body piercings before interviews (other than earrings for women).

27. Before the interview, turn off your cell phone, take loose change out of your pocket, and don't show up with your own coffee from Starbucks.

28. Be memorable for what you say during an interview, not for what you wear.

29. On phone interviews, sit in front of a mirror to make you feel like you are in front of someone -- even if that someone is yourself.

30. During a phone interview, the only tool you have to communicate enthusiasm is your voice; vary your tone to communicate fit and interest.

31. Phone interviews are like open-book tests; keep any necessary notes handy so you can refer to them during the call.

32. During group interviews, ask for each person's business card and lay the cards out in front of you to help you remember everyone's name.

33. While waiting for your interview, check out the surroundings. Do people look frazzled or happy? These are clues into the department culture.

Next: Bad Interview and Resume Blunders: Tales from the Trenches >>

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Don't bother. You could be perfect and they'd find a flaw or a fault. Many companies appear more interested in finding faults, than hiring people. I kind of think your best odds of getting a job come down to if you know someone who works in the company. From what I have seen, if you know the right people in the company, you could get hired AND you can do whatever the heck you want AND get away with it, while getting paid.

August 18 2010 at 12:59 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Anonymousbug's comment

If the fault is, you are lazy and can't get anything better believe I will find this fault. If you're talking about the fact that you wear women's underwear on Friday nights....I wouldn't give a flip about that. You could wear them to work if you are a performer and make things happen. Employers do not look for those kind of faults. We only look at people who are not keeping their part of the "I pay you, you work" contract. I would hire an Emu if he was a performer and wouldn't care if he crapped on the carpet every night when he left work. I can get someone to clean that up.

August 18 2010 at 2:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Liar advices. Your first impression is that you're white if you're looking for management position. Now if you're seeking a computer job, then you should be Asian. However, if you're seeking public relations job you should be Black. All those advices are actually useless.

August 18 2010 at 12:14 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

So many outstanding candidates and so few jobs. Then again, it's easy to see why some are unemployed.

Great article Barbara. I am self employed and have to re-employ myself multiple times each year. I read this article and took away a few gems. You discouraged job seekers would do well to drop the baggage and open up to new ideas. Read this again and see if you don't find at least one of the 33 points is a "take away".

August 18 2010 at 12:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As a former school administrator, having interviewed hundreds of teacher candidates and hired dozens of teachers, I'd add that the coffee deal is not always a bad thing. In fact, one of my favorite interviews I conducted was with someone who I eventually hired. When SHE called ME to request an interview, she suggested that we chat over coffee. She showed up with a big cup of coffee for me, an up-to-date resume, and knock-your-socks-off enthusiasm. Turns out, she is one of the best educators I know. There are exceptions to every rule.

August 17 2010 at 11:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I am retired for years but while working for a major automotive company, I did hear and see a lot of applicants. Example: " May I help you?" " Yeah, I'm looking for a job. " " Salaried or hourly? " " What's 'cha got ?" And they would come in dressed in all manner of clothing from purple curly suits to just got out of bed look. I always said on my last day of work when asked what's cha got, I was going to say, " Well you can either shovel shit or be the president " But I didn't ..

August 17 2010 at 11:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Gloria's comment

Good one Gloria! Too bad you weren't working in HR for BP, then you could have offered them both in one job.

August 18 2010 at 12:12 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Businesses today are about hiring the candidates who have spent the most for their texted, e-mailed, and ghost-written educations. The ones who owe the most money in student loans get the job because they are the ones who are most likely to... kiss ass, lick boots, and brown nose their way into their immediate manager's hearts. It does not matter how old you are, it's how much you OWE!!! I owe, I owe, it's off to work I go... So if your new boss is younger than you even though you were supposed to be next in line for the position, then you know what has been implied in this comment. Hey, if it looks like policy-enforcement toad-snot, then it is ... toad-snot.

August 17 2010 at 11:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kami Butt

A good piece to look at for job hunters!

August 17 2010 at 11:10 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Looks like I'm screwed on phone interviews. I haven't paid for a land line since 2004 and I don't intend to start now.

August 17 2010 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dear Barbara,

Once again . . . you don't have a clue ! !

Get a real job !

August 17 2010 at 10:34 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

16. If asked about your weaknesses, don't spin weaknesses into strengths; it's not credible and who wants to hire someone they don't trust?

Did I read that right? DON"T spin weaknesses into strengths? That is the most stupid thing I've ever heard. What, so you're really going to say: "I tend to daydream throughout the day, and am very forgetful." Of course not! The whole purpose of this question is for the employer to know what YOU figured out to be something that you have worked on. You can just as easily say: "I don't have my college degree yet, however I plan on going back to school in the near future." Or, you could say: "I tend to put a lot of things on my plate, so I am focusing more on selecting and prioritizing important activities." It's really THAT simple. Good grief.

August 17 2010 at 10:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to pinkplease's comment
Barbara safani


My point is don't be phoney. Don't tell an employer your greatest weakness is that you work too much or you are a perfectionist thinking they will see your weakness as a strength...they won't. Many hiring authorities who ask this question already know your weakness...they have spotted it in your resume...and now they want you to explain how that weakness will not be a liability for their company.

I would have to disagree with you on your examples of weaknesses to showcase in an interview. Telling an employer you lack a college degree but plan to get one doesn't make you a more viable candidate. Proving how you were able to manage your previous job responsibilities with equal or greater success than your college-educated peers would be a more convincing answer.

Telling an employer you are not great at prioritizing but are trying to improve raises a red flag for most employers. Inability to prioritize signals inability to get things!

August 17 2010 at 11:15 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Jen, I don't think you did read number 16 right, or didn't understand it. I wish people would answer the weakness question with your response about daydreaming....and can save time and end the interview...but they don't all the time. I usually have to get rid of this phony response, I get responses like: "I am too ambitious"....or.. "I am too impatient". I then will rephrase the question: "Tell me what areas you feel you need to work on." I seem to get a more thoughtful answer. I personally used to get that questions in interviews as I was climbing the ladder, and I remember an old boss telling me "I need to sit on my hands" (since I was a new supervisor) It took me a while to realize that I had to get my staff working first, before I jumped in. Otherwise, I was just a glorified worker, not a supervisor. So it was a way to say "I am too ambitious", "I am too impatient" "I am a perfectionist" and still get across the message that I had learned from my mistakes. It seemed they wanted an honest answer. So I gave them that courtesy. I also had to convince the employer after that, I was moving forward on this previous weakness.

August 18 2010 at 2:01 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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