As someone who has been both an interviewer and a candidate, I can tell you that, whatever side of the table you’re sitting on, it can be quite an anxiety inducing situation.
There’s not really any other situation in life which is so unnatural. The closest thing I can honestly compare it to is a first date, but even then you don’t turn up with a prepared list of questions and a scoring sheet (well, hopefully not).
For years I thought I had interviews sussed, but it was only when I got the chance to interview other people that I really learnt a lot.
Here’s my top tips on how to smash the interview process and tell me, as an interviewer, what I want to hear.
Table of Contents
This is one of the single most impressive things a candidate can do.
We always start our interviews asking if they know anything about the company and what we do. We are asking this to test if you have done your research.
If a candidate was to come back and say yes, they know our mission statement, the number of offices we have, our main service etc, this would put them in a really good position for the rest of the interview.
Our interview prep workbook has some hints on what sort of research you should be doing, you can download it free here.
Tip: make flashcards of 5 – 10 facts about the company and learn them.
2. Prepare Answers For The Questions
Start preparing answers to the interview questions way ahead of time. You can never start this too early. You can’t predict the exact questions they are going to ask, but you can get pretty close.
Use resources online like ‘Total Jobs Most Common Interview Questions’ and write down answers in bullet points. It is important you physically write them down with pen and paper. Writing things by hand will help your brain to memorise the answers much better than typing things out.
Also, some questions in job interviews can really catch you off guard – such as ‘What is your biggest weakness?’. It’s important to have an answer planned for this!
Think about some more questions that relate to the job specification. Here are some examples:
Quote from job advert: ‘must have experience working in a team’
Possible questions: ‘Describe a time you have worked in a team’ or ‘What makes a team work effectively?’.
Quote from job advert: ‘must have experience using databases’
Possible questions: ‘what databases have you used?’ or ‘Are you comfortable learning new databases?’.
If you guess 60% of the interview questions and are prepared for them, then struggle on the other 40% that’s fine. It’s much better than not preparing at all and struggling on all of them!
The more questions you prep for, the more chance you have of a question you prepared for coming up in an interview.
3. What Questions To Ask At A Job Interview
I can pretty much guarantee the last question you will get in any interview is ‘do you have any questions for us’?
Your answer should always be yes! It shows a lack of interest if you say no. I recommend you have three questions. Write them down in a notebook, bring this to the interview and take notes about their answers.
Some good questions for you to ask are:
- What sort of training opportunities do you offer?
- What have other people in this role gone on to do?
- Do you have free company parking?
- Is there any opportunities to help out with anything extra in the company? Like attending events or doing overtime hours?
4. Prepare For The Practicalities Of The Day
You know what the number one killer of confidence is? Panic.
It might seem over the top, but plan EVERYTHING a week in advance. Write down these plans so you have an itinerary for the day.
Sit down with a pen and paper and walk yourself through the day. Start at the night before. How many alarms are you going to set? Lay out your outfit ready so you know everything is clean. What time will you go to bed?
Our job interview prep workbook has tick sheets to help you prepare for the day, download it here.
On the day, get to the destination an hour before the interview. Obviously don’t make your presence known that early, but treat yourself to a coffee nearby, sit in your car or somewhere else.
Get the journey out of the way, just so you have that time built in for the worst case scenario (like your car breaking down, extreme traffic jams, roadworks, the bus being late). Nothing looks worse than being late to an interview.
Make sure you do a dress rehearsal a few days before the job interview. Try on the exact outfit you are doing to wear – down to the underwear and the shoes. Even try on the exact makeup look you are going to do.
5. A Job Interview Is More Than Just Answers To Questions
For a while, it was my job to prepare all the interview materials, then go and greet the candidate and walk them to the interview.
And I would say about 90% of the time I would be able to guess correctly who would get the job, even without hearing their answers.
It was always the person who turned up 5 minutes early, who shook my hand when I arrived, who made good small talk on the walk to the room and who said please and thank you.
If you have got to interview stage, the recruiters already know you are capable of doing the job. They would be able to tell this from your CV. The only real reason for job interviews is to see if a candidates’ personality is going to fit in with the company.
You need to have good answers to the questions we ask you. We know that you know the answer, what we are testing is if you can communicate and if you are prepared.
6. Bring A Folder
Here are some of the things you should include in your folder:
- Right to work (passport or birth certificate- UK). All employers will need to see this at some point (either at interview stage or on your first day).
- Copies of any relevant training certificates you have.
- Spare copies of your CV or application – just in case.
- A notebook that contains the questions you want to ask, with a space to write down notes about their answers.
7. If You Are Unsuccessful, Always Ask For Feedback
There have been interviews I have done and I thought I had absolutely smashed them.
Then I got the phone call letting me know that I was unsuccessful. I remember this happening once and just being gutted; it had gone perfectly!
My friend had some contacts in that company, and she had done some subtle digging for me. Turns out I had come second in the scoring process. The person who came first actually worked at the company already. Even though I was more qualified than the person who got the job, she already knew the business which is sometimes is much more valuable.
I have been unsuccessful at lots of interviews in the past, but I’ve gotten much better because I have always asked for feedback. See the email template here.
Asking for feedback is so important because it turns the negative experience of not getting the job into a more useful learning opportunity.
Conclusion – Tips For A Job Interview
If you are unsuccessful, remember that some things just aren’t meant to be.
I once applied for a job at a company I was really interested in working for, mainly because of all the environmental work they did. It really looked like a place that I could thrive in! I went to interview and was so upset when I didn’t get it.
Then, a few weeks later, I got a chance to go into their main offices (the interview had been held elsewhere) and lining the walls were hundreds of paper posters printed out with different climate change pictures on.
No facts. Just pictures.
Printed out on hundreds of sheets of wasted paper.
At a company that was known for its environmental efforts!
It was then I realised that perhaps I maybe didn’t get the job because I clearly just wouldn’t have fitted in. It looked like I dodged a bullet.
The bottom line is you are going to be unsuccessful at more interviews than you are going to be successful. The only way you are going to get better and therefore rise above the competition is to keep on failing, getting feedback and improving.
If you are persistent, you will succeed.
What did you think of this article? Is there any interview tips you’ve tried before that have really helped you? Let us know in the comments below!