How to Ace a Job Interview

“I asked an engineering candidate why he wanted to leave his current job. His response revealed a lot: ‘There are 12 people who share an air conditioning zone in our office. Every day the thermostat is set to an uncomfortably warm temperature and I am prohibited by the others from turning it down.’ This guy was a brilliant software developer, but he was obviously a little odd. We hired him and gave him his own office.”

—Employer willing to make accommodations

If interviews make you nervous, let me assure you that you're not alone. A full 93% of job seekers feel nervous about interviewing.1 It's so common that a lot of training time for interviewers is spent on how to put the interviewee at ease.

However, the fear your competition feels about interviewing is about to become your advantage! I'm going to give you the key to staying calm from beginning to end and, what's more, make a standout impact with whoever conducts the interview.

Don't Die in the First 20 Seconds

Cartoon illustration of the first impressions that are the only impression you get.

Earlier, I shared the research that shows told you that your interviewer leaps to a conclusion about your hireability in the first 20 seconds, and that their first impression of you will be incredibly difficult to change. While you can't win the job in the first 20 seconds, you certainly can lose it.

Armed with that knowledge, you already put on an outfit that makes you feel confident. Now you're going to control their first impression. Ready?

Here are the four things you're going to do as soon as you meet your interviewer:

Give a Real Smile

Did you know that humans can detect the difference between a real smile and a fake one? Fake smiles happen only with your mouth. A real smile (or Duchenne smile) is defined by contraction of the muscles around the mouth and the eyes.

You are going to find a way to offer a real smile. I don't care if you have to practice in a mirror, think about your favorite comedy, or just repeat in your head “crinkle my eyes, crinkle my eyes!” Somehow you are going to project happiness. Why?

Research tells us that people are treated differently when they offer genuine smiles. One study showed that the more a person smiled, the more people expected an interaction with that person to go well.2

But smiling does more than bias people positively toward you; it also calms you down. Like deep breaths, smiling reduces stress hormones in your bloodstream. It is literally putting both you and your interviewer at ease.

Make Strong Eye Contact

As soon as your interviewer walks into the room give them a real smile and make strong eye contact.

Making eye contact does multiple things to the brain of the person interviewing you. It heightens their perception of your confidence,3 elevates your perceived social status, increases their belief in what you have to say, and triggers multiple parts of the brain involved in empathy.4 This all means your interviewer will be primed to connect with you.

Important note: I only want you to make great eye contact at the start! After that first conscious use of eye contact, go back to your normal eye contact pattern. Making too much eye contact in conversation signals that you are trying to sell something, which is sometimes associated with dishonesty.5

“I interviewed a candidate who didn't make eye contact with me once during the entire interview. He kept his head down, looking at the table or the wall, the whole time. This was for a job in sales!”

—Employer who told this story while making eye contact

Offer a Firm Handshake

A good handshake is another easy way to create a positive perception of yourself. A good handshake signals confidence and extraversion.

So whether you meet the interviewer in the waiting area, or later in the meeting room, you're going to hack their brain by giving them a real smile, looking them in the eye, and offering a firm handshake.

“If anybody gives me a dead fish handshake, they're automatically ruled out. I just can't have anybody on my team who doesn't have a firm handshake.”

—Employer and handshake evaluator

Say the Name of Your Interviewer

Your final instruction to cement those first 20 seconds is the easiest, most natural thing in the world—speak the name of the person interviewing you immediately.

Why are you doing this?

Humans love being addressed by name. We view it as a compliment to have our names remembered.6 It is also seen as a sign of respect. By speaking their names, you are demonstrating to the interviewer that you see them, specifically, and that they are important. You're also creating an increased feeling of familiarity so that you relax as the interview begins.

The key thing here is remembering the person's name. You're going to use it again later on with powerful effect to make sure the interview gets off to a great start. So bring a pad and a pen to write their name down if you have to, but make sure you know the name of your interviewer.

“To help remember names, I typically make a point of saying the person's name three times early on in the conversation when meeting new people. And when I'm interviewing for a job, I'm even more careful to do it. In my last interview, I worked in the interviewer's name three times, and then at the end, I thanked Janice for her time. Except her name was Alice. I wasn't surprised when I didn't get the job.”

