The New Basics of Interviews

In a tough job market, candidates get fewer job interviews—and must ace the ones they do secure.


Alyson Federico

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

Sondra Levitt

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

Angela Galle Sylvester

Career Coach, Korn Ferry Advance

When it comes to interviewing, some things have changed (more video interviews) and some things will always remain the same (promptness is required!). But no candidate wants to bomb this step, especially given how long they may wait these days—first, for a response to their application, then (if they're lucky) for an interview.

Indeed, the frenzy to find work may be the story of 2024. In the US alone, LinkedIn has seen a 14% increase in job applications per opening since last fall. Experts say the job-interview process continues to shift, as firms look for different skills and a new culture. Here are some steps to consider.

Prepare and practice.

To be a successful interviewee, the most obvious step is both to prepare (research the company and plan your responses to commonly asked questions and behavioral questions, etc.) and practice. How to prepare? “Find lists of both standard and unusual behavioral interview questions online—the more the better—and write out your responses,” says Val Olson, a career and leadership coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

And practicing your responses out loud is key. Do multiple mock interviews, live and on video. “The more you practice your responses, the more comfortable you will be in the interview. The more comfortable you are, the more confident you will be. The more confident you are, the more competent you will appear to the interviewer,” says Alyson Federico, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. Then you can enjoy the interview instead of dreading it.

Ask thoughtful questions.

Prepare four to six good, substantive questions to ask the employer, says Sondra Levitt, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. And don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer the same questions they asked you (although never “go personal” until or unless they do). This give-and-take shows your comfort and confidence, and it sets the tone for a successful conversational interview. An interview, after all, is not a pop quiz—it’s a conversation between two people. “It leaves a lasting impression,” says Tiffinee Swanson, a career and leadership coach at Korn Ferry Advance.

Investigate the company and its leaders.

This is another no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people—even the most senior ones—don’t come prepared to be asked, “What do you know about our company?” No matter how many times you tell an interviewer that you’re interested in the position, your lack of due diligence will reveal that you couldn’t care less. Make sure you learn more than the basics. For instance, bone up on what services the company offers, when it was founded, who its founder is, and at least one interesting fact about it.

Understand the firm’s values, read their press reports and earnings announcements, and look up the LinkedIn profile of the person you’re meeting. “Know the company’s DNA,” Levitt says.

Tell captivating stories.

Whether asking or responding to a question, weave in a success story. “The interviewer will be thinking about the value you’ll be able to add for them, and by the end of the interview, they will usually be impressed, emotionally engaged, and have a great feeling about what you can offer the department and organization,” Olson says.

“Once you’ve covered the typical interview questions, focus on preparing an arsenal of stories, versus trying to anticipate every question they may ask,” says Michaela Buttler, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. “You’ll be able to answer just about any question by pulling from examples in the stories you prepared.” Thinking about times in your career when things went well or poorly with relationships or results is a great place to start.

Remember the three Ps: passion, positivity, and practice.

“When talking to clients, I always say to show their passion for the role, type of work, and company. Stay positive with your stories and experiences; don’t let negative experiences impact how you are portraying yourself. And spend time practicing your story and outlining your experience for a variety of different questions,” says Angela Galle Sylvester, a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance. 


For more career advice, connect with a career coach at Korn Ferry Advance.