Career success

Tips For Successful Job Interviews, The Ultimate Guide

Job interview tips



The best way to succeed any job interview (or any interview) is for the interviewer to like you. You may all the skills needed for the job, but if they don't like you, you are toast. You may know some of the skills only and your work experience may be patchy, but they like, attracted by your easy-going manners and charm, your interest in the job (and them), you are in.


Part 1: What the employers are looking for


Let's repeat the basics of the employers' mindset during a job interview. (Please see the 'Job search guide')


A. There are three types of job interviews: Also known as the PIE method (source: Daniel Porot)


Practice interviewing: Practicing giving the answers in mock-interviews conducted by friends and colleagues. (Tip: Practice talking only 50% of the time. Listen more)

'Informational interviewing': Talking to people who are doing the job you want, to get a first-hand idea of the job.

Interviewing for hire: Talking to employers/bosses/team leaders directly, to find out if they really find you useful, or whether you find the people/company desirable now that you know them. (Tip #1: Interviewers prefer we talk for 20 seconds- 2 minute at a time only, anything more, they lose focus, anything less, they are not clear. Tip #2: They if the interviewer starts to shift from questions about past to questions about present and future more, this shows they are interested in you now.)


B. There are five types of questions employers want answers to most:


- “Why are you here? (Why us? Do you really know us? How we work? What we do?)


- “What can you do for us? (Can you really help us solve our problems/perform better? What is the proof of your skills and successes?)


- “What kind of person are you? (Do yo fit in our culture, our way of doing things and working? What sort of personality do you have? Adaptable? Easy to work with? Easy going?)


- “What distinguishes you from other people also interviewing for this job? (What value do you bring in? How are you better at what is needed at this job? How is your work ethic? Can you in the long hours when needed? Examples, please)


- “Can we afford you? (Do we have the budget?)


C. Common questions most interviewers ask:


- Tell us about yourself. (Your elevator pitch)

- What do you know about this company?

- Why are you applying for this job?

- How would you describe yourself?

- What are your major strengths?

- What is your greatest weakness?

- What type of work do you like to do best?

- What are your interests outside of work?

- What accomplishment gave you the greatest satisfaction?

- Why did you leave your last job?

- Why were you fired (if you were)?

- Where do you see yourself five years from now?

- What are your goals in life?

- How much did you make at your last job? (you don't have to answer this readily. Please see 'Salary negotiation')


Part 2: What you should be looking for (when it is your time to ask questions)


- What does this job involve? (To know if this is what you would really like to do/can do)

- What are the skills a top employee in this job would have to have? (To know all the important skills to do this job really well)


Questions you must ask yourself during the interview (while looking at behavior and body language of the interviewer/s, or the office)

- Do I want to work for these kinds of people? (Are they loud, rude, inattentive, uninformed, etc? Hopefully, you have done a bit of research on the company- history, any recent changes, reviews on Glassdoor etc)

- How can I convince them of my value to their company? (How am I different? Can I give examples of successful work using relevant skills? Can I explain what results they can expect to see in the future?)

- Can I convince them to hire me at my preferred salary? (Knowing that salary negotiation must take place in the end. It also depends on how well you convince them of your value. Please see 'Salary negotiation')


Part 3: The Interview


1. Things to tell them to convince you are the person for the job:


- I like 'Company X' because it (reason 1), and (reason 2).

- I am looking forward to work on 'industry challenge #1' and 'industry challenge #2- i.e. problems/needs the industry needs solution to/is a long time issue)

- I have (list some skills) which I have used successfully in past job/s to solve problems. Here's 'example 1' (PAR format- what was the problem, what was your solution, what were the results). Here's another 'example 2'.

- My approach to solving issues in this line of work is (explain briefly)

- If I work for you, I will be a valuable asset for you in the future. I will (list some ways how you bring value- give numbers, percentages etc.)


