Interview Tips

You’ve done the hard work. You’ve got the results and you’ve got the interview – now to ‘seal the deal’ and make sure you are first choice for employers. Here are 4 steps to planning and executing the perfect job interview.

Step 1: Plan, Prepare and Plan Some More.

To keep those pre-interview nerves at bay, it’s always a good idea to thoroughly plan and prepare. Start off by reading the invite to interview email carefully and give a quick email or phone call if there is any confusion. If there is a presentation element (IF!) it may be worth clarifying the length and extent of the detail that is required.

Websites such as Glassdoor.com share some helpful insights from previous applicants into the recruitment process for certain companies. If you have found the job through a Specialist Recruitment Agency, like CY Partners, do make use of their services in your preparation, as they will know the company well. Make sure you’re fully clued up on the work the company does, and what the role you have applied for will entail. Although they may not ask you questions on this specifically, it’s better to be prepared.

Prepare for any questions about gaps in your career history, or any vital experience or qualifications that you might be lacking. Try and answer these questions in terms of a problem that you overcame, or alternative skills that you developed which are relevant to the role. This will hopefully impress a potential employer and set you above other candidates.

If you have time, do ask a friend or a family member to run through some practice questions with you – this will give you some feedback on how to answer questions in a clear an coherent way! Particularly focus on the most common interview questions, such as “tell me about yourself” and “why do you want this job.” These will (most likely) be the questions to open your interview, and having your perfect answer rehearsed so you know exactly what to say should help to settle those initial nerves.

To show your interest in the company, it is also good to have some questions of your own prepared. The interview is really an opportunity for you to see if the company and the role are what you really want in terms of your career development – do you get on with the team and can you see yourself being happy there?

Step 2: Dress to Impress

There’s the old, well-known rumour that an interviewer decides if they’re going to hire you in the first 30 seconds of meeting you– true or not, it doesn’t hurt to dress to impress. On the day, always wear something that is nice, smart and professional. Your suit doesn’t have to be expensive, but do your hair and look presentable.

Plan you journey in advance, and always aim to be at least 10 minutes early. This gives you time to compose yourself and do any last minute preparations (like going to the toilet!)

These small preparations show an employer from the off-set that you have a pro-active and forward-thinking nature and skills in organisation and time management, all qualities that are expressed as desirable, if not essential for most job roles.

Step 3: Confidence is Key

Always start the interview with a big smile and a firm hand shake. Try to keep polite conversation flowing until the questions start, as a potential employer is looking just as much for a friendly personality to represent their company and fit into the office, as well as a candidate that is professionally able to perform the role.

You might be nervous, but make effort to try and remember names of everyone that you meet. During the interview itself, be honest and polite, and never lie or interrupt. Show your interest and try to maintain an enthusiastic and positive demeanour.

Step 4: Relax 

Don’t rush through your interview. Take your time to answer the questions and think through your answers. Many people particularly stumble over the “what is your greatest weakness?” question. The worst response you can say to this is: “I don’t have any weaknesses.” Tell an anecdote of how you have turned a negative into a positive, and how you persevered and showed resilience to do this.

You need to know about the job, the company and their expectations. Don’t be afraid to ask your own questions – what opportunities are there for your career progression, promotion or travel? What is the company’s CSR policy? Remember that accepting a job is a big commitment for you too and you need to be sure that it is the correct position and employer for you.

Step 3: The finish

Making a good first impression and presenting yourself as a confident, relaxed candidate during the interview is fantastic but don’t spoil it by making a hash of your exit. Clarify exactly what the next steps are – will they get back to you? If so, when? Is it OK to follow up if you don’t hear anything? Don’t rush the interview as quickly as you can. Take the time to shake hands, thank them for their time and say goodbye properly.

Always email the interviewers the next day to thank them for their time and the opportunity, but don’t detract from that. Manners cost nothing and will leave a good impression, but interviewers will not want to get drawn into conversations with individual job candidates after interviews.

Step 4: Worst case scenario

If you aren’t successful and don’t get the job, don’t despair. Treat it as a valuable learning experience and take full advantage of any feedback they offer. Their advice is invaluable and may just make the difference in your next interview. Be gracious in defeat, you never know what future opportunities there are and exactly which other employers they have connections with.

And if you do get the job – well done! Now the hard work starts…

Emily Wilkinson

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