16th September 2019
You’ve found the perfect opening for the job you’ve been searching for, perhaps for a long while. There’s just one thing standing between you and your dream role – the interview.
The process can be stressful. What if you mess up on your answers or you forget everything you have prepared?
Here’s the thing, though. Yes, nerves can get the better of you in demanding situations, but the employer sitting opposite you was in your position at one time or another and they will be expecting you to be nervous. In fact, they themselves will be fully prepared to give leeway for any slip-ups as long as it’s clear that you have prepared and show promise and a good attitude.
Top Tips to Help you Prepare
While there are no miracle cures for the nerves, there are still plenty of ways to help you prepare for an interview and give yourself the best possible chance at landing the job.
Do your Research
The first and most obvious tip that all interviewees should follow is to research not only the company but the industry itself.
An interview might ask questions such as how you see the company’s position within the industry, who their competitors are or even simply what they actually do.
Bear in mind that employers aren’t looking for who can regurgitate the most information on their business. They simply want you to demonstrate that you have put in the effort to understand their company, so make your research broad enough that you are able to show initiative but keep it simple so as not to overload your mind.
Know your Selling Points
Employers want to know why you are the best person for the job, so you need to sell yourself well.
Go in with around 3 to 5 key selling points in mind – you don’t have to use them all, but they’re there if you need them.
Your selling points could be anything from ‘I have good communication skills’ to ‘I work well under pressure’. However, be ready to follow up with a relevant example of a time you demonstrated the skill or trait.
Anticipate any Concerns the Interviewer Might Have
Most jobs have more candidates than there are actual job openings for, so employers need to find a way of filtering down through applicants to make the ultimate hiring decision that bit easier.
For that reason alone, interviewers will be looking for any reasons why they shouldn’t hire you. This could be for any number of reasons including a skill set that you don’t have but they would prefer or a lack of experience.
Make sure that you know the job requirements and pick out any areas that you think might hold you back and predetermine a response which might just make them think twice about you.
Better yet – bring up any possible issues yourself. If your concern is that they want someone with a minimum of 2 years’ IT experience, you could say something along the lines of ‘I realise that I have no official experience working in IT, but I am extremely proud of the time I have spent coding in my spare time and I am confident that this, along with my innate ability to pick things up quickly, will make me an ideal candidate for this role.’
Prepare for Commonly Asked Interview Questions
There are plenty of lists available with a quick Google search of ‘most frequently asked interview questions’.
Get a hold of one and consider which questions you might be asked based on the job you are applying for, your age and your experience and decide on how you will answer them if they crop up – to play it safe, you could even think about answers for them all.
This way, you won’t be left trying to fumble around in your head for an answer to a very simple question on the spot.
Have your own Questions
It’s equally as important for you to ask the interviewer questions as it is for them to ask you. Come up with some questions to ask during your interview which will both demonstrate your knowledge of the company and your serious intent.
The best questions to ask will always put the candidate in the centre of the company – for example, ‘what are your long-term goals for the successful candidate?’
A good all-round question is ‘if you could design the ideal candidate for this position, what would they be like?’
It’s advisable to have a few questions on standby, just in case you find yourself in a series of interviews with the same company.
You can be as prepared as you like, but the only way you will be able to deliver your answers and questions with confidence is to have a dry run before the interview. The first time you try it, you’ll probably get your words muddled, but do it another few times and you’ll find yourself sounding way more articulate.
The best way to rehearse it to ask a couple of friends to role play with you. Have them act as your interviewers and ask you some of the questions you anticipate coming up in your actual interview. Responding to someone asking the question rather than playing it out in your head will be much more beneficial.
Some people have a preconception that putting in too much practice will make them sound too polished during the interview, but this is not the case. The smoother your delivery, the better prepared you’ll come across; and you need to remember that you’ll be nervous, so the anxiety of the situation will eliminate any feelings you have of feeling glib.
