Want to land a job interview and secure an offer? Use this guide to help you navigate the process.
For many, job interviews can be quite stressful.
In fact, it's natural to put pressure on yourself. After all, you've probably got a great opportunity at your fingertips. But then there's the added layer of meeting a stranger and having to impress them within a fairly short amount of time. Not to mention you're expected to provide the perfect answer to a random assortment of questions — talk about the ultimate pop quiz.
The best way to alleviate some of this stress? To prepare for your interview. In this ultimate guide to acing your job interview, you'll find everything you need to know about the process from start to end.
Table of contents:
A job interview is simply a conversation between a job applicant (you) and the potential employer so that they can gauge if you're a good fit for the job and their company.
How do you get a job interview?
Before you get invited to a job interview, you typically have to apply for the job first. You can find available positions on job-search websites and apps, where you'll need to fill out the online application and attach your resume and sometimes a cover letter.
Your resume is arguably the most integral part of your job application, so take all the necessary steps to make your resume as strong as possible by updating your resume format, quantifying your achievements, tailoring it to the job description, and proofreading.
You can also take a few additional steps to help your chances of getting noticed by updating your LinkedIn profile and showing off your personality in your cover letter. If you've applied to a number of jobs with no luck, it might be time to get a professional resume rewrite.
Additionally, if you already keep your LinkedIn profile up to date (highly recommended), set your status to “Open to opportunities”. Recruiters will then know to reach out with any opportunities that fit your experience. If you're interested, you can respond to the interview offer from the recruiter by thanking them for reaching out and letting the recruiter know your availability.
What to (generally) expect in a job interview
Job interviews take different shapes and forms depending on the company and the type of job. You can expect job interviews to typically last at least 30 minutes, but they can also last several hours — even a full day — if you're interviewing for a senior-level or C-level role.
There can also be several rounds of interviews. First, you'll probably have a brief phone conversation, which will likely be a phone screen with a recruiter or company representative to simply ensure you're a legitimate person and have the skills required to do the job.
Questions the recruiter may ask during this are typically pretty basic; you'll likely tell them about yourself, explain how you heard about the position, and tell them what you know about the company. You can also ask any questions you may have about the company or job to make sure that it's the right fit for you — the goal is to not waste anyone's time.
If everything checks out and they think you could be a good fit, this can lead to the first round of an interview. These are typically face to face, but they can also occur through a video or phone call.
You may participate in up to three rounds of interviews, but this will depend on the company and the level of the position. For instance, if you've applied to an entry-level position, you can usually expect one interview, but if you're applying for a senior-level role, you may have two or three rounds of interviews.
Here's a complete step-by-step breakdown of the typical interview funnel:
At this point, you might be feeling a bit nervous because the odds don't seem to be in your favor, but the key here is to prepare, prepare, prepare!
If you've secured a job interview, give yourself a pat on the back because, believe it or not, this can be one of the most difficult parts of the job search. You've got your foot in the door, so now it's time to get ready for your job interview.
Giving yourself as much time as possible, make sure you complete these three essential steps to prepare for your interview:
1. Research the company
This is such an integral part of your interview preparation. Interviewers want to know you've spent time getting to know the company and the position, so quickly scanning its website and the job listing won't cut it.
You'll want to dive deeper with your pre-interview research to understand the company's mission, get familiar with its key players, be up to date on recent news, and scroll through its social media profiles. To find this information, take a look at the company's:
10K Annual report (if it's a public company) or Crunchbase profile (if it's a startup)
Social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and/or Instagram
Recent Google news hits
Take it a step further and check out the company's competitors and get a pulse of the overall industry. And don't forget to study the job listing! Make sure you understand the key responsibilities and skills required, thinking about how you fit and can add value to the job.
2. Practice, practice, practice
The best way to feel more confident about your upcoming interview is to practice. You can take the DIY approach by talking to yourself in the mirror or asking a friend or roommate to quiz you, but you might be better off participating in a mock interview.
A mock interview is basically a simulation of the real interview. Many career counselors, professional interview coaches, life coaches, and college career centers offer mock interviews. You should take this opportunity to practice interviewing and get real-time feedback from someone other than a friend or family member — especially if you consider hiring a professional interview coach.
Working with a professional interview coach has a number of benefits: It allows you to alleviate some of your jitters, boost your confidence, and know where you can improve. It's also a great opportunity to ask any questions tailored to your experience (Google doesn't always have the answers).
