Congratulations! If you have reached the interview stage it means your CV has impressed (or, at the very least, piqued the interest of) your prospective new employer. That’s a huge step to take and a clear sign that you probably have what they are looking for. But don’t take anything for granted – there is still a lot of work ahead of you and delivering that winning interview begins long before the interview even takes place.
Finding the right mindset
Most people dread interviews. It’s not surprising. The idea of sitting in a room with one – or maybe more – strangers asking you questions, evaluating everything you say and how you say it, and using all the conscious and unconscious answers you give them to make a decision that could change the entire course of your career is an intimidating prospect.
But why not look at it another way?
This is also a great opportunity to talk about you – 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 and how you would do them differently. It is 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 interviewers hands.
Preparation is the key
There are certain things you should do before any interview. The chances are you’ve done some of them already but even 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.
What kinds of questions might they ask you? This is a great time to think about what you’ll say but don’t obsess about 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 and mentally reinforce how confidently you’re going to perform when the interview takes place.
Also, 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? (Call Centre and Sales recruiters especially seem to favour the group interview because 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).
The Day Before
Make sure you know what you’re going to wear. Even if you are applying for a job in a ‘casual’ workplace it is always best to err on the side of caution and dress smartly and professionally for your interview: choose a suit or similar business attire and wear polished comfortable shoes.
Know where you are going! Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to get to the interview and make allowances for unexpected travel disruptions. Even if you know the route well it is always best to carry a street map with you (or pre-programme the postcode into your phone) because pre-interview nerves can sometimes have an interesting effect on our sense of direction!
What do you need to take with you? It is always good to bring a copy of your CV to the interview, and examples of your work if that is appropriate. 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!
The Big Day!
Stay hydrated! Take a bottle of water on your journey and make sure you drink it. Good concentration and good, regular fluid intake are very closely related.
Make sure you arrive at your interview on time or – preferably – several minutes beforehand. Arriving early will also give you the chance to decompress a little and calm down any nerves you may be feeling.
And while we’re on the subject of nerves….
Feeling nervous is normal. It would actually be scarier not to feel nervous on an occasion as important as this! But 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!
Be calm, polite, positive and engaged. You’re happy to be here!
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, ask for clarification.
Speak clearly and be aware of the shape of your voice – undue nerves can make us speak quietly and / or too fast. 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.
Also, be aware of your body posture (don’t slouch) and don’t be afraid to make eye contact. This isn’t the time to admire your shoes!
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.
When you leave the interview, take a moment to evaluate it. How do you feel things went? What could you have done better? It is important not to use this looking-back as an excuse to beat yourself up, but to get 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.