How to Ace an Interview: A General Guide

It is often regarded as a daunting concept, one for which inordinate amounts of preparation is necessary: The professional interview. If ever there was a topic about which so very much has been written and said, the question of how to interview certainly qualifies. And with good reason. To ready for an interview is to engage in conversation in a decidedly unbalanced context. Whoever conducts the interview wields considerable power within that setting and will almost certainly dictate the terms, pace, and outcome of the exchange. An interview might be framed as a friendly conversation, but the knowledge of what is at stake inevitably influences what each person says, the way they say it, and how they respond to what they hear.

In other words, interviews are layered, multi-faceted meetings. But this is not unique to the interviewing process. Any traditional sales pitch is, by and large, governed by the same rules. This is a rather fitting comparison, in truth, as what is an interview if not an attempted sale? The difference is that the selling can rightly be viewed as a two-way proposition: The interviewee should sell the employer on their professional quality, while the employer should sell the interviewee on accepting an employment offer if presented. To as great an extent as is possible, all interviews should be understood as human-to-human information transactions. With that understanding in place, the following recommendations will fall nicely into place.

The Palpable Quality of Calmness

The spoken word is a potent medium, one that has in many ways come to define our species. It has certainly been a foundational component of human sociality and politics across innumerable centuries. But it does not operate alone, at least not in face-to-face communication. Body language, facial expressions, tone of voice—these collectively accompany our speech in ways which convey as much if not more about our state of mind and intended meaning as do the words themselves. For socio-psychological reasons of a rather deep and eternal nature, the ability of one to exhibit coolness of bearing while under scrutiny is a compelling personal characteristic, and one hiring managers tend to view in a favorable light. If your temperament allows, maintain a calm demeanor from the first moment of an interview to its last, though not at the expense of allowing enthusiasm to manifest when and if appropriate.

Prepare in Sensible Ways

Preparation measures should always be tailored as specifically to a given situation as time and resources will permit. That said, there is rarely a good reason to forego acquiring relevant knowledge in copious quantities, particularly when one reflects on how to ace an interview with good questions and answers. Closely research both the company for which you hope to work and the position to which you are applying, then link your unique array of skills not only to the specific job requirements (that much is a given) but to the larger organizational mission of which you will potentially be a part. A polished resume certainly won’t harm your odds of being hired, but truly differentiating yourself from other applicants requires a demonstrated knowledge of the larger operation in need of talent, expertise, and raw labor.

Know Yourself Well

Hiring managers and human resources professionals are accustomed to perfunctory interview responses. Bromides about being a hard worker and working well with others have their place and are, perhaps, nice to hear. But what will often impress the person charged with assessing with your quality are words which allow them to do so more accurately. Introducing your personality, capabilities, and vulnerabilities, and intangible attributes into the exchange will serve to humanize you as a candidate while painting a genuine picture of your merits.  Painting that picture well and in succinct fashion requires you to have a clear mental image of it. Evaluate yourself honestly and in the context of whatever professional role you aim to inhabit. Doing so will ensure your communication with the interviewing party will transcend the typical and approach the noteworthy.

Honesty Above All

Jobseekers throughout the ages have struggled with the question, “How to ace an interview with no experience?” It can present a significant hurdle for many: “I need a job to acquire experience, but I can’t seem to get a job without experience.” Variations on that statement have been made by nearly every professional early in their career. But the fact is, every employed human being walking the earth was at one point inexperienced. Overcoming the hurdle is best achieved through voicing both confidence in one’s abilities and a willingness to invest in the mission. It also requires honesty. Be truthful in answering touch questions, own up to any knowledge deficiencies, and speak frankly about short/long-term career goals. Candor, as a personal characteristic, is preferable to halfhearted, semi-truthful responses. Speak forthrightly at every turn when looking to ace an interview, via Skype or in-person.


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