Advice for great interviews

Job interviews can be terrifying and nerve racking. However, they are also easy to get right once you know how. Practice makes perfect, however, those with limited time available to prepare for their ideal job will be glad to hear that there are specific things all interviewees should do to ensure that they make the best possible impression.

Preparation

There is nothing more dangerous than walking into an interview without having undertaken the necessary preparation. If you feel unprepared this will be obvious to the interviewer; confidence is simply a state of mind and those who feel confident that they have done all they could prior to the big day will immediately make a favourable impression.

Interviewees should ensure that they know the following:

  • The time and place of the interview.
  • How best to reach the location, as well as a back up plan in case the worst happens.
  • What form the interview will take – will it be a one-on-one situation or a group task?
  • How long the interview will be.
  • Items which may be required, i.e. CV, the letter which invited you to interview, map.

First impressions

Making a good first impression is pivotal, as many people make up their minds about new faces in the first few seconds. Therefore be sure to be polite and courteous; shake hands and smile. This should be done with all members of staff who speak to you in case your interviewer should happen to ask for their opinion after you have left.

Body language is pivotal and although it is difficult to perfect interviewees should ensure that they appear as relaxed as possible. All should aim to appear confident, without crossing the line and seeming cocky. Eye contact should be maintained and all should avoid unnecessary fiddling. Do not slouch in your chair as this can make you appear bored and uninterested, but do not sit excitedly on the edge of your chair either. The priority is to appear relaxed. The interview is not solely about your answers; applicants should make the effort to listen to those individuals asking the questions and aim to develop some manner of conversation with them; your interviewer is, contrary to popular belief, a human being, and therefore they will consider how well you will fit into the organisation on a social level, as well as what professional skills you can bring to the establishment.

What you will be asked

Many people worry that they will be asked a question which they will not be able to answer. However, if you do the right preparation this needn't be a problem. Interviewees should ensure that they read as much as they can about the job they are hoping to secure and the company which is offering the job. Through completing this research you should be able to shape your answers into those which will make them sit up and take notice. Nothing looks worse than an interviewee who appears to know nothing about the job in question; if you really want the position you should be able to react on the spot and answer anything; adequate research will help you achieve this.

Interviewees should bear the following in mind:

  • There is no point lying. If you get the job based on lies you can be certain that at some point the truth will come out and you may be asked to leave. Additionally, you will have to spend a lot of time at the place which gives you the position - that's a lot of time maintaining an act that you are something which you are not. It is important that you be yourself, but, more specifically, the best possible version of yourself, so that they will see all the things which make you a desirable potential employee.
  • There is no way that you will win the position if you are not prepared to talk yourself up; no one else is going to do that for you. 'Yes' and 'no' answers are not going to be good enough and neither will they provide the interviewer with any kind of insight into your personality. However, all should avoid talking simply to fill in silences; answer the questions you are asked and then wait for the next enquiry.
  • If a question is asked that you do not immediately know the answer to then take your time. Allow yourself a few moments to think; adequate research will be enough to provide you with the information necessary to compile an interesting and informative answer.
  • Be positive; there is no point highlighting flaws and denying your strengths. Saying that you are good at something will not appear arrogant, and you can be certain that other interviewees will not favour modesty. At the end of the day an interview is a competition – it is not only you and the interviewer in the race. Imagine the most well informed and prepared applicants you can and then strive to beat them.
  • Ask if you don't understand something; it will look much better if you ask the interviewer to repeat their question, rather than providing a strange answer which doesn't relate to the initial enquiry.

Many fear strange questions. Enquiries such as 'If you were an animal, which would you be?' are not unheard of. Such questions are not solely about your answer; they also test how you act under pressure. Interviewees should stick to their positive points and be honest. If you are asked 'What is your biggest weakness?' then the best course of action is usually to twist a positive point, e.g. 'I'm a perfectionist'.

It is usual practice for the interviewer to ask whether you have any questions, therefore it is a good idea to prepare a couple. These should ideally be questions about the company or the nature of the job; not the salary or how many days you are allowed off.

If interviewees use their common sense it is extremely difficult to go wrong. Put yourself in the place of the interviewee and consider what answers would impress you if you were in their position.