The Complete Guide on How to Ace Your Job Interview

Katharine Whitehorn

Find out what you like doing best and get someone to pay you for doing it.


The Horrid Stress of a Job Interview

It’s going to be a big day today. In fact, it could be the beginning of a wonderful new career path.

You wake up buzzing with energy, yet feel a little nervous and somewhat anxious about the uncertainties that lie ahead.

You have a critical job interview this morning, and so you put on your “serious face” and dress in your very best outfit. After all, making a great first impression is going to be “oh so important.”

You arrive at your destination, walk up the stairs and push the door open. All of a sudden the reality of what you’re about to do sets in. You feel your heart jumping out of your chest, you’re sweating bullets, and the nervousness you felt earlier suddenly turns into terror.

You’re asked to wait at reception. And so you sit down in a slightly uncomfortable office lounge and take the time to glaze your eyes around the room. You look at the people, at the decor, at the magazines stacked on the table, and you imagine for a moment what it would be like to work here. You imagine how it would feel and the kind of career you could potentially build. However, your daydream is suddenly and abruptly cut short when you receive an open invitation to walk down a long, ominous corridor.

At the end of this corridor, you see an open door. You walk through the door and notice a handful of people sitting and waiting in the room. One smiles and shakes your hand, while the others give you a quick look over with critical judgment in their eyes. Immediately you feel a little intimidated, and the pleasant daydream now seems like a distant memory.

You sit down in the chair and feel your heart making its way up your throat. Your hands begin to shake, and you start to sweat even more profusely. Then suddenly and unexpectedly one of the interviewer’s asks you to tell them a little about yourself. A simple question no doubt, but you’re too nervous to say a word. You stutter and stammer, and before you know it, your interview turns into a natural disaster. 🙁


Turning Down the Stress of a Job Interview

Yes, of course, the above scenario is a little over the top, but there’s probably some truth here. We all feel a little nervous before and during a job interview. The uncertainty of what it will be like and the types of questions you will be asked can be rather daunting.

However, a little nervous energy can and will actually work in your favor. It will help you to stay aware and present in the moment, which is, of course, beneficial when answering questions.

The level of nervousness you experience is almost entirely dependent on two primary things. First, it’s based on your expectations of how the interview is going to go. And secondly, it’s based on how thoroughly you’ve prepared beforehand.

When it comes to our expectations, it’s all about perspective. How we perceive things and the stories we tell ourselves about something will influence our expectations of the situation, or in this instance, the interview.

Our expectations are certainly important, however, here, within this article we will focus on how to thoroughly prepare ourselves for an interview.

Thorough preparation will help you to become more resourceful when various scenarios arise during the job interview. You will, therefore, feel much more confident and capable of adapting to the interview flow.

Specifically, within this article, we will break down what to do before, during, and after an interview to ensure that you make the best possible impression to help you ace your job interview.


What to do Before a Job Interview

Your main objective before any job interview comes down to thorough preparation. The more prepared you are for each interview, the more confident you will feel, and the more likely the interview will play out in your favor.

When preparing for a job interview, it’s important that you address several key areas. These areas include:

  • Conducting research about the company and industry.
  • Exploring your value to this organization.
  • Cleaning your social media profiles.
  • Clarifying your career plan and objectives.
  • Preparing your backstory.
  • Exploring your personal and professional experiences and how they will help you on the job.
  • Practicing your responses to standard interview questions.
  • Organizing the pitch, you will make on the day to sell yourself as the most valuable candidate for the position.

We are assuming here that you have already handed in your resume/CV. And based on this, you have secured an interview with the company or organization.

You receive a call, and you schedule an interview. Preferably, you schedule it midweek, first thing in the morning. This is important because the later it gets in the afternoon, that’s when fatigue starts to set in for the interviewer. Everyone is more focused and present during the morning sessions, which is why you should book your interviews before lunch.

Midweek interviews are also preferred for the same reasons. Your interviewer will typically be more focused midweek. On Monday they will have a lot on their mind — trying to catch up on work that’s piled up over the weekend. And on Friday, they may very well be in weekend mode already — trying to finish things off quickly.

Your best bet for an ideal interview time is midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday) first thing in the morning. At least before lunch.

