Sweaty hands, tight new suits, awful nerves.....
Job interviews rank right up there with having the flu, hangovers and exam results for fun and the thrill of anticipation. In an attempt to make your interview adventures as smooth as possible though, we’ve put together some tips to help you get through it alive.
Mistakes you should avoid
If you are among 400 applicants for one job, it’s a lot like musical chairs - winning just means surviving until the last round when everyone else has been eliminated. A big part of interview success is being careful not to make obvious mistakes.
Avoid the following mistakes, and you’re more likely to find yourself in the job search finals:
- Arriving late. If you can’t turn up on time for the interview, what would you do as an employee? Leave home VERY early just to be sure you get there on time. If a meteor hits your car, bus or taxi, find a phone and ask for the interview to be rescheduled.
- Dressing in the wrong way. How you look has a lot to do with the impression you make. Dressing too casually in a company where everyone wears sensible suits can mean losing a job. Aim to look smart and business-like: you can let your creativity flow when you’ve actually got the job.
- Not doing research. You don’t need to memorise the company’s profit figures, but you should know something about their products or services and company policy. Look the company up online or ask them to send you out some information.
- People go to job interviews all the time just presuming that brilliant words will leap to their lips. Don’t do it. Make a list of all the questions you might be asked (or search for interview Q&As online) and then practice the best possible answers. Emphasise how your skills apply to the job.
- Bad mouthing your last boss. Never say anything negative about a person or company you worked for. It makes you sound like a complainer.
- Losing your cool. Expect the unexpected. Sometimes interviewers can test you with nasty questions like “What makes you think you’ll be the best at this job?” Stay calm: they’re just checking how professional you can be under fire.
- Being under-confident. If you weren't suitable for the job, you wouldn't get an interview. Feel confident about yourself and your abilities. Remind yourself what a great job you’ll do if these people have the good sense to hire you. Then relax, tell them about your skills and just be yourself.
- Most importantly, make sure you're sending out the right signals with your body language. Take a look at our guide to body language during interviews for all the info you need to succeed!
Preparing in advance
On the day of the interview, you'll probably be nervous so it's a good idea to have everything prepared well in advance.
- Check in advance to see if you have to bring anything with you. Also, ask about the structure of the interview.
- Make sure to have any necessary documents ready: application forms, exam or achievement certificates, a work portfolio, reference letters, etc.
- Try on your interview outfit to make sure if fits and that there are no buttons missing or nasty stains!
- Bring information about the interview with you: how to get there, contact phone numbers, who you are to ask for, etc…you don’t want to arrive at the company and realise that you’ve forgotten the contact person’s name!
- Give yourself loads of time to arrive at the interview - try to be there about ten minutes before it starts. This will give you a chance to calm your nerves, go to the toilet and check your appearance.
- Bring a mobile or change for a payphone. If you are delayed for any reason, you can then phone to explain.
- Once you arrive, tell the receptionist (or whoever is in charge), your name and who you are supposed to meet.
- Make sure you turn off your mobile before the interview starts.
- Try to stay calm and look confident, even if you’re really shaking with nerves! Take some deep breaths and make sure your hands aren’t sweaty before going into the interview room.
- Body language is important so smile, make eye contact and shake hands when you meet the interviewer.
- Always thank the interviewer when you’re leaving.
Dress to impress
Dressing to impress is a must for any job interview. What you wear should make you look like you're the right person for the job (so if everybody in the office is dressed in smart suits then you should be too!).
- If you're not sure what to wear to the interview, then dress smartly and sensibly. Forget denim, sports clothes or shoes, casual clothes or club wear.
- Even if you won't need to wear a suit in the job, it's best to dress up for the interview. Get the job first, and then you can let your own fashion sense show through as much as you dare!
- Make sure your hair is clean and tidy, shoes are polished and that everything you wear matches well together.
- Think about whether you should take out any visible piercings (often not seen as professional).
- For guys, dressing smartly means a traditional, dark suit and a long-sleeved shirt. Make sure that there are no wrinkles or creases in either the suit or shirt. Avoid flashy ties or your favourite Simpsons' tie!
- For girls, dressing smartly also means a suit. A matching jacket with trousers or a skirt and coloured blouse or top usually looks good. Avoid short skirts, looking like a fashion victim, wearing loads of make up or wearing flashy jewellery. You want them to listen to you not stare at your sparkly green eye shadow!
- Make sure what you wear is clean and ironed.
Think about what you're going to say
Job interviews don't follow rules - you may find yourself drinking coffee and having a cosy chat with a friendly interviewer or you could end up being interrogated by five stony-faced executives in suits. So you should prepare for almost anything!
- An interview can be very relaxed and casual - a real 'get to know each other' chat. Or it can be a formal meeting where you are expected to be on your best behaviour at all times. The latter is more common.
- Beware of kooky icebreaker questions that some interviewers throw in at the start. As random as it sounds, questions like 'what five people would you invite to dinner?' and 'if you could have any superpower what would it be?' are designed not only to lighten the mood and get the conversation going, they're also a way of assessing how quickly you can think on your feet.
- You might be interviewed by a panel, ranging from two up to four or five people! Listen when they introduce themselves and try to remember at least some of the names.
- You might also have a number of interviews with different people. Remember, if you have a few different people interviewing you, they'll talk to each other afterwards so be consistent with the information you give them.
- The interviewer might take notes.
- You may have to prepare a presentation or be asked to research something in preparation for the interview.
- You might have to take a test before, or during, the interview. This could be anything from a personality test to language or computer skills. Its purpose is to help the interviewer find out more about your skills and abilities.
- You might take part in group activities or role-play situations that could test your ability to work in a team or your sales or leadership skills. Remember to listen, to express your opinion and to motivate others without trying to take control.
- Sometimes employers offer to show you around the company or to introduce you to other people working there. This is an ideal opportunity to ask lots of questions about working there and about the job you are applying for.