3. Prepare your own questions to ask the interviewer
Remember: Interviewing is a two-way street. Sure, the employer wants to ensure you're a good fit for the position and the company, but you also want to make sure this is a good fit for yourself.
Chances are, toward the end of your interview, your interviewer will ask “Do you have any questions?”, and that's your chance to gain additional insight and impress the interviewer with your inquisitive questions. This is also where interview coaching can be beneficial; your coach can help you come up with some thoughtful questions.
The questions you ask will largely depend on what's been discussed and your own questions or concerns, but here are a few examples of questions to ask an interviewer:
What do you expect from team members in this position?
What is a typical day like as a member of this team?
Where do you see the company in five years?
What are the next steps in the interview process?
Do you see any reasons I wouldn't be a good fit for this position?
What makes you happy working here?
When coming up with your own unique questions for the interview, think about the company, its culture, the people, the job, and the job's requirements. Don't worry about asking a specific number of questions in the interview; focus more on getting answers to your questions.
Once you get an invitation to a job interview, one of your first questions might be, “What do I wear?” Or, perhaps even more important, “What should I avoid wearing?”Choosing the perfect interview attire as a woman, as well as selecting the best interview outfit as a man, can be stressful, but here are a few points to help you navigate your wardrobe choices:
Don't dress too casually. You'll want to avoid wearing jeans in a job interview, as well as yoga pants, shorts, T-shirts, flip flops, or hoodies.
If you don't already have one, invest in a good iron or clothing steamer; you don't want to show up in wrinkled clothes.
Avoid wearing anything too flashy, focusing instead on wearing basic, neutral colors during an interview to convey your professionalism. These colors include black, brown, gray, and white. Also, keep accessories to a minimum and makeup simple.
Research the company to get a sense of its culture and the way employees dress for work each day, using that as a point of reference. If the company is super casual, it's still best to avoid jeans, but a full pantsuit probably isn't necessary.
Break in your shoes. If you buy a cute new pair of flats or a stylish pair of loafers for your interview, that's great — but be sure to wear them around the house first.
If you have a summer job interview, balance professionalism with practicality. You don't want to show up drenched in sweat nor do you want to wear anything too revealing. Instead, pair a lightweight blazer with a pencil skirt or slacks.
If you have a virtual job interview, keep most of these same tips in mind, though you can focus most of your efforts on the top part of your outfit. You'll want to avoid any loud colors or patterns because they can translate poorly on video and can be just plain distracting. In general, think clean, simple, and polished when planning what to wear for a video interview.
There are several types of job interviewing styles, and knowing which one you'll encounter — or being ready for anything — will help you better prepare and walk into your interview feeling confident.
Here's an overview of some of the most common types of job interviews.
A behavioral interview is a popular type of interview. It helps the interviewer understand how you'd handle various situations to predict your performance at a company. Behavioral interview questions typically begin with:
Tell me about a time when …
How did you handle …?
Give an example of …
Explain a situation when …
To prepare for a behavioral interview, use the STAR method to practice your answers. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, and Result. Think of several challenging scenarios you've encountered at work, like working under a tight deadline, dealing with an unethical co-worker, or working with a difficult manager. That's your situation. Then, think about the task at hand, the action(s) you took, and the result(s). Think about the skills you used to put out these fires and highlight those in the interview as well.
A panel interview is when you meet with a group of employees at a company; this could be team managers, team members, and/or hiring managers, and companies will do this to speed up the hiring process. You'll prepare for a panel interview just like you would any other interview, but you'll also want to research each interviewer and prepare questions you want to ask each person.
During a panel interview, focus on being mindful of your body language, building rapport with each panel member, and controlling the pace. Don't get caught up in rapid-fire questions. If you need, slow down the pace of the interview with pauses and deep breaths.
An open interview is a group hiring event that usually occurs when a company is looking to fill several positions. You'll attend an open interview during a designated time, submit your application on-site, and then get interviewed. These are typically “walk-in” events, so interviews are held on a first-come-first-served basis. That means you should show up early to ensure you get a chance to be seen.
A group interview is when several job candidates are interviewed at the same time. Like an open interview, this is more common when a company needs to fill several positions at one time. These are also more common in the food service and hospitality industries.
Sometimes a group interview can feel uncomfortable, but the key is to not ignore the other candidates. Be inclusive and listen.
