How to nail an interview

Published Feb. 18, 2021

Interviews are a necessary evil to get a job or internship, and knowing how to nail them is a prerequisite for standing out. If you don’t prepare well, they can be very stressful. Lack of or incorrect preparation leads to low self-confidence and nervousness that could limit your chances of earning the dream job or internship. So it’s best to be over-prepared for them.

How to nail an interview

At MentorCruise, a mentorship platform, our career mentors understand that every interview is a crucial chance to shine, and they have trained countless individuals through successful interviews.

In this article, we’ll share some tips on how to nail an interview including structures and frameworks that you may employ to make it easier for you to recall and practice your interview skills when submitting many jobs or internship applications. You’ll learn;

  • What is an interview?
  • Frameworks to prepare for a job interview.
  • How to nail a job interview - Unique ways to stand out in a job interview.
  • Common interview questions and how to answer them.

What is an interview?

An interview is simply a formal meeting where a person (interviewee) is asked, consulted, or judged by one or more people, the interviewer(s). A job interview is a negotiation that takes place between a prospective employer and a job applicant.


Your interview could be anyone, from an external recruiter to the person you’ll be directly reporting to.

When interviewing for a job, there is always a fine line between saying too much and too little, which makes the difference between a good impression and a wrong one. The great news is that several interviewers rely on the same questions that can be used to your advantage if you know how to answer them.

Frameworks make tackling interview questions way easier. We put together the following frameworks to help you better answer any interview question quickly without coming off corny, cagey, or canned by work experts.

Frameworks to prepare for a job interview.

  1. MPSC – Mission, Product/Service, Culture.

The MPSC is an acronym for Mission, Product/Service; a straightforward approach to convincingly answer interview questions. In preparing for an interview, you want to pay attention to the;

  • Mission: Study the mission of the organization and where they want to get in the next few years.
  • Products/Service: If you apply for product-based positions, review the organization’s products and evaluate their point of difference. If you apply to service-based jobs such as consultancy, study the approaches they use and, again, what separates them from their rivals.
  • Culture: Examine the company’s culture, what kind of people work there, and you’d like to be part of their community.
  • Question Research

You may want to reach out to at least 4-5 people in your network or on Linkedin when interviewing at a company you cared about, ask how their interview experience was, the kind of questions you should expect, and what the company would like to hear.

You can then put all the questions and insights on a paper. This should, on average, be one page per person you have spoken with. Make sure you prepare as many questions as possible before the meeting when you speak to your network, so you don’t waste anybody’s time and maximize your opportunity. Questions can include:

  • What their interviewing experience was like for the job they applied for?
  • What the interview structure was and what questions were asked?
  • What does the organization want to hear?

To answer these questions, you can employ the STAR, SOAR and CAR approaches.

  1. STAR and CAR
  2. STAR stands for Situation, Tasks, Actions, Results.
  3. CAR stands for Challenge, Actions and Results.

The STAR Technique

Applying this framework helps you create a response that integrates all the key points without wandering or veering off-topic. The STAR technique makes practice easy and enables you to be clear regarding what you want to say.

Make notecards on one side with all the questions and respond with the STAR technique written on the other side. Answering interviews is a memory game if you’ve prepared well, and you want to be able to respond without hesitation. To make it sound exciting and convincing, turn your STAR answers into stories. Here are some examples of the STAR method in action: “Tell me about a time you failed (example question)

CAR

The CAR approach is a simpler version of STAR and it consists of the following questions: What was the Challenge? What were the Actions you took? What were the Results?

  • It can help show how you did more than what was planned or the work description.
  • It shows how you’ve made a difference in an event.
  • It typically answers interview questions like ‘Tell me about a time when you …’
  • Great CAR answers are typically stories with a beginning, middle, and end.

For an effective CAR response, follow the guide below.

CHALLENGE: Describe a scenario or mission you needed to execute that had some problems to solve. Describe a particular circumstance or scenario. Provide enough information for the interviewer to understand.

ACTION: Discuss the action you took. Describe what you did, even if you were part of a team. Say what you did, not what you are going to do.

RESULTS: What’s happened? How did the scenario or incident end? What did you achieve or learn? Be sure to turn your results into numbers… These could consist of what you changed, saved, or improved in terms of $, percent, time, resources etc.

Why you need to develop stories from CAR, STAR, or SOAR.

  • It’s how you sell yourself.
  • It shows how you differ from other applicants.
  • It reveals what you’ve done in the past and explains how you can add value to a company.
  • It’s simply the reason they should hire you.

After following these approaches, you may be wondering what else you need to add to nail that interview to win that dream job. Below are some final tips about preparation from our professionals to help you perfect your interview.