—Job seeker who tried


1. Smile.

2. Make strong eye contact.

3. Offer a firm handshake.

4. Say their name.

How to Crush the Next 29 Minutes and 40 Seconds of the Interview

Congratulations. You made a standout first impression. Everything is going your way. However, now comes the trap. Across every job category and every level of seniority, the most frequently asked opening question in a job interview is:

· Tell me about yourself …

Let me promise you something. No one ever wants you to really answer this question. In fact, if there is a golden rule of interviewing it's simply this; talk about them more than you talk about you.

The interviewer has already read your resume. They don't need you to verbally walk them through it. They don't need you to guess what lower-level details might be interesting to them. No. If you get this question, you are going to pivot immediately.

“I once opened up an interview asking the candidate to ‘tell me about yourself’ and he went on for the entire 30 minutes without stopping.”

—Interviewer still waiting for his turn

The Magical First Sentence

Cartoon illustration of using the magical first sentence.

In the last section I told you we were going to use the name of your interviewer one more time. Well, the moment is here. It's time for you to learn the magical first sentence.

This sentence is your powerhouse opening to kick off what will be a great interview! (And it doesn't matter what their opening question is—it works for every possible question.) Ready to memorize a sentence? Here you go:

“[INSERT INTERVIEWER NAME]—(one-second pause)—I'm so excited to be here because [fill in the blank with something specific about the business].”

Some examples to show you how the sentence works in a real interview situation:

Interviewer: “So … tell me about yourself.”

“Brian, I am so excited to be here because I have spent the last ten years building marketing strategies, and what you folks do to build a brand is beyond anything I've ever seen. How did you get the idea to advertise on podcasts? It's brilliant!”

“Margaret, I am so excited to be here because I love your product. I bet everyone here feels lucky to work on a product that is so easy to stand behind.”

“Ms. Jones, I am so excited to be here because I love great service, and I have personally experienced great service here as a customer. Is that something you train or is it just the kind of person you hire?”

“Jane, I am so excited to be here. This would be my first job out of college. I've read all about your leadership team online. They are next-level! How did this company attract so much talent?!”

“Mr. Duncan, I am so excited to be here. After two tours in the military, I put a premium on operational excellence, and from what I've read online you pride yourselves on getting the details right and accountability. That's uncommon these days. How do you maintain that culture here?”

Let's break down the reasons it works:

1. Using a person's name spikes their attention. It's an uncontrollable response in the brain that puts them at maximum focus on what you say next.

2. Expressing interest is incredibly powerful. One of the most replicated findings in social psychology is that people like people who like them first. It is called “reciprocal liking.” This proves true in dating, social groups, and job interviews.

3. Even though they've asked you to “tell me about yourself” you've immediately pivoted the conversation back to talking about them! Harvard neuroscientists tell us people like talking about themselves so much it's almost impossible for them to resist.7 It triggers the same sensation of pleasure in our brain as food, money, or even sex!

4. To make the magical first sentence work, you actually have to do some research on the company. Only two in three candidates will do that research.8 But if you really want to stand out, know that fewer than one in five candidates will research the interviewer themselves.9 Asking a question about your interviewer is the black-belt level use of the magical first sentence!

“Jon, I am so excited to be here. I was already excited about the company, but when I read your background I was excited to meet you. You've worked at some incredible companies in the past. How does this company stack up”

“Erica, I am so excited to be here. I am a fan of your service! I actually saw a video online of you talking about the product. Your passion was contagious! How do you stay so calm on camera?!”

You know the magical first sentence worked if your interviewer immediately starts talking. There are fireworks going off in their brain. This is the best possible start to an interview. Once you've triggered the endorphin response, it's easy to keep it going.

“I put a lot of weight on how enthusiastic a candidate is during the interview. Why? Because it's easy to tell how enthusiastic a candidate is about the job by observing how enthusiastic they are during the interview. Anybody who can't even get excited during an interview certainly isn't going to be excited about the job after a few months.”

—Employer who does not want you to curb your enthusiasm

Hit the Ball Back Every Time

Great interviews are when the two parties spend an equal amount of time talking. Think of a tennis match versus bowling. Your interviewer is not there to set up pins so you can knock them down. They are trying to figure out what it would be like to work with you. They learn more from how well you listen, what questions you ask, and how you process new information than they do from listening to you talk about yourself. Fully 93% of employers rate “soft skills” as essential in a hiring decision.10

Your goal is to start conversations, not deliver monologues. Once you've used the magic sentence up front, the conversation has already started. Now you just need to make a game of ending every answer you give with a question. In essence, after everything you say—I want you to “hit the ball back.”

