How to Deliver a Great Job Interview

Proper preparation can reduce anxiety and improve success in job interviews

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

Scott D. Hanton, PhD

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Published:Aug 30, 2021
|4 min read
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Most people are overly anxious when interviewing for a new job. A little preparation and some practice can enable anyone to perform well in a job interview. There are four key aspects that play important parts in nearly all job interviews: how you look, what you do, what you say, and how you say it. Each is important, as each communicates to the interviewer important things about you. Together, these aspects provide the interviewer with the information from which they will make hiring decisions.

How you look

You need a professional appearance at a job interview. The starting point is good hygiene. Be clean, washed, and have your hair appear as you want it. With regards to clothes, for most companies, aim to meet or exceed the degree of formality that their employees wear to work on a daily basis. One good tip is to ask the person inviting you to the interview what they expect for a professional appearance. For most lab operations, that means dressing a little more formally than the hiring managers. While a dark colored business suit will probably exceed their formality, it’s hard to go wrong with basic black, gray, or blue. The jacket can be taken off, if the whole suit is too formal. If the interview is in person, do not wear scented products as they are often prohibited in clinical laboratory settings and a strong allergic reaction can destroy an interview. 

The most important part of your appearance is your smile. Independent of your nerves or anxiety about the interview, a clear and authentic smile is a big benefit. People generally smile back when they see a smile, so this starts the interview off on a positive note. Your smile is also an important part of who you are, so you’ll bring your best self to the interview by smiling. 

What you do

Begin the interview with a greeting. If in person, start with a handshake. If online, start with a wave. Regardless of the format, begin the interview with a little small talk to break the ice. Together, these actions form an employer’s first impression of you as a potential employee. A positive first impression sets the stage for a positive interaction, the opposite, for a negative first impression. Practicing a confident handshake and practicing some casual small talk can greatly improve first impressions.

"Being able to deliver a coherent message connecting your verbal and nonverbal responses helps the interviewer gain a consistent image of you as a candidate."

The biggest portion of communication is nonverbal. An interviewer will absorb all of your communication, not just your verbal answers. Being able to deliver a coherent message connecting your verbal and nonverbal responses helps the interviewer gain a consistent image of you as a candidate. 

Important components of nonverbal communication include making consistent eye contact (at least in North American cultures), smiling, having an open and upright posture, and using genuine and natural hand gestures. If you find any of these components challenging, find ways to practice, first with friends or family, and then in mock interviews with strangers.

What you say

The main portion of most interviews is a series of questions and answers. The interviewer has many questions to ask and not enough time, so answering clearly, but briefly, is important. The lengthier your answers, the fewer questions you get to answer. 

In your answers, emphasize your accomplishments. Interviews are the time to honestly describe your contributions and achievements, but remember to always answer honestly. Your answers can be verified and dishonesty will ruin your chances of being hired. It’s OK to answer that you don’t know, but good to follow up with how you might find out.

In addition to describing your accomplishments, incorporate attributes that hiring managers seek into your responses, such as job-related skills, communication skills, creativity, flexibility, and your ability to be a good teammate and leader. Also, people who can demonstrate and exhibit emotional maturity, critical thinking, energy, passion, and persistence have distinct advantages during interviews

How to say it

Give direct answers to the questions. One tip is to use the STAR method—Situation, Task, Action, and Results—which enables you to be concise and communicate the key details of your experience.

Another key to your answers is to be positive. Let your passion and energy shine through to the interviewer. It can also be helpful to slow down. Many people talk faster when they are nervous, which communicates those nerves directly to the interviewer. Slowing down can present you as a more confident candidate.

While most people are used to interviewing in person, the coronavirus pandemic has led to a significant increase in online or video interviews. Due to remote and hybrid work schedules, video interviewing is probably here to stay. To do well with video interviews, use a professional background for the call and ensure you can turn on your video. Focus on the nonverbals visible on the camera. Practice a clear smile and a confident, upright posture. Listen carefully during the interview and ask for clarification if a question isn’t clear. Use nonverbal prompts from your interviewer to help you know when to talk to keep you from interrupting others on the call.

Overall, interviewing is just another skill, and candidates for clinical lab positions have already mastered many complex skills, so what’s adding another? Taking time to understand the interviewing process and to practice the skills required will ensure you’re confident when entering the interview, and hopefully, will generate your desired outcome from the interviewing process.