For most of us, interviewing is the worst. It’s like speed dating, but for work and the pressure on a first impression is extremely high.
“An interview is a performance to some degree. You’re starring as yourself,” says Pam Skillings in How to Rock an Interview.
If you are on the market for your next gig, check out Skillings six skills to nail your next interview—and get one step closer to landing your next big opportunity.
6 skills to rock your next interview
Plan your first impression
When up against the open-ended question of “so… tell me about yourself”—where should you begin? Definitely not at the beginning of your career.
Interviewers don’t want a recap of your resume. They want to know why you’re the most relevant and interesting person for this job.
So give them what they want. You’re in control. And you get to decide what parts of your story to emphasize—and in turn, what they will focus on.
Storytelling is your secret weapon. “If you can use storytelling techniques in interviewing, it really helps to connect with the interviewer and make you a much more memorable candidate,” says Skillings.
2 Sell your strengths
In an interview, talking about your strengths isn’t obnoxious. It’s not bragging or being too forward. It’s an essential skill to master if you want the job.
Take advantage of the opportunity to highlight your strengths and experience and go into your interview prepared to discuss: “Here are the top three reasons why I would be awesome at this job.”
Even if you’re an introvert or a modest person by nature, there are ways to communicate your strengths without going against your personality.
First, state the facts of what you accomplished:
I “led a multi-million dollar project” that “we delivered two weeks ahead of deadline” and that “got amazing feedback from the client.”
Second, quote others:
In my performance review, I got great feedback from my manager “about my ability to mentor junior associates and motivate my team.”
And remember to practice aloud. With just a handful of practice responses, you can go from stumbling to polished.
Prepare speaking points—not a script
How can you be prepared, but also authentic and spontaneous? Bullet points.
Don’t script responses word for word. Simply capture a few bullet points that communicate the most important points for commonly asked questions.
Sometimes it can feel like you’re at the mercy of the interviewer, says Skillings. “But if you go in feeling comfortable with your speaking points and the things that you want them to remember about you, it gives you an opportunity to be strategic and proactive.”
This can be especially helpful if there’s an area you’re sensitive about, like a gap in your resume. Don’t stick your head in the sand and hope they don’t ask.
Prepare and practice so you’ll be in control of your message no matter what the interview throws your way.
Show enthusiasm for the role
It’s a given that you will research the company and be able to discuss why you’re a good fit, whether it’s culture or values.
But even more importantly, you need to express—with sincere enthusiasm!—how you’re a great fit for the job itself and why you’d be excited to do this work. Think about:
- How am I uniquely qualified for this job?
- Why would I be motivated to succeed if they hired me?
- How does this job fit into my career goals and what I love to do?
Interviews are trying to get a feel for whether you would be a passionate, strong performer if you were hired, says Skillings.
Tell a good (short) story
“You want to have a little bit of a story arc, you want to paint a picture, and you want to make sure that you’re really sharing what you in particular did to contribute to the project or the situation,” says Skillings.
- Start with the backstory—just enough context to explain why the project was important.
- Tick through your actions—the highlights of what happened, the obstacles you faced, and how you addressed them.
- End with positive outcomes—either a concrete business improvement (“we increased revenue by 8%) or an anecdotal result (“we came in under budget and the customer renewed their contract.”)
To make your story concise and engaging:
- Keep it under two minutes.
- Use “I” not “we”—e.g. “I came up with the solution” (if you did!)
- Think of your story as the start of a dialogue, not a monologue. If they ask follow-up questions to dig deeper, you know you’ve succeeded!
6 End on a positive note
There’s plenty of advice out there that says to end the interview with something like “Do you have any concerns?”
Skillings thinks that’s a bad idea.
One problem is that most interviewers and HR personnel, especially at big companies, are trained not to give feedback like that on the spot. Plus, why end the interview by inviting negativity?
Instead, end on a positive note by asking something like: “What do you think are the most important qualities for someone in this role?”
It may open up a final opportunity for you to talk about your experience in a different way and make a lasting impression.