These are just indications oh what things to say to arouse the interest of the employer. Please take the idea, modify the wording etc and say them in a style you are okay with.


2. Operational questions

- Tell me more about a typical day here

- Would I be working with a team or is this a solo job?

- To whom would I report? (you expect to told name and designation, at least)

- How would I be evaluated, how often, and by whom?

- May I meet the person I would be working for (if it isn’t you) or some, if not all of the team I would be working for?

- How much time does it take for a new hire in this job to come up to speed (in this company)?

- What is your policy regarding skill upgradation and other training opportunities?

- In your personal opinion, what else should I know about the job/company before starting here?


3. How to increase your chances of getting a job after a job interview


- Interview at small companies over big companies: Small companies need to fill a position quickly, and they also help you learn a lot, and do a lot.

- Be ready (and practice a lot) with answers to all the personal questions the employer might ask.

- Get referrals to people taking the interview (through your professional network, etc- also see the 'Job hunting guide), but you must do well in the interview itself.

- Find as much as you can about the job, the company, key people as well as the industry. (You will find this line repeated so many times in this guide, it is really mindboggling)

- If you are ready to approach the interview with your own questions, research as well as solutions, you are gold.

- Follow the 20 seconds- 2 minutes duration rule for answering questions.

- When you request and get a job interview, ask for a fixed amount of time, this time commitment eases some of their wariness (just like a salesman who asks for just a minute of the prospect's time): Don't ask for more than 15-20 minutes of people's time for a job interview.

- With your answers and questions (in the end), your only goal is to come off successfully as a valuable person who brings solutions for the company.



4. Job Interview Cheat Sheet

Did you know writing a list just before an interview does wonders to calm your nerves? Why not just sit down before an interview and create a useful, relevant interview cheat sheet for that particular job? You will be calming yourself down and preparing for the interview at the same time.


List of the top 3-5 things I want the interviewer to remember about me. Highlight key strengths.

Stories/examples that show I'm valuable and well-suited for this position!

What are some specific challenges I've faced, and how did I overcome them?

Strategic answers to the 'tell me about your weaknesses' question. (Things I need to work on)

Based on what I know so far, my suggestions for improvement or future direction of team.

How I generally approach challenges & opportunities, and what excites me.

My Questions: About the job role, company, future growth opportunities, interviewer etc.


(Source for the cheat sheet: Jenny Blake)


5. To build a rapport with the interviewer/s

Show your knowledge of the company (and the interviewer, if possible)- Talk casually (not stiffly), and show some enthusiasm- Positive body language (eye contact, smiles, sitting straight but not stiff, nodding to show understanding of the interviewer's questions/explanations)- Ask questions (focus on the needs of the company)


'To be interesting, be interested.'

- Anonymous


6. Six kinds of questions not to ask the interviewer in a job interview


- Questions that show you are more interested in money and benefits than the job/company ('Do you pay overtime?', 'How soon can I get a raise?')

- Questions that show you want to have a good time, that's all ('What is your policy on office dating?')

- Questions that show you are very finicky ('Is this always so crowded and noisy here?')

- Questions that show you are not interested in that particular job position ('How long before I get promoted?')

- Questions that show you did not do any research on job/company ('What does this company do?', 'What can you tell me about this job?')

- Questions that you have something to hide/are not trustworthy ('Are there security cameras everywhere?', 'Do you cross check all references?')


7. Body language tips for job interviews


- Uncross your arms and legs: Open up from that defensive posture.

- Step back (or move your upper body back- e.g. if your are hunched a little, move shoulders back against the seat), which, studies say help you gather confidence when hard questions are asked.

- Research says when you touch someone on the arm, hand, or shoulder for as little as 1/40th of a second, you create a 'bond'. And shake hands, please- Studies also show that people are two times more likely to remember you if you shake hands with them.

- A genuine smile eases tension all around and makes you seem more approachable and agreeable.