A stress interview is a type of interviewing style designed to see how you operate, well, under stress. This means you may get an onslaught of uncomfortable, intimidating, or downright impossible-to-answer questions.
This type of interview is becoming less prevalent these days, but the key to success is to stay calm during a stress interview. Prepare ahead of the interview and take your time answering each question. Deep breaths are encouraged. You can also enlist an interview coach to help you practice this specific style of interviewing.
An internal job promotion interview is just what it sounds; it's an interview conducted within a company to gauge if you're qualified for a promotion. Before a promotion interview, ask your supervisor to help you prepare by giving you feedback on your performance.
Just like a typical job interview, you'll want to update your cover letter and resume, research the job description, and practice answering questions around your performance.
In a case interview, an interviewer will give you several situations you must walk through to find a solution, and you can ask questions to help you get to your solution. In this case, the interviewer wants to gauge your problem-solving, presentation, and business skills. These are more often used for management consulting and investment banking interviews.
Structured and unstructured interviews
A structured interview is an interview made up of specific, predetermined questions the interviewer will ask you and all other candidates. The idea is that they can make a more impartial decision and gauge specific skills side by side.
In an unstructured interview, on the other hand, the interviewer doesn't have a specific set of questions ready to ask. Sure, they'll have some questions and topics planned for the interview, but this type of interview will feel more conversational.
As mentioned, job interviews take many forms, ranging from phone calls to video conferences to face-to-face conversations. In order to ace your interview, you need to consider its platform. If you're not clear on whether or not you'll have a phone, video, or in-person interview, don't hesitate to reach out to your point-of-contact, whether that's a recruiter or a hiring manager at the company.
Once you know what form your interview will take, you can start preparing.
How to prepare for a phone interview
If you have a phone interview, you might feel less stressed because you don't have to worry about planning your attire or focusing on your nonverbal cues. However, phone interviews can be tricky just for that reason — it's more difficult to show off your personality and your enthusiasm.
Before your call, prepare for your phone interview just as you would for an in-person interview by researching the position, the company, and the industry. Because you'll be behind a phone, you can take notes and print out your resume to refer back to during the call. Just don't forget to make a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer.
For the day of your interview, pick out a quiet spot to hold the interview. This could be a room in your home, a phone booth at a co-working space, or a reserved room at your local library. This is key: One of the top things to avoid during a phone interview is a loud room or distracting background noises. Remember to mute your phone's notifications so you're not getting text message alerts during the call, and if you have your computer open, turn off the volume.
During your call, avoid long, meandering answers, and instead, keep them concise and focused. Use these simple tips to boost your likability in a phone interview since it can be more difficult to show off your personality:
Smile! While it may sound strange because the interviewer can't see you through the phone, smiling can change the tone of your voice and make it more pleasant.
Be genuinely expressive, and show your enthusiasm for the company, the job, and the industry.
Resist talking over the interviewer. Take a breath between the interviewer's question and your answer. If you find yourself talking too fast, slow it down. And if the interviewer doesn't immediately respond after your answer, don't feel pressure to keep talking.
How to prepare for a video interview
There are several types of video or virtual interviews. Whomever you coordinate your interview with will have the details you need. Here are some of the most common types of video interviews:
A pre-recorded video interview will typically occur at the beginning stages of the interview process just like an initial phone screen would, and it shouldn't replace a face-to-face interview. An interviewer won't be present; you'll simply answer pre-recorded questions via video.
Nowadays, larger companies and corporations may issue HireVue interviews. HireVue is a software that will send you a series of interview questions, and you'll have 30 seconds to prepare answers to each question and 90 seconds to answer them. The program then transcribes your answers and issues you a score, which is used to rank you among the other applicants. The software can also register your clothing, facial expressions, eye contact, and verbal tics (e.g. “uhm,” “like,” or “you know”), so be mindful of more than just your answers.
Skype job interviews — and now Zoom job interviews — are common types of virtual job interviews. These are real-time, two-way video interviews. You'll talk with an interviewer (or group of interviewers) through your computer webcam.
Once you know what kind of video interview you have, prepare accordingly. Make sure you're familiar and comfortable with the video software, download the program to your computer (not your phone if you can), and practice. Then, enlist a friend or family member to do a test run with you.
