20 Tips to Job Interview Success

What is it that certain people say or do while interviewing that makes them stand out? Why do some people struggle to find work, while others land a job in no time? I wanted to know, and the only way to find out was to experience the interview from the other side of the table.

If I could be the one asking the interview questions, not answering, I could see first hand what made candidates stand out. I could then take that knowledge and cater my behavior in any future job interview to give myself the best chance of getting hired.

bagsy.org job interview tips

First, I needed to create a “corporate presence.” I found a company that rented office space by the hour. It was in a downtown Seattle high-rise, had a killer view, and came with a secretary, who’d call me once an interviewee arrived. It was perfect.

Next, I posted a job on craigslist for a marketing coordinator at a “soon to launch” web company. Literally minutes after the posting, resumes poured in, 142 on the first day, 356 in the first week.

Finally, interviewing candidates wasn’t enough. I wanted to be able to go back, review the footage, and dissect answers, body language, everything, to really see what makes someone look good or bad. So before scheduling any job interviews, I got online, bought a couple of small cameras, picked up a couple lamps and lamp shades, and with a drill, some super glue, a little bit of cardboard, and electric tape, I constructed 2 hidden camera lamps.

Pro Tip: Ask. Yes, ask. When answering a question, follow up your answer with, “did that answer your question?”

Of course to make sure everything was legally kosher, everyone was required to sign and fax back an appearance release waiver before an interview was scheduled. The reason, “some company meetings will be filmed and we needed proof you’d be comfortable appearing on a video blog if hired.”

After interviewing 6 people I decided to step down and have a friend take my place. I wanted to review the rest of the job interviews from a completely objective perspective.

28 interviews later, and what did I learn?

20 job interview tips from Bagsy

20 Job Interview Tips:

1. 10 seconds to win

Unless your resume catches the interviewer’s eye in 10 seconds it’s over, you’re done. So the big question is how do I catch the interviewer’s eye? Here comes the best advice on how to get a job interview you’ll ever get. Cater your resume to the job description!!! I can’t stress this point enough. It’s imperative that you cater your resume to each position you apply for. And I mean taking each line on the job description and writing a line on your resume to reflect your experience with regard to that line.

Yes, it takes more time than sending the same resume to 100s of jobs, but you’re far better off applying to a fraction of those jobs with a resume specifically written for each job. Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. Their job is to hire the most qualified candidate. They’ve been given a set of qualifications to look for: aka the job description, and that’s exactly what they’re after, so give it to them!

2. Be on time

There is no excuse for it, none! You don’t want a pissed off person interviewing you. Leave extra early, do whatever it takes. Blaming it on traffic or anything else doesn’t matter (even if it’s true).

3. Cell phone off

Obvious but easily forgotten, at least it was with 2 of the people interviewed. Double and triple check to make sure your cell phone ringer is turned off.

4. Know the company, and why you want to work there

Google the company you’re interviewing for. Learn as much as you can about the company’s mission, objectives, goals, and future plans. If you’re asked why you want to work for the company, you best answer something better then, “I like the company’s location”, which was said.

5. Bring resumes

Your interviewer(s) will likely have a copy of your resume but bring spares. It shows you’re prepared and serious about getting the job. Being prepared matters when looking for a job.

6. Bring a notepad

Very few people bring a notepad with them to a job interview. It’s a very subtle thing that makes you stand out. Take notes when appropriate. Do not overly make your interview questions and note taking seem like some sort of news report. You’re there for a job interview and to get a new job.

7. Dress in a clean conservative manner

Make sure you go into a job interview having showered and wearing clean clothes. If you like wearing cologne or perfume, don’t wear any on the day of the interview. What’s subtle smelling to you may be overwhelming to your interviewer.

Did you know? 90% of Hiring Managers wouldn’t hire someone who lies on their resume.

8. Profiles to private

If you don’t think interviewers Google you or look you up on Facebook or MySpace, you’re crazy. Hiring managers I’ve talked to all do this, as one put it, “to weed out people who wouldn’t be a good fit in the company’s culture.” Don’t give them ammo to not like you, set your profiles to private.

9. Don’t make jokes

don't make jokes interview tips for landing a job at bagsgy

Too many people think they are funny when in reality they’re not. A job interview isn’t the place to test your material. When searching for interview questions to ask, remember to leave your funny bone at home too. Be friendly and outgoing, save the jokes.

10. Don’t babble

When answering a question, answer the question. Don’t start out answering a question and then veer off to talk about something else. Make sure your answer directly reflects the question being asked.

11. Don’t badmouth a boss

Bad mouthing a previous boss in a job interview is a huge negative. They may have been the worst boss in the world but expressing that in a job interview is a huge mistake.

12. Don’t flirt with the interviewer

Common sense but apparently needs to be stated.

Job Interviews can be a nervous experience but rubbing your chin, twirling your hair, or anything else along those lines makes you look like you’re lying or lacking confidence, both not good. How to interview well begins with knowing the best interview tips and not being thrown by nervousness.

14. Less is more

13. Don’t play with your face/hair

Sometimes certain details of your life are better left unsaid.

15. Have good eye contact

Staring at the floor, ceiling, or wall when speaking or listening makes you appear disinterested. Again, simple and obvious but happens way more then you’d think.

16. Don’t smoke crack

I’m wondering how many people actually read all of this and how many just skim the page. In any event, you definitely do not want to smoke anything, and certainly not crack during your job interview.

17. Have accomplishments

Be prepared to talk about something that you’re proud of accomplishing, whether professionally or personally (or a failure and what you learned from it).

18. Have passion

Be able to express why you want to work in that field/industry and what you do to further your knowledge (books, blogs you read). The more intelligent or informed you are the more impressive you’ll look.