- Use your hands when you talk or explain something, studies say it also helps you clear your thoughts about the topic you are speaking.

- Speak in a low, controlled voice: It makes you look authoritative.

- Practice the 'Power pose' before going in for the interview: Like you just won the race, your arms raised in jubilation.


Finally, practice the interview before a mirror, with a friend asking question from off-mirror location. Observe your body language, your frowns and pauses at the questions, and how you come off as.


The biggest body language mistakes: Results from a survey of 2,500 hiring and human resource managers

Failing to make eye contact: 67 percent

Failing to smile: 39 percent

Playing with something on the table: 33 percent

Having bad posture: 30 percent

Fidgeting too much in their seats: 30 percent


Other mistakes: Touching the face often, slouching too much


Dealing with the hands

The palms: Show your palms, don't hide them.When you show your palms, it evokes truth, honesty, and allegiance. When you hide, they will think you have something to hide. Keep hand sout of lap or pockets. If you can't show your palms, keep them flat on the table, which projects a dominant personality.

Steeple your fingers: Touching the tips of your fingers together, looking calm, confident and calculating like a politician or a top strategost (this one was made famous by character of Mr. Burns on The Simpsons). Please don't tap your fingers on anything, as it shows your impatience.

The hands: Don't fold across chest (look defensive). Use your hands as aids when explaining something, but don't overdo it.


8. Decoding the interviewer's body language


1. The interviewer is laying back in their chair, head tilted slightly upwards, arms open, they are waiting for you to say something that will impress them.

Time for you give an example of something you did, and the successful result.


2. The interviewer is sitting on the edge of their seat, elbows on the table, leaning forward.

You have their full attention. Answer questions directly. Speak from experience.


3. The interviewer is suddenly sitting upright, arms folded, pen on the table.

Maybe, you have said something that frustrates or disappoints them. Time for you to make a self-depricating joke, or say you're nervous and would like a glass of water.


4. The interviewer is leaning toward you, arms folded, and trying to speak to you as directly as possible

They want a direct answer. Listen carefully. Ask for clarification if necessary, and keep your answers short and to the point.


5. The interviewer is brushing their face, ear, neck, or other upper body part with their free hand.

They are getting tired and/or are not paying attention to you. Try to draw them back in to the conversation. Ask them a question.


6. The interviewer is now sitting back, legs and arms crossed.

Most probably, they have chosen to stop listening to you. Time up.


Source: Reddit


9. The two most important interview questions

1. What is the single most significant accomplishment in your career up to this point?


Give your reasons: Why are you proud, even today? What things did you do? Give numbers/percentages as results.


2. Please tell me why you left your last job.

Describe in detail how you tried to deal with it before choosing to leave and what happened when you tried.


- Steven Tulman


10. Answering 'what is your biggest weakness': Answer bullshit with bullshit, give cliched answers

Most interview questions are useless, perhaps meant to gauge whether you can bullshit your way out of all kinds of situation more than anything else- modern business reality is a virtual breakfast of bullshitting champions. Organizations have systems in place that are guaranteed to make good people turn bad, so no point being an idealist about it.


1. Answer bullshit with bullshit- Give a cliched answer: E.g. 'I'm a perfectionist', 'I'm a workaholic, I never go home on time' or 'I care too much'- and being as vague about it as possible- don't go into specifics about such as bullshit question.


2. Ask about the work conditions, before replying: If you will be required to work in a team, don't say 'I am not a team player' or 'I am shy.'


3. Think about situation: How desperately do you want the job? Accordingly, calibrate your bullshit.


11. Dealing with uncomfortable job interview questions: Without lying, say what the interviewer wants to hear

The idea is to deal with uncomfortable questions without having to lie and telling the interviewer 'what he wants to hear'. The idea is also to 'Think Ahead, Answer Professionally, and Admit When You Don't Know.'