Interviewer: “What were your day-to-day responsibilities at Company X?”

Candidate: “I would make copies, answer phones, and manage my supervisor's calendar. But I took pride in looking for ways to enhance our department culture. I organized team-building events and holiday contests. Do you do any sort of team building here?

Candidate: “I was an intern so I spent a lot of time as an observer in meetings. The biggest thing I did was write up meeting minutes to document decisions. How do you keep everyone on the same page here?

“You can usually tell a lot more about a person from the questions they ask than from the answers they give.”

—Employer who wants to hear your questions

Standing Out

One of the things people fail to appreciate in an interview is that you aren't just trying to prove you can do the job, you're trying to prove you can do the job better than all the other candidates you're competing against. This is not a test you have to pass; it's a contest with only one winner.

You can wear the right outfit, project the just-right image, and have a great conversation, but at the end of the interview there is one thing that the best candidates do to cement their status as top pick: create a memorable moment.

But what is a memorable moment and how do you create it? It's simple really. A memorable moment is when the interviewer feels like they have been heard. I'm talking about a moment where the interviewer feels like they've taught you something, made you change your mind, or taken an idea you brought in with you and made it better.

You want your interviewer to know that you have respect for them and their ideas. You want to show rather than tell them that you will be a pleasure to work with. So now that you understand the goal, how do you get to this moment?

How to Create a Memorable Moment

The key thing to understand about human psychology is that your interviewer is more likely to remember you if they feel like they did well in the interview. Great answers to interview questions will make you a final candidate, but what gets you the job is when your interviewer doesn't just rate you as qualified, but actually wants to work with you.

So how do you make your interviewer feel great? I encourage you to practice the two-second pause. When your interviewer asks you a question, or makes a point in a back-and-forth dialogue, take a full two seconds before responding.

In the normal flow of conversation, people speak rapidly, often interrupting each other before sentences are fully complete. It doesn't sound like a long time, but breaks in conversation of two seconds are so uncommon they stand out. Show them you're thinking about what they said or the question they asked. Not only will it make prepared answers feel more authentic, but you're highlighting that you're a thoughtful listener. And listening is a superpower. Everyone loves a great listener.

“I Have a Story to Tell You …”

Want to be really memorable? Tell stories. Multiple studies have shown that stories are associated with increased recall and better comprehension.11 In fact, those studies have shown that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they're part of a story. That's 20 times more likely, not 20 percent more likely. That's huge.12

Pretend for a second that you and I just had a conversation and covered three topics.

· Topic 1: “The features of my new car.”

· Topic 2: “The most embarrassing thing that ever happened to me.”

· Topic 3: “Places I went on my vacation.”

Which part of our conversation do you think you'll remember a month from now? Your goal in every interview is to be memorable. If you ever find yourself rattling off a list, let me assure you that you are boring your interviewer. No one cares about lists.

Interviewers are asking you questions in the hopes of starting a conversation. Nothing captures attention and makes a person want to share back more than a good story. Always tell stories. (Test it out at home! Tell someone how you got a scar on your body. See if the conversation ends without them telling you a story about their own scars.)

Even if it seems impossible to answer with a story, you're going to force one in there. And your greatest tool for doing so is this sentence:

· “I have a story to tell you …”

Compare and contrast what happens when you answer a question with a story.

Interviewer: What were your day-to-day responsibilities at Company X?

Answer: I answered phones, filed documents, made copies, and fetched coffee.

Answer: I answered phones, filed documents, made copies, and fetched coffee. But oh do I have a story to tell you! I did one thing that completely blew up (in a good way). I noticed the team was mostly eating lunch at their desks. One Friday, I ordered pizza for the office as a surprise. When I sent out the email, there was a stampede! I learned that no matter how much they are paid, if you tell people there is free, lukewarm pizza in the kitchen, the team will not only wait in line to get it, but sit down and eat a meal together. My boss loved it and Pizza Fridays were born. It literally became a selling point in our recruiting! Do you do any kind of team building here?

Storytelling can take practice. Challenge yourself to rehearse at least two stories so you have them in your back pocket when you go into the interview. Ideally, pick narratives where the moral of the story is something you learned. You want to show (versus tell) that you're capable of personal growth.

“I rarely take notes. Good candidates get me excited. I always remember them and the moment they sold me. I'll share that moment when I sell others internally on why we should bring the candidate on board.”

