Interviews are nerve-wracking.
Even the most experienced job seeker can turn to jelly at the thought.
However, they don’t need to be so daunting.
With a few simple tips, you can be prepared for any interview.
This is the first in a series of posts focusing on how to pass any interview regardless of difficulty, format or stage.
You can find all of the posts here:
Preparing for an Interview
Editors Note: This article first appeared on 15th March 2018 and you can find it here. We have updated this article with more tips and information to help you prepare for any situation.
You’ve sent your CV.
You got the call back.
They want you to come in for an interview.
This is usually where the nerves start to kick in.
But, an interview is as easy as ABC 123 (if you prefer The Jackson 5 that is).
Some enjoy the challenge of interviews as they are able to show off their true potential to the employer.
Others get filled with nerves as the prospect of a job offer is tantalisingly close.
A lot of hopes, dreams and expectations fall on you wowing the interviewer.
So here is some easy, tried and tested interview advice that will help you prepare for any situation or question.
The 9 Point Plan of Action
Proper Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance
Before an interview always do your research and plan, plan, plan.
First of all, answer the following questions.
- Where is the interview taking place?
- When is the interview taking place?
- How are you getting there?
- Who are you being interviewed by?
- How are you going to present yourself?
- What are you being interviewed about?
- What questions are they going to ask?
- What does the company do?
It’s no use just winging it on the day.
If you haven’t answered these questions then these could cause you to lose the job before you even stepped through the door.
For example, if you didn’t check where you were going and how you were going to get there you could end up being late.
It will make the employer think you are unorganised and unprofessional.
This leaves a very poor first impression and you have lost the job before you have even walked through the door.
Google Maps is your best friend in this situation.
This is just one reason why research is so important.
Having little to no knowledge of the company is the most common mistake made during interviews
So find out as much as you can about the company.
Go through their website, understand their company, culture, products, services everything.
It’s also good to find out some recent news about the company.
Employers like candidates who are enthusiastic and ready to jump into the interview with an understanding of their recent moves, changes or events they may have attended.
The worst thing you can do is to go into an interview and not even know the basic information or facts about the company.
Another thing, Make sure you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you.
The agency should provide this information for you but if you have applied directly and do not have the details, send a polite email or make a phone call to the company kindly requesting the right name.
Once you have the employers name why not do some research on them.
Get onto LinkedIn and learn more about this person.
It will be good to know the employer’s background and position in the company (if this has not been provided to you already).
It will give you topics to talk about.
Also, remind yourself of the job description.
This will be your friend and a good indicator of the kind of skills and responsibilities you want to focus on in the interview.
Making A Good First Impression
First impressions are a major thing in interviews.
33% of bosses know within the first 90 seconds of an interview whether they will hire someone.
Yes, it really is that quick.
So how do you give a great first impression?
When meeting new people, 55% of the impact comes from the way the person dresses, acts and walks through the door.
First of all, arrive 10-15 minutes early. This shows planning, preparation and punctuality.
It will also give you time to settle your nerves before going into the interview room.
Make sure you are polite right the way through the interview, from the receptionist at the front desk to the employer.
How you treat the people you meet from start to finish will reflect on how you would treat your colleagues at work.
If you are or appear to be rude or blunt to these people it could break the interview.
Sometimes interviewers will watch how you interact with other interviewees in the waiting room.
So make sure you make a good first impression with everyone.
Be friendly, personable and polite.
Also, don’t forget the importance of eye contact and a good handshake.
67% of bosses say that failure to make eye contact is a common nonverbal mistake.
So make eye contact, be polite, shake hands, talk clearly, be positive and enthusiastic in the interview!
Plan Your Outfit & Look
We’ve established that first impressions are very important.
People immediately have an opinion of you based on how you present yourself.
65% of bosses indicate that clothes could be a deciding factor between two almost-identical candidates
Look the part, and you will feel it.
You want to make sure you plan your outfit for the role.
No matter what interview you are going to weather it’s for warehouse work or an interview in a top law firm you should always dress professionally.
A suit or smart dress is fine for most situations.
However, you don’t always have to be in a full suit despite what most people think.
If you show up wearing a suit and tie and all the employees are wearing shorts and flip-flops, you may look out of place, feel uncomfortable and may give off the wrong impression.
The same is especially true of the opposite.
If you show up wearing shorts and flip-flops to a company that wears professional attire, it will give off a very poor impression.
The industry you are interviewing for should also be taken into consideration, as the dress code for an accounting firm is likely to be different from that of a construction company, for example.
Our advice, always err on the side of caution and be as formal as you dare go.
Talking through your experience
This requires you to practice.
You would be surprised how nerves can make you ramble or completely forget your own experience.
This can just mount on the nerves even more in the interview room.
Although talking through your experience in an interview can be daunting because all eyes are on you at this point.
You don’t have to fear if you rehearse your “success story”
This is your experience. You know this better than anyone. Take your time and practice.
Rehearsing going through your experience, pretending to be in an interview and answering common questions will help you prepare for when they come up.
Firstly, you need to decide which areas of your CV to focus on as certain parts of your working history may be more relevant than others to the role you are interviewing for.