How to nail an interview - Unique ways to stand out in a job interview

Review details about the company

Remind yourself of the corporation’s priorities, successes and the challenges they are trying to address, such as building the brand, breaking into a new market segment, etc.

Research the interviewer

Know all about your interviewers that you can. Read anything you can about them on the organization’s website and social media. Try to understand what is crucial to them and identify any commonalities or shared interests.

Take extra resumes and other necessary documents.

Don’t forget to bring your work portfolio, if you have, even if previous interviewers have already seen a preview of your work. You never know when you get an opportunity to capture their attention to a promising project that will make all the difference in their decision.

Review previous interviews

Think about what you’ve already mentioned in previous interviews, and remember those things. The interviewer may bring up subjects from your initial interviews. If you can respond effectively, it shows your attention to detail and gives you the chance to clarify or correct something you said before. Nonetheless, if you have any reservations about going forward with the job, this is not the moment to express them.

Arrive early enough to prepare yourself before the interview begins.

Calm, relaxed, and well-gathered is how you want to look when your interviewer comes to greet you. After a commute, it takes everyone a moment to relax, and when you put nerves and a

new venue on top of that, you’re probably going to feel a little extra flustered. Consider this so that you can make sure you have enough time to get clear-headed and confident in your interview.

Be very kind and courteous to everyone with whom you interact during the interview process.

Whether it’s the administrative assistant who helps you plan the interview or the receptionist who welcomes you to the office, treat everyone you come into contact with as if they’re going to be the ones interviewing you. Every impression in the interview process is essential.

Bring a reference list

Ensure that everyone on your list of references is prepared for their call and will say something good about your job.

Answer questions with examples.

Instead of telling the team and the company how you would bring improvements and ideas, show how you would do it. Sketch out an idea of how you’re going to solve a problem. Not only is this an unexpected way to show off your skills, but it demonstrates your capacity to think on the spot. People remember tales better than facts, and using examples is one of the best ways to make a story that will appeal to people.

Ask some random questions.

A significant portion of a successful interview consists of asking the right questions to your interviewer. Think of some issues that go beyond the superficial aspects of a job or a business. Ask questions that reveal you have done extensive research on the company. Ask about specific projects or objectives.

Don’t assume

While you should be proud that in the interview process you have made it this far, a common mistake interviewees make in a final interview is to believe that it is a done deal and that this meeting is a formality. Without being arrogant, you always need to present yourself as the top person for the job. Don’t get too comfortable or let your guard down, particularly if it seems more natural to the atmosphere and the interviewer.

As you did with the previous meetings, approach all interviews with the same urgency and integrity and continue to market yourself as the right job option.

Common interview questions and how to answer them

‘Tell me about yourself’ question.

This is perhaps among the first questions you’ll get asked, and it’s a chance to establish the bar high. Many people often struggle with this extensive question, but if you can make a story that speaks to your experiences, strengths, and interest in work, you’ll be five steps ahead of the competition.

What are your weaknesses?

This question could feel like a trap, but it isn’t. The interviewer is struggling to sort out how well you’re dealing with your weaknesses.

Take heeds not to make up for a fake weakness such as, “I’m a perfectionist” or, “I get furious when others lack dedication.” Confess a real weakness as your honesty will show self-awareness. Then, spend the rest of the time explaining what you’re doing to fix, mitigate, or workaround that weakness in the worksite, providing tangible examples from your previous or current roles.

Tell me about a time when you failed.

Don’t worry about this question. Everybody makes mistakes; committed employees respond well, adjust, and become better off because they have made them. Do not mitigate your guilt, as this will make you look immature. Own your mistake, and spend most of the time explaining the revelation you’ve had and the effort you’ve made to fix it and prevent it from happening again. Read more on how to answer the question ‘tell me about a time you failed.’

Tell me about an achievement that you’re incredibly proud of.

Think beyond the one thing that other individuals would believe is your most outstanding achievement. The interviewer wantd to learn your depth and what makes you successful. Present an achievement that has gratified you more than most people would expect, and explain why it has done so.

Nail your interview with MentorCruise.

Do you have an upcoming interview you need to nail to win that dream job for yourself, then prepare correctly.

The secret to all interview questions is proper preparations, and the best way to prepare is by working with an experienced interview coach.

A mentor with hiring experience will act as a technical interviewer at MentorCruise and ask you some standard hiring questions you may hear in one of your future interviews.

Then you will receive actionable feedback on what to enhance the presence, knowledge, and other things about your interview that may be relevant to a future hiring decision.

Got an upcoming interview you need to nail? Book an interview preparation session in minutes.