How to Ace a Job Interview: Tips and Answers to Common Questions

To ace your next interview, you'll need to research the company, read the job description, learn to use the STAR method to answer common questions, and practice.

Abi Tyas TunggalAT

Abi Tyas Tunggal

How to Ace a Job Interview: Tips and Answers to Common Questions

Whether you're applying for your first job or an executive position, you'll need to get through the interview process. Typically the interview process involves at least a phone interview and a virtual or in-person interview.

The job interview allows you to show your strengths and make a good impression on the hiring manager.

To ace your following job interview, think about the topics likely to be covered and how you can position yourself as the best candidate. To increase your chances, invest time into:

  • Research: Learn as much about the company, role, and interviewer.
  • Planning: Think about what you'll wear, how you'll present yourself, and your body language.
  • Preparation: Conduct mock interviews, prepare answers to interview questions, and follow up to stand out from other job seekers.

This article provides a step-by-step guide on how to ace your next interview and sample answers to common interview questions.

Job interview preparation

1. Research your potential employer

Research your potential employer before your interview to understand the company's culture, values, goals, and competitors.

Start with the company's website as it contains valuable information like:

  • Their mission statement: A summary of its values and aims that help you understand if your career goals and core values align with the company.
  • Biographies: Companies tend to include information about their people and teams on their website. This information helps you learn more about the background and education of key team members.
  • About us page: Gives you context on the company's culture, history, products, and services, which you can use to inform your responses.
  • Product pages: Helps you learn about what the company sells, which will help you come across as passionate and knowledgeable in the interview.
  • Customer testimonials: Bolsters your understanding of the customers' experience and can help identify competitors to aid in additional research.
  • Interviews: Interviews with senior management can give insight into what the company cares about and its goals.

Beyond the company website, you can research companies on:

Finally, if you know any employees, reach out. Employees can tell you what it's like to work there, what skills are lacking, and whether they think the company is compatible with you and your career goals.

The research process takes time, but the time invested pays dividends. It's honestly one of the best ways to ace your next interview and get a job offer.

Job interview preparation

2. Read the job description

After researching the company, read the job description of the role you're applying for in full. The job post contains the position's duties, responsibilities, and purpose.

As you read, take note of the skills, abilities, responsibilities, and expectations the hiring manager is looking for and write your relevant experience. These are hints you can drop in the interview to show them that you've done your research and are the best fit.

It's also a good idea to include keywords and phrases from the job description in your resume, as it'll help you beat automated resume screening.

Suppose you're applying for a remote DevOps job, and the job description mentions Docker and GCP, and you have experience. In that case, it's a perfect opportunity to stand out from other applicants. Don't forget to mention any relevant soft skills you have too.

Man in office

3. Learn to use the STAR method

Hiring managers often ask behavioral interview questions to assess how you react to difficult situations, your skills level, and how you conduct yourself in the workplace.

It's best to prepare for behavioral interview questions by learning the STAR interview method. Answering behavioral interview questions with the STAR method ensures you show your value to prospective employers.

STAR stands for situation, task, action, and result:

  • Situation: Describe the situation as it forms the basis for the rest of your answer.
  • Task: Outline your goals or problems.
  • Action: Describe the steps you took to solve the problems or achieve your goals.
  • Result: Explain the consequences of your actions and how you contributed to the company. Where possible, quantify your impact.

Leverage the research you've done to highlight relevant situations. You can also use the STAR method to structure your resume.

Highlighting how your previous employers, credentials, and accomplishments align with the new job will increase your chances of landing a job offer.

Remember, your goal is to impress the interviewer and help them understand why you're the best fit for the position.

Job interview preparation

4. Practice answering common interview questions

Most interviews include a few standard questions. Review the list of popular interview questions and answers below, and use them as the basis of your responses.

Ensure your answers are relevant to the organization and position.

If possible, get a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview, so you can practice your answers in an interview setting with other people.

Job interview via Zoom

Tell me about yourself

Interviewers often open the interview with "Tell me about yourself" to determine if you're a good fit for the role and company culture.