Secondly, skim over your working history that isn’t relevant.
Do not skip over them as the employer may think you would rather not talk about that role because you left on bad terms or that you are hiding something.
Explain a few of the key tasks you did in this role and how you got the job in the first place.
Lastly, explain those gaps in your CV without putting the employer off.
You do not need to go into major detail.
So whether you were studying, travelling, or had family commitments, explain to the employer why you were having that break, what you were doing and how you were keeping yourself busy.
Be Your Own Worst Interview Nightmare.
Practice makes perfect.
Think of the most difficult question you might have to face.
Practice the answer, then practice again.
The number one question most likely to be asked is: “Tell me about yourself”.
How are you going to answer this question?
These questions are designed to put you on the spot and see if you can think quickly.
The interviewer will then get more of a sense of who you are and whether you are a good fit for the company.
We know that you can’t prepare for every possible question, but you can prepare for the most commonly asked ones.
A Glassdoor study of tens of thousands of interviews found the 50 questions you’re most likely to be asked in your next interview (Thank you Inc.com for the article!):
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in working for us?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 10 years?
- Why do you want to leave your current company?
- What can you offer us that someone else can’t?
- Why was there a gap in your employment between these two dates?
- What are three things your former manager would like you to improve on?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- Are you willing to travel?
- Tell me about an accomplishment you are most proud of.
- Tell me about a time you made a mistake.
- What is your dream job?
- How did you hear about this position?
- What would you accomplish in the first 30/60/90 days on the job?
- Discuss your resume.
- Discuss your educational background.
- Describe yourself.
- Tell me how you handled a difficult situation.
- Why should we hire you?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- Would you work holidays/weekends?
- How would you deal with an angry or irate customer?
- What are your salary requirements?
- Give a time when you went above and beyond the requirements for a project.
- Who are our competitors?
- What was your biggest failure?
- What motivates you?
- What’s your availability?
- Who’s your mentor?
- Tell me about a time when you disagreed with your boss.
- How do you handle pressure?
- What is the name of our CEO?
- What are your career goals?
- What gets you up in the morning?
- What would your direct reports say about you?
- What were your bosses’ strengths/weaknesses?
- If I called your boss right now and asked him what is an area that you could improve on, what would he say?
- Are you a leader or a follower?
- What was the last book you read for fun?
- What are your co-worker pet peeves?
- What are your hobbies?
- What is your favorite website?
- What makes you uncomfortable?
- What are some of your leadership experiences?
- How would you fire someone?
- What do you like the most and least about working in this industry?
- Would you work 40+ hours a week?
- What questions haven’t I asked you?
- What questions do you have for me?
You don’t need to have a script memorised for all 50, but having a good idea of how you would answer them is a great idea.
If you’re going through a recruitment agency why not ask them to perform a mock interview with you?
This way you get to experience what you interview is going to be like and the kinds of questions you will be asked.
You will also get instant feedback on where you can improve and how best to answer difficult questions.
This ties into talking about your previous experience.
Employers latch on to negative messages, so don’t give them any.
If you’re being negative about your previous employer then you give the impression that you would be negative when working for them.
This is something that nobody wants.
Yes, not every work environment is the best but how you talk about this will reflect your character.
Being positive in an interview will benefit you greatly.
The employer will see a bright, upbeat person and not a negative dull one.
Get yourself in a positive mindset before the interview and make sure you use your words carefully with a positive spin.
If in doubt, practice beforehand.
Make sure you quiz the interviewer, this shows you have taken time and thought by asking some good questions at the end of the interview.
This gives you an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company.
Examples of questions to ask an interviewer would be:
- What challenges could I face in the first three months?
- Would I have targets to meet?
- Can people develop quickly here?
Stay Positive & Productive
Now that the interview is over what do you do now?
You can feel like you are in limbo.
Don’t stress, stay positive and productive.
We find the best thing you can do after an interview is to stay productive and continue your job search.
Obviously, don’t forget to follow up on the interview the next day.
Say how much you enjoyed the talking to them, learning more about the business and how excited you are to join their team.
But don’t hang around waiting by the phone letting anxiety and negativity creep in.
Keep working on your job applications, ask for feedback and review your performance.
Make sure you improve for the next time you have an interview.
Prepare For Rejection
Wait, what? You just told us to stay positive?
We did, and you should.
However, on balance you will be rejected more times than accepted.
That’s how job hunting is.
But, even if you don’t get the job, you can learn a huge amount about what to do next.
Always ask for feedback from the hiring manager or recruiter.
This feedback can not only help you pinpoint your weaknesses but also help you improve for next time.
Remember that whilst you are in that limbo period between the interview and waiting to hear back, continue your job search.
Keeping productive can not only help take your mind off of the interview but also help stack the odds in your favour.
Remember – there’s a job out there for you somewhere – more people are working in the UK than ever before.
Let’s wrap this up
There are lots of ways to help you prepare for an interview.
Following these 9 points can make sure that no matter what format, style, length, stage or difficulty you are ready for it.
If you are after more specific tips for different interview formats please click on the following links: