By: Lauren Perrodin

Whether you’re a seasoned professional or new to the workforce, standing out during interviews can take practice and confidence. Inflation has put pressure on job seekers who may have experienced a round of layoffs in their industry, or those simply searching for higher-paying positions.

It’s rare for the job market to experience a moment where the atmosphere isn’t competitive. With that said, it’s important to always bring your A-game to every interview you score — whether you want the job or not!

We’ll explore how to make the most out of your interview to help secure your dream job.

“Timing is Everything” - The Best and Worst Times to Look for a Job

It is possible to land a job at any time of the year and people do it every day, but there are certain seasons of peak hiring to be aware of that may yield higher results. If you’re actively looking for a new position, though, you shouldn’t hold off during the slower months because you never know when your dream company is hiring in your field or for a position similar.

We know that looking for a job can feel like a full-time position in itself, so searching during peak seasons can help you optimize your time.

January and February are one of the peak months to get your resume out there. Companies have just come off the holiday season, distributed bonuses and set their budget expectations for the year to come.

March, April and May during springtime are still fine months to look for jobs but could be slimmer pickings after the rush at the beginning of the year. However, hiring new employees does take a lot of time, and you may be able to catch recruiters at the tail end of their search.

June, July and August are some of the worst months to look for a job. Summertime is when a lot of employees take time off and managers and recruiters are likely not in office or focused on hiring new workers during this time. But, don’t throw in the towel just yet — pay attention to when the job posting was published. This could also be a good time to network with people in your industry of choice or set up an informational interview.

September, October and November. Fall months can prove prosperous for job seekers because many businesses are settled back in for the rest of the year and looking for support for their end-of-year push.

December may be one of the least favorable times to look for jobs. Companies have put in the work for the year and have deadlines to meet before the year is up — few have the space to recruit and train a new hire properly during this time.

Again, opportunities may arise consistently throughout the year but understanding the best and worst times to look for a vacancy can help you find a job that better suits your preferences and qualifications.

How to Prepare for Your Interview

You were able to apply to the right job at the right time with a resume and cover letter that resonated with the right people. They just emailed or called you in for an interview and now you need time to prepare. Let’s take a look at what to wear when to show up and how to get through the interview itself.

What to Wear

No matter what type of office culture there is — whether casual or formal — you should always look your best in the interview. This can give the impression that you not only care about the role but that you took the time to prepare for the interview.

When in doubt, go conservative. You should wear a suit to interviews. “Suit” means the works: a matching jacket and pants, dress shirt, tie, coordinating socks and dress shoes. A dark-colored suit with a light-colored shirt is your best option. Chron does a great job of highlighting different ways to feel comfortable and confident in your attire.

When to Show Up

If you’re going into an office for an interview, you want to leave plenty of time beforehand to get there. Account for traffic, losing your way, a bathroom break and a final appearance check. And, while on time is great, early is even better.

But how early is too early?

You don’t want to be waiting around in the lobby for too long, but you also don’t want to be rushing through the door just in time. The interviewer will need time to put down what they’re doing, gather their materials and meet you in the lobby as well. To which, 5 to 10 minutes is the sweet spot for arrival.

However, if you’re interviewing online, there are a few points to keep in mind and prepare for:

  • Understand how the platform works.
  • Know how to open the interview link.
  • Have good lighting.
  • Prepare a background that’s not distracting.
  • Ensure there are no disruptions from anyone in the background.

It helps to already be in the virtual interview room a few minutes before the call starts as well so you don’t leave the other person waiting.

Do Your Due Diligence

The job market is competitive enough that a generic interview won’t cut it. You should know and understand the ins and outs of the business as much as possible before starting the interview. Everything from how large the company is and its mission to how it did financially last year and who could be in your department is necessary.

Each job application and interview should be intentional and well-informed.

Answering Questions

Questions help you and the interviewer get to know each other as well as how well prepared you are for the job. Even though this is the part that everyone dreads, if you practice and feel confident in your answers to the tough questions, then that’s all the interviewer is looking for. Forbes has a list of 7 of the toughest questions and how to answer them that could get you off on the right foot.

The most important part of practicing your interview is knowing that you do deserve the job. No matter your role, the company is entrusting you with their industry secrets and a part of their success. If you’re not confident you deserve to be handed this trust, then they may not be either.

So, no matter which questions you’re being asked, listen carefully, consider your answer and respond with something well thought out and authentic.

Asking Questions

Then after acing the main interview portion, you’ve made it to the end of the interview where you have the chance to ask more specific questions. This is just as important as every other part of the interview and will reflect how well you listened during the chat and researched the company.

However, this is also a time for you to decide if the company is right for you as well.

The Harvard Business Review has outlined 38 smart questions to ask at the end of an interview. The thing to keep in mind for this section is that you don’t want to carry on the interview for too long because it’s likely there is a hard stop. So, limit yourself to 3 to 4 questions that meet your needs.

Ask if there are more interviews after this one because you could save your more specific questions for interviewers who you’ll likely work more closely with if you get the job — early interviews are likely with HR directors who are doing their best to screen for culture fits.

What HR Professionals Look for in an Interviewee

You passed the screening phase because you have the hard skills the company is looking for, now it’s time to demonstrate that you have the soft skills they need.

Resonating with recruiter expectations can help you stand out from the competition. While every job is different, and you want to showcase both your skills and your personality, nailing the basics of interviewing can help you highlight your strengths even more.

  • Someone reliable: Did you show up to the interview on time or early? Can this company count on you to consider the other people on your team and the wellness of the business even in high-stress situations?
  • Someone who listens: Are you hearing what the interviewer is saying or just waiting to spout out your prepared spiel? Do you fully understand the specs of the job description and know where you can contribute more value to the business?
  • Someone who cares about the company: How well did you research the business, industry and company you’re interviewing for? Can you convince the interviewer that this is more than a job, but a long career with them? Do you actually resonate with their values, mission and culture?

The best way to show that you’re the person the interviewer is looking for is to make a good impression from the moment you step foot in the office or turn on your Zoom application. A job interview is like going on a date, if you’re not in it for the long-term or the right reasons, that’ll become pretty obvious fairly quickly.

If you want to be seen as dependable, showing up on time, well dressed and well rested is a great place to start. Come with a notebook and pen so you can take brief notes during the interview and prepare questions along the way.

Demonstrating you’re a good listener requires you to slow down during the interview to truly hear what the interviewer is talking about. Listen for ways to ask questions about the position that you may not be clear on or what they may be looking for in a new hire. It’s also a great way to build rapport — can you tell the interviewer has a sense of humor, or prefers a very formal conversation? Listening closely can show that you care about how you show up for others.

Preparation and thoughtfulness will show that you care about the company. If during the job search phase, you are really connected with the company’s mission and values online, be sure to chat about this in the interview — and be prepared to give reasons why.

In Sum

An interview is a lot like trying to find a life partner. Even if you’re just starting, you and this company will spend a lot of time together, sharing your skills and building each other up for hopefully years to come. As you’re job searching, make sure that if you’re looking for a position in your field, you feel connected to the company you’re applying for.

You’ve got this! Just be confident that you deserve the job of your dreams and be sure to prepare enough so that it’s obvious to the company as well!