Job interviews are tough and nerve racking experiences. Whilst some openly welcome job interviews and relish in the opportunity, there are some that fail to convince how suitable for the role they are.
Armed with a fantastic CV but a failure to prepare for the interview will result in rejection. Preparation is always the key to success, and even more so when it comes to job interviews. But what do you do before an interview? Do you practice? Do you read or research?
Read on to find out how you can succeed with 15 of our best job interview tips.
1. Dress for success
Looks do matter in a job interview, as much as this should not be the case. Therefore it’s worth spending extra time on your appearance, so that this doesn’t cloud your interviewer’s judgement. Make sure you wear appropriate clothes for a job interview. Typically this will be a suit for an office environment. For other environments, check to see if there is a company dress code online – otherwise, if you’re not sure what’s expected in your industry, assess what managers wear and use this as a guide. Never go less than ‘smart casual’.
It goes without saying that you should show up freshly showered with clean, pressed clothes and shoes. If you normally wear jewellery, keep this simple – for example, a plain pair of threader earrings or ear studs and a simple ring, or a simple necklace and plain bangle. You want your interview jewellery to complete your outfit rather than stand out. Your interviewer should be focusing on what you have to say rather than the earrings you picked out!
2. Come early, but not too early!
Arriving late is the worst start you can make – that’s if they still decide to even interview you after that! Some employers have a policy of turning away anyone that’s late. But did you also know that arriving too early could also jeopardise your chances? If you get there really early it could make things awkward. The manager has to figure out what to do with you, and it can be a little annoying.
We would recommend checking in with reception 15 minutes before. This is the perfect time to show how punctual you are without becoming a nuisance. If you do happen to get there very early, then why not walk around for a little bit or consider reading your CV. It would help to have your details fresh in your mind.
3. Prepare answers to common interview questions
There are some questions which will always be asked, so prepare some answers so you’re ready. Here are some of the most common:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What unique skills can you offer the company?
- Where do you see yourself in five years time?
- Name three of your weaknesses
There are many more and are very easy to find online. So prepare your answers and the interview will be much easier. Even if they just ask one, you’ll be glad you prepared.
4. Take your time
When asked a difficult question you should take your time before answering. Take a moment, breath and try to relax. The manager is more interested in the answer you deliver than how quickly you respond. If you rush to speak you will likely give a poor answer and fail to impress.
Don’t take too long however, but just a couple of seconds to digest the question. Also remember to keep breathing throughout and take some deep breaths before you enter. Most people hold their breath when anxious or nervous, so let out that tension with a few large and long breaths.
5. Take a pen and your CV
Always take a pen and notepad into the interview. This will help you to remember anything important for later – like the hours, salary, commission, tasks, etc. It will also look professional and show the employer that this opportunity matters to you.
You should also take a few copies of your CV in with you. Bring a folder with your pen and paper along with those CVs to hand out in the interview. The manager may forget to bring yours in or there may be other people present and there’s only one copy. It will show your ability to think ahead and will make a good impression.
6. Engage in pleasantries
Try to loosen up a little and engage in a bit of banter. Talk about the weather, your journey there, or anything else. Typically the interviewer may even begin with a few pleasantries to break the tension, and to also get a glimpse into your personality. It will also help you to shake off a few nerves.
The employer doesn’t want to interview a robot and wants to get to know you as a person. After all, they could be working with you. So don’t give scripted answers and keep things friendly and professional. Your aim is to build up a rapport and not to focus on saying every single word perfectly.
7. Research the company
You need to know as much about the company as possible before stepping one foot into the interview. This will help you to focus your answers around the company’s needs.
Your knowledge of the company should impress and show how interested you are in working for them. Read the company’s website and anything else you can find out online. Most companies will usually have social media pages – Facebook, Twitter, or even Instagram. Check them out and find out what the customers are saying. Maybe you have a marketing strategy to propose during the interview!?
8. Say thank you
At the end of the interview you should thank them for their time and the opportunity. This small gesture goes a long way and leaves a positive impression. Follow up with an email later that day saying the same and that you look forwarding to hearing from them.
This thank you ensures you are fresh in their mind, and could just tip the balance in your favour. If you are neck and neck with another candidate but you are the only one who has emailed a thank you message, you could have helped them with their decision.
9. Check your Twitter
Anything inappropriate that could be found by the employer should be removed from your social media profiles. Your most recent posts and comments need vetting and any crazy drunken antics should be temporarily removed. Any strong political or religious comments may also be deemed appropriate, so don’t take the chance.
This applies to every social media account you have – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and so on. Don’t forget to also bolster your LinkedIn profile and create a professional image. Supply a link to your profile and further impress with an online digital CV of your credentials and experience.
10. Drop the slang
Try to remember that this is a job interview and you’re not talking to your mates down the pub. So drop the slang, put on your best speaking voice and be polite.
This doesn’t mean to say that you should not be yourself, but it does mean you should think carefully about how you usually speak. This would be really important if you were applying for a customer service, hospitality or sales role. The employer will be listening very closely to your natural speaking voice and imagining how that could come across to a customer.
11. Positive body language
Your body language will send signals to the employer, so make them positive ones. Sit up straight and make regular eye contact. Avoid crossing your arms and pay attention to the questions.
A closed and negative body language could put the interviewer on the back foot and assume you don’t want to be there. They may also think you’re nervous and not confident in your own abilities. Keep smiling and engage everyone in the room. You are the centre of attention and you need to put on a show!
12. Don’t recite your CV
The employer has already read your CV but wants to find out more. So don’t provide information they already have. Give them something new and try not to sound like you’re reading from a script – or your CV.
Link your skills and experience to the role and make that connection for them. There may be something they’ve not spotted or that you’ve held back from your CV. You are there to connect the dots and ultimately prove you are the right person for the job. If you recite your application there is no point in your being there!
13. Engage with everyone
You may find yourself in front of 2-3 interviewers. With a panel style interview like this you need to engage with everyone so they feel included.
The manager may have two other people with them for support and help with the decision. One person will be from the team, so an assistant manager or team leader – certainly someone they can trust with recruitment decisions. The second person will sometimes be the Human Resources Manager. They may want to ask more company focused questions, or they might not utter a word and just observe.
Make eye contact with all parties, even if they don’t ask a question. You need to impress everybody as they will be giving their feedback to whoever is making the decision.
14. Practice with a friend
One of the most effective ways to get better at job interviews is to practice. Find a friend or family member that you trust will take it seriously. Ideally you want to find someone who has management experience.
Send them your questions in advance so they don’t have to improvise. You want to make this rehearsal as real as possible. So don’t mess about and make jokes, and instead provide proper questions. Then ask for their feedback and tell them to be honest. The only way you can improve on your interview techniques is to receive genuine constructive criticism and act upon it.
15. Answer the question
Don’t avoid a difficult question. Tackle it head on and remain confident with your answer. The employer is testing you on purpose and is interested in how you handle the pressure.
Diverting the question away to something else will tell the employer that you are afraid to answer. You could be hiding something, and that sets the seed of doubt in the mind of the employer.
16. Don’t bad mouth
The interviewer may ask why you left your previous role. At this stage it’s important to remain positive and not to complain about your previous boss. Your integrity and professionalism is at stake here. This isn’t your chance to get a few things off your chest. They may know the employer and you could make things awkward.
The employer may also side with your previous boss and that you were in the wrong. Your perception of the situation could backfire. It’s always safer to remain positive even if it’s hard to do.