You will, of course, also need to think about how to dress. There are no fixed rules here. It all depends on what kind of job you are interviewing for. However, keep in mind that you can never be overdressed for an interview. Dress professionally, and you will be guaranteed to make a great first impression.

Now that the interview has been scheduled, and you are clear about how you will dress, it’s time to thoroughly prepare yourself for the interview.

What to do Before Job Interview


Conduct Thorough Research

Your very first objective is to conduct some research about the company, the culture, their competitors, the industry, your role, and even about the person who will be interviewing you. The knowledge you gain here will help you to answer questions more thoroughly during the interview session.

It’s, of course, not always straightforward finding this information. However, you are likely to find some valuable information on the company’s website and social media profiles. There are also review sites such as Yelp where you can gain insight into how the company serves its customers.

When it comes to researching the industry, consider what’s in the news, threats on the horizon, the opportunities that may exist, and how things are possibly changing.

When it comes to your role within the company, assess what’s involved and the requirements of the position. Then prepare yourself to address how you fulfill these requirements during your interview session.

Finally, if you’re able to find some information about your interviewer (their role and responsibilities), then you can use that information to bond with them on a deeper level during the interview.

Remember though that interviews don’t just go one way. You can also ask questions. And the more you know about the company, their culture, the industry, etc., the better questions you are likely to ask. And by asking these questions you show that you’ve done your research. And most importantly, you show that you have an interest in working for the organization.

Assess Your True Value

Your next objective is to assess the value you potentially bring to the organization. Consider for a moment your strengths and evaluate how your strengths can provide value to the organization or to the role you are interviewing for. Ask yourself:

Given my strengths, where can I provide most value to this organization?

How you position yourself here is vital in helping you establish your value and how it will benefit the company.

Also, take into account your weaknesses and the impact that they could potentially have on your role within the organization. If there’s something there that might not work to your advantage, then it’s important that you address this within the interview. Ask yourself:

What weaknesses do I have that could hinder me in this role?

How am I working through these weaknesses?

How could I reframe these weaknesses in an advantageous way?

That you have weaknesses will normally not be an issue. We all have weaknesses. The key is to explain or show how you are working through your weaknesses to help improve your performance.

Clean Your Social Media Profiles

We all do some crazy things at times when we’re out with our friends. Capturing memories of these crazy moments give us a bit of a laugh. It makes us feel like we’re living and connected to others. However, some of the things you do in your personal life may very quickly raise red flags for potential employers.

Given this, take a moment to clean your social profiles. Remove pictures, videos, or stuff you’ve written that might be perceived as inappropriate. Stuff that could make a potential employer question your character, work ethic, or levels of commitment.

You could, of course, just adjust your privacy settings, but there’s always a chance that your potential employer is a friend of a friend who will still have access to the pictures and videos you share on your social profile. It’s always a risk.

Of course, what we do in private shouldn’t impact how we are perceived in the professional world. However, unfortunately, these days there is a fine line between both, and what you do privately can very well impact your job prospects.

It’s better to be safe than sorry.

Clarify Your Career Plan and Objectives

When a company is interviewing you, they are typically looking for someone who will seamlessly fit within the organization and its culture. They are looking for people whose career goals and objectives are aligned with the company’s goals and objectives.

Given this, take a little time to get very clear about what it is you want. Ask yourself:

What’s my vision for the future?

Where do I see myself in 10 years?

How does this job fit that vision?

Not only do you need to be a good fit for the organization, but they also need to be a good fit for you. Therefore, if your goals and objectives are not aligned with where the organization is going or the role they have planned for you, then just maybe you should give this interview a miss.

However, if you just desperately need a job for now, then take the time to tweak your vision so that it’s somewhat aligned with the company’s vision and goals. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit for the long-term, but it does need to be at the very least a loose fit in the present moment. There must be alignment and congruence between your vision and the company’s vision. Only in this way, will you put yourself in the best possible position to get the job.

Once you are clear about your vision and how it aligns with the company’s goals and vision, take the time to consider how you might convey that information during the job interview. Ask yourself:

What do I want to get from this job interview?

What key messages do I want to convey?

How do I want to come across?

How will I sell myself during the interview?

Keep in mind that during the interview you must come across as an ideal candidate for the job. If someone else sells themselves as a more ideal candidate, then it’s likely you won’t get the job. This is why you need to explain how your vision and goals are aligned with the company’s vision and goals during the interview process.