Like a phone interview, it can be difficult to sell yourself in a video interview. The key tips, however, are to scout out the perfect location (a bright and quiet space), be authentic, and clearly answer each question. If you're wondering what to wear for a video interview, you'll want to dress as you would for a face-to-face interview and focus on your top half. While you may be a little more casual, you'll still want to look polished.
How to prepare for an in-person interview
If you have an in-person interview, you may feel a little more stressed. But this is a great opportunity for you to evaluate the company's culture and get a feel for the team you'd work with.
In addition to researching, practicing, and preparing questions for your interview, you'll want to take these steps to prepare for an in-person interview:
Plan what to bring to your job interview. This includes a briefcase or tote as well as all the documents you need, like several copies of your resume, a list of references, business cards, and a photo ID (in case you need it to enter the building).You can also bring notes to a job interview with the names of the people you'll meet, as well as a list of questions you want to ask. Don't forget a notepad and pen so you can jot down notes.
Calculate your commute, considering traffic or public transportation schedules. TopResume's career expert Amanda Augustine recommends arriving 15 minutes early to your interview. If you want, give yourself an extra 30 minutes — just in case.
Conquer your nerves. If you're feeling nervous, there are a few ways you can overcome your interview anxiety. For example, it can help to write down your anxieties and fears in a notepad or on your phone, and then focus on replacing those negative thoughts with positive self-talk. Practicing mindfulness can also help with your interview anxiety. You don't need to let the interviewer know how nervous you are; just focus on acing your interview. The less attention you give your anxiety, the more easily it'll dissipate.
You've got this!
One of the best ways to prepare for an interview is to practice. Use some of these common interview questions and sample answers to dive in:
1. Tell me about yourself
This is a classic interview question, but it may be trickier to answer than you think. How do you sum up who you are in a couple of minutes?
When responding to the “tell me about yourself” request, start with your elevator pitch and work from there. Focus on what makes you stand out from other candidates and think about your education and career experiences.
When you deliver your answer, don't be afraid to show off your personality. Rather than rattling off a list of jobs and accomplishments, show off your humor with a funny comment or fun fact. Don't spend too long answering this question; instead, stay focused on delivering the answer.
Sample answer: So I was one of those people on the high school newspaper staff, but I had no idea writing could be a sustainable career. I went into college as an education major — only to promptly switch to English after spending a day with a first-grade class. From there, I just threw myself at any writing opportunities I could find. After graduation, I decided to go to grad school for journalism, which opened up even more opportunities for me.
I took my first job with XYZ News, where I gained a substantial amount of journalism experience. After three years, I decided to jump into content marketing with ZYX website. It's been wonderful bringing my journalism expertise — and my reader-first mentality — into the content marketing world. It makes me a stronger writer, and I'm a stickler for the details and facts. I'm a huge fan of your company's products, so it seemed like a no-brainer when this copywriting position opened up.
2. Why did you leave your last job?
You'll want to be careful with this interview question. If an interviewer asks why you left your last job (or why you want to leave your job), they want to better understand why you left, establish if it was on your own terms, and determine if it was on good terms. The key is to keep your answer short; no need to over-explain.
Here are a few examples of how you could answer this question, depending on your situation.
Sample answer: I love my current role and my boss, but the company structure just doesn't allow me to take on new responsibilities. From our conversation so far, it sounds like this company really values growth, which makes me excited.
Sample answer: I loved my experience at Company ABC. I learned a lot about client service, the technical aspects of accounting, and process improvement. I miss my co-workers and my bosses. However, I knew that I wanted to step out of the consulting role and get a chance to improve processes from within a company. That opportunity just didn't exist there.
Sample answer: In retrospect, I understand that the head of my department had different expectations of me than what had been communicated in the job description. I thought my job was to provide exceptional service to the existing clients of the company, while my manager expected me to go out and bring in new clients. As I reflect on the experience, I see that I was a strong service provider. Client retention during my time at Company ABC was excellent!
However, I am not a salesperson, and I want my next position to capitalize on my strengths as a relationship builder and problem solver.
3. Why should we hire you?
When an interviewer asks why they should hire you, the question can feel startling — even if you're prepared to answer it. When answering this question, you'll want to reiterate why you're a fit for the company and the position while also emphasizing your willingness to learn. You can then end your answer with a question for the interviewer.
Sample answer: After hearing you describe the position, it sounds like you need someone who has exceptional project management skills. During my time at Company XYZ, I built a track record of managing complex cross-functional projects and bringing them in on time and within budget.
