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17 Simple Things That Can Make or Break Your Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Not long ago I sat with a search committee of a community-based organization while they interviewed candidates for an executive director position.

One of the committee members was a former English teacher who had low tolerance for spelling errors and poor grammar. One of the candidates—who was otherwise well qualified—had submitted a cover letter with several typos.

Although she didn’t discount him entirely, she wondered (out loud) if his lack of attention to detail would make him unsuitable as their executive director.

While I tend to agree generally with her point of view, it struck me at the time that there can be seemingly small things—even in this era of Zoom interviews—that you do before, during, and after the interview that can impact the outcome:

1. Find out the names of the people who are interviewing you. This shows you have done a bit of research.

2. Exercise before the interview. Guaranteed, you will feel much better physically and mentally.

3. Rehearse your first answer. This is usually a ‘tell-me-about-yourself’ question. A good start to the interview will boost your confidence.

4. Sit up and lean forward. You will come across as interested and enthusiastic. Body language matters even through Zoom.

5. Look at the camera. It will seem like you are maintaining good eye contact with everybody. This speaks to your confidence and self-esteem.

6. Smile a lot. You will seem personable and someone they want to work with.

7. Never use foul or sexist language. Even if the interviewers are doing so.

8. Listen when others speak and don’t interrupt. Good listeners are in short supply.

9. Prepare good interview notes. Jot down the key points you want to make. They will be very handy if you lose your train of thought.

10. Never say you’re nervous. Drawing attention to your anxiety will make you appear less confident.

11. Don’t ask how much the job pays. The employer always introduces the money question first.

12. Tell the truth—even if it’s uncomfortable. Interviewers will appreciate your honesty.

13. Don’t complain about past employers or bosses. In fact, never speak negatively about anybody.

14. Tell them you really want the job. Employers want to hire people who want the job. This is no time to be laid back. Show enthusiasm.

15. Have good closing comments ready. A well-thought out wrap up will leave a strong lasting impression.

16. Send a thank you note. Almost no one does—which is why you should send one. It’s a simple way to stand out from other candidates.

17. Be patient after the interview. Wait 5 – 7 days before following up, if you haven’t heard back.


Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. During a 30 year career, he has interviewed more than 10,000 job candidates, completed hundreds of successful searches for a range of organizations and guided many individuals – from young professionals to senior executives – to successful career change. He is the author of “PINNACLE: How to Land the Right Job and Find Fulfillment in Your Career.” You can follow Gerry on Twitter @Gerald_Walsh and LinkedIn.