1. Be prepared to deal with job-related questions.

2. Decline to answer questions related to your health, religion, ethnicity, marital or family status- many of these questions may be illegal to ask in a job interview in many interviews.

Or, at least, in case of health, you can give vague answers- e.g. 'I am okay'

3. Twist the uncomfortable question around: Think, what does the interviewer want to know when he asks questions like 'Are you religious?'- a proper answer to this question can be this: 'I am but not like it would affect my job performance.'

4. If you can't twist the uncomfortable question, just be honest: Ask the interviewer 'What is it specifically that you want to know? I would be happy to answer that.'

5. Examples of 'acceptable' lying: For example, many say that since they were made to sign Non Disclosure Agreements at their previous company, they can't fully answer the question. This kind of lying throws the onus of verification on to the other party.


12. Six subjects to be careful about in your next job interview: Start with not dissing your past employer

1. Don't ever say negative things about previous employers- the interviewer will then think his company will be the next target.

2. Talk positive things about previous employers- things you learnt.

3. Avoid talking about personal financial issues- that should only be your business, not theirs.

4. Avoid enquiring about child care support facilities- For example, how you care for your child, health problems, etc. keep some things for later.

5. Avoid talking about age: You don't want them to be prejudiced- too young (inexperienced), or too old (costly, outdated skills).

6. Avoid being too arrogant about the question 'Where do you see yourself in five years?'- just say you want to learn more and reach further up the career ladder in the industry.


13. Dealing with illegal job interview questions


The most common illegal job interview questions

Age: “How Old Are You?, “how long have you been working?, “when did you graduate high school?

Criminal history: “Have You Ever Been Arrested?

Physical ability: “How Is Your Health?

Family situation: “Are You Married?, “who will take care of your children while you’re at work?, “could you get a babysitter on short notice?

Religion: “What Is Your Religion?

Race/Place of birth: “What Is Your Nationality?

Company culture fit: “Do You Like to Drink Socially?

Loaded questions: “Have You Ever Used Drugs In the Past? (wide range of drugs, they have to be specific- illegal narcotics to prescription drugs)


Dealing with these illegal questions: You will kill your chances if you outright say 'No, or tell them it is illegal for them to be asking such a question. Remember, it is not illegal to ask these questions, it’s illegal to make hiring decisions based on the answers to those questions

Anything that seems discriminatory to you, may be bordering on illegal.


You just have to be tactful and spin the answer. For example, if they ask you about your religion, say you are too busy with work to be thinking about religious stuff.


14. Some uncommon interview questions


1. If I called your manager and asked what one thing irritated them about you, what would they say? (basically,'what are your weaknesses?')


2. What was your claim to fame in your previous role? (basically, 'what are your strengths?')


3. If you had a magic wand and could have any job, what would it be? (stay on topic- talk about professional things you would do)

- James Caan, CEO of the Hamilton Bradshaw Group


15. Three surprising but effective final interview questions you can ask the interviewer

1. What could I do to delight or surprise you?

You want to make life easier for the company and the people. Simple. So, you ask.


2. Ask a genuine question while conveying something new about you.

This way, you are able to break two bottles with one stone.


E.g. I’m passionate about writing and minored in creative writing in college. Will this role provide opportunities to write on the 1% and their effect on modern society?

E.g. According to your annual report, your revenues grew by 25%. Is that because of a particular product only?


3. Have I said anything in this interview or given you any other reason to doubt that I am a good fit for the role?

This one can be a bold things to ask. To work, it needs you to be honest and sincere (and low key) while asking it. Then, this is one great question, as it shows your genuine desire for the job as well as your confidence.


16. When a top level person interviews you (CEO, VP, etc)

Top level people (CEO, VP, etc) will interview you if you are applying for a senior level job. This is the time to think like a CEO. According to experienced recruiters, here are five things top level people want to know about candidates:


1. Do they have business acumen?

Do you have adequate knowledge of what's happening in your industry?- Industry trends, important numbers (growth rate, sales trends, market breakup), competitors etc. Do you know where the most profits in the business come from?


