A lot of people get stressed out about interviews. After all, you only have a short amount of time to prove that you are the best candidate while being grilled about your skills and experience. To add even more pressure, the result of the interview could change your life forever. That’s a lot to deal with. However, if you’re well prepared for your interview, then you can make sure you have an answer for whatever the interviewer throws at you.
Although interviews are clearly high-pressure situations, we have some handy tips for how you can make yours a success:
- Do background research
- Be ready for anything
- Present yourself well
- Prepare your own questions
- Be super-organised
While nerves are inevitably going to kick-in, by following this simple interview advice you can reduce your stress and shine. What’s more, it can all be done before you even set foot in the interview room.
1) Do background research
Obviously, if you’ve applied for a position or place, you’ll know a little something about the position. The chances are that you wouldn’t have been invited for interview if you hadn’t shown knowledge and enthusiasm about the company or institution in your application form.
However, now is the time to take it to the next level. In order to give yourself the best chance in your interview, it’s a great idea to learn everything you can. Think about:
- Who will be interviewing you? First of all, find out your interviewers’ names – this not only gives you one less thing to worry about on the day but also makes it easier to create a rapport with your interviewers. In addition, try to find out about their backgrounds and interests.
- What is the company’s/institution’s ethos? A simple click on their website will tell you a lot. A youthful internet start-up will have a different ethos to an investment bank, and you need to know what to expect.
- What is the company’s/institution’s history? Knowing a place’s history will help you to understand where you might fit in its future. For example, if the company is old, will you be able to bring a fresh perspective? If it is very new, can you provide some much-needed experience?
Knowing your stuff with a bit of background research can make your life easier, let you know what to expect, and give you the chance to impress your interviewers with your knowledge and enthusiasm. A small amount of preparation will give you a big advantage.
2) Be ready for anything
This is good advice for life in general, but it is especially helpful for interviews. As an interviewee, you need to be prepared for every possible scenario. In practice, this means thinking about all the questions that your interviewers might ask.
Of course, it is often difficult to know what angle an interviewer will take. Will they focus on general issues or specifics? Will they ask any unusual questions? Here are a few rules of thumb to get yourself prepared:
- Read and re-read your application – This one sounds obvious, but make sure you know exactly what you said on your application form and why. It is likely that an interviewer will ask you to talk more about some of the details you mention in your application. For example, if you said that your leadership skills were enhanced by doing a particular project, they might ask you how and why.
- Double-check the requirements – Your interviewers will almost certainly ask you why you are the right person for the job or place that you are interviewing for. To answer this kind of question, you need to know exactly what their requirements are and exactly how your skills and experience fit in. Thankfully, it is easy to prepare these answers in advance with a little time and effort.
- Practise with someone you trust – If you can, get some practice at answering questions in real time with a friend or colleague, ideally someone who knows a thing or two about job interviews. Forbes has some great tips on how to do a useful practice interview.
- Consider unusual angles – While it is more than likely that your interviewers will ask you about your skills and experience, they may try some unconventional tactics to see how you think. Website The Balance offers an article on some of the more unusual questions you might come across in interviews.
Of course, an interviewer won’t be able to ask you about everything, but you need to prepare as if they will.
3) Present yourself well
The purpose of an interview is to find out about you, your skills, your experience, and whether you would be a good fit for a particular job, university or company. It’s not a beauty contest. That being said, the way you present yourself is important because it sends a message to the interviewer.
For example, if you wear scruffy jeans and a t-shirt to an interview at a bank, you will give the impression that you don’t know what a banker should wear and have no respect for the profession. On the other hand, you will seem like a bad communicator if you mumble and don’t make eye contact. In short, if you present yourself badly then it won’t matter what you’re actually saying.
With this in mind, remember the following:
- Wear the right clothes – While most interviews will require you to dress formally, the most important thing is to dress appropriately for the situation. Michigan State University’s Career Services Network gives some good advice on dressing for interviews.
- Be tidy – Make sure that your clothes and hair are clean and tidy.
- Work on facial expressions and body language – When practising for your interview, don’t forget the importance of smiling and avoid negative gestures like crossing your arms or looking at the floor. Employment website Totaljobs have some dos and don’ts.
- Be self-confident – Before your interview, remind yourself of just how skilled, experienced, talented and friendly you are. This will make you feel better, and should directly result in presenting yourself more impressively.
The way you present yourself is not worth more than substance, but both are essential for a successful interview. Try to keep them in perfect balance.
4) Prepare your own questions
OK, you’ve done background research, thought about all the questions they might ask, and presented yourself perfectly in the interview. Everything’s going well, but then comes the crucial moment: “Do you have any questions for us?”
In almost all interview situations, the interviewer will ask if you have any questions. While some people see this as a dreaded moment, it is much better to see it as an opportunity to take the initiative and show that you have thought deeply about your application. Try to prepare multiple questions, though you certainly won’t need to ask all of them. What’s more, you might think of some new questions during the interview itself. Jobs website Monster.co.uk has some good recommendations.
Remember that an interview is for your benefit too. Ask questions which will help you to work out whether a place is right for you. For example, what are the overtime and holiday policies? Are there many opportunities for promotion? This is a valuable chance for you to get more information so that you can make an informed decision.
5) Be super-organised
On the day of the interview, you want to feel calm, focused and free of distractions so that nothing stands between you and a great performance. The last thing you need is to get lost on the way or to get caught in a sudden storm with no umbrella.
We can’t plan for every possible situation, and some issues will always be out of our control. Nevertheless, being super-organised and making good practical preparations can rule out a lot of problems. It is important to:
- Get ready the night before – Make sure that everything you need, from clothes to documents to your umbrella, is laid out and ready the night before your interview. Then you can wake up and not have to worry about getting it all sorted.
- Plan your route – Check where your interview is taking place and work out your route ahead of time. Give yourself plenty of time for the journey itself, so that if your train is late or the traffic is worse than usual, you have a safety net.
- Be early – Aim to arrive at your interview early so that you have time to settle your nerves and clear your mind.
- Eat and drink – Your body needs energy to function, and so make sure that you eat and drink enough to keep you fresh and energised throughout your interview, even if you’re nervous. Business Insider has some tips on what to eat and what to avoid.
If you think about these things ahead of time, then you’ll have a whole lot less to worry about on the day.
An interview is never easy, but by following these five handy tips you can give yourself the best opportunity to shine. Remember, you wouldn’t have an interview to begin with unless they thought you could be the right person, so have confidence, prepare thoroughly, and show them what you’ve got.