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You’ve got the skills that a recruiter/company is looking for, and your polished CV and accompanying covering letter have secured you an interview. Now you’ve got a foot in the door the hard part is over, right? Unfortunately, not. You’ve still got to ace the interview and demonstrate why said company would be mad not to hire you.
[Related reading: https://www.polytec.co.uk/whats-new/your-top-5-cv-faqs-answered.html]
But interviews are often daunting for many people. The thought of entering a room full of people you’ve never met before and selling yourself to them is one that fills most with dread.
The good news though is that they needn’t be. With the right preparation, you can walk into that interview room and be confident that you’ll give it your best shot (and hopefully land the role).
To help you prepare, we’ve compiled this list of 8 interview tips:
1. Interview prep
Hopefully, you’ll already know what the company you’re having an interview with does and what the role you’re applying for involves. It will have almost certainly been part of your pre-application research.
However, if for some reason you applied in haste and you’re not 100% what the company does or what the role is all about, make it your mission to find out before your interview (not during). Companies frequently open interviews with questions like “What do you know about us?” or “Why does this particular role interest you?”
2. Personal prep
On the morning of your interview, the last thing you want to be doing is figuring out what you’re going to wear or frantically hunting for your favourite pair of shoes. Get everything ready the night before – even down to the socks you’re going to wear.
Then, get up early the next day to ensure you’ve got plenty of time to get ready. Rushing around and stressing out on the morning of an interview isn’t exactly going to put you in the right frame of mind.
If you’re ready well before the interview, take advantage of the time you’ve got to brush up on your research.
Again, be prepared.
3. Location prep
Prior to your interview, you should be absolutely certain where the company is located; how long it takes to get there; and what the best transport options are. You should also have the name of the contact you’ll be asking for when you arrive cemented in your brain.
It’s also worth checking ahead of time to see if there are going to be any potential disruptions on the day of your interview – demonstrations, transport strikes, adverse weather, etc.
Plan to arrive well ahead of time and then find a nearby coffee shop in which you can gather your thoughts and calm your nerves.
4. How to deal with interview nerves
Interviews are usually nerve-racking. That’s a given. But there are some simple things you can do to make them less so.
First, arrive for your interview early. That’s because there’s nothing worse than being pushed for time. It stresses you out and will undo a lot of the good prep work you’ve done.
Second, remain calm. The interviewer(s) wants to hear about you, your skills and your experience. You are the best person to tell them, but not if your nerves get the better of you. Take deep breaths before you enter the room and breathe normally once you’re inside.
If they offer you a glass of water, accept it. Drinking from a glass of water is a great way to break things up a little and help you regain your composure. Remember to sit up straight (not slouch) and appear confident - even if you are really nervous deep down.
5. How to answer awkward questions
Maybe you’ve got some employment gaps in your career history (many people do). If the interviewer asks you about them, be honest. If you spent a year travelling SE Asia after you finished studying because you weren’t quite ready to start climbing the corporate ladder right away, explain that.
If the reason why you left your previous job doesn’t shine you in a particularly great light, say that you are looking for a new challenge. Chances are you are, so you’re not lying if you say that and it provides a great opportunity to discuss the intricacies of the role further.
“What are your biggest weaknesses?” It’s a question that fills people with dread, but it really shouldn’t. The best way to answer is to offer something that is indeed a weakness of yours, but one that can be easily fixed.
For example: “I get nervous when speaking in front of large groups of people. But it’s something I’ve actually been practising and working on in recent times.”
Never say you don’t have any weaknesses. It’ll make you appear arrogant.
6. What to do if you don’t know how to answer
Sometimes, you might encounter an interview question that you simply don’t know the answer to. If you find yourself in such a position, never lie. The interviewer(s) will see right through it and that’s never good.
Instead, be honest and explain that you don’t know the answer. In addition, offer some ways in which you would go about finding it out if you ever had to. This shows willingness to learn and ingenuity.
7. Always ask about next steps
At the end of the interview, thank those involved for their time and ask about next steps before leaving with a smile on your face. If the interviewer(s) says they will get back to you, probe for an approximate timescale and then double check they have all of your correct contact details.
Enquiring about next steps shows you are keen and helps you better manage your own expectations, instead of sitting by the phone.
8. Following up after an interview
There’s nothing stopping you sending a polite follow-up email to your agency (that's us!) the next morning to reiterate how interested you are in the role and working for the company. If you've any additional information that you remembered after the interview, you can pass this on now, and your consultant will try to get this information across to the client.
Now go and nail that interview! Good luck…