Mastering Your Job Interview

Even with the most meticulous self-presentation checklists – first impressions and interviews can be unnerving. Our goal is to get YOU employed in a job that is relevant, meaningful, and interesting - but the first step is mastering the interview. This blog post may not apply to all sectors, positions, or workplace cultures - but here are a couple tips and tricks which we thought could be helpful at the general level. Rooted in research, we have accumulated several strategies to improve your interview performance and to hopefully increase your chances of landing your ‘dream job!’

  1. Online profile maintenance
  2. Physical appearance
  3. Conversation in the interview 
  4. Backup plan

Online profile

Today, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media platforms are providing public displays into one’s ‘backstage’ self – revealing events and interactions that range from mundane daily activities (i.e. last night’s meal prep, traffic frustrations, etc.) to exaggerated personas of one’s ‘ideal’ self (i.e.attendance at networking functions, charity events, and other social engagements, etc.). Employer evaluation of one’s ‘employability’ is partially drawn from one’s online activity, social leverage (social approval represented in ‘likes’ or ‘retweets’), and associations (connections to specific online communities). Just like all of us, recruiters hold biases and preferences, and to maintain the company’s existing workplace culture, will  look to hire candidates who will fit in.   

How to make this work in your favour?

When molding your profile make sure to sift and sort through what is public and private – ask yourself: “Would I want my future mother-in-law to see this?” According to the literature, ‘cultural fit’ is becoming more relevant in the hiring process. Workplace cultures can be comprised of common values, goals, job expectations, and personality traits, as well as similar lifestyles (i.e. traveling, country club membership, etc.), backgrounds (i.e. university alma mater, involvement with campus clubs, Greek life, athletic teams, etc.). Utilize your online profile to demonstrate to companies your passions and achievements by ‘liking’ or ‘connecting’ with online groups, communities, people, and activities that you identify with. Be sure that your online presence aligns with the ‘interest’ or ‘extracurricular’ section of your resume. However – be aware that aligning with certain activities may be a disadvantage (i.e. political affiliations, belonging to niche community groups, etc.). The goal is to be aware of your online profile and sculpt it in a way that would be desirable and insightful for potential employers.

Physical appearance

There is no ‘golden rule’ for what to wear in an interview. The ‘ideal self-presentation’ ranges based on the sector / position one is applying for, as well as can is influenced by recruiter preference (conservative versus av ant-guard). The goal should be that your achievements make you a memorable candidate – not your fashion choices. However, maintaining professionalism is still integral. Some tips may include: pressing and ironing clothes, avoiding perfume and cologne, avoid bringing gadgets that could be tempting to fidget with, and have hair tied back to keep the face the center of attention. Always carry a copy of your resume for last minute reviews or in case the interviewer asks for a copy. Make sure your right hand is available upon entering the interview room (not holding coffee, resume, or briefcase) so that the handshake is effortless and confident (rather than an awkward scramble).

How to make this work in your favour?

Research the company beforehand. Explore the company’s ‘about us’ and ‘careers’ tab. Take note of the adjectives that the company uses to describe itself – ‘young’ ‘dynamic’ ‘traditional’ or ‘casual.’ These terms could give insights as to the company’s ‘ideal worker look’ - use this knowledge to your advantage. If there are images - look at what their  model employees are wearing. When asked about yourself, feel free to integrate some of the adjectives presented on the website- this will make you seem more compatible with the company culture. If you know anyone currently employed at the company ask for tips.

Topics of conversation

Come well researched. In the same way that employers have reviewed your application, cover-letter, linkedin profile, and online medias – you can do the same! Have facts about the company prepared (look at stock options and value trends, look at employee history, etc.). Knowledge shows interest and time invested. In the same way you are flattered when people know about you – apply the same strategy to the company you are interviewing with. Come with questions – remember the interview is partially a negotiation– the more specific the questions are the less likely you are to be caught off guard once hired.

How to make this work in your favour?

1. Create your own elevator pitch

This is done in a quick exercise - pull out a pad of paper and in 15-words-or-less write what makes you different, desirable, and employable. Think of yourself as a brand and ask yourself: ‘What do I do that adds remarkable, measurable, and distinctive value?”

2. Ask yourself: “Would I pass the Airport Test’

The airport test is a common recruitmentevaluation technique where the interviewer asks him or herself:‘If stranded at an airport for several hours with this candidate would the time be pleasurable?’ This method of assessment draws on the biases and preferences of the recruiter, which ultimately determines who will be hired. To increase your chances of employment look for ways to connect with the recruiter on a personal level – build a positive association, a sense of familiarity, and look to narrow the power disparity.   


Have a backup plan

Rejection is an unfortunate reality that many of us face at some point. It can feel personal. It can feel unfair. However, if entering an interview with alternative options you will be more confident in the interview – knowing that you are not completely vulnerable. Ask yourself – what is the worst thing that can happen? Then come up with a couple realistic alternative options to ease the pressure placed on the single interview.

How to make this work in your favour?

If rejected – ask the company for feedback so that you can improve for next time. Take the rejection as an opportunity for personal growth and development. Find ways of practicing, ask friends to help you – often they are well aware of your strengths and weaknesses and may articulate insights that you were not aware of.



If you are hired but not in the job you were hoping for…

According to Pfeffer, an effective way to work your way up the corporate ladder and build a credible reputation is by looking for opportunities to improve the current productivity levels and company routine. Take on extra projects that your passionate about. It may seem counter intuitive to do more work for the same pay, but Pfeffer’s research found that taking extra initiatives is what makes you noticed, helps you stand out from average colleagues, shows creativity, leadership, and dedication to the company and will provide you with exposure to other departments and dimensions of the company. Building a more diverse repertoire of skills will make you more knowledgeable and valuable to the company and will also provide you with more expertise and transferable skills if looking to try new sectors, occupations, and companies!

Best of luck in the interview!!