I know every company does things a little differently, but in my past transition to the role of project manager, I found that building rapport with key players, immersing myself in the company's philosophy and workflow, and jumping headfirst into their specific programs helped me get up to speed quickly. I was proficient and productive within weeks and able to make recommendations for process improvement within a couple of months.
Given what we have discussed so far, do you have any questions or concerns about my fit for this position?
4. What are your salary expectations?
A company wants to know they can afford you, and oftentimes recruiters or hiring managers will ask you about your salary expectations early in the interview as a way to not waste anyone's time. You'll want to be honest about what you need, but it's also important to make sure you provide an informed answer.
Before your phone screen, research the company's rates. Use insights from Glassdoor, Indeed, LinkedIn, or PayScale to gauge salary ranges based on experience, education, and location. It's also best to state a range — not an exact number. However, if you don't feel comfortable answering, you can turn the question back to them.
Sample answer: My research shows that based on my experience and education, a fair range for this job in this area of the country looks to be between $70,000 and $75,000.
Sample answer: Based on my research, consultant roles in this area and industry pay between $100,000 and $120,000. Is that consistent with the range you'll pay for this position?
5. What's your current salary?
If an interviewer asks you about your current salary, you don't have to answer the question. In fact, some cities and states have made it illegal to ask this question. So if you don't feel comfortable answering, that's completely understandable. You can pivot the question back to them or politely side-step the answer.
Sample answer: I would appreciate it if you could make an offer based on my qualifications and achievements, as well as your budget for this position. We can take it from there.
Sample answer: Based on the industry data, similar positions at this level across the industry call for $80,000 to $90,000. What is your target range?
6. What are you passionate about?
Typically, job interviews center around questions about, well, the job. You'll get into the groove of answering questions about your experience and skills, so if you're asked about your passions, it may feel a little personal.
Don't let it throw you, though; just talk about what you're passionate about. You can add details to help the interviewer get to know you as a person — not just a job candidate. You can also highlight the skills and traits that could also apply to your job.
Sample answer: Believe it or not, I like to perform stand-up comedy. I really enjoy going to open mics on the weekends. There's a lot more to it than most people think. You have to prepare your jokes and really practice. Then, once you're up on stage, you have to know how to read the crowd. If the crowd is looking at their watches, it's time to change things up — kind of like a sales call. Overall, it's just a fun way for me to let loose and be goofy on the weekends.
7. What is your greatest weakness?
Having to reveal what you consider your greatest weakness to a potential employer can feel daunting, but it's a common interview question so it's best to be prepared. Your answer should be honest — not just a strength disguised as a weakness, like “I care too much.” This shows an interviewer you can identify your weaknesses AND are willing to take steps to counter them.
Sample answer: That is a great question. To be honest, I tend to put deadlines and work goals ahead of people sometimes. For example, in the past two years, I've noticed myself becoming tense and inflexible when my team members are unable to deliver their reports on time. I usually enjoy a good rapport with my team, so those instances really stood out for me.
As I reflected on what was happening, I realized that my abruptness and lack of flexibility were actually causing a rift between me and the rest of the team. As a deadline approached, even the people who would typically come into my office to share an issue or a challenge would begin to avoid me. That was not constructive, so I sought out some guidance from my manager.
As we talked about this, I realized that I was treating all deadlines as equally urgent when in fact they were not. In a way, I was creating a lot of urgency and pressure in my own mind and that was translating into more pressure for my team. I wanted to change this dynamic, and with my mentor's help, I implemented two changes.
First, I became a lot more mindful of how my demeanor and attitude toward deadlines affected my team. Deadlines are a reality of work life, but I don't want to be a major contributor to their stress just because I cannot manage myself. I started a tracking sheet of assignments by team members so I would have a reference point for their workload. I also became proactive in asking them about progress and anticipated challenges. I found that by focusing on people, I was able to open the communication lines and ultimately meet deadlines with less stress.
The second thing I did was pay attention to how senior people in the company dealt with deadlines, as I have been blessed to have managers who are excellent at strategic assessment. They seem to just know which deadlines are real and not movable and which ones are more flexible. As I learn from them and work to clarify expectations, I am getting better at the balance between getting work done and taking care of my team.
8. How do you handle conflict?
The “how do you handle conflict?” interview question is fairly common for behavioral interviews. Interviewers want to see how you operate in the workplace, and your answer could be a good indicator of how you'd handle future encounters at the company.