Prepare Your Backstory

Now, take a moment to prepare your backstory.

Your backstory is something you will likely be asked about during your interview. Your backstory is, of course, about your values, your experiences and even the hardships that you’ve gone through over the years.

You don’t need to go into a lot of detail here. You just need to have a story to share with your interviewer that shows your human side. Moreover, this story needs to provide insight into the strength of your character.

Employers are looking for people with great character and work ethic. They want people working for them who share their values and life experiences. They are looking for people whose experiences provide them with key knowledge and insights needed to help them on the job.

Given this, take the time to prepare your backstory, and practice how you will deliver it during your interview session.

Explore Your Personal and Professional Experiences

Consider for a moment all the experiences you’ve had in your previous jobs. If, however, you haven’t had much professional experience, then consider your life experiences and how they could be used in the role you are applying for.

Prepare several stories that you will share during your interview where you give an example of something you did. Explain how that demonstrates your ideal fit for the position and the role that you are applying for.

To provide you with some ideas, consider the various problems you have solved, the setbacks you have overcome, how you have adapted to change, mastered your weaknesses, gone the extra mile to get something done, and also how you’ve successfully worked with others and made the most of opportunities.

These are all key areas of interest that are of tremendous value to a potential employer. They provide insight into the strength of your character, your work ethic, your ability to solve problems, your resourcefulness during difficult times, and your effectiveness when working with others.

If you’re able to successfully check off all these boxes during your interview, then you will most certainly leave a good impression. The only thing left to do will be to intertwine all these experiences into the role you are applying for. In other words, explain how your past experiences can be of value to the organization if they end up hiring you for the position.

Practice Responding to Standard Interview Questions

Your next task is to practice responding to standard interview questions. Now, of course, you will never really know what kind of questions they could ask you. Unless, of course, you ask them to provide you with these questions. However, most employers won’t provide them in advance and will prefer to surprise you during your interview. 😉

However, there are some standard interview questions to keep in mind. The questions you’re asked will, of course, depend on the type of job you are interviewing for, but you can typically expect the following questions to be included:

Tell me a little about yourself?

Why do you want to work here?

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Where have you failed and succeeded?

Can you talk about your work history?

What salary are you expecting?

Tell me about a problem you’ve solved on the job?

The questions might not be asked in exactly the way described above, but more or less, you can expect these types of questions to be brought up during the interview process.

Consider also additional questions that your interviewer might ask you. Ask yourself:

What other questions could they potentially ask me?

What job or role related questions could they ask me?

How will I respond to these questions in an effective way that shows them that I am the best candidate for this position?

You only typically get one opportunity to answer a question. Therefore, spend a good amount of time preparing yourself thoroughly.

If you get stuck, speak with someone who has gone through the interview and ask them to share the questions they were asked. Alternatively, do some research online or read a book where the author breaks down various interview questions relating to specific industries and roles. There’s a plethora of great information out there.

Organize Your Pitch

Your final objective before the interview is to organize your pitch. This is essentially all about YOU selling yourself.

Consider for a moment the following questions:

Why do I want this particular job and role within this company or organization?

Why am I passionate about this particular opportunity?

Why am I inspired to work at this company or organization?

What value will I bring to the company or organization?

The answers you give to these questions is typically something you will want to address toward the end of your interview.

At the conclusion of the interview, the interviewer will likely give you an opportunity to speak freely. That essentially becomes your last opportunity to either ask questions or to sell yourself as the best candidate for the position.

Given this, take a moment to answer these questions thoroughly. And then, at the end of the interview, be sure to share with your interviewer why you want this role, why you are passionate about it, why you are inspired to work for the company, and then recap the value you will bring on board when you are hired for this position.

And you’re done. Now, it’s time to head on up for the job interview. 🙂

Before Job Interview Guidelines


What to do During a Job Interview

Okay, so now comes the time for your job interview. This is actually the easy part. All that research and time you spent preparing, should now give you the confidence you need to ace the job interview. That, of course, doesn’t mean that you’ll get hired, but you’ll certainly leave a strong impression as you walk out that door.

You will, however, still need to be very conscious, mindful, and aware. During your job interview, any number of things could take place. You, therefore, need to be focused and ready to adapt to everything the interviewer throws your way.