19. Ask Questions

At the end of the job interview make sure you have some questions to ask. If the interviewer doesn’t offer you a chance, ask to ask. Again, it reinforces your strong interest in the job.

20. Send a thank you note

It’s easy to send an email but take the extra effort to mail your interviewer a hand written thank you note. It reinforces your interest in the job. It doesn’t need to be long, just make it sincere.

There you have it. The best job interview tips you’ll ever get. Stick to them and you’ll be on your way to getting hired!

Crazy interview stories worth sharing bagsy

What’s your crazy interview story? 

Message me so I can include it on Bagsy.org!

Jenna says: I interviewed a gal who picked her nose and wiped her booger on my desk. That was fun. I also interviewed a guy who had a baby spider dangling from his hair (right in front of his face) for the entire interview. I could have said something, but it amused me.

Another time, I was being interviewed for a recruiting position with a staffing agency and my interviewer asked me about my soft skills as they relate to the recruiting process. I mentioned that I have a good sense of people and that I’m typically able to get a good read on whether/not a candidate is going to be the right fit, etc. She thought I meant that I had some type of psychic powers and started asking probing questions like, “So, how long have you had this ability to “read people”?”… “Do you believe this is a God-given ability?” I was quickly able to set her straight, but it was really awkward there for a bit.

Pro tip: When deciding whether or not to ask something borderline, er on the side of caution.

Chris says: I interviewed with a company several months back. I thought the interview was going well until the end when the interviewer starts lecturing me. He starts picking apart everything I had said and starts giving me all these job interview tips, which is fine but the interview tips were ridiculous. The worst… lying was ok as long as you didn’t stretch the truth too far.

Marka says: The hiring manager greeted me at the receptionist’s desk and then escorted me to her office. She pointed me to a chair in front of her desk and then walked around it to take her seat behind the desk. Within a couple seconds of her sitting down, the chair slowly began to collapse underneath her. As my mouth dropped, the chair legs broke from the base and she spilled out of sight, behind the desk and onto the floor.

I stood up, ran around the desk to her and offered my assistance. Incredibly poised, she thanked me, said no and pulled herself up using the desk.

interview stories on bagsy.org

Oddly enough, she began the interview. All I could think of was how in the world could she ever hire me knowing I had this embarassing story I could tell anyone at any time. After the interview, she left the room saying she was going to see if the president was ready for the second interview. As she was gone, I took a picture of the busted chair with my cell phone, knowing no one would believe my story.

In the end, I had a decent interview with the president but, strangely enough, did not get the job.

Erin says: We interviewed for a simple administrative position, girl got the job, she was starting the next Monday. Over the weekend she decided she didn’t want it and just didn’t show up for work on Monday, no call, nothing.

We hired another bright light for a reception position, after working here half a day she went to answer the phone and asked “what’s the name of the company again?”

My wife interviewed a lady for a reception position at another company, professional operation requiring very nice attire..the interviewee showed up in sandals, stretchy pants and a singlet.

One time we interviewed a girl and she kept saying youse as in “what youse do here”…I started counting…53 youse in 20 minutes…plus a heap of everythink’s. Yeah, like I want you answering our phone.

Jane says: So, I had a highly qualified candidate interview via phone with one of our clients for a systems analyst position. She did very well, so the client requested that she come in for the next step, an all-day interview. This involved a series of meetings with various key team members. The position was really hers to lose… she had top-notch qualifications and experience and the client was very excited about her.

Shortly after the interview was completed, we received a call from the client, stating that they would not be extending an offer. The reason given? The candidate’s repeated, frequent use of swear words – in the presence of each one of the team members.

Did I mention the client was a children’s hospital?

Pro tip: Write down potential answers and bring notes for yourself. It’s not a closed book test.

Paulie says: I’ve been a recruiter for 13 years, so I interview people and review resumes all day, everyday. After all this time, my mind still gets blown by the things people do.

Last week, I had 2 calls scheduled with a candidate to prep her for a client interview then to debrief after the interview. This was to provide her with useful information such as the name of the manager conducting the interview, their position in the organization, tips on the types of information the manager would be looking for, etc.

So, I called the candidate at each of our scheduled times. Not only did she not pick up, she did not respond to the voicemails I left, or even send an email.

The next week, I emailed her to find out what happened. This is what I got back:

“Yes I got your messages last week. I didn’t call because I ran out of minutes on my phone.”

Derek says: Was to interview with an American running a company selling a special type of flashlights, in Scandinavia. Everything went well, I had the experience, the competency and the language skills needed for the job.

I came in for a second interview, everything ran smoothly, so in the end we went on to discuss salary. My request was a very low amount for that type of job (I’d been unemployed for a while), but he offered me an amount 20% lower than that…! I said that my amount was a minimum requirement, otherwise I could not cover my monthly expenses.

He then became very quiet for a while, sitting back, staring at me. All the sudden he started attacking me verbally, starting with “I’ve never really liked you.” He went on to say that I had a problem with my personality, that it might be too late to change it, that I had a dark side to myself, and also that I was full of myself. I was speechless.

As I know those are not my personal characteristics, and that my friends and former colleagues can state opposite(!), I explained to him that this was very surprising to hear. The rest of the interview went, listening to more about what an undetermined(!), melancholic and cocky person I was (how do you fit those descriptions in to the same personality??).

He said we’d talk again next week, as he was very uncertain what to do with me. Never heard from him again, and still today, more than 6 weeks after this, I regularly see them advertise to find someone for this position.

Michelle says: Oh you mean like the guy who took a cell phone call during an interview? Or the one who asked what the job paid and did she really have to work 40 hours?


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