The 3H Job Hunting Guide: Becoming an Interview Ninja

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By Zee

How do you close the deal in job hunting?

In our Job Hunting Guides, we covered CV-building and networking – two important ways to get your foot in the door. But once you have your foot firmly set in the company of your choice, what do you do?

Enter skill number 3, our third part in this series. Be prepared to graduate from job-hunting school.

How to be an interviewing ninja

Killer CVs and networking don’t get you the job. They get you interviews. To close the deal and get yourself a job offer, you need to master the final skill of interviewing, and be an interviewing ninja.

And how do you become good at interviewing? 3 key points: 

Point 1: Prepare

This should always be your first step, as soon as you know you have an interview coming up. Between Google and LinkedIn, you really have no excuse on knowing your stuff. You want to know the company you’re interviewing for as thoroughly as your favourite sports team – performance stats, key players, likely future performance and strategy. 

Here’s what you should at least cover:

  • What the company is about, basic performance history, share price
  • Key revenue drivers, threats to industry and company, opportunities
  • A good knowledge of recent industry trends and news topics
  • Your reason for wanting to work at this company
  • The background of your interviewer, any mutual acquaintances you may have

Preparing for the interview also applies to logistics of the interview day. Never arrive late, make sure you leave plenty of time to find your way around, and dress sharp.

Point 2: Practice

There are tons of companies that make millions each year doing mock interviews. This can be helpful, but it’s not the best help you can get.

The best way to practice interviewing is also the simplest: get interviewed as much as possible.

It’s at this point where most people scoff and say: That’s easy to say. I don’t get interviews!

Nonsense. You may not like the companies that are willing to interview you, but you definitely can get interviews. Start your search by applying for every job you can, and accept all job interviews. Even for jobs you have no intention of accepting. That’s where you get your interview practice.

If you’re really new to interviews, you should also at least have a think about your answer to these standard HR questions:

  • Tell me a little about yourself: Give a 30-60 second summary of your education, career, current life situation. You should be summarising what’s on your CV, ending with where you are today (and why you’re applying for this role).
  • Why are you looking (or why did you leave you last job)? Focus on the positives – advancing your career, developing your skills. Try not to mention money here, and don’t lie if you were laid off (try to be brief and positive) or fired (have a good explanation that isn’t resentful to your previous employer).
  • What can you tell me about this company? Why do you want to work here? This is where your preparation will count. How has the company been doing? What are the current challenges facing them? What do you think of them? You should be able to hold a good discussion, and have solid opinions of your own. Mention your career goals and how this company fits into them in the long-term.
  • What relevant experience do you have? Practice running through your experience in your CV. Be selective about the parts you highlight – focus on the areas you think will be important to the role you’re interviewing for.
  • What’s your greatest strength? This is a well-used question. You should jump on this to explain why you’re awesome – don’t hold back. You work well under pressure. You’re a great leader. An amazing problem solver. Always back these up with examples. And focus on work-related strengths only – if your proudest moment in life was discovering your ability to belch the alphabet, you still shouldn’t mention it.
  • What’s your biggest weakness? This is a bit of a tough one to balance. You shouldn’t shoot yourself in the foot by saying things like “Oh, I can be incredibly demotivated.” But don’t give a politicians’ answer either, such as “I’m too committed to my work and too good at it – it can stir resentfulness in the workplace”. Give a minor work-related flaw, and then spend the majority of your time talking about the development opportunities you’re pursuing to make this better. Example: “I’ve been told that I am a great presenter and have been brought on to present to senior management. In these senior meetings I was told I could sometimes be more assertive in getting my point across. I’ve been taking public speaking courses to build on this, and are working on X and Y to really become an amazing presenter.”
  • Do you have any questions to ask me? A very common question – you almost certainly will be asked this. Prepare a good work-related question: When can I start if I’m hired? What would I be working on? How is it like to work with Inspiring Person X? Do not come unprepared for this question, and don’t ask controversial questions either.

Point 3: Charm

Impressions matter. In fact, many studies show that interviewers make their mind up in the first 30 seconds or so of meeting the candidate. Speaking from experience both as interviewee and interviewer, I have to agree. People decide very quickly if they like or don’t like a person.

And thus ‘charming your interviewer’ or ‘leaving a good impression’ is also simply known as making him or her like you.

Here are simple but important things to leave a good impression:

  • Smile
  • Be polite
  • Be interesting
  • Be enthusiastic and knowledgable about the job
  • Have good and intelligent questions to ask the interviewer

This is one segment of our 3H Job Hunting Guides. View all of them here:

Are you an interviewing ninja, or in need of some help? Let us know in the comments below!


2 thoughts on “The 3H Job Hunting Guide: Becoming an Interview Ninja”

  1. How do you feel about sending thank-you letters after an interview? I was taught that this was critical, no matter what type of job you’re applying for, but it seems to be a dying art. I know it’s probably better to send an email (faster) these days, but would you still send one via regular mail as well. It seems like people are making faster decisions and your letter might not get there; if it’s even effective.

    • Hi Dona Collins, Good question. We think thank-you letters are a bit of a dying art too. In our job search experiences so far, we prefer to send a personal email to the interviewer. Not only it shows you kept his/her business card and value their time, but it’s more likely to get the message to them – we’re just paranoid about snail mails getting lost in the mail room!


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