To practice answering this question, you'll want to use the STAR method (situation, task, action, and results). Think about a specific instance you had to handle conflict, and map out the situation, the task at hand, what actions you took to resolve the conflict, and the result. Providing a concrete example will make your response a lot stronger.
Sample answer: I like to handle conflict in a calm and rational way. For example, I was managing the creation of a new website for my company, and the IT consultant that we worked with kept missing his deadlines and got angry at me when I confronted him.
I was surprised by his reaction, but remained calm and explained the reasoning behind the tight deadlines and the importance of having the website running on time. He opened up to me about the other projects on his plate at the moment and how overwhelmed he was with his workload. I agreed to approach his manager with him to explain to her about how time-consuming this project was. The manager was completely understanding and assigned some of his ongoing projects to other consultants in the team.
After our meeting with the manager, the IT consultant was able to fully focus on completing our website design. He apologized for getting angry and thanked me for talking to his manager. We successfully launched the website by the deadline set by top management, and the website enabled us to promote our new line of products that led to an increase of $500,000 in sales.
9. How do you handle stress?
This is another common behavioral interview question, so you should walk through a situation where you've had to handle stress. It's also beneficial to make a list of your soft skills and think about how you use them in stressful moments. Stay focused on your positive actions — not your negative emotions. Also, be careful not to deny your stress; everyone gets stressed out at work, so it'll seem unrealistic and not genuine.
Sample answer: I was recently assigned a last-minute project. Instead of panicking, I took a few moments to outline a schedule and map out my game plan before I got to work. I made sure to communicate my progress with my manager so they could stay in the loop. If any problems came up, I communicated them so we could troubleshoot and continue to make progress. I was able to complete the project on time, and the client was thrilled and signed on to spend another $50,000 with us.
10. Where do you see yourself in five years?
When your family asks you this at holiday gatherings, it can feel quite daunting. When a manager asks you this in a job interview, it can feel completely overwhelming. When considering your answer to where you see yourself in five years, know you don't have to map out your specific step-by-step plan.
Instead, focus on your overall career aspirations. Be realistic and honest, and think about your work-related goals, ambitions, and desired training. What type of position would you like to move into? Are you interested in a leadership role?
You might also be asked about your short- and long-term goals. The answer will be similar, but you'll also need to think about it through a slightly different lens.
Sample answer: I'd like to jump in feet first and learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can, with the organization. From there, I'd seek out opportunities — at least one to two a year — to expand my knowledge through training and educational opportunities to support my job. I'd love to participate in at least one project geared toward leadership training if the opportunity arises. I also understand that the organization has a strong volunteer team, and I'd like to be an active participant of that team as well.
11. What makes you unique?
Sure, you probably have a lot of unique quirks: Maybe you can dislocate your thumb, your eyes are two different colors, or you're a triplet. But when it comes to sharing your uniqueness in a job interview, focus on job skills that could set you apart from other candidates.
In order to do this, think about the company culture and what the job entails.
Sample answer: I think my natural ability to effectively manage my time makes me unique. To me, it's essential to hone in on time-management skills to support overall balance in the workplace and at home. I've found that doing so dramatically reduces my stress and inefficiencies at work. Also, by managing my time effectively, it allows me to better manage expectations for my peers, supervisors, and senior leadership team members. In my prior role as an administrative assistant, I was selected to develop a time-management presentation and train others on how to effectively manage time.
12. What was a recent costume you wore?
If this sounds like it's coming out of left-field, it is. But this is a real interview question Warby Parker's CEO has asked his job candidates. Sometimes interviewers will throw in quirky interview questions to see if job candidates can stay cool and collect their thoughts.
Here are a few real-life examples of other questions like this:
A former Netflix executive would ask candidates: “It's your first day on the job, and you have a few hours to kill before orientation. What do you do?”
The CEO of Zappos likes to ask, “On a scale of one to 10, how weird are you?”
A former Barclays exec used to ask candidates, “Could I sit on a plane from New York to L.A. with you and not be bored out of my mind?”
According to an Elon Musk biography, he'd ask this brain teaser question: “You're standing on the surface of the earth. You walk one mile south, one mile west, and one mile north. You end up exactly where you started. Where are you?”
There's no way to practice answering these questions. All you can do is take your time and keep your composure, asking clarifying questions if you need it. With brain teasers especially, employers want to see how you solve problems. There may be no single right answer, but you can at least walk through how you'd land on an answer.