What follows are several important guidelines that will provide you with the best possible chance of securing the job.

Speak Clearly and with Confidence

When meeting someone for the first time, we typically make snap judgments about them in three specific ways. We judge them by the way they dress, by the way, they talk, and by their body language. The same is true in a job interview setting.

With this in mind, be very vigilant with how you come across during your job interview. For starters, speak clearly and with confidence. Make sure that you exude positive energy through your voice. You must come across as being confident, but not arrogant. Arrogance is often a red flag that indicates that this person will be tough to manage.

Secondly, be extremely vigilant of your body language. This is something that’s not always easy to manage. However, excessive hand gestures, touching the face, and fidgeting will make you come across as being disingenuous. Your objective is to be authentic and sincere.

Authentic and sincere people use gentle motions and gestures. What’s more, is their body language is congruent with the words they speak. As a result, they come across as being genuine and trustworthy.

Your overall objective is to sell yourself as being someone who is candid, upbeat, authentic, concise, and helpful. If you check off all these boxes, you will certainly get the interviewer’s attention for all the right reasons.

Focus on Being an Active Listener

During a typical job interview, the interviewer will ask you a broad range of questions. Active listening skills are therefore of tremendous value for the interviewer. They need to carefully hear you out and dig deeper into areas that require further exploration.

Active listening is, however, also of tremendous value for the interviewee.

As the interviewee, you need to pay very close attention to every question that is asked. You need to quickly assess what purpose each question serves and the types of answers that the interviewer is listening out for. This, of course, won’t be easy. However, the more attuned you are to each question, the greater level of awareness and understanding you will have about what might be required to answer that question in full — in a way that puts you in the best possible light.

Emphasize Your Key Qualities and Interest in the Position

While answering interview questions, keep in mind your key qualities and strengths that could serve you on the job. These are the things you should be inserting into your answers.

For instance, by the end of the job interview, your interviewer must be acutely aware of your strengths, your ability to learn and to adapt to various circumstances. They must also be aware of your level of commitment to the job and your interest in the position.

Be very careful though not to exaggerate your strengths, skills, or the experiences you have had. Your over the top exaggerations may initially impress your interviewer, but this may come to haunt you in the long-run when you get hired for the position. Just be real and authentic and tell things how they are without exaggeration.

What to do During a Job Interview

Display Intelligence, Self-Motivation, and Passion

There are three main things that employers look for in a candidate. They look for intelligence, self-motivation, and passion. Now, this, of course, might vary from job to job, however, in general, an employer will prefer to hire someone with these attributes than someone who only has one or two of them.

Given this, you must be very vigilant to address all three areas — showing your potential employer that you are intelligent, that you are passionate about this job, and that you are self-motivated, without needing someone to always be standing and looking over your shoulder.

This essentially means that you need to come across as being a Go-Getter. In other words, you are someone who takes the initiative to get things done. Moreover, you are someone who logically and enthusiastically works through problems.

This is the type of person that just about all companies are searching for. So be sure to position yourself in exactly this way.

Tell Stories About Your Achievements

Everyone loves stories. And within a job interview setting, stories can be of incredible value. Specifically, when you use them as evidence that supports your accomplishments.

Just stating your achievements is nowhere near as convincing as telling a story about those achievements. In other words, instead of telling the interviewer that you broke sales records within your previous job, choose instead to tell a story. Tell them about how you got to that point, about the struggles you faced, and how you overcame them.

Use stories as evidence that supports all that you have accomplished.

Do Not Dare Discuss the Following…

There are several things you shouldn’t dare bring up during a job interview. These things include discussing personal problems, talking about questionable pastimes, and bringing up financial issues. Anything that isn’t related to your job isn’t anyone else’s business but your own. Keep these things to yourself, or otherwise, a perfect job interview can quickly go down the drain.

Furthermore, never bad mouth a previous co-worker or employer. Badmouthing people only makes you look disingenuous and spiteful. Only say good things about former colleagues and bosses, or don’t say anything at all.

Ask Questions and Seek Out Feedback

During a typical job interview, you will be asked plenty of questions. How you answer those questions will, of course, determine your fate and future employment status. However, a job interview ain’t over until you have the final say.