—Employer who doesn't bring a notepad to an interview

Be Ready for These Common Interview Questions

After “tell me about yourself,” there are two other questions that trip up job seekers more than the rest. Go in prepared to handle these.

“Why Are You Looking to Leave Your Current Job?”

Trap alert! Trap alert! There is no answer you can give to this question that meaningfully increases your chances of getting hired. There is, however, one answer that is definitely wrong. All of the following are professionally acceptable answers:

· I want to be at a [fill in the blank] company. (Larger, smaller, faster paced, etc.).

· The commute is killing me.

· There is no promotion path available to me.

· I am looking for a place where I can learn new things.

· I want to make more money.

The wrong answer? Anything negative about the last boss you worked for, or worse, the company itself.

Promise yourself right now that you will never speak ill of your current or last employer. No matter how valid your complaint, denigrating your current or previous employer, will always reflect poorly on you. This goes double if you're early in your career.

The further you get into your career the more you'll realize there are two sides to every story. Experienced hiring managers won't swallow what you tell them whole. When someone is unhappy at a job, the mature thing is to leave. Congratulations, you're doing the mature thing! Never make it personal.

“How Much Are You Looking to Get Paid?”

“The best answer I ever got to the question, ‘How much do you want to get paid?’ was from a woman who, handed me a printed salary study. She said ‘I did research online and the average salary range for this job is $40,000 –$60,000, but I'm above-average. Given my proven track record, I want $70,000.’ I learned more about her from her answer to that question than any other I asked in the interview.”

—Employer who wished they researched their own salary better

Employers love to sneak this question in there. It's one of the five most commonly asked interview questions. Don't get caught flat-footed.

If you don't already have a specific salary target in mind (and in most cases, even if you do) do your research online and know the market rate for the role. It's important to remember that the answer to this question is not whatever your last job paid plus a slight bump. The answer to this question is what the market will bear! To find out what that is just go to: www.ziprecruiter.com/Salaries.

At the ZipRecruiter salary page you can see what employers in your market are actually paying for the role, based on payroll data, salaries listed in job postings, and official government data.

Some negotiating pros will tell you to “never name a number first.” I'd argue it's fine to give a number if you know what you need, but you are also safe going with something like this:

Of course I want to get paid a fair market rate, but there are many factors in how I view the question. The opportunity to learn, opportunity to advance, the people I get to work with, and what I get to work on are all important considerations.

“Do You Have Any Questions?” Yes, You Do!

“The most telling part of the interview for me is when I ask the candidate, ‘Do you have any questions for me?’ If they have none or ask run-of-the-mill questions, it's a fail. I want to feel like they are genuinely curious. When they make me feel like they're actually interviewing me, they get major points in my book.”

—Employer who is bored by most questions

Always have questions at the end.

Asking questions (and the quality of the questions you ask) is one more way to show versus tell the interviewer what it will be like to work with you. You want to show that you're thoughtful about the business, care about culture, and, most importantly, that you are interested.

The right questions also give an interviewer the chance to talk more about themselves, which we know from earlier makes them like you more. Best of all, it puts them in a position where they are trying to sell you on the company. The more time they invest in you, the more they'll feel like you're already part of their team.

Here are some great questions you can ask:

· What gets you excited about working here?

· What have you learned about being successful here?

· What are some of the challenges you've experienced here?

· If I joined the team, who do you think would be most helpful in bringing me up to speed?

· How would you envision my first month here versus my sixth month?

· What are you most proud of from the work you have done here?

· Do you have any hesitations about why I may not be the right fit?

That last one may feel awkward, but the discussion it generates is a great way to address any questions they might have about hiring you head on.

“Why Do You Want to Work at This Company?”

Make sure that your answer is specific to this company and this job—and shows you've done your homework. You can discuss what about this company intrigues you, how you've seen it evolve, what excites you about the future, and your hope to help it get there. It never hurts to sprinkle in some compliments about the other employees you've met so far and how they've increased your enthusiasm.

“What Are Your Greatest Strengths/Weaknesses?”

The most overused interview question in history. For a response that will stick with the interviewer, choose just one or two strengths and back them up with stories and stats. On the weakness side, mention something that would not directly impact your day-to-day performance (if it's a data-heavy role, talk about public speaking), and lay out the steps you've taken to improve.

“Tell Me About a Work Conflict and How You Dealt with It.”