Whew. The interview is over, and you didn't do anything too embarrassing! Now it's time to follow up with a thank you.
Following up after your interview is a simple gesture, but it can go a long way. In fact, TopInterview's sister site, TopResume, surveyed more than 300 U.S. employers about common job interview deal-breakers, and it revealed that 51 percent of those surveyed said receiving a thank-you email or mailed note after an interview impacts their hiring decision. Even more, six percent of employers said they've passed on a candidate who failed to follow up.
Also, following up is also the perfect time to ask any additional questions you may have after the interview is over, so it's a win-win.
So when do you follow up after an interview? It's best practice to follow up within 24 hours of your interview. You can send an email or mail a note. However, if the hiring process seems to be moving quickly, it's best to use email.
In your job interview follow-up, you'll want to:
Thank the interviewer for their time.
Reiterate your interest in the position and why you're qualified.
Ask about the next steps, if you're unsure. You can also include any additional questions you may have thought of after the fact.
Keep your email or note short and sweet. It's also not a bad idea to throw in something more personalized that points back to your interview to differentiate yourself from the other candidates.
Here's an example of a follow-up thank-you email:
Good afternoon Mike,
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I enjoyed learning more about ABC Cooperative and your goals of growing the editorial team.
I love the valuable content your website offers to its readers, and I believe my experience in both journalism and marketing would make me a great fit for the role.
Don't hesitate to contact me with any additional questions.
Thank you again for your time, and I look forward to talking to you soon.
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A job offer can be made the same day as your interview — even right on the spot — or it may take a couple of weeks. The key is patience. If you haven't heard back within several days of the promised timeline, gently follow up.
After several weeks, it may be time to move on and continue to apply to other jobs. Trust us, there are more out there! If you get denied the job, that's OK; send an email showing your gratitude and move on.
Now, if you get the job offer, congratulations! You've made it through the entire interview funnel, and now you've got a new opportunity right in front of you. The question then becomes: Should you take the job? While it's easy to want to immediately pounce on any offer, you should take some careful consideration.
Before you accept the offer, ask yourself:
Am I excited about the job?
Will this job bring me closer to achieving my career goals?
What will my new day-to-day look like?
Do I support the company's mission?
Will I fit into the company's culture?
Is there room to grow?
What do the benefits look like?
Will this job make me happier?
Choosing between two job offers
If you have two job offers, double congratulations! However, choosing between two job offers can complicate your decision even more.
First, you'll want to make sure you have both offers in writing, so you're armed with the information you need to make the most informed decision possible. Next, think about your priorities: Which benefits are most important to you? What will your commute look like? How did you feel about your future co-workers during your interview? Will you have the flexibility you need to take care of yourself and your family?
When in doubt, do a gut check and think back to your interview. Which one made you most excited? If you need, talk through your decision with a loved one.
Now, things can get a little more tricky if you have one job offer but are waiting on another one. This is a good problem to have — but juggling multiple job offers can be stressful. If Company A gave you the offer, let them know you're interested, but you need a few days to think through your decision while you wait to hear from Company B.
If Company B is moving slow, there's nothing wrong with letting them know you have another offer on the table. If they're truly interested in hiring you, it might motivate them to pick up the pace. If Company B is still moving slow, then maybe it's a sign they're not as interested in you or that it's just not the right fit.
Deciding to decline
Once you've received a job offer, it's time to study it. Look for any job offer letter warning signs, which include:
Ambiguous salary or compensation information
A lower salary than discussed
Mandatory arbitration clauses
Unnecessary non-compete clauses
A probationary period
A long waiting period for benefits (like 90 days)
Harsh non-disclosure agreements
Many of these you can negotiate, so it shouldn't be an immediate deal-breaker. Yet, valid reasons for declining a job offer include an underwhelming salary, bad vibes from your manager, lack of growth, high turnover rate, or no work-life balance.
If you ultimately decide to decline the job offer, start with a phone call to your point of contact. Be professional and respectful, and show your gratitude. Don't feel like you have to give too many details as to why you made the decision you did.
If you accept
If you accept the job, well done. You've successfully navigated the job-search process. Now it's time to let your new employer guide you through their onboarding process!
Still interviewing for your perfect job? Our interview coaches can help you navigate the interviewing process. Learn more today.