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Woman interviews a job candidate

Ways to ace* a job interview

Well done, you got an interview, which is a great opportunity. This means you wrote a great CV and the company are interested in you as a potential employee. Now, it is up to you to charm them into giving you a job. Here are three ways to make a great impression in an interview.

1. Focus on your strengths

The question to “describe your strengths” leaves many of us fumbling for the right words. Now is not the time to reflect on your areas for improvement. In an interview you have permission to talk about your strong points and achievements. Use formal language to illustrate your abilities and areas in which you excelled. There are many clich├ęd phrases. Here are some examples of phrases that pack more of a punch.

Replace “I am hard-working”, with “I have an excellent work ethic.” This alludes to the fact that professionalism and reliability are your core values. Replace “I always get to work on time”, with “I’m very punctual“. The first phrase sounds like an excuse, instead, choose one precise adjective to say exactly what you mean. Replace “I’m good at my job” with “I have a proven history of success in this field“. Aside from using more formal language, it opens the conversation to talking about your specific accomplishments.

Weak language Strong language
I like computers / teaching / medicine. I am passionate about this field.
I think I am the right person for this job. I believe my skills and strengths are well-aligned with the requirements for this role.
I want to learn more skills. I am eager to explore opportunities to develop myself and my career. I enjoy embracing new challenges.
I am a good team player. I pride myself on my strong leadership and mentorship skills. I believe in fostering a collaborative environment.
Clients like me. I have forged productive relationships with clients and place a strong emphasis on delivering excellent client service.

Please do not memorise the words exactly! Adapt the phrases to talk about your own personal career highlights.

2. Select the correct tense

Appropriate examples, evidence and stories are memorable and persuasive in a job interview. Pay attention to the tense.

Question A: Please give an example of how you successfully handled a challenge at work. (past simple)

Answer: In my last role, there was a delay in a major project, and we risked not making the deadline. I researched the reason for the delay, and came up with a solution to get our project back on track.

The past simple describes completed actions at a specific time in the past, and so it is a nifty tense to talk about employment history.

Question B: How long have you worked in the field? (present perfect)

Answer: I have five years experience in this area. (Say this if you have gained experience in this field but aren’t holding this position currently). I have been an engineer for five years. (Say this if you are still an engineer).

The “how long” in the question alerts us to use present perfect which we use to talk about events which started in the past and are still relevant. This tense is especially useful for talking about work experience that you have acquired over the course of your career.

3. Choose words carefully

In English, some words have negative or positive connotations (meanings). For example, saying someone is “frugal” has positive connotations meaning that they are good at managing money. However, saying that someone is “stingy” has a negative connotation and suggests that a person is not generous.

During an interview, be aware of your choice of words. For instance, instead of describing yourself as “stubborn”, which means that you stick to your viewpoint and also implies that you don’t like listening to authority. “Determined” (which means that you never give up) and tenacious (which means that you push through difficulties) have more positive connotations.

Negative connotations Positive connotations
finicky / pedantic / fussy

These suggest that you will slowly drive your teammates crazy with your attention to detail.
meticulous / precise

These words suggest that you are a perfectionist.
bossy / controlling

These suggest that you get a thrill from scaring subordinates with your fiery temper.
confident and influential

These words suggest that you have the power to influence others in a respectful way.
talkative

This describes someone who talks non-stop while you are trying to focus.
communicator (noun), eg I am an excellent communicator.

This suggests that you have good communication skills, for instance, in negotiation and pitching ideas.

Take a look here for more information and examples. The article explored three ways to use language to improve your chances in a job interview. These include, focusing on your strengths, talking about your work experience, and choosing words with positive connotations. Good luck with the interview!


*To ace something means to do really well. Check our more examples of English slang on the urban dictionary.

By Leigh-Anne Hunter

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