Congratulations! If you have reached the interview stage it means your CV has impressed your prospective new employer. You’ve successfully got your CV in front of the right person and piqued their interest. That’s a huge step to take in your job search and a clear sign that you probably have what they are looking for.
Don’t relax yet, though! There is still a lot of work ahead of you, and delivering that winning interview begins long before the interview even takes place. Convincing the interviewer that you’re a perfect match for the company will take time, effort and research. We’ll walk you through the basics.
Remember, these are general tips and may not apply to all industries, companies or job candidates. It’s always important to research industry standards for interviews so you’re not caught out. Good luck!
Finding the right mindset
Most people dread interviews. It’s not surprising. The idea of sitting in a room with strangers asking you questions, questioning your skills and judging you using both conscious and unconscious answers is an intimidating prospect. Nerves are perfectly natural. In fact, we’d be more worried if you were feeling perfectly calm and collected! Employers would rather employ the nervous but prepared candidate than the cocky candidate who has no idea what he’s talking about.
Interviews are a great opportunity to talk about you. This is handy because it’s the subject you know most about! You know yourself better than anyone, so you’re already pretty prepared. It’s easy if you know what to talk about.
This can include all the hard work you’ve done to get here, your achievements, your goals, and maybe even a chance to be honest about some of the things that didn’t go quite as planned. Don’t forget to include how you would do things differently. Remember, you’re a human and so is your interviewer. They’ll relate to you talking about humbling experiences. If you can put positive spins on them and sell your skills a little more, you’re golden.
Interviews are also an opportunity for you to evaluate the people you may soon be working with, and make your own decisions about whether you are the right fit. The power is not completely in the interviewer’s hands.
Use your interview time to take in the environment and atmosphere of the company. The company has to be a great fit for both your benefit and theirs. Remember, it’s not a bad thing to put yourself first and turn down a job because it wouldn’t be a good fit for you. You’re saving yourself and the company a lot of hassle!
Preparation is the key
There are certain things you should do before any interview. The chances are you’ve done some of them already. If you have, there’s no harm in doing them again just to refresh your memory.
First of all, how much do you know about the role you’re applying for and the company you’re applying to? Do your research and think about how well your skills match who they are and what they are looking for. Look for resources relating to the job title you’re applying for. There should be loads of people out there who’ve documented their experiences – read them!
Next, find out what kinds of questions might they ask you. This is a great time to think about what you’ll say, but don’t obsess over it. You won’t really know what they’ll ask until you’re in the room, so try to stay loose and free-form. Think about how you might answer some of their likeliest questions with confidence when the interview takes place.
Everyone should be able to answer basic competency-based questions. They appear in interviews all the time, as it’s a valuable metric for any interviewer to assess whether you’re skilled enough for the job. If you’re worried about how to handle these tough questions, check out our blog post which walks you through different examples and how to answer them confidently and correctly.
As well as figuring out what questions might pop up, try to find out what form the interview is going to take. Will you be meeting with one person, or several? Or will it be a group interview?
As an example call centre and sales recruiters especially seem to favour the group interview. It not only gives them a chance to assess your communication, negotiation and persuasion skills but also to compare you in real-time against the other candidates.
A great resource for finding out about how different companies interview is searching for them on indeed.com. There you’ll find reviews from employees on working conditions, the interview process and other important things to consider. Often posters will talk about the hiring process, how it works and if it’s reflective of the company as a whole. It’s useful for figuring out whether the workplace will be good for you or not.
Preparing for an interview can be a long process. You may even be preparing for several at once which can add to the stress. It’s best to keep track fully of what you’ve completed for which interview. We’ve created a Pre-Interview Research Guide which walks you through everything you need to know before the big day. It’s easy to print and check off each section and make a few notes as you complete it.