2. Do they have strategic skills?

Can they plan for the future, keeping in mind the company's goals as well as what's happening in the industry?


3. Do they understand the company's culture?

How easily they fit in with how we do things here? Are they adaptive people?


4. Do they withstand being challenged or criticized?

Are they able to take in the criticism etc calmly, not taking anything personally but looking at the underlying business and operational issues? Can they give specific answers to direct questions, without being vague?


5. Can they be trusted?

CEO-types deal with high level decisions (and high level information). Does the candidate divulge information about previous bosses/companies easily? Do they complain about personal difficulties they faced readily? No one likes and trusts whiners.


17. Three acronyms that will make you shine on resumes and in job interviews


Use one these three to explain a successful example from your working life (E.g. when they ask, 'tell me a time when...' kind of behavioral questions)




P: Problem

A: Action

R: Results


STAR model


S: Situation or Task

A: Action you took

R: Results you achieved


Basically, What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn?




S: Situation

H: Hindrances

A: Action

R: Results

E: Evaluate (what you learned from the experience)


18. The big list of the most common interview questions

This list of commonly asked interview questions is from changingminds. Look at these questions, and prepare your answers on a sheet of paper. Of course, the answers will be customized for every job interview.


Big picture questions

Tell me about yourself: A classic opening question. Give your elevator pitch.

Tell me about your last job: Seeking perspective and detail.

Tell me about your career so far: Seeking patterns and themes.

Please describe a typical day: Looking for what really happens.

How does your current job fit into the overall business: Seeking strategic understanding.

Tell me about your ideal job: Looking for key motivation.


Strengths questions

What has made you successful?: Examples and reasons for success.

What interests you most about this job?: Show your motivation.

What is your greatest strength?: What you think you're good at.

Tell me about when you were particularly challenged: Challenge brings out the real person.

Tell me of a time when things went really well: ...and it was more than luck.

Would you call yourself ...?: Probing for named qualities.

What have you done that you are proud of?: Motivation and concern for self.

What did you learn in that job?: Openness, learning, risk bias.

Why should I employ you?: Show fit and motivation.

What would you do if you got the job?: Strategic and tactical detail.


Possible weaknesses questions

What are your weaknesses?: Admit non-important weaknesses.

What skills would you like to develop?: Motivation and new areas.

Tell me about when something you did didn't work: Coping with failure.

What did you like least about that job?: Checking the range of your motivation.

What do you find difficult?: Show you can handle difficulties.

How do you approach risks?: Show foresight and planning.

What have you done that you are not proud of?: Exposing shame and values.

Have you ever lost your job?: Show positive attitude.

Do you take your work home with you?: Show both organization and passion for work.


Stress questions

Can you work under pressure?: Demonstrate control and fortitude.

What keeps you awake at night?: Whether you can relax or how you prioritize.

What annoys you?: Show control and calm.

How do you handle stressful situations?: Show that you are calm under fire.

How do you handle criticism?: Positive learning or robust response.

How do you respond to change?: Contribution, collaboration, leadership.

Have you ever had to dismiss someone?: With sensitivity and due process.

Do you plan to have children?: Respond carefully to this.

What do you do to relax?: Show that you have a life!

Do you take your work home?: Be willing to work extra when needed.

That was stupid!: Assertive reframing or questioning back.


Working with others questions

Would you say that you stand out as an individual?: Be individual, but not anti-others.

How do you work in teams?: Leader, follower, collaborator, as appropriate.

How do you handle conflict?: Show emotional maturity in mediation.

What sorts of people do you not get on with?: Make it a bad person.

Tell me about a time when you influenced someone else.: Show subtle changing of minds.

What do you do when you disagree with others?: Manage emotions.

How do you get on with others at work?: Sociability and assertiveness.

