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7 Rules for a Successful Interview

Interview handshake.

#1 – Make a Great First Impression

First impressions are critical to a successful job interview, and most employers know if you're a good fit within the first several minutes of meeting. Important elements of a first impression include your attire, smile, handshake, eye contact, posture, attitude, communication style, and introduction or elevator speech. Be ready: you only get one chance to make a positive first impression.

#2 – Answer the Interviewer's Question 

Unless the question is inappropriate or illegal, you should always provide a response to the interviewer's question. We can't emphasize this enough – answer the question you're asked, not the question you wanted them to ask. If the question is unclear, ask them to repeat it. If you need to think for a few minutes, do so and then answer as best you can. Responses that don't address the question asked can make a hiring manager think you're avoiding their question or hiding something. Neither of these increase your chances of success during an interview.

#3 – Be Prepared

Successful interviews require preparation and managers can tell when you haven't done so. The bottom line is that your level of preparation reflects your level of effort and commitment to the position. Candidates that don't adequately prepare are telling the hiring manager they aren't willing to do what it takes and don't really want the position. Don't make this obvious mistake, prepare for the interview and make it obvious that you're committed.  

#4 – Be Professional  

Remain professional at all times during the hiring process, regardless of the situation. Your goal is to land the job, not to get a date or become buddies with a potential co-worker. Don't allow an off-the-record discussion, a rude individual, inappropriate comment, or a mistake while answering a question derail your efforts. Stay focused and be professional at all times. 

#5 – Be Yourself and be Confident

Be yourself and have confidence in your abilities during the hiring process, even if you don't feel it. Get rid of filler works such as "like", "um", and "ah", and don't fidget. While confidence is critical, be careful that you don't go overboard and appear arrogant.

#6 – Ask Good Questions

Successful interviews should be more of a dialog than a one-way conversation. You need to come up with multiple questions beforehand, and always be thinking of relevant and appropriate questions during the interview. Lack of questions can signal that you're unengaged or desperate, neither of which is good. 

#7 – Show Them How You Will Add Value

This is an important and often overlooked rule of interviewing. Remember, the only reason an organization goes through the hiring process and conducts interviews is because they have a need. During an interview, you need to show them how your qualifications (education, skills, and experience) align with their needs and how you will add value to their organization. Anything less may result in failure.

Brian Niswander is an active duty Air Force veteran, a reservist, and the founder of Military-Transition.org and InterviewSkills101.com.  After 25 years of working with service members and veterans in both Fortune 500 and public sector organizations, he decided to launch an independent study of the military-to-civilian transition process to help service members better understand and successfully navigate their move into the civilian workforce.  He also provides materials about the civilian hiring process and conducts interactive workshops through InterviewSkills101.com. 

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