This is a thorny one. What your interviewer is trying to assess is how you deal with challenges within a team. Don't shy away from admitting you've had conflicts. We all do—and saying you haven't is insincere. Briefly lay out the issue, then pivot to how you dealt with it and grew.

“What's Your Management Style?”

“There are only two types of bosses in the world. Those you work with, and those you work for.” That's your opening line! Fill in the rest with an explanation of which you are and why. Again, make sure to tell stories. You want to show them how you manage rather than tell them. I recommend telling at least one story about a good day, and at least one story about a bad one.

“What Do You Do When You're Not at Work?”

This is a great question! It's a way to share your passions on a more personal level. If you researched your interviewer (which, of course you did!) you may have found out about a passion of theirs that you are excited about too. If not, talk about the things that get you excited. Bonus points if you connect it to the job. One thing to keep in mind: Don't make it sound like it takes up too much of your time, or they may wonder about your willingness to put the time in at the office.

“Where Do You See Yourself in Five Years?”

Another cliche. What they're really trying to figure out is how you plan long term and if your goals align with the company and role. Talk about how the work you'll be doing in this new role would contribute to where you'd ultimately like to go. Watch out for sounding too eager; it may seem as though you don't intend on sticking around for too long, or will soon be pestering them for a promotion.

“What Would Your 30/60/90 Plan Be?”

This is a way for your potential boss to get a sense of how you'd approach the first/second/third month of your new job. Obviously, you won't really know what's needed until you start, but they want to see how you'd go about assessing the situation. A good rule is to talk about how you'd take the time to talk to the right people and understand what's needed before ruffling feathers by causing upheaval to the status quo.

“How Many Bathroom Stalls Are There in a New York City Skyscraper?”

Make sure you look this answer up and memorize it! I'm kidding. It's a ridiculous question. On purpose. What the interviewer is really trying to get at with questions like this is seeing how you respond under pressure and how you methodically think through complex questions. Feel free to jump up on the meeting room whiteboard or grab a piece of paper and talk through how you'd go about figuring this one out.

How to Be Awesome in a Video Interview

“I had an automated video interview in which the computer would ask a question and give you 30 seconds to record a video of your answer. For one of the questions, I had no idea what to say for an answer, so I just stood there as still as could be without blinking for 30 seconds, so they thought the video had a glitch and froze up. Still got the job.”

—Employee who nailed the video interview

In a postpandemic world, video interviewing has burst onto the scene, and is certain to be a fixture in the future of work.

Remember how I said you have 20 seconds to make a first impression? Video interviewing changes the time frame. Now you get one second. You heard me—one second.

In a series of experiments at Princeton University,13 researchers determined that human beings make several judgments about another person's character from observing their face for less than one second. Included in those judgments are attractiveness, likeability, trustworthiness, aggressiveness, and most importantly—competence.

Before the idea of having only one second triggers your anxiety, let me explain why this is awesome for you. Unlike when you go in for an in-person interview, you have 100% control over what your interviewer sees in the first second they meet you. You can stage every detail to make sure they see the very best version of who you are—or at least the parts of you that you want them to see. And the confidence-boosting part is you can test it out over and over before you jump on the call.

Video Interview Checklist

“Haven't we all heard enough stories by now of people getting caught on Zoom in their underwear? I shouldn't have to say this but, if you're going to be on video—WEAR PANTS! This is not the area of your life in which you want to cut corners. It only takes five seconds to put on a pair of pants, people!”

—Pants-wearing employer

Here's your checklist to make sure you own every part of your first impression.


Hi-resolution retina displays on modern phones and computers are amazing. However, they have a downside; an interviewer can see your face on a Zoom call with close up, real-world quality. Here are some simple grooming tips to navigate the “extreme clarity” of today's screens:

1. Select solid color outfits. No stripes or patterns. No denim. Remember, you want the clothes to look “richer.” Dark colors are a safer bet.

2. Use a styling product to hold your hair in place. No stray hairs to distract your interviewer.

3. For men, shave your face, or brush your beard. We don't want stray hairs coming out the side of your face either.

4. For women (or long-haired men), if your hair is long enough, consider a ponytail.

5. Makeup is your friend (for either gender), to cover up blemishes or bags under your eyes. The point of the makeup is to keep the attention on what you're saying. Don't overdo it. Your words are the star of this show.