Organizations rely on trust, and hiring someone is a big commitment for both parties. Bad hires are expensive, negatively impact culture, and reduce the performance and morale of employers.

Answering "Tell me about yourself" depends on your motivation for applying for the role and what the interview needs.

Example answer:

"I've been passionate about design since high school. I remember the first time I used Photoshop on my school's computer, I was hooked. Since then, I've been pursuing a career in design.

Since graduation, I've worked at several companies across graphic design, web design, and more recently, UI design where I've been building out design systems in Figma and working on large-scale projects for companies like UpGuard, Spaceship, and Himalayas.

I've decided it's time I want to focus my skills on UX design and dedicate myself to a company I'm passionate about.

I've been a VEED.IO customer for years running a small design YouTube channel in my spare time. Obviously, I'm a huge fan of the product, but I'm also in awe of your growth — it's pretty hard to find such a memorable brand in this space and everything I read about VEED.IO speaks to well-thought out strategy. While this role is a big step up from my current job, I'm excited to take on new challenges and really dedicate myself to a single mission. I believe my experience working across so many different design disciplines and passion for branding and UX will be a great asset to your design team."

Why it works: The candidate articulated their passion for their craft, their background, and why they're excited to work at the company. They're a passionate user of the product and have relevant experience.

Related: How to answer "Tell me about yourself"

Job interview

What is your greatest weakness?

An authentic answer to "What is your greatest weakness?" shows you're capable of being honest about what you need to do to grow professionally. Your response should demonstrate your desire to improve and your thoughts on your current progress.

Keep in mind hiring managers want to understand two things—first, your weaknesses, and second, the steps you're taking to improve.

Example answer:

"By nature, I'm not great with numbers. I've always preferred the written word. That's why I chose a career as a content marketer, where I can focus most of my time on writing.

However, the longer I do this, the more I underastnd the value of well-chosen metrics.

That's why I'm teaching myself Google Analytics and SEO. I used to be apprehensive about analytics and SEO but I understand that they can be quite helpful now.

Why it works: This response features a weakness that isn't critical to the role. Then the candidate outlines how they are working to address it.

Related: How to answer "What is your greatest weakness?"

Job interview preparation

Why do you want this job?

Hiring managers ask why you want the job to understand whether you're a good fit for the position, team, and company and whether your career goals align with their needs.

While the interviewer wants to know what you want from your next job, don't forget to mention what you like about the company's values, mission, and goals.

Example answer:

"FullStory has a fantastic reputation. I've used it and I've seen how helpful being able to replace user sessions is to building great product. I helped HotJar build out its marketing engine, and I believe I could contribute significantly to the growth of FullStory."

Why it works: Recruiters love candidates who are active users of the product. This particular candidate also highlighted that they've worked on a competing product, implying they understand the problem space.

Related: How to answer "Why do you want this job?"

Job interview preparation

Why are you looking for a new job?

Interviewers ask why you're looking for a new job to understand why you're leaving your current employer. Your motivations for leaving provide insights into you as a person.

Example answer:

"I've been working at a design agency for the last three years. I've learned a lot, but I feel like I need to move in-house to grow professionally.

Working at an agency has been great, but there is only so much you can learn when you're constantly jumping between accounts. I'm excited for the opportunity to focus on one company and deeply learn about its products and services.

I'm a big fan of Rippling. We've been using you for our HR & IT at the agency for a few years now. I took some time before the interview to have a quick look at your sign up process. It's good, but I know it could be better. Safe to say, I'm super excited about the impact I could have."

Why it works: The applicant outlines why they're looking for work without badmouthing their previous employer then shifts the focus to why they're excited about the prospect of working at the specific company.

Related: How to answer "Why are you looking for a new job?"

Remote worker

What can you contribute to this company?

Hiring managers want to know what you can contribute to the company to assess whether you have the skills and experience necessary to succeed in the role.

Example answer:

"I can improve your onboarding process.

