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8 Pro Tips to Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview

July 15, 2015

Whether you’re fresh out of school or a recognized pro in your field, interviewing is always nerve-wracking. From what to wear to what to say, here are eight tips that will help you nail your next interview.

1. An interview is “just a conversation”—but it’s an important one.

If you’re nervous, remind yourself that every interview is fundamentally a conversation. You’ve had a million of those, right? But it’s obviously more important than any old conversation, because more is at stake. This is why you need to prepare, do mock interviews, and think carefully about what you want to say and how you want to present yourself—more so than you would in a normal conversation.

2. “Being yourself” is the best way to tell if there’s chemistry.

When you present your authentic self, your interviewer will get a better sense of who you are and whether you’ll be a good fit in the workplace culture and community. It’s important to remember that interviews are not a one-way street. You are also trying to assess if this particular work environment will be the right place for you. If you feel you’ve presented your true self at an interview and the chemistry is clearly off, that’s an important sign that this may not be the place for you.

3. It’s okay to have fun—and be funny—in an interview.

A sense of humor can be a great asset in an interview. Interviewers are not only looking for someone who will do well on the job, but also someone they will genuinely enjoy working with. Many jobs require long hours, tight deadlines, and stressful work. Being personable and demonstrating you have a sense of humor shows the employer that you’ll enhance the atmosphere at work.

4. But if you’re not a natural jokester, don’t force it.

Avoid doing anything that feels contrived or gimmicky. If being funny doesn’t come naturally to you, it’s better to just be professional, confident, and well-prepared. However, you might want to consider having some kind of icebreaker in mind as you begin your interview.

5. Even if you feel comfortable with your interviewer, don’t delve into controversial topics.

A good rule of thumb: If you wouldn’t readily discuss it on a first date, don’t discuss it in an interview. Steer clear of politics, religion, and anything highly controversial or extremely personal.

6. Don’t undersell yourself.

Oftentimes, women downplay their accomplishments. In an interview, you want to highlight your professional qualifications and speak confidently about your skills, achievements, background, and what you can bring to this new organization. This is no time to be modest—let your experience and enthusiasm shine through.

job interview dress

We’d definitely hire you in this Jacquard skirt and knit jacket.

7. When deciding what to wear, err on the side of formality…

Planning your interview outfit can be anxiety-inducing, but it doesn’t have to be. First, identify the culture of the company. If the typical dress code for the company is business casual or business formal, you probably want to go formal for the interview. You always want to be a little more dressed up than necessary. It shows you’re taking the interview seriously, and if the environment turns out to be more casual than expected, you can always take off a suit jacket—it’s harder to go the opposite way if your outfit is too casual.

People always ask me if they should be trying to “stand out” with what they wear to an interview. I always say, “Let your accomplishments and the way you present yourself be what stands out. Your clothes should be appropriate, but they should not speak for you.”

8. …unless you’re interviewing in a highly creative field.

The exception is if you are going into a creative field where fashion and individual expression are prized. Also, if you are applying to a job at a company that is extremely casual (maybe a startup in Silicon Valley), you should dress smart-casual for the interview to show you understand the culture of the company and can fit in.

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Talia Schatz is the Associate Director for Student Programming in the Career Development Office at Barnard College. She oversees the Alumnae to Student Mentoring Program and counsels students on professional development matters. She lives in Manhattan. Read more of Talia's posts.

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