Job Interview Tips: HR Professionals Comment

This piece is a compilation of advice people have sent us on how to succeed in your job interview. We’ve got some great advice already, and I’ll continue to update this article as new comments come in (if you’re qualified to speak on this topic, you can make a submission here).

  • Follow up in a creative way (link) such as by sending a thank you letter by US postal service (link)
  • Prepare as much as you can, both by researching the company and reviewing your experience (link)
  • Come up with a good elevator pitch (link)
  • Looks matter (link)
  • Write out 10-12 success stories in the PAR format (Problem, Action, Result) (link)
  • Establish rapport with the person interviewing you (link), and look up everything about them you can beforehand (link)
  • Ask for feedback right in the interview (link)
  • See if you can transform your interview into more of a conversation (link)
  • Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know (link)
  • It’s a bonus if you can ask smart questions after the interview (link)
  • Always be on time, which means probably getting there early (link)

In my experience the most important interviewing skill in today's job market is the art of the follow up.

In the course of building our team I have interviewed 50 people in the last six months. My advice to job applicants is to never do the same old fashion show up on time send a thank you note routine.

Everybody shows up on time, everybody follows up , everybody sends a thank you note have to do something to stand out

The best example of is that I've seen is one applicant for a project manager position sent a thank you note however also sent an article from the trade publication that tied into what we discussed during the interview.

It showed me that she was engaged she knew our industry and she was thinking about ways to could contribute to the team and was willing to go above and beyond the same old motions Of trying to land a job.

So my advice is to break yourself from thinking that the same old status quo approach will work in today's competitive job market.

--Bryan Clayton, GreenPal


The most important thing you can do to succeed in a job interview is PREPARE. To start, you need to get every piece of information you can about the organization and the role. If there's an annual report, that's something you should read. Make sure you are familiar with the company's visions, its goals, its values, and of course, the financial report. If you're going for a role through a recruiter, make sure you've got a lot of information about why the position has become available, what the culture is like, as much information as you can about the team and most importantly what the challenges will be in the role for the next 12 months. How do you use this research? It will give you some context about the words that the company uses and the way that they write (and think).

When you are reading through the job description and annual report - go through it with a highlighter and highlight the different words and the language style that they are using. When you are in the interview, be reflective of that style. By reading all the available documents, you will get insight into their style and culture, as well as any specific terminology. In the interview, you will feel like the person that they are looking for if you talk in their language, using their buzzwords and technology. It shows that you are like-minded and will psychologically shift the interviewer to see you in their business.

The second part of the preparation process is to review your experience. This is a powerful thing to do before an interview because it will give you the confidence to be able to clearly articulate what your key achievements have been to the interviewer without stumbling or having to think of examples on the spot for each job that you've held. Spend time sitting down and looking through your CV and outlining what the role looked like when you took on the responsibilities, what your key achievements were and the environments that you had to achieve them in. Being able to clearly articulate these and practising in front of the mirror will ensure that when you are in the hot seat, those interview questions flow nicely and smoothly.

--Ineke McMahon, Path to Promotion


You really need to form a great elevator pitch. Here's my advice for the elevator pitch:

Your elevator pitch should have three different versions, each with a different length.

For casual meetings and networking events, it should be 15-seconds long.

For dinners and formal meetings, 25-45 seconds is OK.

For interviews, use a two-minute pitch to answer the Tell me about yourself question.

The 15- and 30-second pitches should comprise top-line experiences and qualifications. You want to encourage your speaking partner to ask more about your experience. If needed, I'd add a line at the end explaining your goals and where you want to end up.

Your two-minute elevator pitch should consist of what you've done, what you're doing, and where you want to go. This means you should spend 30 seconds explaining relevant experience, another minute giving details about how your current position is helping you become a good fit for the job opening, and 30 seconds providing us a snapshot of your goals, which are presumably aligned with the duties of the job opening.

Essentially, you should explain the items that demonstrate your leverage-worthy skills. What you've done comprises important past accomplishments and projects; what you're doing comprises current pursuits and jobs; where you want to go comprises intermediate and long-term goals.

Your extended elevator pitch should include what you've done, what you're doing, where you want to go. Custom-tailor this approach.

Focus on customizing your answers to the person you're speaking with.

If you don't have experiences that directly relate to your interlocutor's industry, that's fine. When you mention your goals, be sure to match those goals with the industry. This shows that you're willing to put in the work and learn more about pivoting your experience.

