How to Ace a Job Interview

woman in crowd of people

A good resume and cover letter can get you in the door. But once you’re there, you’ve got a half-hour or less to set yourself apart from all the other qualified candidates on the recruiter’s calendar.

“The interview is everything,” says HR recruiter Abby Kohut, author of “101 Job Search Secrets.” “You have to sell yourself.”

What’s the best way to do that? We asked Kohut and other top recruiters for their advice on how to ace the interview every time. (Be sure to check out the 5 things not to say in a job interview too.)

Spin It Forward

Recruiters often ask questions that can be answered quickly. While you should keep your responses concise, sharing examples of how you tackled a tricky work problem or got great feedback from a client gives you an edge over candidates who give general answers, says career coach Barbara Safani, owner of Career Solvers recruiting firm. She recommends pointing to a specific measurement of how you did something smarter, faster, or more efficiently, like explaining how you increased your company’s sales by 10 percent in six months.

Ask the Right Questions

Almost every recruiter will ask if you have any questions for them. Kohut recommends these winners: “What are the challenges that keep you up at night that I can help you solve?” and “Is there anything I’ve told you in the interview that might keep you from passing me on to the next round?” Why? The first is all about helping the hiring manager see how you will make their life easier, and make a difference in your role. The second gives you the chance to address any concerns they might have. “If you can change their mind, you might have a second chance,” says Kohut.

Show You’re Interested

It may seem like it’s obvious since you showed up for the interview, but recruiters stress that saying how much you want the job makes a huge difference. “Don’t assume that the hiring manager knows you’re interested,” says Paul Rega, owner of Paul J. Rega & Associates executive search firm and author of “How to Find a Job When There Are No Jobs.” Do your research on the company in advance and pepper your conversation with your knowledge. Then, before the interview is over, say something like, “This is a great opportunity and I really want to be a part of your company.”

Don’t Come Empty-Handed

“It always wows me when people bring examples of their work,” says Kohut. That means toting along everything from a portfolio to thank you letters people have sent you. Kohut has even had candidates show a short (think: five minutes or less) presentation on what they’ve done and why they’re perfect for the job. And it’s worked. “It shows that they’re really interested in the job and have taken the time to set themselves apart,” she says.

Make It a Conversation

The best way to show a recruiter you should get the job? Spin the interview into a conversation among two professionals, says Martin Yates, author of “Knock ‘Em Dead: Job Interview.” Try asking questions like, “What are the biggest obstacles you’ve had in this position?” and “What mistakes have people made in this area?” Asking the questions—and following up with how you would tackle the issues—shows that you have an understanding of the job and industry. And that will definitely move you onto the next round.

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