Job interviews are an inescapable reality of the labor market, and unfortunately they’re still an imperfect science. Different companies will have different qualities they’re looking for in a candidate, and different interviewers might have different ways of asking about those qualities.
Over the last year we’ve overhauled our approach to interviews to be consistent in what we’re looking for and how we get that information from applicants.
What follows are six tips for a successful job interview. While different interviewers will look for different qualities in candidates, these tips can still help you organize your thoughts and communicate your experience in a clear and impactful way.
Show, don’t tell
One of the best ways to make your experience stick in the minds of interviewers is to present a narrative they can latch onto and potentially even identify with. If someone asks whether you’ve worked with a certain language or tool before, rather than simply saying yes or no, you can tell a quick story about what you’ve built and how it compares with your experience in other languages. Ideally, this story might also include some details that show your experience and comfort level when picking up unfamiliar technology, including details that were particularly intuitive or challenging to grasp at first.
This can be hard to come up with in the moment, but luckily there are ways to plan ahead. You can look up common interview questions and prepare examples from your life or work experience that speak to the same experience.
All prior experience is relatable
What if you don’t have directly relevant experience, because you’re applying for a job you haven’t had before? Whether or not you’ve worked in the industry, it’s likely that you’ve had to navigate difficult circumstances throughout your personal and professional life. You’ve probably had to juggle multiple priorities, deliver bad news, work under a stressful deadline, and more. All of these experiences play a role in preparing you for success in any job, and can help show a holistic understanding of the expectations for your desired role.
Repeat the question back
Regardless of how much you prepare in advance, you will still need to be able to think on your feet. One small way to buy yourself a small piece of time is by repeating the question back. This technique shows you’re listening, and it also gives you time to think of how you want to respond.
This technique also provides an opportunity to slightly rework or rephrase the question to fit your response. If you’re asked a question about a specific problem you’ve never encountered, this technique provides an opportunity for you to draw a connection and show the interviewer how the experience you do have is still valuable.
The previous advice can help elevate your answer, but it also runs the risk of leading one to be long-winded and rambling. While you want to show the stories that animate your experience, you should also try to stay closely relevant to the question you’re asked, lest the interviewer gets confused or bored.
This is a delicate balance, and the next piece of advice can help ensure you navigate it appropriately.
Organize your thoughts with a framework
Frameworks like STAR or SOARA can make it easier to catalogue and recall experiences in the moment, and they will also help ensure your answers provide sufficient context and detail without veering away from the question you’re asked.
Prepare your own questions
Finally, remember that an interview can still be a two-way street. Regardless of the realities of the job market and your personal job search, companies have their own responsibility to be a place where you want to work. How have they supported people in similar roles grow throughout their careers?
This technique will also provide secondary benefits. It shows you care about your workplace, and you care enough about this opportunity to evaluate its fit ahead of time. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate your ability to do homework ahead of time to show up prepared and engaged in the process.
Additionally, interviewers will typically enjoy the change of pace and an opportunity to answer a few questions about themselves.