What's a "good" interview?

I have an interview next week and I really need to get the job. When you interview people what do you consider a good interview?  - Anonymous

Ok, here’s the quick and dirty. When I’m interviewing someone for a position on my team I’m trying to determine:

  1. Can they do the job and how well?

  2. What’s their growth potential?

  3. How will they fit with the team?

I consider it a good interview when I can answer all three questions with specific examples from a candidate's past experience and behavior in the interview. I consider it a bad or sub-optimal interview when I can’t. 

As an interviewee you can help me answer these questions. In fact, with some basic preparation and forethought you can almost always give a good interview. It won’t always mean you get the job -- sometimes your skillset, experience, or temperament isn’t going to be a match. BUT by giving a good interview you will leave a positive impression and possibly open up an adjacent opportunities. 

So… here’s what you can do to give a good interview. 

First and foremost, you need to demonstrate that you can do the job and do it well. The best way to do this is with specific examples of relevant past experience. The keyword here is RELEVANT. 

Here’s an example. I was recently interviewing a candidate for a Director level position at a Fortune 100 tech company. I asked about the hardest problem they had solved and I got a story about a chess problem. NO! NO! NO! 

In that situation the candidate missed a key opportunity to convey that they could solve my client’s problems. 

Look, interviews are short. Every question you get is a chance to show that you get it, that you understand what the company is looking for and that you’re the person to do the job. Choose your examples wisely

I know that this can be easier said than done. Interviews are difficult to prepare for, no thanks to crappy job descriptions and recruiters with limited information. How to decipher what a job actually entails is a subject unto its own but what I recommend is do your research. Google the company, than read, read, read. 

Knowing a bit about a company and its industry will help you in any type of job interview and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn in a couple hours of reading.

My third piece of advice is are a few mental tips to remember when judgement day comes. First, before you go into the interview, spend 5 or 10 minutes smiling. Think of something that makes you happy or laugh, then concentrate on it. Not only will this help you relax, it will help you make a positive, confident first impression. 

Second, every time you get a question, take a breath. Literally. Then, repeat the question in your head. Taking just a second or two to consider the question can make all the difference in how you decide to answer and how calm you are when you do. 

My third piece of advice is to ask questions. The best interviews are like conversations. There’s a back and forth. So, if you’re not sure what you’re being asked, don’t be afraid to ask a clarifying question. As an interviewer, I much rather a candidate ask for clarification than give an answer that’s not relevant. 

Hope this helps. Good luck!

Gregory Rutty


The Career Coach blog is PERFECT LOOP’s blog full of the career advice we wish we would have had. Have a question? Ask it here!