As someone looking to make the move into a new role, it’s perhaps easy to view job interviews as an inconvenience, or worse, something designed to purposely trip you up on your way to your next job.
We’ve all heard the horror stories of interviews gone wrong that can end up shaking your nerves a fair bit. But with the right preparation, a job interview can turn into a relaxed conversation rather than the arduous test of resolve and character many believe it to be.
With the help of a variety of recruitment experts, we’ll present eight interview tips that are proven to work. During your preparation, keep these essentials in mind – they could well be the difference maker between you and your fellow candidates.
1. Remember the little things
In preparing for the interview, it should go without saying that you’ll have sharpened your technical skills and gotten to know your CV like the back of your hand, but presentation, interpersonal and professional skills will all be analysed too.
Greg Thorpe, Managing Director of specialist recruitment agency Howett Thorpe, says: “Seemingly small things can make a big difference. Not doing your research on the business you’re applying to is a sure-fire way of irritating your interviewer, so always be prepared. Whether you arrive within plenty of time can also make the difference between you and the next candidate securing that all-important second interview – as can how polite you are to the receptionist or person who leads you to the interview room.
“An unexpected test during an interview can be stressful, but it’s often how you respond to the challenges – rather than the actual results – that can sway the balance.”
Suddenly these little things don’t seem so little after all.
2. Do your research
As hinted at above, many recruiters point to this as one of the most important aspects of preparation, so make sure you know at least a little about the company you’re interviewing for. On the off chance that you’re asked specifics about the business itself, you’ll be glad you did!
Kate Dalton, Client Services Manager at intranet software company Oak says: “Over the years, I have found that the key thing that consistently impresses is when candidates have done their research. Having a competent understanding of the company and its operations can be as simple as reading the ‘About Us’ section on its website and having a quick scroll through its Twitter feed, but it makes a huge difference!
“If nothing else, being well-versed on the prospective company’s background shows that you are interested and passionate.”
3. Body language is important
Your interviewer will know you’ll be nervous going into your interview, but it’s important to outwardly project the appearance of confidence during the process. Even how you’re dressed clues in the interviewer to a bit about yourself, so make sure you’ve scrubbed up well.
Stephen Martin, Recruitment Director at oil and gas recruiter Fircroft Group: “What we say and do is important, but up to 80% of our communication is non-verbal; stance, attitude and eye contact are all crucial in an interview setting. Throughout the interview, the employer needs to feel your engagement. Posture is crucial: keep your back straight and shoulders in line to convey a calm, but positive demeanour. Using your hands can also be a beneficial, friendly way to demonstrate enthusiasm and interest.
“Once you have mastered the art of conveying confident and positive body language, any lingering nerves will soon disappear.”
4. Take a ‘less is more’ approach
Similarly, if you’re nervous you might be given to rambling, garbled answers. It happens to all of us; you’re looking to impress so you try and cram everything into one answer, only to find you’ve ended up tripping over yourself.
Again, Stephen says “It can be easy to get carried away. You might find yourself talking too much, teetering off-topic or focusing solely on certain questions – with time flying by.
“You’ll no doubt be keen to tell the interviewer why you’re well-suited to the role, but keeping your messaging definitive and to the point is critical. Not only will this show the interviewer you’re able to concisely summarise key information, but it also demonstrates an element of poise and maturity when communicating with others in a business setting.
“And, of course, allowing your personality to show through and smiling throughout should also work in your favour!”
5. Turn up at just the right time
You’ll probably have heard the maxim “be early, but not too early”. It might be a tricky one to balance, but it’s important to keep in mind.
Lee Biggins, founder and managing director of employment website CV-Library says: “While being early can show your due diligence, it’s best to avoid going in until 10 minutes before the interview starts. After all, you might be ready, but your interviewer may not be!”
That said, it’s always better to err on the side of earliness. Lee says “similarly, make sure you aren’t late by planning your journey in advance – maybe even test it out a couple of days before. First impressions count and you don’t want to annoy your interviewer before the interview has even begun!”
6. Master the “what are your weaknesses?” answer
A tried and true interview question that’s often answered in the wrong way is the infamous “what are your weaknesses?” query. It might seem counter-intuitive to admit weaknesses during an interview, but there’s a gentle art to this answer that your interviewer will be looking out for. And if you get it right, you’re sure to impress them!
Craig Dalziel, Senior Manager at technology recruiters FRG Technology Consulting says: “A lot of people often end up giving examples of things that aren’t really weaknesses, such as perfectionism – who doesn’t want things to be perfect, right? – but interviewers are actually looking for answers that demonstrate how self-aware and reflective you are.
“It’s okay to admit that you’re not particularly great at a certain soft skill – nobody is perfect. The best answers will always include an action taken to remedy any weakness. If you identify public speaking as being your weakness, what are you doing to make yourself better at it? Answer this way and you’ll be able to demonstrate that you are reflective, proactive, and always looking for ways to improve.”
7. Prepare some questions of your own
Lee also notes the importance of coming equipped with questions to ask the interviewer themselves: “The interview isn’t just about you being asked a load of questions around why you’re the right person for the job. It’s also a great opportunity for you to find out more about your potential employer. While some of your questions may get covered during the interview, try to prepare a few which you can bring up towards the end of the meeting. Some great examples include: “how do you judge success in this role?”, “how would you describe the culture here?” and “what’s your favourite thing about working in this company?”
Asking questions in a way that shows you’ve researched the company is an added bonus, and you can even use this time in a way to learn more about your interviewer as a person, which will be a benefit if they’ll be your manager should you be successful. The worst thing you can reply with if your interviewer asks if you have any questions is a curt “no” – it gives the impression that you’re disinterested and want to get out of the room as soon as possible.
8. Suit up for Skype interviews
If you’re being interviewed over Skype, then approach it in the same way you would a regular face-to-face interview, even down to the way you dress. You might think that the atmosphere will be more relaxed, but Graham Oates, CEO of Norrie Johnston Recruitment, an executive search and interim management agency that frequently uses Skype, says this isn’t necessarily the case.
“Don’t attempt to just be smart from the waist up, assuming the interviewer will only see the top half of your body. I’ve been in plenty of Skype interview situations where the candidate has had to stand up. So, dress as if you were going to an in-person interview. In any event, you will feel – and look – more professional.
“So much of an interview is about interaction, maintaining eye contact and facial expression. The technology can compromise these if you aren’t careful, so remember to look at the camera, not the screen – that way the interviewer will feel you are maintaining eye contact. Smile and have an engaged and pleasant facial expression; try to forget you are talking to a computer screen and imagine the interviewer being physically in the room with you.
“Even if you have done many Skype interviews before, it’s still important you practice with a friend to ensure your mic is set up properly and your background isn’t distracting. Also, check that everything is working properly; you wouldn’t dream of turning up late for a face-to-face interview, so having to delay one over Skype because you haven’t done your technical groundwork is inexcusable.”
Looking for more interview tips and advice? Here’s some further reading to make sure you really nail things on the big day:
• Following up after an interview: how should you do it?
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