Nailing Your Interview: Our Advice for Making a Good Impression

Adriana Campoy and Victoria Burghi
April 2, 2019

Job interviews can be nerve-wracking, and understandably so. It's intimidating to be in a situation where you are being constantly evaluated, especially when that situation can impact the next step in your career. With proper preparation, however, we think you'll feel calm and confident, and more importantly, you'll be able to effectively demonstrate why you're the ideal candidate for the job.

At sophilabs, we've interviewed many applicants, and we want to share the qualities that consistently make a candidate stand out. In this post, we'll outline the steps you should take to ace your job interview. From the moment you receive an interview invitation to the second you arrive home after your interview, here's how you can make sure you're doing your best.

Before the Interview

Athletes train before a game and students study for a test; likewise, you'll need to apply yourself if you want a real chance at getting the job. The work you do to prepare for your interview has a big impact on your performance as well as your confidence. Not to mention, recruiters can tell when a candidate has not thought seriously about the interview before showing up. Taking the appropriate steps to prepare yourself ensures that you can truly demonstrate your strengths and convince the employer that you'd be a valuable addition to the team.

Research the Company

Ideally you will have already done a significant amount of research in the process of putting together your resume and composing your cover letter. However, it's always a good idea to brush up on your knowledge of the company, especially if you've been submitting applications to many different employers. What are the company's values? What is their mission? Read about the company's history, success stories, and current projects on their website. Acquire an understanding of how the job you applied to fits within the big picture of what the company does. Your research should inform the skills and personal qualities you stress during your interview. Your knowledge of the company should also help you mold your interview answers to show how you share their values and are a good fit for the company culture.

Researching the company in advance can give you a competitive edge in an interview.
Researching the company in advance can give you a competitive edge in an interview.

At sophilabs we appreciate when candidates know who we are and understand our values. This shows us that they're excited about being a part of sophilabs and will adapt well to the way we work.

Prepare Your Answers

Among the most intimidating questions during an interview are the ones that put you on the spot and ask you to draw examples from your previous experience (i.e., "Can you tell us about a time when you demonstrated leadership?"). It's easy to freeze up in the moment, think of nothing, or give an example that doesn't quite illustrate what you had intended.

This is why it's a great idea to prepare your interview answers in advance. This doesn't mean that you should memorize everything you are going to say. After all, you want to sound relaxed and natural, and you don't know exactly what the interviewer will ask you anyway. What we do recommend, however, is assembling a list of the different skills and qualities the employer values, and coming up with specific, concise examples of how you fulfill them. 1

Mine the job posting for indications of what they're looking for (i.e. "Ability to manage a database" or "Must be a problem solver who takes initiative"). Think of accomplishments or previous projects in which you demonstrated those skills, and practice explaining them as you would to your interviewer. You might also come up with a short list of professional challenges you overcame and outline the skills you sharpened in the process. Whatever your approach, you want to be able to not simply identify your strengths, but provide specific, concise examples that show how you have applied them.

Try having a friend or family member do a mock interview with you so you can fine-tune your responses. If the job requires specific technical knowledge or skills, take some time to review them in case you're asked to do an assessment as part of the interview.

At sophilabs we have candidates complete several tests throughout the recruitment process to assess their technical skills. However, we consider soft skills equally important, and we look for candidates who can articulate why they are self-motivated, organized, and problem-solving team players.

Come Up With a Couple Questions

Recruiters will almost certainly ask you at some point in the interview whether you have any questions about the company or the available position. It can be tough to think of something off the top of your head, but asking a question or two is a great way to demonstrate genuine interest in the job. Therefore, we recommend preparing one or two questions in advance so you can show the employer you've done your research about the company and truly want to be a part of the team.

What if the recruiter happens to answer the question you prepared at some point during the interview, though? When they later ask if there's anything else you'd like to know about the job, just be honest and say, "I was going to ask about X, but you've actually already answered my question!" This still demonstrates interest because it shows that you're paying attention and are invested in the information the interviewer is sharing with you.

Sophilabs likes to see that candidates are curious about the open position and the way we work. Curiosity indicates that candidates are not only interested, but are actively imagining themselves as part of our team.

Plan in Advance

Avoid any unnecessary stress on the day of the interview by figuring out logistics and other details in advance. Plan your route. Make sure you have enough time to get from your previous engagement to the interview site. Print out a couple extra copies of your resume to bring with you.2

If your interview is happening over the phone, make sure your phone is fully charged and that you will be in a quiet indoor space when you receive the call. If your interview is happening via video conference, ensure the background is tidy and clear of any distractions. You should also do a test call to check that your connection is stable.

