21 Simple Things That Can Make Or Break Your Interview

By Gerald Walsh ©

Small, seemingly-minor things can sometimes cause big problems. For example, last week 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 use of grammar. One of the candidates—who was otherwise well qualified for the role—had submitted a cover letter with a couple of typos.

Although she didn’t discount him completely, 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 are a number of simple things—good and bad—that you can and should do before, during, and after the interview that can impact the outcome.

Here are a few that come to mind:

1. Shake hands with everybody when you enter the room. You will come across as poised and together.

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

3. Know where you are going. Map out your route so you know where the interviewer’s office is, and how long it will take you to get there.

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

5. Exercise before the interview. You will feel much better.

6. Sit up in your chair and lean forward. You will come across as interested and enthusiastic. Body language matters.

7. Clean your shoes. Appearances matter especially in an interview.

8. Maintain good eye contact with everybody while answering questions. This speaks to your confidence and self-esteem.

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

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

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

12. Bring good interview notes. You will come across as prepared, plus they will help with your answers.

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

14. Don’t ask how much the job pays even if you’re dying to know. The employer always introduces the money question.

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

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

17. 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.

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

19. 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.

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

21. Be nice to everyone you meet. You can’t go wrong.   


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Gerald Walsh is an executive recruiter, career coach, public speaker and author. 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