Northern Alberta Institute of Technology

How to ace a job interview

Be prepared, be authentic and be early. But not too early

You got the call. Your resumé and cover letter got your foot in the door with that potential new employer. Now it’s time for the next step: the interview. How do you follow up on the initial impression you’ve made with your resumé?

Kristina Lysova, supervisor with advising and career development at NAIT, says that a successful interview requires striking a balance. You need to be yourself while aligning yourself with an employer’s vision and values.

Here are Lysova’s tips for acing the job interview.

Before the interview

man dressing in business wearBe prepared

Getting ready for a job interview is like studying for a test. “Read over the job description because that will hold the key to the questions that you will be asked,” says Lysova.

Employers tailor their questions to the expertise they are seeking. If they’re hiring for a restaurant kitchen position, then expect to be asked questions about how you function as a part of a team. Or, if the job is as an accountant, think about being able to show your attention to detail.

Go early but not too early

Being punctual is important, but there is a limit.

You risk making the receptionist uncomfortable.

Lysova recommends being 15 minutes early. Otherwise, you risk making the receptionist uncomfortable or an awkward encounter with the previous interviewee. Try a test run to the location to gauge travel time.

Dress the part

Take into account what you might wear on the job you’re interviewing for and step it up a notch. For example, says Lysova, “If you are [interviewing] for a company where you have seen people wear a dress shirt or even a tie, one level up from that would be a dress shirt and tie with a jacket.”

During the interview

young woman at job interviewBuild rapport with the interviewer

Small talk at the start of the meeting is your chance to ease any tension between yourself and the interviewer. Lysova says that it’s perfectly acceptable to have a two- or three-minute conversation unrelated to the job before getting to the formal interview.

Highlight transferable skills

Particularly with students, says Lysova, “I see wonderful work experience but they don’t include that because they think the experience isn’t related or that others may also have that experience.”

Highlight your transferable skills, but back them up with examples.

Highlight your transferable skills, but back them up with examples. “If you’re a quick learner prove it by pointing out high grades despite an intensive diploma program.”

Be ready for tough questions

Some questions will be harder than others, such as ones about your weaknesses. Remain genuine and show that you’re capable of honest self-reflection. “Address how you’re trying to overcome this,” Lysova says.

Mind your body language and eye contact

Lysova recommends a 30:70 ratio for eye contact, where 30% of the time you’re looking somewhere else. “Too much can make people feel uncomfortable,” she says.

As for body language, don’t be too self-conscious about it. Show interest, suggests Lysova, by keeping your hands on the table rather than underneath or by leaning forward slightly during the interview.

After the interview

two business women shaking handsAsk questions of your own

When an employer offers to answer your questions, “It’s good to be authentic,” says Lysova. Just be respectful, too. Questions about the hiring process are fair game: What are the next steps? When might I hear back? What is the culture of the workplace?

Others should be avoided.

“Any questions that will leave an [impression] of you not caring about the organization, their values and their mission should be avoided,” Lysova. Skip anything along the lines of: How much do I get paid? How many sick days do I get? How much vacation time can I have?

Follow up

The end of the interview isn’t the end of the process. Since it’s rare to be offered the job on the spot, Lysova recommends sending a thank-you email, preferably on the same day as the interview.

"Stress the key skills that make you a good match for the position.”

“Thank them for their time and stress the one or two key skills that you believe make you a good match for the position,” she says.

Keep moving

If a job interview isn’t successful, that's OK. Take the opportunity to critique your performance in time for the next one.

“The mental health aspect of interviewing is huge,” says Lysova “It’s easy to be overly critical of oneself because you didn’t get a job.”

Don’t ruminate, just act. First, “It’s okay to follow up and ask for a couple pointers,” says Lysova. Feel free to contact the company’s HR department for some feedback. Then, polish up that resumé, redraft that cover letter and get back out there, better prepared than ever.


Subscribe to receive more great stories every month

Find out more news about NAIT, stories about our alumni and their impact on their communities, and useful how-to content featuring our experts.