Updated: Apr 17
Congratulations! Your professionally-written CV aced the selection process, landed in the hiring manager's hands, and piqued their interest.
You've made it to the next step of the hiring process: you've been invited to a job interview, where you will be given the chance to present your background, employment experience, interest in the organization, and career ambitions more in-depth.
Next step: nailing the job interview to land the position. Now, as you probably know, you're probably not the only candidate the firm invited, which means the competition will be tough, and you'll have to make the best use of the few hours you're given during the one or more upcoming interviews.
In other words: you're going to want to make a good first impression in the interview.
This article presents tips and good practices for impressing your interviewer, preparing high-quality answers to interview questions, and exhibiting professionalism during the conversation.
How to impress a hiring manager during a job interview?
1. Conduct thorough research on the company
Yes, this seems like a no-brainer and you've probably read this in dozens of other articles.
What does thorough research on the company really mean though?
Here are a few elements which you want to document yourself to highlight your knowledge of who you're talking with and the organization they represent:
Elements you want to look up:
Your interviewer or hiring manager
The firm's history
The organizational culture
The firm's objectives
The team or department in which you would be working
Let take a closer look at each one of these elements.
Know who you're talking to
Perhaps not many candidates think of this but gathering information on the interviewer can give you a head start and help you shape the approach you're planning.
Yes, you are applying for a job at a firm, an organization with perhaps a few, dozens, hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of employees.
Keeping that in mind, the first person you need to impress and convince is the person sitting opposite you.
Creating a sense of familiarity can leave the interviewer with an impression of knowing you better, perhaps because you attended the same high school, or university, play the same sports and share a passion for the cinema for example.
Now, we're not saying you should stalk your interviewer or try to read the interviewer's mind, but a quick check on his or her LinkedIn profile could give you more information about who you're going to be addressing, and perhaps you'll adapt your speech to a few useful discoveries.
Look up the company's history and latest news
Before the interview, conduct some thorough research and take notes on:
The company's history (e.g. where, when and by who the company was founded)
The main drivers of the firm's evolution (e.g. funding, strategic alliances)
The latest news, key events, and greatest challenges the company is facing
To really make the best use of this information, ask yourself how the position you're applying for (and the relevant department) is influenced by these events, and bring it up in the interview questions you will prepare (more on that further down).
Document yourself on the company's culture
Well, probably one of the most important elements you want to document yourself on, both for the organization's and your sake.
By gathering information and getting an understanding of the organizational culture (if you haven't done this before applying, which you should!), you'll know more about whether you're a good fit for the dynamics of the workplace you might spend most of your days in!
In addition, understanding company culture will help you adapt your pitch, notably by adopting similar wording, phrases, and concepts that the company cherishes.
Finally, a hiring manager will definitely be left impressed and feel more connected with you, after you demonstrate both your strong knowledge and your compatibility with the organizational culture.
Research the company's mission
At the very minimum, you need to look up the company's mission statement, which you can easily find on the firm's website.
Showing you truly understand the firm's objectives and what it stands for is of crucial importance if you really want to impress your interviewer.
It also enables you to - again - adapt your speech and underline how your personal ambitions and values are aligned with the organization!
Read about your potential team and department
If you understood the organization's mission well, that's already a good start. If you understand how the team and department you will be working with contributing to the company mission, that's even better. Do some research!
How to show the hiring managers you're interested in the team you would join:
Find out more about the structure of the team (number of members, hierarchy, etc.)
Research recent and ongoing projects in the relevant department
Make sure you understand which role the department plays in the firm's strategy
Why is this important? Well, for the exact same reasons the above points are important: the more you research and acquire knowledge about the organization and smartly use it during the job interview, the more confidence you will build up and the more serious and qualified you will come across to the hiring manager.
2. Prepare high-quality questions
The most important thing - in addition to professionalism, ambition, and a high level of information - that hiring managers look for is curiosity.
Make sure you prepare at least 10 questions about the employer, the job description, the company story, and career opportunities, for example, to once again demonstrate your genuine interest in the organization.
This doesn't mean you have to ask 10 questions, this is just to prevent you from being dry of questions in case the interviewer already answers them during your conversation.
Make sure your questions are as tailored as possible and avoid questions that are too general. Tailor them just like you tailored your CV and cover letter. Personalize your questions by incorporating the name of the team, department, or firm for example.
Examples of questions you can ask your interviewer
Who will I work with most closely?
Which other departments work most closely with this one for the [name of the project] project?
What training programs are available to your employees?
Why did you come to [name of the firm]?
What are the performance expectations of this position over the first 12 months?
Do you expect the main responsibilities for this position to change in the next six months to a year?
What are the most immediate projects that need to be addressed?
3. Be aware of your body language
A firm handshake, an open stance, and relaxed shoulders are all signs of confidence and professionalism you want to give employers. Indeed, positive body language is as important as a positive attitude.
There are pretty high chances the interviewer will be consciously or subconsciously aware of your body language, which is a key factor in both the first impression and the lasting impression you will make.
Here are examples of positive body language.
A firm handshake
A firm handshake can communicate both your confidence and respect towards employers. Research conducted by psychologists at the University of Alabama found that a firm handshake signaled extroversion and "openness to new experiences". Make sure you also keep eye contact while shaking the employer's hand. Be confident!
Nodding your head
Nodding your head while listening to the interview questions is a sign of active listening, whether your interview questions are being asked online or offline. If you had a smile to it, you're really showing who you're talking to that you're listening and are interested in what they are saying. Also something to keep in mind to make a good impression.
Maintaining eye contact
Good eye contact shows that you're confident, actively listening, and engaged in the conversation with the employer.
Here are a few tricks:
Use the 50/70 rule: maintain eye contact 50% of your speech time and 70% of your listening time
Hold eye contact for about 4-5 seconds, then slowly look away, and look back again
Adopt the triangle technique: imagine an inverted triangle connecting the interviewer's eyes and mouth. Rotate through the different tips of the triangle every 5 seconds.
Read more tips about the power of eye contact in this article.
Upright and open body posture
The perfect ally to a positive attitude. Keeping your back straight, and your arms and legs uncrossed are tips you want to keep in mind for positive body language and leaving a good impression on your interviewer. Doing the opposite of the above during the interview can be off putting for your potential employer.
4. Practice your interview
Whether this is your first or 20th interview, a bit of practice won't hurt, especially if this interview is for your dream job.
Plan ahead: pick a friend or a family member who won't burst out laughing after 5 minutes and will take the time to ask you what the interviewer asks. While practicing interviews can be weird, it's also a great opportunity to practice refining your pitch and branding yourself.
Practice presenting your skills, your career, your last job, and your knowledge about the job offer.
Ask the friend or relative interviewing you to challenge you as the interviewer would:
What's your story?
Why is your employment experience relevant for this job?
What have you achieved so far in your career?
Which skills do you possess that are relevant for this position? Why are these skills relevant for this position?
Why should the company hire you and not hire another job candidate?
What would your previous employers say about you as a person?
Why are you interested in this particular job?
Are you interviewing with any other employers?
5. The interview etiquette
The initial interview is where job seekers leave the first impression. All a well-prepared job candidate needs to do before an interview is take a deep breath and treat the interview as a normal conversation while adhering to the common codes of conduct, a.k.a interview etiquette.
This article presented tips to impress your interviewer.
As it doesn't constitute an exhaustive list of how to impress your interviewer, here are additional - very common - elements to interview etiquette.
Dress appropriately, look professional
Be on time
Don't use slang or one-liners
Answer questions clearly and use concrete examples
Follow up with a thank you email and reaffirm your interest after the interview