Job interviews are arguably some of the most important meetings you will ever have in your life. The outcome of an interview can greatly affect your career trajectory, whether it means you continue along your planned path or start a new one to find a more fulfilling occupation.
Regardless of the position you're trying to get, it's important to thoroughly prepare for the interview. In addition to knowing why you're a good fit for the job, brushing up on basic interview skills is always a good idea. Hiring experts shared five of the most important skills to focus on if you want to get hired.
Clarifying interview questions
Most people are afraid to ask an interviewer to clarify his or her question, said Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of job listing website FlexJobs. You might worry that the interviewer will think you weren't paying attention, but ensuring that you thoroughly understand the question can really help you give a thoughtful, relevant response. [50 Job Interview Questions You Should Be Ready For]
"Try to paraphrase the question and say, 'Is this what you're asking?'" she said.
Thinking out loud
One mistake that many interviewees make is stalling when they don't have an answer ready, or responding with "I don't know." Shon Burton, CEO of social recruiting tool HiringSolved, said that thinking aloud is a good tactic to combat this problem.
"The best approach is to have humble confidence," Burton said. "Repeat the interviewer's question, and work through your thought process out loud. The interviewer may give you a hint if you're actively thinking instead of stalling."
When you go to an interview, do you find yourself fidgeting and staring at the floor or table when you answer questions? If so, you might be blowing your chances of getting the job, even if you're perfectly qualified.
"Good nonverbal communication speaks volumes about a candidate," said Jonna Myers, coordinator of career services at Southwestern Oklahoma State University. "It's something most people don't practice, but it makes it very evident when you're nervous."
Myers recommended conducting mock interviews with a friend or in front of a mirror to practice your eye contact, posture and other body-language indicators that convey confidence. Bill Peppler, managing partner of staffing firm Kavaliro, added that a firm handshake and eye contact go a long way during an interview.
Knowing your own résumé
This may seem obvious, but knowing your own résumé inside and out is crucial to interview success. If, like many job seekers today, you've tailored your résumé to suit this specific company or position, make sure you take the time to memorize that specific version so you're prepared to answer any and all questions the employer may have about it.
"If they ask you about something from eight years ago, you should know it; you wrote it," Burton said.
Leveraging knowledge of the company and interviewer
Every job seeker has been told to thoroughly research the company and position he or she is interviewing for, but it's just as important to know how to use that information to your advantage. Myers recommended researching not only the job description and organization, but the community in which it's located.
"It's very impressive when a candidate can talk about why he or she is a good fit for the position, as well as things that are going on in the company's community," she said.
Burton added that using LinkedIn to research the hiring manager and anyone else you might be speaking to before the interview can give you an understanding of each person's background and potentially some common ground to spark a discussion.