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10 tips for nailing your next interview

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

1. Have a clean, uncluttered background: Our advice here is not for you to start rearranging your entire room. Just find a spot that is simple and free of distractions (like a blank wall or one that has a few pictures hanging on it). If your background is too cluttered, it will pull the recruiters attention away from you. You can even choose a simple virtual background instead of propping yourself in front of a messy bookshelf. Contrary to previous research, we found that unconscious biases were less likely to creep into the decision-making process when candidates had a clean backdrop. Ninety-seven percent of the recruiters we spoke to preferred virtual backgrounds of office settings over beaches, mountains, or outer space.

2. Do a speed test: Poor internet = poor communication. To ensure your internet is working at optimum speed, ask family members or roommates to log out while you’re in your interview. If you don’t trust your Wi-Fi, connect by plugging in your local area network (LAN) cable. You can also test your connection through a simple Google search for “Internet speed test.” We can’t stress how important this is — 88% of recruiters told us that their number one pet peeve during an interview is an internet lag, as it breaks the flow of the conversation.

3. Master the platform: Become an expert on whatever platform is chosen for your interview (WebEx, Zoom, Microsoft Teams, etc.). If you have not used it before, download the interface and practice the features by doing some mock calls with a family member or a friend. In 41% of interviews we studied, technology caused breakdowns. In one interview, the candidate appeared upside down the entire time, as they couldn’t figure out the camera. In 22% of successful interviews, the candidates offered their interviewer tips for video call shortcuts.

4. Keep notes handy, but don’t refer to them too often: During job interviews, it’s standard for recruiters to ask candidates for examples of their most impactful work. Don’t let this unnerve you in the moment. Create a printout or Word document of notes with crisp bullet points highlighting a few projects you want to share. Sort your projects under two or three headers: accomplishments, research, and voluntary work.

5. Your speaking rate is the total number of words you speak divided by the number of minutes you take to speak to them. To practice speaking at an optimal rate, record yourself speaking for a few minutes. Then, use a speech-to-text converter — like IBM’s speech-to-text service — to transcribe your audio clip. To calculate your word count, paste that transcription into Microsoft Word and use the word count tool, or use a word counting tool online. Divide your word count by the length (in minutes) of your original recording. For example, if your word count is 500 words and it took you three minute to speak those words aloud, you would divide 500 by three, and end with a wpm of 166. Once you know what rate you speak at, it will be easier to practice speaking faster or slower, depending on what number you got.

6. We found specifically that when candidates were nervous, they spoke faster (upwards of 140 wpm) meaning recruiters became irritable, and 38% of the time, interrupted candidates by asking them to slow down. By maintaining a steady number of words per minute and taking time to pause before important points, you’ll not only better connect with your interviewer, but you will also ooze confidence, even if you’re nervous on the inside.

7. Be interested: Eighty-nine percent of the successful candidates in our study conversed with their recruiters in a natural, candid way. How? They showed genuine interest in their interviewer by asking questions. Our research found some of the most engaging questions were: “How does the team communicate right now? What tools do you use to collaborate? How do you monitor remote work? Does the office have a virtual Friday happy hour where I could meet new colleagues?” Some of the least engaging questions were questions that one can easily find answers to online, such as, “Where is the company based?” or “What awards have you recently won?”

8. Find common interests: Do some pre-work to see if you and your interviewer share any interests. Most companies will tell you who you are meeting with ahead of time. This means you can, and probably should, Google them. Explore what kind of articles they post or share on LinkedIn, what groups they’re a part of, what conferences they spoke at, or what kind of voluntary work they do. When the conversation starts to dry up, ask them about these things. Eighty-one percent of the unsuccessful candidates we observed had trouble filling dead air, missed social cues, and gave monologue-style answers to questions without engaging the other person at all, which ultimately bored their interviewers.

9. Ideally, you conduct a good amount of background information about the company that you are applying for a position with. Doing so will help you formulate well-constructed questions for your interviewers. After all, a job interview is a two-way street. Asking questions will help you and your employer learn more about each other. Ultimately, how well you know each other will lead to a better decision on whether that job is the right fit for you.

10. If you really want the job that you are interviewing for, you can’t just sit back on your laurels after the interview is over. Of course, you want to give the company a reasonable amount of time to make a final decision. In some cases, it might be acceptable to follow up the very next day. In others, it may be more appropriate to wait a week before following up.

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