Economy & Jobs

How to Crush an Interview: 5 Tips for Interview Success

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It is estimated that for every job posting, an average of 118 individuals will apply, but only 20 percent will be asked to interview. If you’re one of the lucky few contacted to showcase your talents in person, you’ve beaten the toughest odds already. To keep that momentum moving, there are certain tips for interview success to keep in mind.

1. Confidence is Key

It is said that within the first 90 seconds of an interview, most interviewers have made a decision on the candidate. The reason for this brief, but telling, decision is an applicant’s display of confidence. The way you carry yourself and answer questions shows your interviewer that you will represent their company well in the future. Factors that help make this a memorable 1.5 minutes include a warm smile, a professional greeting, a firm handshake, and direct eye contact.

2. Practice Makes Perfect

Prepare for your interview by making a list of possible questions and practicing your answers. Surprisingly, many interviewees skip this step and find themselves coming up with responses on the spot for relatively simple questions, such as “Where do you see yourself in five years?” and “Why do you want this job?” Research some of the more commonly asked interview questions, but also consider some of the more difficult questions that may arise. These could include:

  • Why should I hire you?
  • Why did you leave/why were you let go from your last job?
  • What is your worst quality?
  • What was the most challenging work situation you were in and how did you handle it?

Practice answering these questions with conviction, remembering to turn all questions (even those that are negative) into a positive response evidenced by real-world examples.

3. Timing Is Everything

One of the top tips for interview success is to always be sure to arrive between 5-10 minutes early to an interview. Arriving too early may disrupt the interviewer’s day, while arriving late will come off as disrespectful or irresponsible. Timing and pacing yourself in an interview is also key. Different interviewers will have different time frames in their busy day to speak with you. While a longer interview is a great sign that the conversation flowed well, short interviews can be effective if you are able to summarize yourself quickly and confidently. Practice an elevator pitch for yourself; you never know when timing will be of the essence.

4. Do Your Homework

Thoroughly researching the position and company as a whole will show the interviewer that you’re motivated, prepared, and extremely interested in joining their team. Start by looking up annual reports, the mission statement, and any recent news articles about the company. Review the job posting and identify any qualities you offer that are specific to the role.

Remember that an interview is a two-way road. As you research, be sure to jot down a series of questions for your interviewer. These may be specific to the position, or about the company’s direction in general. Great questions are forward-thinking and confident, as if you were already awarded the position. Having prepared questions also prolongs the interview process, making you more memorable in the end.

5. Dress to Impress

How you dress will impact how the interviewer perceives you. You want to show up to the interview looking neat, clean, and well groomed. Most interviewers state that candidates wearing too much cologne/perfume or bright colors to an interview can be distracting. Try to find out the office’s dress code ahead of time, but keep in mind that it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed.

You have come this far and beaten the odds. Your qualifications have already proven to be ahead of the rest, so use that knowledge to make your personality shine. Remember that every good interviewee sends personalized notes or emails, thanking each interviewer separately. This may be the difference that puts you ahead of the competition.

Michelle Schroeder is an award-winning personal finance blogger. She discusses student loans, budgeting, intentional living, and more, all on her personal finance website. She has appeared on Forbes, WiseBread, Huffington Post, Zillow, Business Insider, Yahoo! Finance, Lifehacker, Lifehack, The Consumerist, US News,, Learnvest,, and more. Michelle also has her Finance MBA.