6. Clean your glasses.

7. Wear pants. You never know if you'll have to stand up.

8. Check your eyebrows. You don't want hairy caterpillars crawling across your face. Cut them, pluck them, or smooth them down.

9. Zoom offers a setting called “Touch up my appearance,” which applies a subtle filter to make you look better. Accept their kind offer.

Pick a Spot With Good Light

Here is a hierarchy from “best” to “worst” for lighting options.

1. Natural light. Sit facing a window so that your face is lit by the sun. (Sitting with your back to the window will have a darkening effect and make it hard to see you.)

2. Sitting outside in the sunlight is a great option if you can find a quiet space. No dogs barking, street traffic, or kids playing. Make sure your face is toward the sun and that your background isn't facing the garbage cans.

3. “Artificial lighting” makes it sound like you have to call in a Hollywood production crew, but it really doesn't take much. It isn't crazy to invest in a ring light. This is a small bright light that rests beside or on top of your computer. You can find them online, starting around $30. You can also try taking a desk lamp you already own and placing it beside your laptop. Position it towards the wall so that the light bounces onto your face, or try placing it off to the side, behind your computer. Play around with the options and see what works best for you. Good lighting will make a HUGE difference in that first-second impression.

Raise Your Camera to Eye Level

Congratulations, Spielberg. You're directing a Zoom interview! And you're going to want to make sure you capture the best angle. This is easy to do. Just make sure your camera is elevated to point directly into your eyes. No phones in your hands. No laptops in your lap. At all costs we want to avoid the “I'm a serial killer looming over you” angle.

To get the right height, place your device on a stack of books about one arm's length away from your face. Once you're set up, feel free to tilt the screen down to make sure it's aligned with your eyes. If you're using a cell phone, the same rule applies! Prop the phone up on a stack of books and make sure the camera is eye level.

Cartoon illustration of the camera angle matters.

Check Your Background

“You'd be amazed at what I've seen in the background of some candidates’ Zoom screens: A bong, dirty underwear, a filthy room, shirtless friends playing Xbox, confederate flags, and more. Pay attention to what we can see! All you have to do is turn your computer towards a blank wall and you'd be much better off!”

—Very distracted Zoom interviewer

Let's keep this simple. Everything in the camera's eye matters. We've already talked about unconscious bias around apparel. Imagine the studies they'll do on one-second impressions of Zoom backgrounds.

Turn on your camera and see what it captures. Make sure there are minimal objects in the frame. Clean and declutter the entire area. Plants are good! If your bed is in the shot, make sure it's neatly made.

Sit Up Straight

“I almost lost it when the applicant's screen came on and I realized she was lying in bed. Not sitting up in bed, which might have been forgiven, but lying down on a pillow, under a blanket! I asked her about it and she told me she was cold.”

—Employer warmed by their growing level of frustration

Posture matters. An upright spine conveys professionalism and attentiveness. Slouching conveys so many negative attributes they aren't worth listing. Your butt should touch the back of your chair. If you're doing it right, there will be a curve in your back. For most people this isn't their natural sitting position, so try putting a pillow behind your back as a tactile reminder to stay upright.

Smile When You Join the Call

“As a recruiter, I am constantly warning my clients to pay attention to the ‘bookends’ of their Zoom meetings. The beginning and ending seconds of a meeting make a huge difference. I've had somebody blow a perfect interview because in the last seconds, when the other person had said goodbye and turned off their video (but not logged out), the candidate dropped their guard, rolled their eyes, and muttered to themselves, ‘What a f-ing jerk,’ before closing the meeting. All it takes is one little thing.”

—Recruiter begging you not to blow it

Our earlier chapter on in-person interviews covered the importance of smiling a real smile. One that gets your eyes in on the action. Make sure you're smiling before you enter the video meeting so it's the first thing the people on the other end will see. (And if you're the first one there, keep on smiling to make sure that's the first impression you give when they join.)

Smiling projects confidence and puts everyone at ease.

Show the Interviewer You're into It

Just like an in-person interview, you're going to start with the magical first sentence discussed earlier in this chapter. You'll use that sentence to start any interview regardless of format: in-person, over the phone, or over video.

However, being on camera can make it harder to convey enthusiasm. I recommend having a pad and pen ready, and let them see you writing things down. Not only does it show you're listening closely, but it creates an organic mechanism for you to give the two-second pause while you “read over your notes.”