Think of your words as $100 bills. Don't ramble on. Keep things pithy and concise. Your elevator pitch should only go beyond two minutes if you're in an interview and they ask Tell me about yourself. Otherwise, use a quick hook and get right to the point.

Again, don't try to fit in all your experiences. If you do a good job of capturing your partner's interest, then you'll get the chance to elaborate on your experiences, qualifications, and credentials. Rambling is a sure-fire way to lose your partner's interest and squander a good opportunity.

Bonus: Supplement your elevator pitch with confident body language.

You only get one chance at a good first impression, and human communication is 93% nonverbal. This means that how you say something matters more than what you say.

Keep your shoulders back, neck straight, chin up, offer a firm handshake, and keep eye contact. That's how you establish the power of your words.

--Jason Patel, Transizion


First of all, looks matter. While there is no cut out dress code for interviews, noting the following subtle facts will help keep you on the safe side.

1. Neatness.

Going for an interview with unkept hair, beards, nails is a really bad idea. It immediately gives the impression of a lack of organization skills. Also, creases on your clothes are interpreted negatively.

2. Excessive display of skin

For guys, long sleeves are always a better option. Also, don't ever show up for an interview in shorts or with your shirt buttoned down to reveal your chest. For ladies, Obviously, only the extra short skirts are problematic. A skirt of reasonable length is wonderful. Exposure of the cleavage and much skin is subconsciously seen as unprofessional.

3. Loud outfits

Outfits with a lot of colors or patterns often draw attention away from you as a person. Clothes of this kind can distract the interviewer. Same goes for excessive jewelry and clothes with inscriptions. If you must wear an apparel with inscriptions, then let the inscription be about something meaningful or work related.

--Jane Flanagan, Tacuna Systems


The number one interview tip I share with my clients is to prepare for job interviews by writing out 10-12 success stories in the PAR format (What was the PROBLEM? What ACTION did they take? What was the RESULT (preferably measurable)?) and practice being able to tell these stories in less than 2 minutes a piece. The benefit of coming up with so many stories is that odds are that no matter what the question is, the candidate will be able to use one of their stories to answer the question which can reduce the uncertainty and enable them to feel more confident. Additionally, when they have rehearsed answers, they can demonstrate the value they've added in previous roles more concisely than if they were searching their memory on the spot for an answer.

These PAR stories can also be used on the resume and during networking conversations to demonstrate the candidate's skills and previous contributions.

--Terry McDougall, Terry B. McDougall Coaching


the #1 tip for job seekers I would recommend is establishing rapport with the person interviewing you. Literally 9 out of 10 times the candidate who can develop a connection with the hiring manager will get the job! Even over candidates who are more qualified. The reason? People like doing business and working with people they can relate to. Even if this person lacks some of the skills and experience, if the leader can imagine them working together and being able to train this person to do the work, it always outweighs someone's skills and experience.

--Matt Erhard, Summit Search Group


The #1 mistake clients make it they don't ask for feedback right in the interview. What I advise all of my clients to do is ask for feedback in the form of I've loved our conversation today and think this seems like a great fit! Given our interview today, my resume and my background, do you have any hesitations or concerns about me being a fit for this role?

Most people are caught off guard by this and will answer honestly. You'll find out if they think you're a great fit or not, and if you aren't, you'll have feedback as to how you can change your approach in the next interview (INVALUABLE!). Without feedback, most candidates randomly change their approach but never actually know why they're not making it to the next round.

--Joyce West, LinkedIn profile


Immediately after your job interview, send a creative and appreciative thank you letter by U.S. Postal Service. It will help you stand out, and show that you pay extra attention to detail. In the letter, thank them for their time, and offer them some suggestions about how you might do something to enhance the position, help save them money or time, if appropriate. Or let them know that you are a dedicated, and hard worker who won' t let them down. Don't sell yourself short. Very often, when it comes down to a few candidates, the one who wins out is the one who puts in the most effort to get the job.

--Lynell Ross, Zivadream


In addition to company research, look up everything you can about who is going to be interviewing you. What's their role? How long have they been at the company? What did they do before this? Where did they go to college? What are their interests? Are they active on LinkedIn? Have they written any articles or posts? Do you have anything in common?

The key to succeeding in every interview is developing a connection with your interviewer and making sure you articulate your connection to the company. Use your research to show you care and your results will speak for themselves.

