How to Improve Job Search Interviews by 1,000,000%

So I came up with this arbitrary percentage to improve job search interviews. I don’t know if you’ll improve them by 100% or a gazillion percent… but I bet you will improve SIGNIFICANTLY (that’s a term we used in the MBA program that meant “enough to care about”).

How do you improve job search interviews?  Should you:

  • Study common interview questions and prepare answers ahead of time?
  • Make sure you dress right and floss your teeth?
  • Have a strong first impression (great handshake, flashy smile, etc.)?
  • Tell stories?
  • Say things to relate to the interviewers?

Perhaps all of those, and more, will help you improve job search interviews. Do them. Be intentional about being better in interviews. In addition, here’s my one piece of advice to help you improve your interviews a ton:

Record yourself in a mock interview.

Improve Job Search Interview by recording a mock interview

Recording yourself, and watching it later, feels weird.  You might feel silly and uncomfortable.  But when you review the recording, whether alone or with friends or peers, you will uncover a lot of things and find yourself saying “wow, I didn’t know I did that with my hands,” or “why do I keep looking around the room, I look too nervous,” or “why can’t I just give my response smoothly,” or “I didn’t realize I said UM 40 times in that one response,” etc.

I don’t care how good you think you are, you can most likely improve job search interviews. I thought I was pretty good, even without much preparation. once I recorded myself and watched the recording with other job seekers I realized I was not pretty good. I wasn’t even good.

When you record yourself, and have others record themselves, in a mock interview, and then sit down and critique the recordings, you’ll find you have areas to improve. You’ll find big and small things you can improve on. This could be body language, timing, choice of words, how you sit, etc. Seeing is believing and sometimes the camera is a lot more honest about what’s going on than our mind’s eye.

I double-dog-dare you to do this, even though it might feel really uncomfortable.

Improve Job Search Interviews with Questions

Usually at the end of an interview you’ll be asked, “Do you have any questions for us?” This is an opportunity to impress the interviewers with your thoughtfulness. I try to avoid asking things that I could discover from a simple Google search. In the first interview I tend to not ask about benefits, although I might ask about organizational culture. I might ask about competition, or vision or strategy. This is relevant to the roles I have interviews for and shows I’m curious and interested in those things instead of digging into “how much time off do I get?”

For sure there is a time to ask about those things, but I’d try to avoid it (unless clearly appropriate) in the first interview where my goal is to impress them enough to make it to the second interview. When you practice this in a recorded mock interview you’ll get a good idea of how well your questions land, or perhaps how trivial they sound.

Improve Job Search Interviews with Short, Powerful Answers

Your interview is a special opportunity to show your communication skills (amongst other things). When I ask a question in an interview I expect to get an answer. If you talk and talk but never answer my question I *might* ask the question another way, or I might just note down that you aren’t good at listening.

After I write my first book I was invited to get on some radio interviews. I don’t remember who counselled me on doing this well but I was told that effective answers in a radio interview were very, very short. Perhaps five to ten seconds! That was excellent counsel for me because I can be too wordy.

During my job search I went to a seminar on how to improve job search interviews… how to make them more effective, as a job seeker. In that seminar they taught us about “power statements,” which I call “mini stories.” I talk about them in my personal branding course on Pluralsight. These are very short, concise response using stories, which tend to me more memorable.

When you watch the recording of your mock interview you should get an idea of how you might tighten your mini-stories, or hear whether they even make sense.

Your objective of a job search interview is to get your a job, or get you closer to a job. Be intentional about it, impress the interviewers. I would absolutely encourage preparation, including doing mock, recorded interviews!

9 thoughts on “How to Improve Job Search Interviews by 1,000,000%”

  1. I help people in career transition and this is a service we offer our clients and I agree! It’s extremely helpful, but most people do not want to do it. My advice; don’t be scared just do it, it’s a valuable exercise.

  2. Being articulate and telling STAR (situation, tactic, action, results) or PAR (problem, action, results) stories will make a BIG impact.

    Topics you ask?
    1. The same 4-5 requirements that are in listed in the job description. (Hint-these are part of the questions they are going to ask you! Tell me about a time you launched a new product.)
    2. Write them out!
    3. Now build a second story on same topic. No one horse pony here!
    4. Read them out loud before hand to build confidence.
    5. Have a list of questions typed up to ask them. Show them you’re prepared.

  3. I agree, the LDS church in my area (greater Detroit) offers workshops once a month which include mock interviews and they were the best part of the program and very informative. It revealed both some things I didn’t realize I was doing (like slouching over on the arm of my chair) and some qualities I have that are very positive (enthusiasm) which I also didn’t realize and gave me a confidence boost. It was helpful watching the other participants as well, to get ideas about what works and does not in interview situations.

  4. I do one on one’s with client’s in preparation for interviews and videotape them all. It’s not only important to see AND HEAR yourself on video but to get feedback on how to improve what it is you may be doing or saying that can distract from you making a great first impression. Most people err on the side of not giving enough specific detail and not selling themselves effectively.
    Also, the intonation of the voice is a really important factor that many people over look. The voice contributes about 38% of your message and the right words spoken in the wrong tone can be the difference between an employer feeling confident choosing you over another applicant.

  5. Tips to use when reviewing your interview videotape:
    1. Turn the sound off to focus on your body language
    2. Turn the picture off to focus on your words and the sound of your voice.

  6. Jason: Spot on! Recording yourself is so much easier than ever. The only excuse is…well, there isn’t one.

    As the saying goes: “Seeing is believing”.

  7. Jason,

    I found this technique could be useful to many people in the job-seeking stage of their lives. I found that even the most prepared people I’ve interviewed could have been even better prepared. This strategy is one I think many should adopt.

    Thanks for the help! My blog (posted above) also has a couple other pointers for the interview process that you may find intriguing.

    Nick Vita

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