- This comprehensive list of interview tips will get you one step closer to your dream job.
- We cover what to wear, what to ask, how to shake hands, and more.
- For example: Flaunt your potential over your past accomplishments, and resist the urge to humblebrag.
- Visit BusinessInsider.com for more stories.
In the last few years, Business Insider has published tons of expert and science-backed tips on acing an interview.
Now, we’re putting them all together in a comprehensive guide that takes you from the job search to the moment when you (finally!) score that offer.
We cover what to wear, how to handle the dreaded "tell me about yourself" prompt, what to do with your hands, how to talk about past mistakes, and more.
Read on for practical and non-obvious tips that will get you one step closer to your dream career.
The job search
Get over the fear of asking for a favor. Kathryn Minshew and Alexandra Cavoulacos, cofounders of The Muse, recommend sending an email to everyone you know well to let them know you’re looking to make a move.
Be sure to include your résumé, the type of position you’re looking for, and your dream companies. If there’s someone who can help you in a very specific way, you can email them individually with a more targeted request.
Craft a successful cold email
If you’re cold-emailing someone at a company you’re dying to work for, make the message personal and keep it concise, Minshew said. Also consider including the name of a mutual connection who can verify that you’d be a good employee.
Whatever you do, don’t pose an unrealistic request, like a 30-minute phone call the following day.
Apply to more jobs than you think you should …
Hoping to wind up with two job offers to choose from? Daniel Chait, CEO of Greenhouse, advises working backward from there to figure out how many applications to submit.
If about half of job interviews yield offers, and if about 10% of applications yield interviews, than you’ll need to submit about 50 applications. That’s a lot!
… but don’t waste time applying to jobs you’re not qualified for
Your job search should be efficient. So don’t bother applying to a job if you’re missing the core requirements, or if you know you’re not a fit for the company culture, said TopResume career advice expert Amanda Augustine.
Address your cover letter appropriately
"Dear Sir" or "To whom it may concern" just won’t fly, Augustine said.
If the hiring manager’s name isn’t readily apparent in the job posting, do some research on your own. For example, you might look for information about who you’d be reporting to. Or if the job was posted by a recruiter, search the recruiting agency’s website.
The week before the interview
Ilya S. Savenok / Stringer / Getty Images
Practice answering the ‘tell me about yourself’ question
This question can be trickier than it seems. Leadership expert Simon Sinek recommends doing the "friends test" before an interview: Simply ask a person (or several) that you’re close with to list why they’re friends with you.
Use their answer to help craft your response to the interview question. For example, if they say you’re inspiring, you can tell the hiring manager that you hope to inspire their customers.
Find out what the dress code is
Dressing up for an interview won’t necessarily help you land the job. Still, be sure to ask the HR department or a friend who works for the company about the dress code.
According to Marc Cenedella, founder of the careers site Ladders, you can always ask simply, "Will I feel out of place in formal business attire?"
Interview at your dream company last
Take a tip from Jessica Pointing, who received internship offers from Google, Apple, and Facebook. If possible, schedule the interview for your dream job last, so you can use the other interviews as practice.
Right before the interview
Offer the interviewer a firm handshake
No limp noodles, please. A 2008 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that, in mock interviews, students who had a firmer handshake at the beginning of the interview were ultimately perceived as more hireable.
Make eye contact
A 2003 Northeastern University study suggests that people who make eye contact are perceived as more intelligent. You don’t need to stare down your interviewer, but avoid a shifty gaze.
Don’t hide your hands
Concealing your hands can suggest that you have something to hide, according to John B. Molidor and Barbara Parus, authors of "Crazy Good Interviewing." And placing your hands palms down can make it seem like you’re trying to act dominant.
Instead, show your palms or steeple your fingertips, which indicate sincerity and confidence.
Don’t discount the importance of small talk
Idle chit chat could make or break your chances. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology found that, during mock interviews, candidates who did a good job making small talk received higher ratings on job-related questions than candidates who were less adept at shooting the breeze.
So — Hot enough for ya?
Read more: 15 ways to get better at small talk
Speak at a steady pace
Harvard psychologist Amy Cuddy said one way for shy people to succeed in job interviews is simply to slow down and take pauses. Cuddy said it can make you seem more thoughtful.