--Cynthia Orduna, Orduna Communications


Here's my favorite tip: Disrupt your job interview. Yes, I said it. Transform it from an interview to... a conversation. It's my all-time favorite job interview tip.

Don't sit there and answer random questions. Fire back, asking detailed questions about the company's recent initiatives, as well as career journeys of team members.

Next thing you know, guards are down, and you're a step closer to a job offer.

First, I never walk into a job interview without an agenda; who I'm going to meet with, for how long, and in what order.

Why this is important: If you are being interviewed - virtually or in-person - your skill set matches the job. The employer and its team members want to know what it's like to work with you, be around you for tens of thousands of hours. We're talking about company culture.

During my previous career as a journalist, I interviewed for a sports reporter position in Cincinnati. I discovered the editor in chief, working at his previous job, once stood in front of a door to stop law enforcement from entering the newsroom to illegally cease records.

At my current job at Frenik Marketing Group in Atlanta, Jordan Sandler, our founder/CEO, played high school football for a few weeks. As a copywriter, I'm expected to research topics, to make content moves without hand-holding. So when I recited Jordan's football jersey number (No. 47)... the look on his face told me the job was mine!

--Gary Estwick, Frenik Marketing Group


Don’t be afraid to admit what you don’t know

When faced with a difficult question you know nothing about, never make something up just to impress and shoot your shot. One of the things I value from my employees and applicants is honesty. A great example of this is an application I had before. I asked him about a topic specific to the job description, and he admitted his knowledge about it is limited. However, he continued saying he’s willing to learn proactively to be well-equipped. It was a win in my book.

It creates a negative impression on us employers if we sense an applicant is making things up when he or she doesn’t know the answer to a particular question. I believe it’s a good practice to admit when you have little knowledge about a topic so we can gauge your capabilities more precisely. If hired, it can also mean an opportunity for us to know the areas we can enhance and train you in. Additionally, knowing you have the willingness to learn further reflects positively on your work ethics.

--Mason Culligan, Mattress Battle


I’ve been interviewing candidates for a years now, and one thing that is a plus for me is if they throw back smart questions at me after the interview. It gives me an idea of how their mind works and it is a testament to their intelligence. If it’s about the company or the job, it shows me that they took the time to do some research, which will always be appreciated.

So the next time your interviewer asks if you have any questions, have a one or two ready with you, and be sure they are good ones that they will remember you by.

--Jack Wang, Amazing Beauty Hair


I believe that the best piece of advice that interviewees should keep in mind when going on a job interview is to always be ON TIME. This doesn’t mean that you get to your interview at the time that they said it would start. Being on time means that you have to be early. You have to take into consideration all the other factors such as traffic, finding directions, and more. Going to your interview early also allows you to get a feel of the environment, as well as give you time to calm your nerves.

Note that even if your interview is a video or phone interview (as this seems to be our normal for now), you need to be ready early for it. You should not be doing anything at least 5 minutes before your interview. This will also allow you some moments of peace and quiet prior to the interview, which will put you in a great pre-interview disposition.

Now that you know the best piece of advice, it’s also important to know what to avoid during job interviews.

The one thing that you should never do during your job interview is to talk too soon about money. Yes, it is important that you know how you will be compensated for the job, but never bring it up during the first interview. HR hasn’t even decided if you will be the best fit for the job, so there’s really no need to disclose the salary yet. Remember, it’s best to show what you can do for the company, rather than what the company can do for you, so try your best not to appear like you only care about the salary. After all, that’s not a good impression to make.

As stressful as job interviews may be, there are ways that will allow us to do better as long as we stay calm and keep these tips in mind.

--Noelle Martin, Boureston Media Inc


Do the Job Before You Have the Job:

The most impressive candidates I've ever hired always came to the interview with specific, tangible ideas for how to add value starting day one. They went deeper than providing an application alone – they did their homework and created an action plan for winning in the role before they ever even got the job. A couple of my favorite examples of this (specific to sales and marketing) include reviewing customer reviews, demoing the company's product and customers, and creating a value proposition with specific recommendations for improving the buyer's journey.

Not only does this approach offer value before the candidate has the job, it also puts their work and style of thinking on display before an interview. This leads to far more productive conversation during the interview – and does a wonder for candidates who want to stand out.

--Mitchell Earl, Praxis