Fundamental job interview tips: How to make a good first impression

July 24, 2021  •  Reading Time: 14 min.

Step-by-step guide to interview success

A job interview with your potential employer is coming up and you want to make a really good impression to get the job offer?

If you’re looking for practical tips on how to prepare for an interview, you’ve found the right place. We know exactly what makes a hiring manager tick and will give you practical tips on how to answer interview questions. After reading this article, your interview skills will have skyrocketed! Whether the actual interview takes place on company premises or is a video interview, use our guide to answer every interview question correctly and land your dream job!

two guys shaking hands after a job interview

Tips for the pre-interview period

To be able to go into the interview with full confidence and to present all your skills in the best possible way, you need to be well prepared. But wait! Before you start thinking about your greatest weakness and what kind of body language you should use, take it easy. You can start with something “light” and research the company first:

Visit (not only) the company website

You probably already took a look at the company’s online presence when you were writing your cover letter and resume. For the job interview, it’s time to get more in-depth with the firm. Career experts advise not to just glance at the company’s history and read a few articles about them online. Instead, find out about their corporate culture and the core values they hold. If it is a commercial company, pay attention to quarterly reports and read their blog or social media websites. You will make a great impression if you know their numbers!

Draft your story

You may have done this before when applying for your current job or past jobs: Created a “story statement”. Now is the time to adapt this to the new job you are applying for. In the past few years, it has become increasingly important to be authentic and to show that you feel confident about yourself and your abilities. That impresses recruiters.

❇️ Interview tips: When they ask you about gaps in your resume during the job interview, simply answer with what happened in the interim. Maybe you took a year off to take care of your mental health? Or you wanted to learn something new, so you enrolled in online classes while working part-time at a local coffee shop? Nothing beats a genuine answer. If you’ve prepared ahead of time, you might even be able to connect this “gap” with some (soft) skills that could be useful for that new job or job title!

Back to your story: The very first question in the interview will most likely be: “Tell me/us about yourself”. Don’t blow this question by simply reciting your resume! Employers expect you to hold a small pitch about yourself. You can prepare for this by using a 3-step formula:

Interview preparation tips: “I am – I can – I will”

  • I am: Briefly introduce yourself with your name and age. Then provide a short description of your current professional and personal situation.
  • I can: This is the main part. Here you list the relevant stages of your resume, mention skills and achievements attained.
  • I will: Finally, add to your plea the reasons why you have applied for this position and what you expect to gain from it or what added value you can offer.
Woman sitting in front of a man smiling in the job interview

“My name is Jen Smith, I am 25 years old and I will be graduating this summer with a Master’s degree in Business Administration. The topic of my master’s thesis is XX. I have worked in XY’s public relations department for more than three years, helping to organize and execute several international trade shows related to electromobility. Most recently, I was responsible for booking Italian- and Spanish-speaking experts and managed a team of four other working students. I would like to use and further develop my knowledge from my master’s degree and the practical experience as a working student in the position as XZ. In the next few years, I am aiming for an international career and would like to support your company in establishing and expanding the Asia/Pacific sales territory.”

Get prepared for common interview questions

Even though every job interview is different, there are some questions that recruiters ask almost all candidates. The trick now is to make your answers interesting and to use them skillfully to present yourself and your communication skills in the interview. The following sample interview questions and answers can give you some guidance:

  • What attracted you to our company?

➡️ Identify what is distinctive about the company’s mission and values and how this aligns with your own desired career path and personal values.

  • What are your greatest strengths?

➡️ Explain what you are really good at and how it relates to the job profile. Support this with examples: “I can present facts very well and inspire others. During my internship at advertising agency XY, I was able to work on 7 successful pitches.”

  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

➡️ This is about showing that you have a career plan and want to grow further. Examples are desired specializations, personnel responsibility and other aspects.

  • Why are you the right person for this position?

➡️ Briefly summarize all your skills and explain how you will use them on the job. Don’t be afraid to mention how much you are looking forward to the tasks and which ones in particular.

Ready yourself for the “What is your weakness?” question

Before you rack your brain for the right answer, the first thing to do is to understand why your counterpart is asking you this question during the job interview.

The question that actually stands behind the question about your weakness is:

Is a candidate capable of identifying mistakes and at the same time self-confident enough to actively address and counteract them?

Typical (and bad ✋) answers are:

  • 🚫 “I’m too perfectionistic.”
  • 🚫 “I’m impatient.”
  • 🚫 “I work too much.”
  • 🚫 “I have no weaknesses worth mentioning.”
  • 🚫 “I can’t think of anything to say about that.”

