So you’ve got the perfect CV, your covering letter is tailored and makes you sound like the ideal candidate, and within two or three days you have a phone call offering you that all-important interview but the thought of it ties your stomach in knots, never fear we’ve all been there. Whether it’s your first interview or your 25th, I’m going to offer you a few essential tips to help you (hopefully) sail through the interview and land that job! Here are my top 10 tips for attending a job interview!
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1. Dress appropriately
A lot has changed since my first interview. From being at school, then college and beyond, I was told continuously that appearance was essential and wore a smart suit with smart shoes and felt uncomfortable for many years. That’s not to say not to but consider the position. I’ve seen interviewees at Tesco’s dressed in suits and ties, looking extremely uncomfortable. That’s not to say that Tesco won’t appreciate the effort you’ve made, but a smart pair of trousers and shirt would probably be okay.
We are now in a technological age where office attire is a little more relaxed. I used to embrace dress down Friday’s and enjoyed wearing jeans to the office, but more recently I worked in an office where they all wore jeans and converses, and there was me wearing smart casual. I’m not saying wear jeans and converses (believe me, don’t) but consider a little of your personality.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of research. I’m going, to be honest, I’ve been to interviews fully equipped with background information on companies and never been asked one question about what I know, and then I’ve been to interviews and been asked questions that I could never have answered. Look at their social media pages, what’s one of the last things they’ve posted, or shared? Do they have social media pages? I was recently at an interview and asked what I thought of the companies website! I wasn’t prepared, but I had researched the company and managed to draw on some of the things I remembered.
Don’t go and research things that aren’t relevant to the position, so it if its technical look at technical stuff if it is marketing you know what I mean. I impressed an interviewer once because I commented on something I’d read in the media about the company, he nodded and was happy to chat about what it meant for the business and employees. I’m not saying go and write pages of notes on the company structure and their annual turnover but perhaps find something that can keep the interviewer interested.
You’ve bagged the interview of your dreams, so interview preparation is critical. Check if the interview requires you to supply a passport, national insurance number or a list of references. Some do at the interview stage, so best check any emails you receive. Make sure you know where you have to be, how you will get there and what time you will arrive. Is it going to be a walk, a car journey or are you relying on public transport?
Keep a folder of relevant documents, including a copy of your recent CV. You’ll be surprised how many interviews I’ve been to, and the interviewer has a CV that was on my Linkedin profile six months earlier.
Make sure what you wear is ironed, clean and in a place that isn’t likely to get lost or dirty and don’t forget about the shoes! We all do it.
4. Arrive on time
I’m not going to lie. I’ve arrived at interviews, flustered, tired and puffing. It’s not exactly professional. If you know it is going to take an hour by car, allow for at least an hour and a half. If you are using public transport, allow longer. I made the mistake of allowing two hours door to door. Missed my train because the station screens were down and no one could find out which platform it was leaving from. I arrived for my interview with two minutes to spare, looking flustered and like I’d run a marathon. Allowing 10 to 15 minutes is typical. I like to look around, check out my surroundings (nearest Costa) and make sure that I feel calm and ready.
5. Prepare Questions
On more than one occasion I’ve been to an interview and failed to ask any questions, this was mainly due to being ill-prepared. I’ve learnt my lesson. I know to prepare at least three, and I use my research to help. I have included some examples:
Ask about the future of the company, do they have any major plans? If you’ve seen on their social media, something that takes your interest, don’t be afraid to ask about it! It will show that you have taken an interest. As someone keen to develop my career, I like to ask a question about employee development and opportunities available. It shows that you are thinking about the future. Not all employers do department tours, especially if you are one of 10 interviews that week so ask them about your working environment, it can help you get a feel for the role if you know that its open plan or a more enclosed office. You can always tie it in with a ‘day in the life’ question.
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6. Make a good impression!
I have been to some interviews where the HR manager couldn’t have been less interested, and either didn’t offer their hand or does an awful floppy shake. I would offer my hand anyway! Keep eye contact, looking from one to the other or the person who asked the question. Smile a lot! Watch what you do with your hands, moving them around too much can make you seem unprofessional. Don’t forget to show your enthusiasm!
We’ve all been there! You get that all-important interview, and you can’t seem to shake the nerves, remember if you show your enthusiasm, you’d be surprised how your nerves subside. Try and say focused, upbeat and concise but show how much you love ‘cars’ or ‘children’.
8. It’s about you as much as it is them!
I had an interview with a great company with an excellent reputation. I arrived early was kept waiting for 15 minutes but loved the view and the surroundings. The interviewer was sick, and from the moment the interview began, she made me feel uncomfortable. She was brash, hard-faced and to the point and allowed no time for me to show her what I could do. She made me feel awkward and flustered and answered poorly. I wasn’t shocked to discover that they didn’t hire me! Employers forget some times that we are also interviewing them. If we feel uncomfortable or out of place during the interview, we are not inclined to say yes. I have declined a few opportunities in my time. Some okay, some pretty bad and some because it just didn’t feel right. I was made to feel like I couldn’t say no, that on accepting the interview that meant that I was obliged to take the job that just didn’t feel right. Go with your instincts. If it feels like the commute will be too hard, the job isn’t what you want, or you didn’t connect with your manager, then consider whether a week into the position you won’t want to run for the hills.
9. You become a salesperson…sell yourself!
I’m going to admit; it’s hard to sell yourself. You get asked the question ‘Tell me one thing that you do well?’ I often ramble off something that has nothing to do with the position. Try and make it relevant!
As job seekers, CV’s are the first time prospective employers get to meet us. A proper and well-written CV stands between you and the paper shredder! Don’t shy away from mentioning an achievement. You raised £2k for charity doing a bike ride, say it! That’s a fantastic achievement. You’d be surprised to know that even the most qualified of an applicant can get turned down because the winning candidate was better at responding in interviews. They proved that they would be a great fit within the company.
There is a lot of misconception concerning ‘after’ the interview. If you have an email address or social media contact send a quick note to thank the interviewer for their time, this gives them the opportunity to A) Remember you and B) That they can give you a response via email.
All too often, you travel to an interview, take time off work, and then you hear nothing! Not even a ‘thank you’ for attending. If you have contact details, give them a quite call or email and ask.
I feel that we should all be given feedback, but it doesn’t always happen.
My Personal Favourites:
A). You didn’t tick all the boxes (what am I meant to learn from that).
B). We went with someone who we felt suited the position more (And that helps me how)
C). We wanted someone who we could train and who had little experience (You wanted to pay £4.00 an hour)
D). We appreciate you attending the interview, we felt that you were a fantastic candidate and if anything should come up in the future we would certainly consider you; however, we felt we wanted someone with more experience (How exactly do I get experience?)
E). It was a pleasure to meet you the other day; your enthusiasm was refreshing! But after careful consideration, we will not be offering you the position; we just felt that the job required someone with more administration experience. (I have over ten years of administration experience!) Was by far, my favourite!
I am hoping that if more people ask for feedback, it will eventually become the norm. So whether you are looking for your first job since leaving school, an internship during your studies or a complete career change these tips are surely going to help you feel more confident.
So there you have it! My top 10 tips when attending a job interview! Do you have stories to share? Want to add anything that you’ve learnt?
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