It’s all well and good for your interviewer to know everything about you. However, you also need to determine whether the position you’re applying for is right for you. Or, whether working for this company is in your best interests.

Moreover, you also need to know about the selection criteria. You need to be aware of what precisely the company is looking for, then successfully address questionable areas that weren’t brought up during the interview.

With this in mind, take time toward the end of your interview to ask for feedback and clarification in several key areas. Specifically, ask:

What is the company’s mission, its goals and values?

What is the company culture like? What is it like to work here?

What’s the selection criteria you use to hire someone for this position?

What expectations do you have of this person?

What would a typical day be like for someone who gets hired for this position?

What responsibilities would I have if I was hired for this role?

Given how the interview has gone, do you think I’m a good fit for this role?

What concerns do you have about my candidacy?

Having asked these questions, it’s time now to provide your interviewer with more in-depth answers that help you address any concerns they might have.

If, however, after asking these questions you don’t feel the position or the company is right for you, then courteously and sincerely thank them for the interview and inform them that you just don’t think that this is the right opportunity for you. Then say goodbye, and walk out the door with confidence that you are in control of your career path. 🙂

During Job Interview Guidelines


What to do After Your Job Interview

Finally, the nerve-wracking job interview is finally over. You breathe a sigh of relief as you walk out the door. You tried your very best, and now you must leave it up to fate to secure your career and future. You cross your fingers and hope that it all works out in your favor.

You head home and consider for a moment how the interview unfolded. You reflect upon the interview and ask yourself:

How was my interview?

What can I learn from this experience?

Where could I have done better?

Am I a good fit for this company?

Am I a good fit for this role?

Conducting a self-assessment after the interview is invaluable. The answers you give to these questions will help you to figure out how to proceed moving forward. Moreover, they will encourage you to make adjustments in how you tackle job interviews in the future.

And so, after your self-assessment, you feel pretty good about yourself. You feel as though you did your very best and put yourself in an optimal position to get this job.

And so you wait and wait. You wait for that phone call congratulating you on your new role at the company of your dreams. But instead, you get a letter stating that unfortunately you just weren’t good enough. It was close, but another candidate was just a little better than you. In other words, you didn’t quite stand out enough in the interviewer’s eyes.

You now, of course, feel kind of miserable and wonder what else you could have done that would have made a difference and pushed you over the top. You wonder and wonder, and then you realize that you absolutely goofed up in one big way. You left the interview and failed to follow up and therefore didn’t leave a lasting impression.

What you didn’t know was that the candidate who got the job did something after the interview that pushed them over the top. On that fateful day, they walked out the interview door and immediately sent a short personalized thank you card and email to the interviewer. On the thank, you card they left a handwritten note showing their appreciation for the interview and reaffirming their interest in the position.

What to do After a Job Interview


On that day, the interviewer was about to pick up the phone and hire you for the job. But then they got something in the mail. It was a card. More specifically a thank you card from a candidate who was “oh so close” to getting hired. The card expressed the candidate’s appreciation and interest in the position. And just like that, the interviewer changed her mind and decided to hire the person who went the extra mile and showed how badly they wanted this position.

Such a simple thing to do. And yet, it made all the difference in the world. And to think it could have been you.


Concluding Thoughts

Success in any field of endeavor requires hard work and thorough preparation. Moreover, it requires going the extra mile — going above and beyond what is expected. And the same is true when it comes to acing a job interview.

Acing a job interview requires thorough preparation and research. It requires a self-assessment and preparing yourself for various questions and scenarios that could arise during the interview session. Moreover, it requires staying flexible and adapting to the interview flow. And then, when everything appears to be all over and done, it requires going the extra mile to leave a lasting impression on the interviewer’s mind.

In the end, the candidates who truly make an effort put themselves in the best position to get the job. This, of course, doesn’t guarantee they will get hired. But it certainly makes it very difficult for the interviewer to leave them out of the equation. 🙂


Time to Assimilate these Concepts

Acing a Job Interview

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Adam is a life coach, mind mapper, doodler and visual thinker. He founded IQ Matrix in 2009 and has created over 350 self-growth mind maps. He also has a Free 40 Day How to Doodle Course where he teaches how to doodle using simple daily lessons. Read more about Adam's story, and how he created the concept for IQ Matrix. Feel free to also get in touch and send Adam a message here.