Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Job Interview Tips

One of my Twitter friends, Charlotte, tweeted a request for job interview technique blog posts last week and it set my mind whirring ... I LOVE job interviews! Maybe I could write a helpful post on interview technique? I've been working since I was 16, had more jobs than I care to remember and I've only had one interview where I wasn't offered the job so I suppose I must be doing something right.

So here are my tips to help you give good interview. It's a long post, better get yourself a cup of tea ...

Before the big day - 'to fail to prepare is to prepare to fail'

Research the company
Check their website and Google them. Found out about their market, main competitors and any recent industry changes.You need to let them know that you understand their business and are able to discuss it intelligently
Re-read your CV
You need to know it inside out and be ready for any questions eg 'what did you do in this two month gap between working for Gucci and Prada?' (if only, eh?)
Re-read the job advertisement
Remind yourself exactly what they are looking for, make sure you understand what they are require in a candidate and can demonstrate how you could add value. Also, try to use some of their own phrases (in a discreet way, not parrot fashion!)
Make a list of questions you want to ask
Take a notebook with a list of questions you want to ask the interviewer and some prompts for yourself - bullet point the things you want to make sure you mention eg relevant experience and past achievements, you can sneak a peek at these if your mind goes blank. It's also a good idea to Google 'interview questions' too as some employers trot out the same old unimaginative questions, it's good to have some answers ready.
Plan what to wear
And ensure it is laundered and ready! Trouser suits used to be a big no no but I think those days are gone now! Skirts shouldn't be too short and it goes without saying that you shouldn't layer on the make up with a trowel if you want to look professional and be taken seriously
Make sure you know where you are going
Write the address in your notebook, as well as a telephone number in case the worst happens and you are delayed.

When you get there

Arrive early
I suggest you aim to be around half an hour early. This allows you time to get stuck in traffic, park (they may not have their own car park) and prepare yourself. Re read your CV, the job advertisement, any notes you have made
Check your appearance
Do your final make up check. Check your teeth for errant herbs, pop in a breath mint and switch off your phone!
Present yourself at Reception
I usually aim to be about 10 minutes early. This gives me time to sit down, take some deep breaths and get a feel for the place. Don't sit with hands clasped unless you want sweaty palms!

During the interview

Appear confident
Even if you don't feel it! Fake it til you make it. Give a good firm handshake and make eye contact. Think about your body language. Sit back in your seat and cross your legs at the ankle, keeping your knees together
Take it steady
Speak slowly, try not to get flustered or out of breath. If it's a panel interview, make sure you speak to everyone, don't just focus on the person in front of you or the person who asks the most questions. Relax - they fully expect you to be nervous. Just do your best and try to look comfortable
Make it interactive
They're not looking for a puppet who can sit like a rabbit in the headlights and give monosyllabic answers. This is your opportunity to convince them that you are the candidate they have been waiting for. Expand on your answers with relevant experience and past achievements. Ask your questions if they aren't covered
Good questions to ask
'What attracted you to working for xxx?'
I asked my boss this question at my interview and he told me later it really made him think and reminded him that an interview is as much about the employer selling their company to the candidate as it is about the candidate selling themself to the employer
'Is this a new position?' If it's not, try 'If you don't mind my asking, why did the last employee leave this position?'
You may find out that the last person who held the role has been promoted internally - great if you want a defined career path. If you're not confident to ask this, try 'What is your policy on internal recruitment - do you often promote from within?'
Salary and holiday entitlement - you must ask if you don't already know. It shows you are seriously considering the position. Be bold and if they give you a bracket - 'I assume, with my experience, that I would sit at the higher end of that bracket?'

*A note on holidays*
A new employer is not obliged to honour any existing booked holidays. So if they don't ask you at the interview if you have any holidays booked, it's a good idea to bring it up to avoid any nasty surprises later - 'I have a week's holiday booked at the end of August, is that likely to be a problem?' It virtually never is - if they want you they won't turn you down over a holiday commitment.

After the interview

Shake hands again, thank them for seeing you and tell them you look forward to hearing from them soon.

You could follow up with a letter to the same effect if the interview was very formal or if they didn't give much away as to how it went. But I've only done this once - the job I was never offered. Every other time I've either left having already been offered the job or been told to expect a call later that day.

I know interviews can be nervewracking but they are a necessary evil in life and if you can turn them from being something to be scared of into an opportunity to prove yourself, you'll make your career progression a whole lot easier on yourself. I hope this posts helps!

Feel free to leave any questions or your own tips as comments.


  1. I Litteraly JUST had an interview, and by the looks of it, it was pretty much spot on! Just wish i read this a few hours ago haha!
    I followed you, feel free to follow me :)

    1. Oh wow that's great! I hope it went well, let us know how you got on. Off to peruse your blog now :-) xx

  2. Great tips, interviews are so scary! x x


    1. Noooo they're fine! All about confidence, if you're prepared you've got no worries :-) xx

  3. Still can't believe you love job interviews haha x

    1. I'm definitely in the minority on this one! xx

  4. Thanks so much for writing this! Some great tips now that I'm entering graduate territory! x

  5. Some great tips here thanks! I have an interview on Thursday for a job I'm desperate to get, so I've been preparing like crazy (most unlike me I must admit!). I was a bit stuck over questions to ask and I really like your suggestions :)


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