How to ace an interview – in person or online

Are you trying to get a job, but have no idea how to handle an interview? Job interviews can be pretty nerve-racking, especially if you haven’t had much experience or you find it uncomfortable being in the spotlight. Whether you’re interviewing face-to-face or online, you can use our tips below to make sure you’re prepared.

This can help if:

  • you’re looking for a job

  • you’re nervous about job interviews

  • you’ve never had a job interview before

  • you're interviewing online for the first time.

3 women at work having a meeting

1. Be presentable

What you wear to a job interview makes a strong first impression – good or bad! Don’t panic, you don’t need to buy a suit if you’re after a job at the local supermarket. Just make sure you have an outfit that is neat, simple and professional. Try to match your outfit to the type of company. For corporate jobs, pants and a button-up shirt or a knee-length dress is a sure win, while a neat pair of jeans and clean sneakers would fit in well at a tech company. You can look at the company's social media accounts to see what their staff wear or give the HR team a call to discuss the office dress code. If you're feeling really unsure, go with the corporate look - you can always adjust your style later when you settle into your job.

In person: We use all of our senses in real life, so as well as looking presentable, make sure to take care with how you smell (avoid fragrances that may be too strong - or not strong enough!) and keep your palms aired before you shake hands.

Online: While your interviewer can only see you from the shoulders up, dressing as you would for a face-to-face interview will help you to feel in the zone.

2. Be punctual

Arriving late to an interview implies that you’ll arrive late to work, so it’s important to get there on time.

In person: Use Google Maps to find the interview location and plan your journey. Aim to arrive 15 minutes early, and then actually tell the receptionist you’re there five minutes before your scheduled interview.

Online: Download and practice using the online platform before your interview. On the day, make sure your technology (including a laptop charger), internet connection and space is set up at least 30 minutes before your interview. Try to replicate a face-to-face environment by sitting at a desk or table, having a good amount of light in the room and a neutral background, then join the meeting a couple of minutes before it’s due to start.

Just FYI, there is such a thing as being too early! You don’t want to be the person that shows up 45 minutes before your interview. The person interviewing you has set aside time in their schedule to meet with you, and you don’t want them to feel pressured because you showed up so early!

3. Be prepared

Prepare to answer questions about yourself, your work experience and what you’re good at. Be sure to refer to your skills and experience in a previous job or volunteer work and how they relate to the requirements of the job. Is this your first job? No problem, talk about your studies at school, or any informal work (e.g. babysitting or tutoring classmates) instead. It’s also good to be prepared to talk about the role you're interviewing for and the company offering it – doing some research on who the company is and how you fit in with their culture will definitely win you some points.

You might be asked to identify some of your weaknesses. To answer this question, mention something small that you aren’t great at, and explain how you are improving in this area. For example, you might tell them you’re not very good at spelling, but that you always check your work carefully for errors. There’s no need to mention your weaknesses unless you’re asked about them.

4. Be curious

Whichever way you interview, it’s important to remember that interviews are a two-way street – your interviewer is seeing if you’re the right fit for the role and organisation, but you’re also sussing out if this company fits with your values and work style. At some point in your interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions.

Keep a mental note of interesting things your interviewer says that you’re curious to hear more about. It’s also worth having some pre-written questions up your sleeve. Researching the company will help you formulate a set of questions to take with you into the interview. Some handy questions to start with are:

  • What does a day in this role look like?

  • What does success in this role look like?

  • What do they enjoy most about working at this organisation?

  • What are the next steps in the hiring process?

Unless it’s brought up by the interviewer, questions about salaries are best left for a later discussion, but it’s worth being prepared to answer salary-related questions in case it comes up. You can refer to the job ad or use the to help gauge salary levels.

5. Be confident, keep cool

If you’re not feeling confident, try to fake it! Maintain good posture, smile and make eye contact. The way you present yourself shows that you’ll feel comfortable talking to future co-workers and customers. Remember not to talk too fast. It’s normal to do when you’re nervous, but try to talk at the same speed you would to a family member or friend. It’s also ok to acknowledge that you’re feeling a little nervous with the interviewer – they understand that you’re trying your best. Sometimes simply acknowledging how you feel can reduce the pressure.

In person: If your interviewer offers you a glass of water, take it! If you’re feeling nervous your mouth can get dry, and having a glass of water helps you stop and compose yourself if you need to gather your thoughts.

Online: Prep your interview space with things you need (water, pen and paper) and remove things that will be a distraction (your phone, pets and other members of your household). Remember to speak clearly so you can be heard through the technology.

6. Practice, practice, practice

The best way to feel relaxed and confident is to practise answering questions and talking about yourself. Try to rope in a family member or friend to help you out and pretend they’re the interviewer.

Practice is good but don’t overdo it! Try to take your mind off of the interview the night before, to give yourself a break and allow yourself to relax. Perhaps you can go out to dinner with a friend, or watch a movie and hit the sack early. Just remember, you’re speaking about your own experience and no one knows you better than you!

Good luck!

What can I do now?

  • Get more tips for interview skills.

  • Learn about building confidence.

  • Check out the best sites for building your CV.