At once one of the most utterly terrifying but oddly empowering experiences you will ever go through in your adult life. Some people are amazing at interview and shine more than they ever will in the office, whereas others find it akin to some form of modern day torture. Regardless of which camp you’re in, interviews are an integral part of the employment process. So it pays to always be prepared.
Once you’ve perfected your CV (see our tops on how to do this here), and you’ve had an invite to interview, it’s then time to pull out all the stops. Here are some top tips on how to shine at interview and get the most out of the experience.
1. Remember it’s a two way street.
Sure, they are interviewing you for a position in their company, shop, team, whatever the case may be, and so they need to know that you fit the bill. That’s why they will ask you pertinent questions, discuss your work history, and try to make an accurate character judgement. It makes sense and is all part of the process.
However, never forget that you are also there to make sure that the position in their company, shop, or team, fits you too. It needs to be a position that you are interested in or qualified for, and so you are well within your rights to ask them questions too. Never be afraid to ask for more details about the position for which you’re interviewing. I often ask questions along the lines of ‘what would a day in this role look like for me’ and ‘is this a role in which you see space for development’ when I attend interview, as I need to gauge whether this position is right for me too.
2. Do your research
There is nothing less professional than walking into a job interview knowing absolutely nothing about the company for which you are interviewing. You don’t have to have stalker level knowledge, but basic things such as what industry they work in, the way in which they operate, their corporate vision, and any other key points of information should all be filed away in your mind so that you are able to discuss them if need be.
Not only is it more professional, but by getting a better understanding of the company before you attend the interview you will have a better idea of whether you want the role, and you will be able to ask more detailed and insightful questions. As with most thins in life, your whole experience will be improved the more knowledge you have.
3. Never be afraid to ask them to repeat themselves.
Seeing as how for most of us, blind panic is the default setting for interviews, it is perfectly natural that you will mishear or even completely blank out some questions or comments. Your mind works in strange ways under pressure and those who are interviewing you will be perfectly aware of this. Asking someone to repeat a statement or question is neither foolish nor unprofessional.
In fact, having the assertiveness to admit you missed something and ask to hear it again can reflect positively on you, rather than you grappling about trying to answer a question you only half heard or understood.
4. Always find a way to say what you want to say
My old brother in law told me this, and to this day it is something I make sure I do at every interview I attend. Before you go write down five things you want the interviewers to know about you and your professional experience. (Obviously making sure it relevant to the role). Keep these in your mind at interview and make sure that you find a way to mention all five of them in the course of the discussion.
If they ask a question that you don’t know how to answer, or if you wish to answer a different question altogether in order to showcase your talents, then find a way to turn it into an answer that you want to give. Shift the focus.
5. Non-verbal is key
As with all human relationships, what you say is only a tiny fraction of what is actually going on when you communicate.
Make sure that you make adequate eye contact. If you have more than one interviewer try to make eye contact with all of them every time you answer a question. Sit up straight and leave your hands in your lap or in front of you on the table. It’s a neutral position but gives off an air of confidence and control.
Smile. Not so often that you look like a maniac, or that you are not taking the situation seriously, but smiling puts people at ease and creates an atmosphere in which you hold a lot of the power. Because for many people, their natural reaction to anxiety or unease is to frown, smiling indicates confidence and calm self-assuredness.
I remember coming out of my first job interview at a local bank branch in my hometown; I was seventeen. I sat down on the nearest bench and burst into tears in the middle of the high street. I’d bombed it and I knew it. I was mortified that I had interviewed so badly, and I felt at that moment that the world might as well collapse, because what was the point of it all carrying on?
I’ve always been a tad dramatic.
Although it can come as a bitter blow when you don’t get a job that you thought you interviewed well for, don’t let it dent your confidence. If you don’t get a job then it just means you were not a good fit for each other, and so it’s the best decision. Other jobs will come along and the one that is right for you will be the one that you get.