Don’t worry, there are some weaknesses that you can feel free to admit. Here are some examples and tips for good 👍 answers:

  • Presentations

➡️ “I have problems speaking in front of larger audiences. I’m often nervous and uncomfortable. (BUT) I’m trying to tackle that. That’s why I took a public speaking course with a well-known coach.”

  • Organizing

➡️ “Occasionally, I find it difficult to stay organized. (BUT) To stay on top of things, I’ve rediscovered the to-do list for myself. Since I create, prioritize and work through these lists every morning, I’m more structured and productive.”

  • Saying no

➡️ “It’s hard for me to say ‘no’ and reject others. (BUT) When it comes to matters that affect the company, I’ve learned to be firm, because it doesn’t just affect me.”

Meanwhile in a Job interview

Use the STAR method when responding to questions

Recruiters often use special interview techniques to find out more about the applicant. One of these interview methods is the so-called STAR method. The STAR approach is a behavioral interview technique.

The STAR motto is: “Past behavior predicts future behavior”. During such behavioral interviews, the hiring manager is specifically interested in finding out more about an applicant’s skills and behaviors that will later be relevant for the job.

Therefore, you should answer questions during the job interview according to the following framework:

  • Situation: What was the initial situation?

➡️ “My team at my current workplace decided that we should review our online activities.”

  • Task: What was your task?

➡️ “My task was to create a concept of how we can consistently use our opportunities to do better business online on a sustainable basis.”

  • Action: What did you do?

➡️ “I met with three online marketing specialists to evaluate our options in search engine optimization, Google Ads and social media.”

  • Result: What was the result?

“I was able to present a detailed concept with sound proposals, which was successfully implemented.”

❇️ Interview tips: Behavioral interviews are also common for phone interviews.

Prepare smart questions for your interviewers

In every interview there is a part where you can ask your own questions – the so-called follow-up questions.

❇️ One of our top job interview tips: Take advantage of this opportunity! It shows your interest and that you have the confidence to ask your own questions. Therefore, this is an important opportunity for you in the job interview.

  • ✅ “How would you describe my typical workday?”
  • ✅ “From your point of view: What successes can ideally be achieved in the first few weeks?”
  • ✅ “What is the most important contribution to the success of the company in my position?”
  • ✅ “How are employees promoted and trained at your company?”
  • ✅ “Is there a budget for further trainings?”
  • ✅ “What type of personality do you want in the future employee at your side?”

Practice with a friend

It’s almost time for your job interview! To make sure everything is on point, practice not only alone, but also with a friend or acquaintance. Someone not too close to you might be even better! Perhaps even someone with experience in the field you’re applying for – but that’s not a necessity.

Interview tips for the interview day

A man preparing his suit in the mirror for the job interview

The big day has arrived! Before you leave your home and head to the interview location, check if you have packed a few copies of your resume. It’s also a good idea to take a notebook and pen with you. It goes without saying that you should arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes early.

❇️ Interview tips: Choose an outfit that looks professional and fits the industry you are applying to. Nevertheless, it should also be comfortable and not make you feel uneasy or constricted.

The first impression counts

First impressions are based solely on visual and acoustic stimuli such as your appearance, body language, voice or facial expressions. This means that before you hastily look for a conversation starter, you should stand up as soon as a person purposefully approaches you and makes eye contact. Now simply maintain eye contact, stay alert and respond quickly. Display confident body language and a smile! There is no more effective way to appear likeable to other people than a radiant smile.

Now it’s time to move. If your counterpart is still at a distance, walk toward the recruiter. As soon as you are close enough, offer the other person a friendly handshake, greet him or her in a firm but cordial voice, and briefly introduce yourself. If you are waiting in a seated position – as is often the case at a job interview – make sure you rise from your chair for the greeting.

❇️ Interview tips: Ensure that you have a firm handshake. If you want, you can practice in advance with friends or acquaintances and also make sure that your hands stay dry – despite all the nervousness.

Afterwards, thank them for inviting you to the interview and express your appreciation for the opportunity. After all, politeness never hurts – not even during a job interview.

Authenticity: success factor no. 1 in a job interview

Success in the application process is not about getting just any job, but the right job.

A job in which you feel comfortable, where you can prove yourself and grow. In order to do this, you have to present yourself in an authentic way. Only then will you and your counterpart have the chance to determine to what extent the advertised position and your ideas, the corporate culture and your mentality fit together. You will not be doing yourself any favors if you pretend, create false expectations and sell yourself above or below your value.