Make a Good First Impression
It’s said that interviewers will make up their mind about you in the first five minutes of the interview and will spend the remainder of the time trying to prove themselves right.
To get in on the interview with your best foot forward, you need to make the finest first impression possible.
How do you do that? Enter the interview with energy and enthusiasm and express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.
Another great starting point is to begin with a positive comment or compliment of the company. Nothing too over the top – just a simple ‘I’ve really been looking forward to meeting with you today. I think that the company does some great work and I’m excited about the prospect of being able to contribute to that’.
Show that you’re on the Same Side
You and the interviewer have a common goal. They want to find the best possible candidate for the job and you want to prove that you are the best candidate.
All applicants who are lucky enough to make it through to the interview stage of the recruitment process are going to be trying to prove the same thing with their rehearsed one-liners and intelligent answers, so you need to find a way to show the interviewer that you’re on the same page as them when it comes to the best interests of the business.
Suggest that you are happy to spend some time getting to know the company and let them get to know you better to establish whether you would be a good fit for the role and the company as a whole.
Know that it’s YOUR Interview
Always remain polite and respectful, but don’t confuse those qualities with passiveness. Don’t wait to be spoken to before you begin speaking. Take responsibility for the direction you want your interview to go in and make sure that you leave the meeting feeling confident that the interviewer knows all of your selling points.
Don’t dwell on negative experiences or your bad points in an interview – you’re there to sell yourself, so you must show up with your A-game.
If the interviewer asks you a negative question like ‘what did you like least about your last employer’, don’t answer it directly. Instead, spin your response to be more positive. For example, ‘I’ve worked at a number of companies in my career and have learned that, while I may not always enjoy every aspect of the job, there are always many areas that I love. To give you an example, I found working at my last job a bit tough because of the commute, but my employer was very supportive and made working there worth every bit of the long hours I spent travelling’.
Having a positive attitude will translate to the interviewer that you have a can-do approach and will be a valuable asset to the company.
Bring a copy of your CV
This is basic part and parcel of being well prepared. Always have a copy of your CV to hand when attending an interview if for no other reason than as a backup in case the interviewer misplaces their copy. It will save a boatload of time if you can simply pass over your copy instead of them having to mess about trying to find and print off a new one.
Really Tell them about Yourself
The ‘tell me about yourself’ question is used by a lot of interviewers as an ice breaker to help you relax into the meeting, but that doesn’t make it any less important to the interview process. The answer that you give will help the interviewer to understand you as a person and whether or not you seem like a good fit for the company, so make the most of this question.
Acknowledge that there are many things you could talk about, but you’d like to focus on a few points that you like most about yourself and then shimmy into your chosen selling points.
Use the Right Body Language
Simple but important things to do when attending an interview are:
- To dress appropriately.
- Make good eye contact with the interviewer.
- Give a firm handshake.
- Maintain good posture.
- Speak clearly.
- Don’t wear too much perfume or aftershave (there’s nothing worse than being in a small stuffy room with no aircon and an overpowering smell of stale cologne).
Follow Up After the Interview
It doesn’t have to be a long correspondence, but write a thank you note after the interview. Customise it to refer specifically to points you discussed with the interviewer, like ‘I particularly enjoyed discussing your forecast for the company over the next 5 years and am interested to see where that time takes you’.
Send the note within 48 hours of the interview to keep the interviewer’s impression of you fresh in their mind – that extra little touch could go a long way to helping you land the role.
Don’t Give Up!
Most importantly, if you think that an interview didn’t go well but you know you would be perfect for the roll, don’t give up. Follow up with an email explaining that you did a poor job of communicating why you think you’re a good fit on this occasion, but that you know you can do better and would like the opportunity to prove it. Reiterate what you have to offer the company and that you would be grateful for another chance.
There’s no guarantee that this will work, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
Clarisse works as the Lead of our Customer Support Team to provide all of our customers with the very best care and guidance when using their HR software.