Embrace the Unexpected

“A mother of two young boys was interviewing with me over Zoom, and in spite of her putting them in front of a video before we started, her sons kept walking in and interrupting our interview. I'm sure she was frustrated, but it never showed. Watching the patience she had, the calm she exhibited, and the creative ways she kept redirecting them, said more about her character and what kind of employee she would be than anything I could've asked her. I gave her the job.”

—Employer who had a clear picture

There's an old saying; “How do you make God laugh? Make a plan!” I guarantee if you do enough video interviews, something is going to go wrong. There will be some unforeseen interruption that will have you wanting to pull your hair out after all your careful preparation.

So, if your cat walks butt-first across your laptop, your kids barge in saying they need to go potty, or your roommate starts serenading the apartment from the shower, just roll with it. Your challenge is to calmly explain what's happening, and wave it off like it's nothing.

Video interview bloopers are the ultimate opportunity to show rather than tell someone how you react to pressure. Just take a deep breath and relax. Unexpected events are one of the best things that can happen to you while on camera if you handle them correctly.


· Do your homework before the interview so you can shine when you're in it.

· You've got 20 seconds to make an impression and spark a connection.

· Utilize the “magical first sentence” to kick off a great conversation.

· Make it a two-way conversation; tell stories and make them feel like they're doing well.

· Be ready to answer common interview questions and always ask your own.


1. 1. JDP, “2020 Interview Survey,” accessed December 1, 2020, www.jdp.com/blog/how-to-prepare-for-interviews-2020/.

2. 2. Leeanne Harker and Dacher Keltner, “Expressions of Positive Emotion in Women's College Yearbook Pictures and Their Relationship to Personality and Life Outcomes Across Adulthood,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 80, no. 1 (2001): 112.

3. 3. Richard A. Tessler and Lisa Sushelsky. “Effects of Eye Contact and Social Status on the Perception of a Job Applicant in an Employment Interviewing Situation,” Journal of Vocational Behavior 13, no. 3 (1978): 338–347.

4. 4. Takahiko Koike, Motofumi Sumiya, Eri Nakagawa, Shuntaro Okazaki, and Norihiro Sadato, “What Makes Eye Contact Special? Neural Substrates of On-Line Mutual Eye-Gaze: A Hyperscanning fMRI Study,” Eneuro 6, no. 1 (2019).

5. 5. Frances S. Chen, Julia A. Minson, Maren Schöne, and Markus Heinrichs, “In the Eye of the Beholder: Eye Contact Increases Resistance to Persuasion,” Psychological Science 24, no. 11 (2013): 2254–2261.

6. 6. Joyce E. A. Russell, “Career Coach: The Power of Using a Name,” Washington Post, January 12, 2014, www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/career-coach-the-power-of-using-a-name/2014/01/10/8ca03da0-787e-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html.

7. 7. Diana I. Tamir and Jason P. Mitchell, “Disclosing Information about the Self Is Intrinsically Rewarding,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 21 (2012): 8038–8043.

8. 8. “New CareerBuilder Study Unveils Surprising Must Knows for Job Seekers and Companies Looking to Hire,” Press Room | Careerbuilder, June 1, 2016, http://press.careerbuilder.com/2016-05-31-New-CareerBuilder-Study-Unveils-Surprising-Must-Knows-for-Job-Seekers-and-Companies-Looking-to-Hire.

9. 9. Bart Turczynski, “2020 HR Statistics: Job Search, Hiring, Recruiting & Interviews,” Zety, updated October 13, 2020, https://zety.com/blog/hr-statistics#job-search-statistics.

10. 10. “Hard Facts About Soft Skills,” 2016, Wonderlic, http://docs.wixstatic.com/ugd/cceaf9_ec9ed750296142f18efdd49f4930f6d3.pdf.

11. 11. Michael F. Dahlstrom, “Using Narratives and Storytelling to Communicate Science with Nonexpert Audiences,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 111, Supplement 4 (2014): 13614–13620.

12. 12. Boris, V. (2019, February 04). What Makes Storytelling So Effective For Learning? Retrieved January 08, 2021, from https://www.harvardbusiness.org/what-makes-storytelling-so-effective-for-learning/

13. 13. Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov. “First Impressions: Making Up Your Mind after a 100-ms Exposure to a Face,” Psychological Science 17, no. 7 (2006): 592–598.

If you find an error or have any questions, please email us at admin@erenow.net. Thank you!