How to crush it in your next job interview

I worked in HR for four years. Not only did I partner closely with our recruiter, I also listened to her updates at our weekly team meetings and sat in on a multiple job interviews myself. When it came to my fellow Millennials and job interviews, I saw it all—the good, the bad, and the really bad—and I started to notice a trend. A lot of fresh-faced college grads knew exactly how to sell themselves on paper, but couldn’t deliver in a face-to-face setting. So here are a few pointers to help you land the job.

1. Connect to the company

Recruiters are not just concerned about your skills and experience; they’re looking for that perfect fit in terms of company culture. Make sure to do your research ahead of time. Purposefully incorporate information from the company website and recruiting brochure into answers to questions like “What do you know about our company?” or “Why would like you to work here?”

2. Find ways to showcase your strengths with examples. . .

It’s great to mix in phrases from the online job description, but at the risk of sounding like a buzzword robot, pepper in some specific examples that pertain to your accomplishments. Demonstrate that you’re a “multi-tasker” who’s “organized” and “works with little to no supervision” with some real-life illustrations of your skills. This will also help the interview maintain its conversation-like flow and minimize the awkward pauses.


Hiring Manager: I saw that your resume says you’re a multi-tasker. That’s a really important skill for this job, can you tell us a little more about that?

You: Sure, multi-tasking was something I learned during my last semester of college. I had to juggle 20 units and an internship. It was difficult at times, but my time-management skills helped me balance it all. For example, a lot of my professors posted their lectures online, so I was able to study for tests in the car during the commute to my internship.

3. Offer creative solutions to capitalize on your weaknesses

One of the biggest challenges I faced when trying to break into the working world was my lack of experience. During my first few interviews, I skirted around the issue. When recruiters or hiring managers asked about my biggest weakness, I went with a generic “I work too hard” or “I can be a perfectionist.” Before one particular interview, I decided to face the obstacle head on. I told my prospective employer that, while it was true I was very green in the industry, this quality could be seen as a blank slate, a chance for my manager to mold me into the kind of employee she wanted for the position. I turned what was previously seen as a daunting chore (training a newbie with virtually no experience) into an exciting mentorship opportunity. I was offered the job the next day.

4. Practice speaking out loud

This may sound weird, but try anticipating what questions you’ll get based on the job description and your resume and practice answering them out loud. Yup, this pretty much boils down to role-playing and talking to yourself. The more you get used to saying certain phrases aloud and hearing yourself talk, the easier it will be during the actual interview. I’ve seen plenty of candidates fall victim to tip-of-the-tongue syndrome or lose their train of thought smack-dab in the middle of an otherwise successful interview. Even if you don’t get the exact questions you prepared for, you will most likely be able to articulate yourself based on the points you previously put together.

5. Stay true to yourself

Let’s face it. The job market sucks and a lot of us are nearing the point where we would say or do just about anything to land a job. Your personality is ultimately what will set you apart from all of the other candidates competing for this job. Embrace it, don’t try to alter it to appease a recruiter or to squeeze yourself into a job description that may not be right for you. The key is to strike a balance between exuding confidence in yourself and your abilities, and letting your employer know you can be flexible and work well as part of a team.

One other valuable lesson I learned from my time in HR is what happens when a façade created by a candidate during an interview fades. Eventually, it becomes clear that the position or working environment is not a right fit for the employee. Unfortunately, this conclusion is usually reached through HR-mediated employee relations sessions.

6. Keep Interviewing!

Having trouble landing your dream job? Feel like you’ve been on interview after interview with no end in sight? Don’t give up! Keep interviewing. Ask recruiters or hiring managers for their feedback. Use every shot at face time in front of prospective employers as a valuable learning opportunity to practice meeting people and speaking professionally about yourself. Interviewing is a skill that can be honed with time and practice. In the process, you’ll learn more about your strengths and weaknesses as an employee and what you’re looking for in an organization.

Jaclyn Schwerdt is a freelance writer residing in Orange County, CA. She spends her spare time indulging in song parody one-upmanship with her dad and sister, having deep conversations with her cats, and binge-watching reruns of 30 Rock.