With so many people looking for work at the moment, and people reporting record numbers of people applying for each job, it’s never been so challenging to find employment. Just getting called to interview is an achievement. Of course, getting called to interview can be just the start of a long recruitment process, but also, unlike with a CV which is always open to interpretation, an interview is your chance to shine:
The first thing you have to control is your nerves, so make sure that you make life as easy as possible. Find the location early – you don’t want to be rushing – and then take a walk to explore the local area. Aside from giving you something to do which isn’t thinking about the interview, it’ll give you some quick and easy small talk with your interviewers.
First of all, make sure that you research your prospective employer thoroughly knowing who they are and what they do inside out. If you know who’s going to interview you, have a look for their profile on the company website if they have one. Whilst you don’t want to say: “I know you play the violin” (it’s a little over the top) you might want to turn the conversation towards music (or whatever relevant topic) if you get the chance. Success at an interview is all about a personal connection, and it’s not just about you, so don’t be afraid to make conversation.
Secondly, it’s worth getting in contact with your interviewers several days before the interview itself. Ask if there’s anything that you have to prepare (most of the time, they’ll tell you, but if they haven’t said anything, contacting them and asking is a good way of preventing any surprises, and of showing that you’re engaged and can take the initiative). Also, some interviews are quite casual, so if there’s any doubt, you can ask for advice on the dress code.
You should rehearse the answers to certain questions that you will almost certainly get asked, the top three are:
1) Why do you want to work for this company?
2) What do you think you’d bring to the role?
3) Where do you see yourself in five years time?
For each of these questions you need to be prepared, and your answers have to be clear and concise and not rattle on. Draw clear lines between your competencies and interests and the work that the company does. Be honest, but at the same time, fit your answer to your employer. For the third question, don’t be afraid to show ambition, if you want to get promoted, say so, but also point out that you’re aware you need to learn the ropes first.
Be aware of your body language, but don’t be obsessed with it. Face your interviewers directly, and if one asks you a question, answer to them. Listen attentively, and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you’re not sure. This is a good tactic because 1) it gives you time to think and 2) it makes sure that you don’t spend ages answering the wrong question. Sit up right, and lean forward just a little bit. All in all, imagine they’re the most interesting person in the world, and act accordingly.
Finally, a common interview question is “what are your weaknesses?” To a certain extent it’s a loaded question, but there are good and bad ways of answering it. Everyone says “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard.” These answers are trite and won’t make an impression on the interviewer. Try “I’m not very good at foreign languages” (most Brits aren’t, and it is a weakness in a global workforce) or simply “Inexperience”, experience is what every employer is looking for, so if you haven’t got it, it is an obvious weakness, and one that you’re obviously looking to immediately amend.