At sophilabs we appreciate when candidates demonstrate attention to these details because it shows us that they truly care about the opportunity to work with us and are concerned about making a good impression.

During the Interview

While preparing in advance gives you a competitive advantage, there are still a few more important factors to keep in mind on the big day.

Arrive on Time

If you're late, you risk leaving a negative impression that could cost you the job. If the interview is over the phone or via video conference, make sure you are in a quiet indoor space and ready to receive the call a few minutes before the interview time. For an on-site interview, give yourself plenty of time to arrive. If you're driving, allow for traffic and time to find parking. It's always a good idea to aim to arrive about five minutes early so you're not stressed when you get to the interview site. At sophilabs, we look forward to meeting candidates in person, and we offer them a glass of water after they arrive so they can feel relaxed and comfortable in our office.

Connect with Your Interviewer

Make eye contact when your interviewer asks you a question, and nod to indicate understanding. Remember the interviewer's name and use it when possible. If you are being interviewed over the phone, you can write their name down to make sure you remember. If you are being interviewed by more than one person at once, make sure you look at each of them while providing your answers.

Demonstrate Enthusiasm

Body language here is key. Make sure you sit up straight, as slouching can be interpreted as apathy. You can lean forward slightly to show you are interested in what your interviewer is saying. Crossed arms come off as defensive; try folding your hands and resting them on the table or your lap. If you're someone who naturally talks with your hands, don't feel that you have to restrain your gestures; let yourself feel relaxed and confident while talking. Again, make eye contact and nod frequently to show you are listening and understanding.

A typical video interview at sophilabs
A typical video interview at sophilabs

Ask questions to show you're eager to learn more about the job and company. If they describe an aspect of the position that sounds interesting to you, say so. If there are things you admire about the company, what they do, or the way they work, bring it up when the opportunity arises. Make it clear that you are excited about the job and about working for that specific company.

Sophilabs highly values candidates who have actively chosen us as an ideal company to work for. The energy and enthusiasm they bring to the interview is an important way they can communicate that.

Stay Focused

Listening attentively during an interview is just as important as providing well thought-out answers. Don't be too embarrassed to ask for clarification or to ask your interviewer to repeat something, though; this shows you are engaged and will allow you to give a higher quality answer. Recruiters at sophilabs are happy to repeat or clarify questions when necessary.

After the Interview

After you breathe a sigh of relief, here are just a couple more things you should do to leave the best possible impression.

Send a Thank-You Note

Within 48 hours of your interview, send your interviewer a brief email to thank them for meeting with you. Offer to provide any additional information they may need. This gesture shows that you are thoughtful and detail-oriented, hammers home your interest in the position, and reminds the interviewer to consider you while they are making a decision.

Watch Your Inbox

Make sure you don't miss any communication from the employer. They might reach out to ask some follow-up questions, request more information, or inform you of your status in the recruitment process. If you receive a rejection, it's a good idea to reply graciously and thank them for their consideration, as you never know when another job may open up at that company in the future. Sophilabs often considers former candidates when we have an opening.

It's advisable to follow-up with a thank-you note and keep an eye on your inbox after an interview.
It's advisable to follow-up with a thank-you note and keep an eye on your inbox after an interview.

If you receive a job offer (yay!), try to be considerate of the employer by accepting or turning down the offer as soon as you can; keep in mind that some employers will set a maximum time frame to receive a definite response. Sophilabs typically allows between five and ten days for candidates to weigh their options.

An Opportunity to Shine

While the idea of a job interview may initially make you nervous, think of an interview as an opportunity to show the employer your talents and your potential to excel in the position. At sophilabs, we hope candidates will take advantage of the chance to get to know us better, too. What would your typical day look like at sophilabs? Can you see yourself learning, growing, and making an impact in the long term?

Sophilabs has developed a recruitment process that involves a series of interviews that help us evaluate candidates and find the best mutual fit. We strive to identify client-focused, talented team players who are as excited to work with us as we are with them.

Interested in working with us? We'd love to hear from you! Remember to:

"Nailing Your Interview: Our Advice for Making a Good Impression" by Adriana Campoy and Victoria Burghi is licensed under CC BY SA. Source code examples are licensed under MIT.

Photos by Victoria Burghi, mazura1989, Marcus Spiske, and freestocks.

Categorized under people & culture.

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