Preparing for an interview
At the outset, it is important to develop a friendly yet professional rapport with everyone you meet in the organisation.
This can be achieved through a firm handshake, sustained eye contact, a warm smile, good posture and introducing yourself in a relaxed and confident manner.
A few basics about superficial presentation bear repeating. A well-groomed, professional appearance is essential. Anything else will detract from the best possible impression you can make.
While the interviewers will primarily determine the format, it is important that you highlight your relevant skills, attributes and achievements during the course of the interview. In addition, bear in mind that an interview is a brief period of time in which to make an impression.
You want yours to be a positive one. Present the highs and not the lows.If more than one person is interviewing you, be sure to address all of the people in the room when you are answering questions. Even if one person is doing most of the talking, or if interviewers are alternating questions, it is polite and professional to maintain eye contact with each person.Communicating information about yourself is your responsibility. It is not up to the interviewer to drag it out of you.
Find opportunities in the interview to raise points that will highlight attributes you have which are relevant to the position.Listed at the end of this section are examples of common questions. You will note that some are simply variations on a theme. If you spend some time considering how you would answer the ones on this list, you should be able to respond to questions more smoothly and with greater confidence.
It’s normal to feel nervous when you have an interview because you want to do your best. With preparation and practice you can get the better of your nerves and give yourself the best chance of getting the job. Read our guides to see how you can improve your performance.
What to do:
- dress smartly, look bright and attentive, and speak clearly and confidently. Don’t forget that in the first few minutes only 7% of the interviewer’s opinion of you is formed by what you say, the rest is judged on how you look, act and sound
- find out where the venue is beforehand, how to get there and how long it takes
- get your outfit ready the night before
- find out what kind of interview it will be so you can prepare
- examine the person specification and your CV/application form, and think about what type of questions they will ask you
- prepare answers for the main questions – for example, why do you want the job, what are your strengths and weaknesses, what are the main tasks in this job?
- make about three or four points in each answer
- quote real examples of when you’ve used certain skills – just saying you’ve got a skill isn’t enough
- take your time when answering the questions: make sure you understand the question and take your time if you need to think
- sell yourself: no one else is going to! Be positive about yourself and your experiences
- prepare some questions to ask at the end of the interview – use it as an opportunity to find out more about the role and the company. (Don’t ask about money or perks just yet!)
- when discussing salary, know your market worth and start by quoting a little higher than this
- get feedback on your performance, whether you were successful or not
- turn off your mobile phone: treat the interviewers with respect and give them your undivided attention
- keep your answers focused on what you can do for the employer, not what they can do for you
What not to do:
- don’t be late
- don’t swear or use slang words
- don’t slouch in your seat or do anything that makes you look uninterested
- don’t smoke
- don’t lie: the interviewer may see through you. Even if you get the job, your employer can dismiss you if they find out that you have not been honest
- don’t let your nerves show too much; a few nerves are normal but extreme nerves will affect your performance. Use breathing techniques and try to
- remember that it’s not a life and death situation – there are plenty of jobs out there!
- don’t be arrogant and assume you’ve got the job. Nothing turns off employers more than someone who is disrespectful and over-confident
- don’t discuss controversial topics such as religion, politics and gender relations
- don’t read from notes or your CV — you should be familiar enough with your own history to be able to talk about it unprompted
- don’t criticise former employers or colleagues. Interviewers may mark you down as a troublemaker and a gossip
- don’t argue with the interviewer, no matter what. Remember to keep things positive!
These rules apply for most jobs. However, employers in some industries can use more relaxed and informal interviewing techniques.
Above all, preparation is the key to performing well in interviews. Research the role and organisation, and prepare evidence and examples of your skills and competencies.