How to Be Successful in an Interview

This article outlines the usual steps to an interview and how to succeed during each one. It also covers some basic interview tips and advice for some common questions.

The key to being successful in an interview is to know why the interviewer is asking you questions, and what type of answer will show them that you’re right for the job. Interviewers usually go in to interviews with three things in mind: understanding your qualifications, getting a good impression of your personality, and seeing if your answers to some interview questions match up with those who have been successful in the position. Interviewers will also give you an opportunity to ask questions about the position, which can be an opportunity to show your interest, but also a chance to slip up and make a poor impression. Outlined below are the typical steps taken in an interview:


In the introduction stage, an interviewer usually does most of the talking. After introducing themselves and giving you a short chance to make a first impression, they’ll typically discuss the position, what it entails, and what working in the company would be like. The interviewer is usually instructed to direct this part of the conversation in order to ‘break the ice’ and let the interviewee become more comfortable. A typical problem with this step is that while the interviewer talks, candidates can ‘freeze up’ and have trouble talking when they’re asked the first question. It’s best to engage the interviewer, and to play the part of an active listener while they’re talking, so that it’s easier to transition in to presenting yourself when you’re answering questions later on.


Interviewers have different styles of going over this section, so I’ll outline the three most common ways. Some interviewers will simply ask you to walk them through your resume, and expect you to highlight strong points that apply to the position you’re applying for. Other interviewers will take your resume and ask questions based on what they see. A less common method, often used in smaller companies, is to simply ask you what you can offer. All of these questions have the same goal in mind, namely that of gaining a better understanding of your qualifications. This section of an interview can be the most difficult for a candidate, because it’s usually quite open-ended. It’s best to go through your resume from top to bottom, highlighting those points that you think are particularly important or exceptionally useful in the position. While this gives you an opportunity to show uniqueness, and what you can bring to the company, be sure to focus on what you can bring to the company, and to avoid going on about things the interviewer already knows, or the details of specific qualifications that aren’t really relevant.

Skill-Testing Questions

Not all interviewers will do this, but for many high-profile or skill-oriented jobs, skill-testing questions will be asked in order to separate contenders from the group of candidates. Typically, you can expect questions to test your knowledge of the industry, and your problem-solving skills. They can range from asking a potential programmer to write a short tricky program on the fly to asking someone to solve riddles similar to those found in IQ tests. There’s no secret to solving these problems in an interview, just come prepared with knowledge of the industry, and if you find that you’re taking a long time to solve a problem, talk it through, so your interviewer gets an idea of how you approach problems.

HR Questions

HR questions are those questions that follow a specific pattern and are designed to tell the interviewer how you handle certain situations and how your experience ties in to the job you’re applying for. Some questions can be tedious and difficult to answer correctly, for example, “What would your friends say about you?” or “Describe a time where you failed at a task, but succeeded after further applying yourself.” These types of questions may not lead you to a specific answer, and simply speaking on the fly can lead you in to a bad position. The best thing you can do is find a list of these types of questions and just figure out what you’re going to say before the interview. Go over your experience to look for good examples of leadership, innovation and hard work, and keep them in the back of your mind. You should also keep a list of good qualities that you can focus on expressing, and a few things you’d like to improve on, if you’re asked that question, though if you express an interest to improve in a skill that is essential to the job, you may give your interviewer the wrong impression.

Be Committed

The last thing to consider is that your interviewer wants to hire the right person for the job. It’s not a game or some arbitrary set of questions that they intend to ask you, everything they do is designed to test to see if you would be successful in their business. Since you know what they want, you can go in to an interview with the goal of showing them that you’re the right candidate for the job. Whether it’s showing that you know about the company or convincing them that you want this job, and not any old job, be sure to make yourself stand out as someone who actually wants to work for the company.


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