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For Job Seekers

Interview best practices

Follow the tips in this blog to turn your next interview into a great first impression or better yet, a job offer.

Published on

March 29, 2023


You’ve tailored your resume, applied for jobs, networked on LinkedIn and finally…landed an interview! Congratulations! If looking for a new job feels like a marathon, the interview is one of the most critical legs of the race, and making a good impression is like that last step between you and the finish line. With the right preparation, however, you’ll be able to hit the ground running and sail through to a solid finish

Follow the tips below to turn this opportunity into a great first impression or better yet, a job offer.

Research the organization

Learning more about your potential employer can help you feel more confident, answer questions more directly and stand out from other candidates. Start by reading up on what the organization does, when it was established, its size and the market it serves. Then, read the company’s Career page to learn about their corporate culture, organizational values and what they offer as an employer. Look up bios and LinkedIn profiles to learn about key team members (especially the person interviewing you).

Don’t try to memorize the material verbatim, as you may sound scripted. The goal isn’t to ‘showcase’ what you’ve learned, but instead, present it naturally if you’re asked, or incorporate what you know into a reply.

✓ Be prepared to answer, “Why are you interested in our company?” and, “What do you know about our organization?”

X Don’t list off every detail you've read or ask about negative things you may have found online. Remember that former employees may vent but their career and situation are not your own.

✨ Quick tip for interview success: If you have a personal connection to their company or mission, weave this into your answers.

Match your experience to a role

Try to reflect on how your skills, experience and interests align with the job description. This is an area where candidates are often ill-prepared—even though it should be top of mind! Read each line of the job description and consider what you’ve done that is the same or similar. If you have no direct work experience that aligns with part of the role, think of what you’ve done that is similar (in your community, volunteering or at school).

✓ Have concise examples in mind that demonstrate how your experience is directly linked to the job requirements.

X Don’t discuss one specific skill for too long. Be curious and let the interviewer share what is important to them.

Prepare answers to the most common questions

Although every role and organization is unique, there are common interview questions that most interviewers ask. Before the interview, prepare your points and craft a strong reply that is clear, brief, positive, memorable and authentic.

✓ Plan your answer to introductory questions like, “Tell me about yourself.” The interviewer typically uses this opening line to learn a bit more about you and understand why you’re the right person for the role. How you respond can set the tone for the interview, so avoid answering with something generic or hostile such as, “What do you want to know?” or, “Read my resume. It’s all there.”

  • Here’s a sample answer you can tailor: “I’ve always been interested in (X field/sector) and so, after graduating with a degree in (X degree), I began building my experience by taking on a range of roles (from X to Y). As a detail-oriented, deadline-driven person, I truly enjoy (field) because it’s fast-paced and always challenging. I think this role would be a great next step for me as it would build on my skills while allowing me to work on (X project), which I find intriguing.”

✓ Be ready to answer common interview questions including:

  • Why did you leave the position with (company)? Be prepared with reasons for leaving each role.
  • What skills would you bring to this role/what are your strengths?
  • What areas would your manager say you could improve?
  • Where would you like to see yourself in 1, 3 or 5 years?
  • Why do you want this role?

X Don’t be negative about former employers, your superiors or colleagues.

  • Find a professional way to express issues or problems you’ve experienced.
  • For example, “I decided to move on from my current role because my values have evolved and are more directly connected with your company’s work.”

Dress the part

We used to say ‘dress for success’ but today, dress codes are extremely variable and can run the gamut from business professional to ultra-casual. That said, whether you’re joining a video call or heading to the office for an in-person interview, it’s a good idea to dress in a way that makes you both approachable and presentable to the interviewer and the team you may join. Attempt to mimic the work setting while still remaining professional. If it’s a casual environment (jeans and t-shirts), wear dress pants and a nice shirt. Look at the website for clues and if you’re working with our recruiters, you can ask us about the environment.

✓ Borrow from a friend if you don’t have what you need in your closet. You may regret buying interview attire that doesn’t work for all environments. If you decide to shop, go for ‘business casual’ attire that you can dress up and dress down.

X Don’t risk being underdressed by wearing casual clothes. Never wear torn jeans, stained clothing or t-shirts with offensive language.

✨ Quick tip for interview success: Avoid asking about promotions. Instead, express an interest in future career growth. Ask what career pathing or professional development looks like in the company. This takes the pressure off the interviewer to assess your career trajectory at the interview stage while also allowing them to share more about the company.

Listen actively

Sometimes the pressure of the interview takes over and instead of listening, you focus only on your next reply. When you miss the chance to hear a clue, your dialogue with the interviewer may be stunted. Actively listen for tips about the job itself, skills they are looking for and information about the interviewer. Note: To test memory and listening skills, some interviewers may ask you at the end to share what you remember hearing during the interview.

✓ Be sure to keep your eyes on the interviewer. Their body language or change in tone may be an indication that you need to provide more details or wrap up your reply.

X Don’t interrupt. While you may be eager to respond, be sure to let the interviewer finish their sentence before you reply.

