Top Tips for Succeeding in an Interview
Before the interview:
What do I wear?
Selecting which clothes to wear for an interview is often guesswork – but it shouldn’t be! To give yourself the best chance, research relevant details about the company that may affect their expectations for prospective employees. This may include the size of the company, the sector they’re in, or their work ethic.
If you’re really unsure, send them a considered email containing your dress code query; and, if some lines are still blurred, remember that it’s better to overdress than underdress, so a smarter outfit should always be preferential.
How and what should I prepare?
- Unfortunately, there’s no way to ascertain what they’re going to ask you prior to the interview, nor is there an exhaustive list of possible interview questions. Therefore, the only way to prepare for the questions themselves is to practise the most common ones.
To take it a step further you should practise any questions that particularly stump you, for example, “Do you have any weaknesses?” or the dreaded, “So, tell me about yourself…” – where do you even start with that one? Conscientious candidates arrive armed with pre-planned answers that they can recall speedily and fluently for these menacing questions.
- Successful interviewees research relevant information prior to the interview, as it demonstrates a fastidious approach. Inform yourself on what the company do, the service they provide, their pride values, work ethic, and anything else applicable (perhaps a mission statement, if they have one). This may sound tedious, but you will thank yourself when you land the job!
During the interview:
What to do:
– Be original – a fool-proof way to become an interviewer’s worst nightmare is to utter the phrase “I’m a + perfectionist/team player/natural leader/go-getter” – they’ve heard it all before. Instead, focus on specific examples, maybe a time you stepped up and did more than you had to, and discuss which characteristic this displays and why that renders you distinct from other candidates.
– Be an “active listener” and consider the interviewer’s every word – it may give you a clue as to how to answer the question; then, pause before answering to check in with yourself and your nerves. This rules out any rushed responses that run risk of falling under the ‘wrong answer’ category. Taking these measures is an important skill as they will help you appear self-assured, attentive and controlled – so hone your listening skills!
– “So, do you have any questions?” – the wrong answer here would be, “No, I think you’ve covered them all, actually.” It portrays an ‘unbothered’ attitude, and an unwillingness to expand your knowledge on the company, which would reflect undesirably on the interviewer.
As such, always aim to have at least one thoughtful, in-depth question up your sleeve that proves to the interviewer that you are eager to learn. It’s a good idea to plan at least two questions before the interview (in case the interviewer covers one). Ensure your question concerns the company and their work ethic rather than yourself – asking the interviewer how many days holidays you’re eligible for is not going to help you win them over. Also, it’s polite to precede your question by thanking the interviewer for what they did cover.
What not to do
– Don’t get too comfortable – although the interviewer may make you feel at home, don’t forget where you are! However inadvertently, you run risk of marking yourself out as unsuitable for the role if you reveal anything controversial or, simply, irrelevant.
– Don’t ramble – if can’t organise your words, interviewers may think you can’t organise your work either – not a good impression to leave on the interviewer. That said, don’t say too little either. Aim to give detailed responses backed up with relevant evidence, without going off on tangents. Put simply, don’t say one hundred words if one would have sufficed as you will bore the interviewer and any favourable view of you will diminish.
A few things that you could improve for your next interview
- While there may never be a ‘right’ answer, there’s always a ‘wrong’ answer. These include answers that make you seem unbothered or, at the other end of the spectrum, over-eager. If your answer is lengthy, ask the interviewer if they would like you to go on – this proves that you are self-aware as well as eliminating the possibility of a convoluted answer with no real direction.
- Back up your responses with evidence (whenever possible). Otherwise, how can they ascertain that you’re telling the truth?
- Communication and teamwork – these are universal skills that are applicable to most roles. Diligent candidates will equip themselves with an example that displays each of these skills (among others).