4 Tips to Improve Your Interview Skills

Improving your interview skills is one of the best possible ways of improving your confidence, as well as your performance. It's all too common for people who are otherwise excellent candidates to sabotage themselves with poor interview performance caused by lack of confidence.

Another common problem is giving unstructured, messy, interview answers. That's usually the result of lack of interview training, but there's a lot you can do to fix the problem yourself.

Finding and fixing interview problems

The best way to pin down interview issues is to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you find yourself garbling answers to questions where you know the answer well?
  • Do you sometimes get your interview answers out of sequence?
  • Do you just answer mechanically, giving an answer by rote?
  • Do you engage interviewers, or just speak to the person who asked the question?

If you answered Yes to most of these questions, you're really just having problems organizing your interview performance. That could be lack of practice or lack of training, but it's really pretty easy to fix these problems.

Tips for sharpening up your interview performance

Each of these tips builds interview skills in stages. They're not difficult to do. We start with confidence, and move onward, each step supporting the next.

1. Confidence. Answering interview questions requires clear thinking and objectivity. There's one basic concept which will greatly change any problems you're having with communications in interviews:

The interview is about the job: You're talking about business issues. In "on the job" mode, you naturally communicate clearly, and explain issues well, using structured statements. That's exactly the level of communication required at interviews, clear, functional, and businesslike. If you put your mind into "on the job" mode, rather than "interview" mode, you'll do a lot better at your interviews. Your interview performance will be very much closer to your job performance. 

2. Presentation. Your presentation is important at interviews. Interviewers evaluate behavior. A common, and serious, problem, in interview performance is the "wooden interviewee syndrome" in which interviewees don't act naturally, but in a forced, uncomfortable, manner. This can undermine presentation severely. To correct this behavior, the solution is simple:

Be yourself: The employer needs to see a person, not a sort of human answering machine, to evaluate the interviewee's fit into the role. Personality can be a good interview tool. It's also very helpful in establishing good levels of communications with the interviewers.

3. "Engaging the interviewers". This is another common behavioral issue where many interviewees get lost. Engaging the interviewers means having a meaningful, conversation-like, dialog:

Make direct contact with interviewers. This means speaking to them directly, like a conversation, not a recital. Make eye contact, and stay in contact with the interview panel while speaking.

4. Showing your experience and expertise. Some experienced people don't even mention their experience:

A credible job candidate shows relevant experience, and highlights achievements. You can also show expertise by asking the interviewers questions, when necessary. Your questions prove you know your work. In some cases interview questions need clarification, so you can also show your situational awareness skills.