Interviews are stressful at the best of times. Whether it’s your first job or you’ve had a long and varied career, interviews can always catch you out if you aren’t fully prepared. So, to get you ready or refresh your skills, here are a few simple pointers to ensure you make a great impression.
Preparing for your interview
Do your research
As part of your interview it's likely that you'll be asked specific questions about the organisation. To succeed in this part of your interview, you need to do your homework:
- Find out as much as possible about the company – the services they offer or products they sell, the size of the company, revenue they generate, number of employees, etc.
- Get a feel for their brand – what do they stand for and what are they trying to achieve
- Try to understand their company culture and values
- Search LinkedIn to learn out about their senior leaders
- Discover what their next steps are as a business. What are their growth plans?
As you do this research, think about how your skills and personality fit with their needs and goals.
Be punctual and prepared
The worst outcome from an interview is failure because of a simple error like arriving late. Get the basics right and make sure you:
- Know the date, time and location of the interview and who you should ask for upon arrival
- Know the name and title of your interviewer
- Plan your route and allow plenty of time for travel
- If you are asked to bring a passport, certificates, reference details or anything else, ensure you have it well in advance of your interview
Presentation is important
Dress appropriately for the interview. If you're unsure what to wear, ask before the interview.
As a rule of thumb, it’s better to overdress than underdress, so at least appear smart or professional.
Plan for potential questions
The questions you get asked will vary greatly depending on the industry, the sector and the role. But certain questions are inevitable.
You’ll be asked about your previous experience. You’ll be asked about your skills, your current role, and why you’re the right person for the job. Prepare for the questions you’re likely to be asked. Doing this will also help you prepare for the unpredictable ones.
Reading the job description and preparing examples for each role responsibility listed will demonstrate your ability to do the job.
Know your CV
Your CV got you the interview, so make sure you know what's written on it. Read and re-read it before your interview so that you know it inside out – this shouldn't be difficult if it's a true reflection of your achievements and past experience.
Your interviewer will use your CV as a guide for the interview, so it's vital that you know it and believe that your experience makes you qualified for the job.
During the interview
Be positive, polite & confident
As soon as you enter the building, be polite and engaging with everyone you encounter. The impressions you make with everyone matter, not just your impression with the interviewer.
Once you’re settled, show your confidence. Having good posture, making confident eye contact and keeping your nerves under control will enable you to express yourself clearly. This will show the interviewer you have confidence in your ability to do the job and that you can handle pressure.
Be an attentive listener too. When the interviewer is talking, show that you are actively listening by keeping eye contact and showing signs of understanding or agreement by nodding and making small noises like “yes” and “uh huh”.
How to answer interview questions
To demonstrate your expertise, you want to come across as confident and knowledgeable. To do this, don’t give a short answer that is likely to leave them with more questions. However, you also don’t want to talk too much as it might make it difficult for the interviewer to follow what you’re saying.
To keep your responses concise and powerful, you should use the STAR method. For each competency question you are asked, explain the Situation, Task, Action and Result.
Describe the situation that you were in or the task that you needed to accomplish
What goal were you trying to achieve?
What did you do to address the situation and achieve the goal of the task? Focus on your specific input, not what other people did.
Describe the outcome of your actions and overall situation. What did you accomplish? What did you learn?
It is likely you will be asked whether you have any questions at the end of the interview. It’s wise to prepare questions for things you'd like to know more about. After all the interview is just as much about finding out if the job is right for you.
It's also a good idea to ask questions related to anything that piqued your interest during the interview. This will demonstrate that you were listening and really thinking about what they were saying.
Asking questions is important because it shows you care and that you have a real interest in the company and the role.
Here are some example interview questions you could ask:
- What will a normal day in this role look like?
- Who will I be working with?
- Why are you hiring for this role at this time?
- How will you assess my performance?
- How does the department fit into the organisation as a whole?
- What is the organisations policy on development and training?
- Do you have any doubts about my ability to perform in this role?
Let your personality shine
Interviews are as much about finding the right personality and culture match as they are about finding some with the right skills.
It's important to be yourself and show your personality, so both you and the interviewer can see if you would be a good fit into the team and the company. After all, you don't want to work for an organisation that you don't think you'll enjoy working for.
To do this, don't overthink your preparation. To show who you really are, you’ll have to be confident enough to react, engage and improvise. Being too prepared could cause you to come off as robotic or stiff.
Things you shouldn't do in the interview
- Don’t say negative things about your previous employers
There are likely things you didn't like about previous jobs, which is why you're looking for new opportunities, but try to put a positive spin on it. For example, you could say that you no longer felt challenged by the role and want to be in a position that will enable you to grow.
- Don’t fidget or get distracted
- Don’t show too much concern about rapid advancement
- Don’t display a lack of career planning
Not having goals could give the impression you aren't taking your job search seriously or only want the job for a short period of time
- Don’t overemphasise money in the first interview
Asking about salary in the first interview might give the impression that that is all you care about. If you proceed in the process, you will have the opportunity to negotiate your salary at a later stage.
- Don’t leave your mobile phone on during the interview
- Don’t express prejudices or any personal intolerance