What do you think about your manager?: Show you're a good employee.

Tell me about the best manager you had: Describe good management.


Constraints questions

Why are you looking for another job?: Tell reasons for leaving.

What particularly attracted you to this job?: Tell reasons for joining.

Are you prepared to travel?: Critical, if the job involves being on the road often

What did you like/dislike about that job?: Show positive motivations.

Why do you want to leave your current job?: Need to grow, etc.

Which job did you like least?: Give good reasons.

What salary are you seeking?: Don't be greedy and don't be timid.

How long would it take to get up to speed in this job?: Be realistic. Show competence.

What are your career aspirations?: Show good sense of the future.

Do you work much outside normal hours?: Show control and flexibility.




Do you have any questions?: Ask great questions

For example, What's the number one issue facing your business right now?


What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days? Or, What will be my important responsibilities here?

Why do you enjoy working for company X?


Bonus: Some more all-time great interview tips


1. Make that great first impression

Experienced hiring managers says 75% of interviewees give the wrong vibes within 3 minutes of entering the room. Please be sure to be in the top 25%.


Shake hands firmly and warmly (shows enthusiasm). Wait to be invited to sit down (courteous). Smile and maintain good eye contact with the interviewer (to be more likeable, show confidence and inspire trust). Try to relax, Take deep breaths quietly. Don't perch on the edge of your chair. Sit straight, without slouching/slumping (shows lack of confidence) or being stuff. Don't fidget. Avoid using highly informal phrases such as ‘you know’ or ‘I mean’.


2. Never leave an employer feeling the company is just one of many you are applying to.


3. Never say anything negative about yourself unless you can say how you are going to fix it.


4. Don't ask questions that only have bullshit answers.


5. Don't ever say you're detail-oriented and then not be able to answer with specifics. If your resume says you're detail-oriented and has spelling, formatting, punctuation, or any other type of errors, what can one say?


6. But be detail-oriented. If you're not, get better at it. And show it subtly during the interview, listening and watching everything closely. Point things out if it is relevant to the job.


7. Be honest. Many questions that seem like repeats are repeats. They are there to weed out the bullshitters who can't keep their story straight.


8. One simple trick to get more comfortable during job interviews: Imagine you’re old pals with the interviewers.


9. Be nice to the receptionist. Be pleasant and professional to everyone, even the security guard.


10. Never talk over the interviewers while they're asking you a question or answering one of yours.

This happens often during phone interviews.


11. During phone interviews, jot down questions you have for them, and just let them talk.


12. Use the interviewer's name/s.


13. If there's more than one interviewer, make sure to address your answers to the whole panel, rather than just the questioner.


14. Think Aloud on Analytical Questions. This happens often during coding interviews, where you have to work out at a solution to a given problem. In any scenario, think aloud, give them a look at a your thinking process, as well as showing them you are willing to look deep into any given problems.


15. Research better: A simple Google search is not enough. Research news, company financial reports (search 'Company X financial report', go to Google finance or Yahoo finance), blog posts and tweets about the company.


16. Come off as a professional: Dress clean and elegant- Have nice etiquette (start with getting up when the interviewer approaches, smile, shake hands, introduce yourself very briefly...)


17. The best time to interview is 10:30 AM on Tuesday. The interviewer has a job beyond the interviewing. Monday is busy and tricky for any professional, dealing with slag from the weekend, and coming to terms with new week's tasks.

(Source: survey)


18. Iffy things to do after the job interview:


- Asking for the job.

You are hoping they will marvel at your forthrightness, at your chutzpah, and they (may) think you are being desperate.


- Sending them 'Thank you' notes afterwards

Sending to whom? The catch-all HR email id? Or, will you be asking for an email id/phone number? And, do employers actually want you to follow up? 


Thank you for reading.
This guide is from The Success Manual, which contains 200+ guides to succeeding in business, career and personal life.  Get the pdf ebook for $12 only.