1. Remember the obvious.
Turn up on time.
Turn up in the right place.
Look smart (companies will often give you information about their dress code, if you phone the reception). If in confuse, dress slightly smarter than you usually would for work.
Make sure you are presentable: clean hair, tidy nails, polished shoes, clean, ironed clothes. You only get one chance to make a first impression and you will feel more relaxed if you know you are looking your best.
Also (and this may feel a little odd) practice your handshake with a friend or relative. It’s hard for us to evaluate our handshake objectively, on our own! Yet this is one of the most important parts of a first impression. A firm (but not vice-like!) handshake, good eye contact and a relaxed smile gives you a confident start.
2. Re-read your notes before the interview.
Re-read the job advert and your working, notes the night before the interview.
Do this just before going to bed. Why? Because this will help refresh your memory and make it much easier to retrieve those “blow them away” answers to awkward interview questions. Doing it just before you go to bed helps the information sink in at a below conscious level, making it easier to remember answers the next day.
If you have worked through CV Stuff, it will also help increase your confidence, because you will be revising all the reasons why you are suitable for the job. This will help you relax and get a better night’s sleep.
Re-read your CV the morning of the interview and take a copy with you.
You’d be surprised how many candidates can’t remember what they wrote in their CV. It looks unprofessional and will count against you. It’s great to be able to quickly recall exactly what you were doing, for which company and when. It’s not great if you can’t remember, when asked, what you wrote as your responsibilities in your last role…
3. Check that you know how to get to the interview – at least a day beforehand.
This one may sound silly, but the last thing you want on the morning of the interview is to realize you’re not quite sure where to go, but no one is at the company to ask, when you set off.
Make sure you leave plenty of time, so there is no chance of you being late. This will save stress and embarrassment. It’s much less stressful to have to go to a local café and wait, than it is to be stuck in a traffic jam or train delay with the clock ticking. Take contact details with you, so you have someone you can call, if you can’t avoid being held up.
If you’re traveling by public transport, then make sure you have checked out how to get from the train / bus station to the interview: it’s not always obvious and you need to factor in time for this.
If you’re driving, it’s useful to ask for directions with significant landmarks. Even if you’re a good navigator, it can be reassuring to spot the expected pubs and petrol stations en route, so you know you’re going in the right direction. This helps you arrive relaxed and ready to give your best.
4. Prepare at least 3 questions to ask the interviewer.
Make them relevant, genuine, and intelligent. Don’t ask about salary (see point 8).
What are the three things you most want to know about the job? About the team? About the company? This is your chance! Whatever you do, don’t turn up without questions – it can make you look unprepared and unenthusiastic.
Maybe company research highlighted some questions about the competitive environment or working practices? Or you want to know what the interviewer thinks about an aspect of a topic you have already discussed? Your questions are an opportunity to impress and show how much thinking you have done about the company and the position you’re applying for.
One really important tip is to before you ask, read your question to yourself. This will make sure you don’t re-ask something that’s already been covered, which might make the interviewer think you hadn’t been paying attention! It’s worth having a few extra questions, just in case.
If the company has arranged for you to have more than one interview in a day (often the case), then have some extra questions – or maybe ask questions about the interviewer’s opinions, so you can gather different viewpoints.
There’s no need to try to memorize your questions; it’s perfectly acceptable to write them down, to take in with you. This makes it look as though you have prepared thoroughly for the interview and helps you relax.
5. Practice answers to “obvious” questions.
Some interview questions are really obvious. There are preparation exercises you can do, to make sure you are fully equipped for almost any question that arises.
However, should you want to do even more preparation, then there are some obvious questions that almost always come up. It’s really worth practicing your answers to them, so you sound natural when asked.
Check out Sample material to find out more.
6. Be friendly to everyone you meet on the interview day.
You never know which panel member is involved in the recruitment process!
One of our colleagues, Sophie, had the experience of welcoming a candidate to the reception of a large company. The candidate, Peter, was very confident, but hardly made eye contact and was quite dismissive. As they walked to the department office, he didn’t show any interest in Sophie, other than to ask when he would meet the Head of Department, who was recruiting for the position.
Sophie told Peter he was delayed and asked him to wait for 5 minutes. Peter sat on the sofa, pulled out his folder, looked up at Sophie, and said, “I’ll have a coffee then, please.” and turned his attention to his file. Sophie got him the coffee and then took him to the Head of Department’s office.