Every job interview contains questions that you can easily prepare for. Anyway, we do not recommend memorizing answers. Knowing yourself well and being able to adequately describe yourself will give you the confidence to have all the answers inside you. However, you should make sure that you stick to the facts and do not make any statements in the interview that differ from those in your documents.

Showing yourself authentically also means being able to stand by your own weaknesses. An honestly presented challenge is less of a hindrance to your attitude and more of an enrichment: When you openly describe what the challenge is for you and what strategy you have developed to overcome it, you demonstrate the ability for self-reflection and personal responsibility. A strength that is invaluable in the working world and much more in demand than flawlessness.

Link your answers to your skills and accomplishments

While you should always answer truthfully and not just repeat what you have memorized, there is nothing wrong with answering questions strategically. After all, it is a job interview and the hiring manager wants to see if you are suitable for the job. Therefore, you should seize every opportunity to address the requirements listed in the job description.

❇️ Interview tips: Always give examples. That is, when you talk about any result or success you have achieved, support it with an example.

❇️ Interview tips: Before the interview, recall your success stories or those of people and role models you respect and who have inspired you. You can then use them as little story tidbits during the interview.

the words "share your story" laying next to coffee

Keep your answers short and to the point

You are in flow and sharing your stories. That’s great! But keep in mind the limited time you have during the interview and always remember the goal: show that you are convinced you are the right fit for the job and link that to your experience and know-how.

With that in mind, we have 3 things you should avoid while speaking:

  • 🚫 Talk about personal details. Some candidates take the fact that you are supposed to tell the recruiters something about themselves as an invitation to talk about their hobbies, children or last vacation. This may be interesting, but it’s not what the hiring manager wants to hear.
  • 🚫 Be too modest. Do not relativize your professional successes with qualifications such as: “I don’t know if this is relevant now, but …”, “I tried … / tried hard …” or, “I think I did pretty well.” Stand by what you have accomplished!
  • 🚫 Complain about your previous employer. It was terrible at my old company, that’s why I’m applying to work for you.” This comes across as unprofessional and certainly doesn’t entice people to hire you – because who can guarantee that it wasn’t because of you?

Tips for the time after the interview

The interview is over and you have a good feeling and really want the job? Then you can take a few more steps to get the recruiters to vote in your favor:

Write a personalized thank you email

After the job interview, a follow-up email is that certain something that helps you score points once again because:

  • You signal interest in the advertised position once more.
  • You stay in touch.
  • You show commitment and motivation by going the extra mile.
  • Everyone likes to receive an honest thank you!

❇️ Interview tips: Do not send your thank you email weeks after the interview. The rule of thumb is: Your interviewers should receive it no later than 48 hours after the interview.

Sample follow-up email

Dear Mr./Mrs. (name of your main interview partner),

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for our interview on (date). I am glad that I had the opportunity to introduce myself to you and to get an impression of your company. Our conversation left a very positive impact on me. I was particularly impressed by (pick up on an aspect of the interview that was particularly important to you/introduce an aspect of the company that you particularly liked).

❇️ Career advice: It is appropriate to ask your interviewer, hiring manager or recruiter what you can expect next.

I very much look forward to hearing from you again.

With kind regards,

(Your Name)

two person shaking hands after a perfect job interview. A third person standing in the background is smiling aswell.

We’re confident that if you use our step-by-step guide, practice common interview questions and job interview tips, you’ll be hired in no time!

Best of all, it won’t be because they want you, but rather because you want them!

FAQ

How do you answer “Tell me about yourself” in a job interview?

– Transition from personal to professional.
– Share your expertise.
– Be honest.

What to say at the beginning of an interview?

– Stand up to greet your interviewers by:
– Introducing yourself by name.
– Maintaining eye contact.
– Shaking hands firmly and no longer than 5 seconds.

What are the 10 most common interview questions and answers?

1) What are your strengths?
2) What are your weaknesses?
3) Why do you want to work for us?
4) Where do you see yourself in five or ten years?
5) Why do you want to leave your current employer?
6) How do you explain the gap in your resume?
7) What can you offer us that other applicants can’t?
8) If it were up to your former boss, what three things should you work on?
9) Would you be willing to relocate for the job?
10) Is on-duty travel an option?

How can I have a successful interview?

– Research the company.
– Prepare a self-presentation.
– Know the most common interview questions.
– Prepare several questions to ask.
– Train your body language.
– Make sure you follow the correct dress code.
– Bring your application documents.