We’ve created a downloadable resource for you to print out and keep with your other resources. It’s essential to make sure everything’s in order before you go to your interview, otherwise you risk looking unprepared and unprofessional. Use the checklist if you’re worried that you might forget sections of your prep. Otherwise, here are the essentials of attending an interview:
The Day Before
- Lay out the clothes that you’re going to wear. Consult the invitation to interview. Most places will want you to dress smartly. If you know what employees of the company wear, try to match that closely. If in doubt, it’s always better to overdress and make the right impression than underdress and look unprofessional.
- Know where you are going! It sounds obvious, but you should make sure you leave plenty of time to get to get to the interview and make allowances for unexpected travel disruptions. Plan to arrive exactly 10 minutes before your interview. No more, no less.
- Figure out what you need to take with you. It’s always a good idea to bring a copy of your CV to the interview. If appropriate, bring a portfolio or examples of your work. Some employers also ask to see your examination certificates and sometimes your passport, national insurance number and bank account details. Even if they don’t, it is always useful to have your NI and bank details handy. And don’t forget to take a pen!
- The night before the interview, make sure you get to bed in good time and try to get plenty of sleep. Partying the night before your interview is definitely not recommended! Adults should be getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night, but before a stressful day we recommend 8 so you’re totally ready to take on whatever the day throws at you.
- On the topic of sleep, make sure you set your alarm! Choose a time to wake up which is early enough to give you plenty of time to eat a filling breakfast, get showered, dressed and groomed, and travel to your interview. If you miss your interview because of oversleeping we can almost guarantee that you won’t get the job.
The Big Day!
- Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your body, especially before a stressful or nerve-wracking experience. Coffee doesn’t count, unfortunately! Take a bottle of water on your journey and make sure you drink it. Good concentration and regular water intake are very closely related.
- Make sure you arrive at your interview on time or several minutes beforehand. You should be in the building where your interview takes place between 5 and 10 before the start time. However, don’t arrive more than 10 minutes early! This will fluster your interviewers as they might not be ready for you or have anywhere to put you. Just don’t do it! Arriving early will give you the chance to drink some water, squeeze in some last minute mental run-throughs of questions and decompress a little to calm down any nerves you may be feeling.
And while we’re on the subject of nerves….
- Feeling nervous is normal. We’d think you were weird if you weren’t feeling a little stressed over an interview! Try to keep those nerves in perspective. If you have done all your preparation you’re going to be fine. And whatever happens – don’t forget to breathe!
- Show the interviewer that you’re happy to be here! Greet them, ask them how they are, strike up a bit of banter with them. Make the effort to connect with them as a human, not just a potential employer.
- When you are asked a question, give yourself time to think your answer through before you reply. And if you’re not clear on what the question means, don’t be shy about asking for clarification. The wording or intonation could be off, you could have misheard or maybe you just don’t know the answer! That’s perfectly normal. No-one can know everything!
- Speak clearly and be aware of the shape of your voice – nerves can make us speak abnormally. If you find yourself speaking quietly, speak up! If you’re speaking a little too quickly, slow down! The interviewer needs to understand you to see how brilliant you are.
- Remember that you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t already got the interviewer’s attention. This is your turn to express yourself confidently and reinforce what a fantastic candidate you are.
- Be aware of your body posture and don’t be afraid to make eye contact. Slouching and admiring your shoes shows the interviewer that you’re not confident in yourself or your abilities. If you’re not, why should they be? Let them know you’re calm and confident by sitting up straight, looking at them and smiling.
- At the end of the interview, if you are given the opportunity to ask questions – take it! This is a great time to ask about the company’s culture, what in-house courses or self-development programmes they might offer, and find out what the next steps are following the interview. Shake the interviewer’s hand, smile and thank them for their time. Last impressions count too!
When you leave the interview, take a moment to evaluate it. How do you feel things went? What could you have done better? It might be a good idea to keep a journal of the interviews you attend. This can provide you with great insight into what you’re doing right and wrong.
It is important not to use this reflection as an excuse to beat yourself up but to get some perspective on how you performed. If all went well, you’ll have good news to look forward to. If not, every interview is a chance to develop your experience and hone your skills for next time.