Ace the Interview
The fact that you’ve been invited to an interview means you’ve done something right – the recruiter has been impressed by what your CV says about you. Now you have to live up to the hype!
Everyone approaches a job interview with some degree of apprehension. Nerves are perfectly natural; the trick is not to let them get the better of you. The important thing to remember is that the employer has asked to see you because they think you are capable of doing the job. Their time is precious and they will be hoping, just as fervently as you, that you are the perfect solution to the vacancy.
At the interview, your main aim is to reinforce the excellent impression made by your CV. You do not want to be stuck for words, so it is important to plan in advance what you are going to say, how you are going to say it, and how you are going to act. Here are a few proven strategies that will help you take control of the interview and ensure that you come across as your best self.
It is important to remind yourself of what you have said in your CV so you can discuss it eloquently when the interviewer asks. It doesn’t inspire confidence if you can’t remember what’s on your own CV!
Most employers will expect you to display some understanding of the business - its size, products/services, the sector in which it operates, and so on. You don’t need to memorise the excruciating details of the company’s financial performance figures (unless that's the kind of job you're going for!), but it is important to read recent information about the organisation and to be aware of its competitors. Read their recruitment materials thoroughly, have a look at their website and, if possible, their annual report. Many employer websites have press archives of articles that have been issued by them or have appeared in the local/national press. Ask yourself;
- What do I know about this organisation?
- What attracts me to this organisation?
- What relevant work experience/degree modules/research project have I done?
- What experience do I have of relevant technical skills/techniques?
- What kind of training/additional skills would I like to gain?
Making a Good Impression
Here are some things to take with you to the interview:
- The interview letter with the names of the interviewers, the address you're going to, and a contact phone number;
- A postcode so you can map out directions on your phone;
- A note of the questions you'd like to ask;
- Cash, in case you need to get a taxi if you're running late.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the interview - you never know when you might be held up by traffic or other issues. When you arrive be courteous to everybody you meet and make sure to switch off your phone.
First impressions are important. An interview will usually last around thirty minutes to an hour, but studies have shown that people form lasting judgements about you within the first four minutes of meeting. These initial impressions will undoubtedly affect their subsequent thoughts and feelings towards you.
When it comes to deciding what to wear, for the most part it's better to err on the side of traditional rather than trendy. It's important to make sure you're dressed appropriately for the industry. For example, in accountancy and finance a suit would be expected and recommended. If you're going for an interview at a fashion house you might want to be a bit more adventurous. Avoid using overpowering deoderants or perfumes and make sure your hair is neat and tidy.
Lay our your entire outfit the night before your interview - this will let you make sure everything is clean, ironed, and ready to go.
Body or non-verbal language might be defined as ‘what we say without saying anything'. Much of the impact you create during an interview is based on your visual and non-verbal presentation. You may be superbly qualified for a job, but you must also look motivated and interested. The way you act, your posture, gestures and facial expressions, will reveal a lot about you.
It's easy to say, but it's important to be relaxed. If your body is relaxed you'll be able to think clearly and make the best possible impression.
Answering and Asking Questions
To succeed in an interview you have to convince the interviewer that you're technically capable of the job, motivated to do it well, and that you'll fit in with the company culture. Sometimes the questions you ask can be as important as the questions you answer - make sure you have them planned in advance, practiced with somebody, and written down so you dont forget.
Employers may ask deliberately difficult questions designed to see how you behave and react in certain situations. Giving a positive, fluent answer isn't as difficult as it might seem. With a little advance planning it's perfectly possible to anticipate common general enquiries and prepare a coherent, effective response. In fact, you can turn these questions into an opportunity to take the initiative and 'sell' the exact message you want.
Never answer a question you don't understand with a knee-jerk response. Always seek clarification before answering - it's better to ask than to guess!
Interviews are a two way process. At the end the employer will usually ask if you have any questions about the job or the company - this is a great opportunity to clarify any doubt you have (the job has to work for you as well!) and to demonstrate your eagerness for the role. It's also a good chance to show off your knowledge of the company by asking questions related to material you have read on the company website or in the media. Here are some examples of questions you could ask;
- What are the opportunities for career progression and training?
- Where would I fit into the overall organisational structure?
- What are the company's plans for the short and medium term future?
- Are there any further interview steps planned?
Make sure to eave the employer with a good impression. Smile, thank them for their time, say you enjoyed discussing the job and that you look forward to hearing from them soon. If you are interested in the job then tell them! Don't forget to email a thank you note as well.