Use body language & tone to show your confidence

To help control the jitters and channel confidence, sit up straight. Remember to smile when you can to create a positive connection with your interviewer and try to avoid fidgeting, if possible. Some interviewers will intentionally put you on the spot to see how you may react to feedback or instruction, so be sure to pay attention.

✓ Make eye contact with the interviewer to build a connection, and show interest and confidence.

☓ Don’t fiddle with the items on the interviewer’s desk. And if you’re doing a video interview, clear your workspace so you’re not tempted to fiddle with any items on your desk.

✓ Project your voice. Make sure your answers are clear and avoid mumbling.

X Don’t cross your arms as this gesture can suggest a negative or defensive attitude.

Bonus tip: If you’re put on the spot, try to avoid becoming defensive. Before answering, take a moment to collect your thoughts. Start off your answer with positivity by thanking them for the question and continue with what you have learned and what you intend to do.

  • Example: “That’s a great question and you’re right, I have moved around quite a bit in my career. This has helped me gain an appreciation for different industries which I’m confident will benefit the role you are staffing. Two of my recent departures were not under my control as one company moved its headquarters and the other reduced its staff by half. I’m seeking stability at an organization where I can continue to learn and grow, and intend to stay in my next role for years.”

Exude interest and positivity

Companies are looking to hire candidates who will positively contribute to their projects, teams and culture. When the interviewer asks you about an element of the job, say, “Yes, I’d be interested in that.” Don’t leave them guessing; be upfront with your interest.

✓ Be upfront and say you want the job. Everyone likes to be wanted, so go ahead and say, “I’m very interested in the role and will accept it if it’s offered to me.”

X Don’t speak negatively of others or job tasks. Remember, everyone does some amount of grunt work (even executives). Rather than saying you “hate doing X duty,” frame your answer with positivity: “My favourite tasks to work on are X and Y but I know Z is an important duty as well and I’m happy to do what needs to be done to deliver exceptional results.”

Be prepared to talk about salary, vacation and benefits

Be prepared to discuss compensation, but don’t be the one to bring it up. If the interviewer raises compensation, refrain from saying, “I’ll take anything” and avoid unexpectedly increasing your ask from what was included in the job posting or discussed in previous interviews. If you must provide salary expectations, offer a range that makes sense based on the labour market, research from websites like Glassdoor, and what may have been included in the job description. If this question is asked, you can respond with, “Based on my skills and experience, I’d like to earn between $XX,000 and $XX,000. However, I’m keenly interested in this organization, and I’d accept a reasonable offer.” Let them make an offer, and then do your research before making a decision.

If you’re working with our recruitment firm, leave it to us to negotiate the best offer we can on your behalf.  That’s what we’re here for as your job search partner!

Be prepared with your salary range. This should be a $10,000 range that will give you flexibility in your job search (e.g., $50,000-$60,000).

X Don’t ask for a big office, immediate vacation, a parking spot, or overtime pay in your interview. Ask what perks and benefits may—or may not—be available and then reflect on how these fit into the total compensation package.

X Don’t suddenly increase your salary range in the interview. If salary has been discussed previously, either in a preliminary interview with the company’s HR or with us as your recruitment partner, subsequently increasing it will reflect poorly on everyone involved. Instead, be transparent from the outset. If you’re working with our firm, we will work with you to find opportunities that match your goals and experience.

Quick tip: What not to say about salary

Avoid saying “I don’t know.” Every job seeker should know what salary range is acceptable to them.

Refrain from saying that you need to make a target amount due to your expenses. The organization wants to hire the best candidate with the right skills and experience—expenses shouldn’t affect the offer. Never say, “Based on my personal expenses, I want at least $XX,000 to do the job. I wouldn’t accept less.” Instead say, “Based on my skills, experience and market value, I’m seeking a salary in the range of $XX,000-$XX,000.”

Prepare questions for the end of the interview

At the end of the interview, you will likely be asked if you have any questions. Use this opportunity to find out more about the company, clear up any concerns and show you’re interested in the job. It’s important to be respectful of everyone’s time and keep it short and sweet. Come prepared with three questions that will help you learn more about the company and the expectations for the role.

✓ Prepare a few good questions to ask at the appropriate time, or when the floor is opened to you. Ask one question at a time, and allow the interviewer to answer. Respond to their answer thoughtfully before you move on to your next question. Here are three great questions to get you started:

  • “If I’m the successful candidate, what do you foresee as the first project I’ll be working on?”
  • “Based on our conversation, do you believe I have the appropriate skill-set for this role? Is there anything further I can add?”
  • “While in this role, how could I contribute to the company’s goals?”

Looking for more inspiration? Read this blog for additional tips and examples.

X Don’t say you have no questions at all. This could make you seem unprepared or disinterested. Preparing your questions ahead of time gives them a glimpse of your professional approach.

You've got this!

Remember, every interview is an opportunity to gain more experience and practice. Keep your answers concise, confident and positive. Share a bit about yourself but not too much! After all, it’s an interview so keep it professional and personable. Remember to pause if the interviewer has questions—let their response spark conversation and connection. Good luck!

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