Mari Laughlin
By Mari Laughlin,
Senior Staffing Manager

First Impressions Matter. Interview Tips and Tricks!

Businesswoman and businessman HR manager interviewing woman. (shutterstock)

The landscape of modern interviewing has changed drastically. With Zoom meetings now a commonplace occurrence and access to social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram giving future employers an inside look at personal profiles, it’s now even more important to know how to prepare for an upcoming interview in order to maximize your chance of success.

So, what are some things both recent graduates and seasoned veterans can do today to prepare for a successful tomorrow? With 60 years of experience in the art of placing ideal candidates with ideal employers, we put together a list of do’s and don’ts to give you a head start on your interview. Let’s take a look!

What should a candidate do before an in-person or Zoom interview?

  1. Do your research. LinkedIn is a great tool to glean information about your interviewer. If you know the name of the person who is conducting your interview, reach out, connect on LinkedIn, and find out as much about them as you can. If you have something in common, write it down and be prepared to tie it into the conversation when the time is right. Icebreakers and commonality are key in setting yourself apart.
  2. Make sure your resume is spotless. Highlight the most relevant jobs on your resume that best match the position you’re applying for. If you feel it’s necessary, place irrelevant jobs and experience in a designated “Additional Work” section on your resume. If you have any gaps in your resume, be prepared to answer that question honestly. Perhaps you took some time off for continued education, to travel, to have a child, to volunteer, or to find yourself. Whatever the reason, make sure you fill in that gap with something uplifting or positive.
  3. Have a story to share. Think of a time when you displayed your worth to a former employer. Find a moment during the interview to explain how that experience impacted the company. A good story is essential in getting an employer to remember who you are several days down the line when interviewing has finished.
  4. Bring a few copies of your resume to the interview. Many times your interviewer won’t have your resume in front of them, or they will have lost it, or they won’t have enough copies to pass around. This shows you’re prepared, which is what most employers are looking for right off the bat. Keep one for yourself with the job description prominently displayed so if your mind goes blank, you can seamlessly answer questions that pertain to the position.

How should you dress for the interview?

This seems like a no-brainer but your appearance speaks volumes about who you are as a person. The short answer is this: Dress up. Look good. Dress yourself one-step-up from what your employer would require. Research the company as much as possible to get a feel for company culture and image. Then take that image and elevate it.

What types of questions should you expect to answer and ask?

Here’s a few common questions you should expect to answer:

“Why did you leave your last job?”
Answer this question positively and never paint your former employer in a negative light. If you left because you’re seeking more income or if your last boss was not a great fit, respond with something along the lines of, “I’m looking for a new position that will utilize my financial background in a more sophisticated manner.”

“Why do you want to work for this company?”
Do some research and point out some areas of the company that interest you. The more specific you are the better chance they’ll remember you.

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”
Talk about what would make you an asset to the company and focus almost entirely on your strengths. If they ask about your weaknesses, answer honestly while complimenting yourself—“I’m detail-oriented almost to a fault, so sometimes I overlook the big picture.” Stay positive and if possible, turn your weakness into a strength.

Questions to ask:

“What does a typical day look like as a (job name) at (business name)?”
This gives you the ability to understand what to expect, interject, and connect with something you’ve done previously that relates to the job you’re seeking.

“What does your ideal candidate look like?”
Listen to their answer and if you recognize a common characteristic, don’t be afraid to discuss it.

“Why do people enjoy working at (business name)?”
This gives you the opportunity to see if you’re a right fit for the job, and also shows you’re interested in the company culture.

“What should I look forward to experiencing?”
Understanding what your future looks like will help you connect with your interviewer and gives you an opportunity to show excitement for the position.

“How many people are interviewing for the position?” “Where are you in the interview process?”
Knowing the playing field gives you a better read on where you stand.

Other tips on questions:

Avoid big blanket answers like, “I’m a real team player,” or “I enjoy all facets of the industry,” or “I’m a quick learner.” These answers will be forgotten immediately. Be unique, thoughtful, and honest.

If it’s your first interview, avoid talking about salary—unless they bring it up. The first interview should be about getting to know one another on a personal level, and giving your interviewer a solid idea of your differentiators. If salary comes up, don’t give them the first figure. Right now, it’s a candidates market. There are more jobs than people to fill them. Instead, ask for a range. Visit Glassdoor and see what people are making in similar positions in that location. And remember, in states like California, future employers aren’t allowed to ask you what you made previously.

What are some general tips for interview success?

  • Stay positive! If it starts to go downhill, change topics immediately. Saying things like, “I’m not that good with computers,” may seem innocent but can actually ruin your chances of landing the job. And if Covid comes up, try to find something positive you’ve experienced during the last several months—employers like to know that you can react to stressful environments with poise and astuteness.
  • Try not to bring up anything of concern, especially at the end or beginning of the interview. People remember your first and last impression most. Between those impressions, your job is to weave in a memorable story about your career, future expectations, and personal experiences that communicates your value.
  • When the interview is wrapping up, ask what the next steps are. This gives you an opportunity to lead your interviewer into answering the question “How’d I do?”
  • Wear pants. You don’t want to be caught having to get up during a Zoom call to find a document or book or brand guidelines or your resume and give your interviewers a much more in-depth look at yourself.

What should I do after the interview?

During the end of the interview, thank your interviewer for the opportunity to meet with them. After that, make sure to follow up immediately by email and thank them again for their time, and restate your interest in the position.

Follow up one week later with a cordial note and again restate your interest in the position. Eventually, if you don’t get the job, don’t be afraid to constructively inquire why you didn’t land it. This gives you the opportunity to learn what another future employer may be looking for, enabling you to adjust your resume and better prepare for the next interview.


We’re always here to help our candidates land the job of their dreams. If you have any questions about your upcoming interview, always feel free to reach out and we’ll do everything we can to make sure you’re comfortable and prepared!

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