Peter appreciated Sophie and said goodbye, as Sophie took a seat opposite him. “Are you taking notes, then?” he asked her, slightly confused. The Head of Department said, “Let me introduce Sophie; our Finance Director.”
Peter didn’t get the job. Why? Because the recruiting team felt he demonstrated that he would have little respect for people who were less senior than him.
7. Focus on your strengths.
A job interview is not the time or the place to start admitting anything you’re not good at. However, it’s also not the place to fib about any “areas for development” you might have.
It’s the time to be confidently assertive.
There’s plenty you can do, to help you identify any areas you might have in your experience or career history that are less than flattering. And it helps you come up with solutions.
The key is to make sure you use your “missing skills” as an opportunity to show how you could adapt to the role.
For example, say you’re going for a computing job, and you might not have experience in a particular programming language, the fact that they’ve called you to interview means this doesn’t prevent them from considering you. So think laterally: where else in your career or hobbies can you demonstrate your ability to learn quickly and apply new skills?
Prove to them that your “weaknesses” are, in fact, areas that you could quickly develop, once you got the job. And show that they aren’t significant when compared to your other skills and characteristics.
Remember: if you’re asked a tricky question in an interview, it’s always ok to pause for a few breaths while you consider your answer. It’s better to do that than to rush in with something you wish you hadn’t said afterward.
One great technique to buy time is to repeat the question back to them or simply ask for a moment to consider what they are asking. Good interviewers don’t usually mind waiting for a good answer if it means they will learn about what makes you tick.
8. Salary: when do we talk about money?
Not until you get the job offer!
As long as you did your research and confirmed the salary bracket was within your desired range, before applying, there is no need to discuss this during the interview. It can make you look overly motivated by cash. you can discuss only the interviewer asks.
It’s vital to understand what’s important to you about the job you’re applying for, so you’ll know where money ranks on your scale. If you are asked about this in the interview and the salary is one of your key decision factors, make sure you have rehearsed your answer beforehand: “um…” and “er…” don’t tend to get big pay rises. Your preparation will help you justify your answer.
If at all possible, leave salary negotiations until the job offer comes through. Your confidence will be soaring by that point and your negotiation position will be stronger.
Do I get paid travel expenses?
Nowadays it’s rare for a first-round interview candidate to be paid expenses. Indeed, some employers, perhaps unfairly, frown on candidates who ask for expenses. The exceptions to this rule are if you head-hunted or traveling from overseas.
Second-round interviews will sometimes include travel expenses, particularly for graduate recruitment, but you should check this out if it is a problem for you.
9. What if I’m nervous?
Interview Stuff includes lots of information on your mind-body link: how what you’re thinking affects your performance. Review the exercises in that section, which will help reduce pre-interview nerves.
Other things that are useful include breathing from your stomach, rather than your chest, which helps reduce tension. Shallow breathing from your chest region encourages tension.
You can also help yourself relax by allowing the tension to drain from your eyelids, jaw, and neck muscles. We tend not to notice stress build-up in those areas and you might be amazed at how much tension you are holding. Releasing it is highly effective and can help your concentration.
If you want to try relaxation CDs to listen to the night before or on the day of the interview, click here for recommended suppliers.
A key to getting the better of nerves is having a positive attitude.
Would you rather get to the end of the interview, thinking about how well you answered the questions or wishing you had made more effort? Basically, since you’re sat in the interview, your CV has probably already proved you’re suitable for the role. Then all you need to do is stay calm and give the answers that are natural to you.
Most interviewers will pick up on someone who is exaggerating or bluffing, so just be yourself. After all, the interviewer has given up their time to get to know you better and find out how you might fit in. The interview process is equally about the interviewer sassing you out, as much as you finding out whether you want to work for the company.
Imagine it is like a balancing act: both you and the company need to decide whether the job is the right one for you, so you are entering the interview on an equal footing with the interviewer.
10. What happens after the interview?
It’s good to finish off your interview by asking when the recruiter thinks they will be reaching a decision, so you know how long to wait.
Interview Stuff includes a range of powerful methods for bridging the gap between the interview and the company’s decision, to make sure they remember who you are.
Best 10 Before interview tricks and tips. For now, our top tip would be to follow up. Be persistent, but not pushy. Remind them you’re there and make sure they know you are interested.