But don’t speak too slowly, which is often perceived as a sign of nervousness.
Resist the urge to humblebrag
Harvard research suggests that humblebragging — aka boasting that’s concealed by a complaint, such as "I’m such a perfectionist" — can be a turn-off in a job interview. Instead, the study found that candidates who answered questions about their flaws honestly — "I’m not always the best at staying organized" — were more successful.
In fact, former Starbucks HR exec Traci Wilk said she’s been impressed when a candidate has asked her how their relative weaknesses would affect their performance on the job.
Make sure to acknowledge what you’ve learned from your mistakes
When the interviewer asks you about past mistakes, they really want to know how you’ve grown from those slip-ups, said The Muse HR exec Toni Thompson. And Wilk says she’s always on the lookout for a candidate who displays a willingness to learn and grow.
Don’t badmouth your current employer
The interviewer might want to know why you’re leaving your job. Don’t tell them it’s because your boss is a maniac, Thompson said — they might think the problem is you.
Instead, you can say that your current role doesn’t allow you to gain the skills you really want to develop, or to take your career in the direction you’d like.
Flaunt your potential
Sure, you have a lot of accomplishments under your belt. But interviewers will probably be more impressed hearing about what you’ll do for the company going forward, Stanford and Harvard research suggests.
Explain how you’ve supported other people’s development
Facebook hiring managers try to weed out selfish candidates by asking them how they’ve improved other people’s careers. That’s because Facebook wants people who will put their company and their team above themselves.
Asking the interviewer questions
Sebastiaan ter Burg/Flickr
Ask about room for growth
Once you’ve gotten past the first round of interviews, you can and should ask about professional-development opportunities. Workplace strategist Erica Keswin said that’s one way to suss out whether the company invests in its employees. If they don’t, it could be a red flag.
Show that you did your homework on the interviewers
Lillian Landrum, head of talent acquisition at The Muse, is always glad when a candidate asks specific questions about the interviewers’ careers. It doesn’t make you seem creepy, she said; instead, it shows that you’re interested in the role and dedicated.
Show interest in solving the company’s biggest challenges
Ultimately, the interviewers want to know that you’ll be an asset to their company. You can show that you will be by asking how your work will contribute to the company’s overall mission, said Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Local.
Don’t ask about salary in the initial interviews
Presumptuousness is a turn-off. So don’t assume you got the job and can start talking about money, said Jesse Siegal, senior vice president of temporary staffing at The Execu|Search Group staffing firm.
After the interview
Use your thank-you note to further impress
You should send a thank-you email within 24 hours of the interview. Minshew and Cavoulacos recommend following up on one of the points you discussed during the interview and preparing some research on the topic.
If you bombed, ask for a second chance
Sometimes it’s all in your head. But if you noticed that the interviewer only asked easy questions, or that they never discussed the follow-up process, you may indeed have bombed the interview.
In that case, some hiring managers are more understanding than others. If you feel like you weren’t on your A-game during the interview, you can send another email requesting a second shot, said workplace expert Lynn Taylor.
Let the interviewer know (briefly) what happened that contributed to your poor performance, and what you’d like to clarify.
If you’re rejected, ask for feedback
Even if you don’t land this position, there’s always a chance that another role will open up down the line.
Cavoulacos remembered a current employee at The Muse who was rejected after her first interview. The woman followed up asking what she could have done differently, and Cavoulacos said she could have been more prepared. The woman later applied for a different role and showed up much more prepared; she got the job.
Once you get an offer, consider the people you’ll be working with
Choosing a job isn’t just about evaluating the type of work you’ll do. It’s also about your prospective coworkers.
According to Goldman Sachs’ HR chief Dane Holmes, that’s the single most underrated factor in a job search. Holmes said you should look for people who want to see you do well.
- How to write an email that gets the hiring manager’s attention at your dream company
- The glitz of ‘entrepreneurship porn’ leads startup founders to make fatal business mistakes. Here’s how to avoid them
- A top C-suite headhunter who’s placed more than 100 execs in major companies shares 3 key traits he looks for in CEO candidates