Op-Ed: A Fresh Perspective on Acing Interviews in a Tough Job Market

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Do you keep failing job interviews? Are you struggling to master the skill of interviewing well? Passing job interviews is an art that takes practice and preparation, and in a difficult job market, it’s vital to know what steps to take to become the winning candidate. According to the latest data, 98% of people fail job interviews. Here are several tips for increasing your chances of passing an interview:

  1. Don’t have a generic resume. Tailor your resume to specific positions and companies.

Many candidates make the mistake of sending out the same resume for every position they apply to. However, every position has its own nuances and attributes that the hiring manager is looking for. On average, recruiters spend 6-8 seconds on each resume, so yours should stand out right away. Don’t make your resume too long and difficult to read, and highlight job experience over education. Resumes are often selected by recruiting algorithms based on their keywords, so use precise language- cut out the unnecessary fluff and use simple language in your summary of yourself. Quality matters more than quantity on a resume, so it’s better to showcase a few good companies you’ve worked for than lots of average or bad ones. Omit experience that isn’t relevant to the job you’re applying for. If you’re applying for a software development role, no one cares that you used to work at Old Navy or that your second language is Italian. For any position, the hiring manager is looking for the person who would be the best fit for it, so make your resume as similar to what they’re looking for as possible.

2. Only emphasize relevant experience.

For any position that you’ve applied to, you want to make it seem like all you’ve always wanted to do was have a job like this. For example, if you’re interviewing for a nursing position, only talk about the things that you’ve done since you were young to be able to work in the healthcare field so it’s clear to the hiring manager that you’ve been working toward this goal for a long time. You can say you would treat your siblings’s wounds as a kid, volunteer at local blood drives, etc. Of course, you might’ve done other things in your free time that don’t relate to healthcare, but you don’t want to bring that up in an interview that’s specifically for a healthcare position because that wouldn’t be relevant. 

3. You need to hit three main points for the hiring manager to select you.

You want to emphasize these three main things in your interview: motivation and passion, ability to learn, and hands-on experience. The most important thing the hiring manager is looking for in an interview is that you’re really motivated and passionate about working for them. So, always act excited, positive, and happy during your interview. Positive people attract positivity and motivate others with their driven presence. Simply smiling can go a long way and demonstrate that you’d contribute to creating a good working environment. Next, showing that you’re a fast learner is important because you’d most likely not be knowledgeable about everything required for the job you want right away. Still, if the hiring manager sees that you pick up on things quickly, are adaptable, can relearn how to do things in a new company, and are passionate about this job, you have a high chance of passing anyway. Finally, showing that you have hands-on experience and not just theoretical knowledge of the job’s responsibilities can show that you’re not starting from scratch but that you’ve done this type of work before, have been interested in it for a while, and can be trusted more than someone who’s never actually done what the position’s looking for before.  

4.   Answer interview questions in a structured way.

Since interviews usually go on for a limited time, try to avoid rambling and unclear answers that may confuse the interviewer. One good method to use for interview answers is the STAR method, which stands for situation, task, action, and result. This method can help keep your answers on track and detailed. 

5. Research and preparation can make or break your interview. 

Before any interview, always prepare by looking for example interview questions online and formulating example answers in the context of your personal skills and experience. Prepare and research differently for every company, as each has its unique interview process. Never answer questions in an actual interview off the top of your head if you can avoid it, and if you can’t, that probably means you didn’t spend enough time preparing. It’s really hard to come up with good, detailed answers on the spot, and you’d probably end up blurting out something unnecessary. So, it’s good to know ahead of time everything you want to say in front of the hiring manager by anticipating questions you think they might ask.

6. Use keywords in the context of your experience. 

During the interview, you must make it seem like you’re speaking the same language as your interviewer and that you’re on the same wavelength. For example, if you’re applying for a technical position, when you start talking about your experience with certain coding languages or pieces of hardware or hand tools, throw out key technical terms that show you have a deep understanding of what you’re talking about, such as CPU, multimeter, data structures, transistors, etc. Show your deep knowledge of technology in the context of projects you’ve done in the past.

7. Always go in-depth into your experience. 

Have an example for every question. Don’t just answer with either a “Yes, I’ve done this” or “No, I haven’t.” The only way that the interviewer can know that you’ve actually done what you claim you have is if you provide very detailed answers with examples. For example, if there’s a project you’ve worked on before that may be relevant for the position, go into depth about what exactly you did, what the project was, how everything worked on a deep level, etc. Interviewers like to ask follow-up questions about what you’ve done, so make sure you have a good understanding of what you’re talking about so you’re never caught off-guard by an unexpected, prying question.

8. Beware of trick questions. 

Don’t take interview questions at face value. The interviewer may say one thing, but expect something entirely different from your answer. Trick questions may seem benign at first, but if you answer incorrectly, you may be passed up for the job and never even understand why. Since every hiring manager is looking for different things, it’s hard to know exactly the right way to answer every question and know exactly what they expect you to say, but it’s important to keep in mind that questions may have a double edge and may be designed to trip you up. For example, if you’re asked what your biggest weakness is, the interviewer is assessing whether you’re smart enough to avoid stating a weakness that will be a dealbreaker for the position. If time management is important for the position and you say that’s your biggest weakness, you’ll certainly fail, but you also don’t want to give an answer like your biggest weakness is that you have no weaknesses. So, in this situation, try to give a weakness that isn’t critical and minimize it as much as possible while emphasizing how you’re working on improving it, which will show that you have a growth mindset. 

9. Demonstrate how you think and ask clarifying questions. 

In interviews where you have to solve coding or other technical problems, for example, arriving at the right answer isn’t the most important thing. What’s most important is demonstrating how you got your answer and how your mind works. The interviewer doesn’t want you to just rush into solving the problem on your own in silence for several hours, as that wouldn’t tell them much about you at all. They want you to clarify with them if you’re on the right path with solving the problem, bounce ideas off of them, collaborate with them, and explain every step you take because they’re assessing how good of an employee you’d be in a team and how you’d work with them in the future if they do hire you. Hiring managers want employees who collaborate and communicate well with their peers, not ones who try to do everything alone without even considering if they’re doing something wrong. So, always ask clarifying and follow-up questions that can make you seem more memorable and engaged in the eyes of the interviewer.

10. Less is more. 

While giving details in your interview answers is important, it’s also important to know when you’re saying too much. Interviews are like a court of law in the sense that everything you say can and will be used against you when the team you’ve applied to decides whether or not to hire you based on your interview notes. So, avoid blurting out anything unnecessary or off-topic. Keep your answers short and to the point. Remember that all of your answers must serve to make you look good. You don’t want to say anything for the sake of talking more that doesn’t showcase you as exceptional in some way. Cater and frame your answers to any question, whether it’s about your background, experience, education, etc., to making you look like the right choice for the job in the interviewer’s eyes. 

11. Be ambitious and apply to positions outside of your comfort level.

Many people don’t apply to jobs they may be a good fit for because they doubt themselves. They think they don’t have enough education, experience, etc. If you see a position you really want, but don’t think you’ll ever be hired for, gather up any relevant experience you may have, put it on your resume, and still apply. Who knows? You might get the job based on sheer audacity. Remember that, for employers, passion is number one. Even if you’re not the smartest or the best candidate, as long as you demonstrate that you’re really motivated to work and answer the questions well, you have a good chance. There may always be someone better than you, but you never know what might happen if you take a chance on yourself and stop being afraid of failure.