In my previous role, we were successfully onboarding 40% of new users.

My task was to increase the conversion rate by at least 15 percentage points.

I designed a new onboarding flow that reduces the learning curve of the product and developed a 30-day email sequence.

When I left, I had increased the conversion rate from new users to onboarded user from 40% to 70%.

Why it works: This is an excellent response. It follows the STAR method and shows the interviewer what the candidate did in a prior role and how they could apply it to the new company.

Related: How to answer "What can you contribute to this company?"

Office worker

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

When employers ask about where you see yourself in five years, they aren't expecting a detailed five-year plan.

Interviewers want to know how the role you're applying for fits into your long-term goals and career path. If there is a good match, you'll be more engaged, gain valuable skills, and are likely to stick around for a long time.

Example answer:

"As a recent comp sci grad, Stripe is at the top of my list. I'm a massive fan of Ruby and love the work you've done with Sorbet.

I love that you're aggressive about giving opportunities to Stripes who have proven to be good at executing, regardless of where they are in their career.

I'm ambitious and not afraid to work hard, so I'd love to be leading an engineering team in the next five years. While I was at university, I led an engineering team at a startup I founded and while I wasn't an amazing manager, I'm excited to become one over time and I've been reading books like High Output Management to develop my skills.

That's why I'm excited to be applying for a software engineering role at Stripe!"

Why this answer works: This candidate has done their research. They know one of the main programming languages the company uses and an open-source project they built.

Related: How to answer "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?"

Job interview preparation

5. Think about how you present yourself

Presenting well during an in-person interview isn't too tricky. You need to dress the part, consider your body language, and be on time. Review the company's website and social media presence to get a feel for the dress code and use it to guide what you wear.

In most cases, business casual works. Outside of your clothes, think about your body language. Sit up straight, pull your shoulders back, and look the interviewer in the eyes when you're speaking or listening.

However, many job interviews are now virtual, and you'll need to account for more than your clothes and body language. When doing an online interview, it's best to prioritize lighting, camera angle, background, audio quality, and Internet stability.

Choosing a clean background helps the interviewer focus on you, not what's behind you. If you don't have a home office, a bedroom or kitchen table can work.

For lighting, use a key light, natural light, or a lamp to bounce the light off the wall in front of you. Once you've got your background and lighting sorted, think about the framing of your shot.

A good rule of thumb is to have your eyes at the two-thirds level of the image. Put your camera just above eye level, angled slightly down. Framing is another way you can control the focus of your interviewer. It'll also make it easier to maintain eye contact.

Audio is another thing many candidates overlook. Audio quality plays a massive part in how you present over video, so use earphones or headphones rather than your computer's microphone. It'll also make it easier for you to focus.

You'll also need to test your technology before the interview. At least a day before your virtual interview, ask a friend or family member to conduct a mock interview with you.

Mock interviews allow you to test your microphone, camera, Internet connection, and location. They're also a great way to familiarize yourself with the video conferencing software you'll be using.

Make sure to download any updates for the video conferencing software and your computer's operating system to ensure it doesn't reset during the interview. Double-check your video framing as different video conferencing software tends to crop the video differently.

Finally, if you live in a shared space, ask the people you live with to be quiet during your interview.

Related: Zoom interview tips

Job interview preparation

6. Prepare your own set of questions

As your interview comes to a close, your interviewer will ask something like, "Do you have any questions for me?"

This question is an excellent opportunity to stand out from other candidates and assess whether the job and company are right for you. The hiring manager will expect you to have questions, so make sure to prepare. If you don't ask the right questions, you risk coming off as unprepared or disinterested. Inversely, thoughtful questions help you stand out from other job candidates.

Related: Best questions to ask in an interview

Job interview preparation

7. Follow-up after the interview

After a job interview, it's a good idea to send a thank-you email. It's an opportunity to make your job application stand out from other job seekers, reinforce why you're a good fit for the position, and provide any critical additional information to the potential employer.

Related: Follow-up Email After an Interview: Templates & Examples


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