16 Interview Tips
You’ve done it! You have secured an interview. You’ve been shortlisted from hundreds of applicants with an awesome CV and Cover Letter. Now its time to shine in the interview.
- What makes an interview successful?
- Social – You need to demonstrate that you would be a pleasure to work with.
- Professional – Your presentation must be sharp, smart and diplomatic
- Human – You need to present yourself as genuine and earnest
- Details – From the outfit to your posture, details matter.
- What do employers look for during an interview?
- Appearance – Are you stylish, professional and meticulous?
- Tact – Do you understand appropriate professional language and etiquette
- Body Language – Are you someone who projects success and commands respect?
- Confidence – Do you feel qualified for the job and able to handle the responsibilities?
- Knowledge – Do you know what you are talking about?
- Drive – Are you willing to do what it takes to get the job done?
Here are a 16 tips on how to prepare for your Interview.
Tip 1 – Read and Review the job description
The first step in the preparation process should be to go back and review the job description. Read and review the job description very thoroughly to align your competencies with the skills required for the job. You will consequently ready yourself for questions around your previous experiences, performing similar duties in other organisations.
Tip 2 – Research the industry and company
It is always important to show your interviewer that you have a good understanding of the industry and company you are applying to. It demonstrates your pro-activity and eagerness about the role and also illustrates fundamental knowledge to the interviewer. A company would be far more inclined to hire a person who has a basic understanding of the industry and company than someone who doesn’t. Many interviewers would expect a level of understanding from interviewees, and so if the interviewee doesn’t have this, it could rule you out as a candidate.
Organisations also like to hire people with similar values to those of the company culture – researching the company before an interview will give you an insight into the organisation’s future goals and plans and being able to discuss these points will make you seem like a long-term investment to your future employer.
Helpful research includes:
- Financials: Financial Reports, Annual Reports and Investor Presentations
- Website: Check the company website as it is a good source of information about what the company does, its history and its mission statement
- Culture: Look at LinkedIn and Facebook or check Google reviews for comments by current or former employees
- Executive Team: Research the company hierarchy and find out who the executives are. Perhaps you have something in common with them.
- Keep up to date: Use Google Alerts for company news – it can help you keep up to date with developments – developments that might not necessarily have been reflected in their financials nor website.
Tip 3 – Review common interview questions and prepare your responses
Another key to interview success is preparing responses to expected interview questions.
Prepare your answers to the common questions – e.g “Tell me about yourself, and why you are interested in this role with our company?”
Practice – practicing your answers out loud is an incredibly effective way to prepare. Perhaps ask a friend to run through questions and answers. Perhaps ask another friend to observe – the observer can provide tips around body language and other habits which you inadvertently convey whilst answering the question.
By practicing and preparing, you will get used to responding and your confidence (both perceived and actual) will grow.
In Part 2 – we will discuss common interview questions to prepare for and suggested ways to answer them.
But be warned – make sure you list carefully to the interviewer’s questions. Whilst it is important to familiarise yourself with the best answers – make sure you listen to the question, as answering the question with the wrong answer will make it look obvious that you have rehearsed your answer and may not make you look genuine.
Tip 4 – Social Media
Did you know that 91% of employers search your social media for red flags. So it is important to make sure your social media is clean, not controversial and doesn’t convey a message that a hiring manager might not appreciate.
If possible, try to make the last post before a job interview to be a positive one, potentially affirming your qualifications, expertise or desire for the job.
Perhaps like the company’s posts, or follow the company on LinkedIn/Facebook if possible.
Tip 5 – What to bring
It is always a good idea to have the following:
- Resume – A few copies of your resume in case the interviewer has misplaced their copy or if you are speaking to someone new who hasn’t seen your resume. Often a resume may have been summarised or formatted by a recruiter before the hiring manager may have seen it. If you have a nicely formatted resume, it could be helpful to the interviewer to glean more information about you.
- Pen and a small notebook – Prepare to take notes, but not on your smartphone or any other electronic device. Write information down – which could be helpful in follow up interviews or your follow-up notes. However try to maintain eye contact and not be too distracted with your notes.
- Folder or bag – a single bag or folder to keep all your documents in. It conveys a professional style and avoids making you look dis-organised.
Tip 6 – Get ready ahead of time
- Dress for success – Plan out your wardrobe beforehand. Set it out the night before, rather than in a rush on the day of the interview. Make sure your clothes are presentable – i.e. no tears, stains or wrinkles, your shoes are polished, and your nails are clean. If you are not sure what is appropriate, you may be able to ask the recruiter beforehand about the dress code in the workplace and choose the outfit accordingly.
- Plan your route – Plan the best route to your interview. Make sure you don’t get lost and arrive to the interview late and in a state of panic. If you are taking public transport, potentially plan a back up route if there are any problems or delays.
- Arrive early – Plan to arrive at the interview 15 minutes early – give yourself a few minutes to visit the restroom beforehand and prepare for unexpected traffic. It is also helpful to arrive early to observe the workplace dynamics.
- Take a deep breath – Before the interview, take a deep breath and exhale slowly. This will help calm your nerves and control any feelings of anxiety.
Tip 7 – 10:30am Tuesday
If you can, try to schedule an interview for Tuesday 10:30am. Surveys show that this is the best time to conduct an interview as:
- Avoids the bookends – i.e. Mondays and Fridays when employees gear up for the week or wind down for the weekend. 10:30am avoids the first or last slots of any work day
- Avoid lunchtime. Immediately before noon, your interviewer may be too hungry to concentrate, immediately after, they may lethargic from eating.
However in circumstances where a decision must be made quickly or without deliberation – then take the earliest interview slot, as preferences are unconsciously and immediately guided to those options presented first.
Tip 8 – First five minutes are critical
Some studies indicate that interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first five minutes and spend the rest of the interview looking for affirmation of their It is important to make a great impression in the first five minutes.
- Come in with energy and enthusiasim
- Make eye contact and begin with a strong handshake.
- Express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time
- Start off with a positive comment about the company – something like “I’ve been looking forward to this meeting” or “I think the company is doing great work in Widget Manufacturing, and I’m really excited by the prospect of being able to contribute.”
Tip 9 – Body Language
The body language you convey is very important – from the time you arrive at the venue to when you depart. Whilst the content of your interview responses is paramount, poor body language can be a distraction.
- Treat every person you encounter with respect – including security personnel, front desk staff etc. You never know who is watching, and your potential employer might ask for their feedback
- Nail the handshake – the hiring manager (or person in seniority) should extend their hand first to initiate the handshake. Stand, look the person in the eye and smile. A good handshake should be firm but not crush the other person’s hand
- Wait – Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting
- Posture – Sit or stand tall with your shoulders back – it conveys that you are open, rather than defensive and weary. It also helps you breath and stay calm during the interview.
- Arms – Keep your arms wide open – do not cross them. Crossed arms are an indication of being unengaged, defensive, closed off or uncomfortable.
- Hand Gestures – Try to not use too many hand gestures – whilst it can mean passion and engagement, too much might distract from the content of what you are saying.
- Fidget – Try not to fidget. Being fidgety could indicate boredom and impatience. Examples including touching your face, tapping fingers on the table, tapping your feet etc.
- Pleasantries – Take time for pleasantries and a bit of casual banter
- Smile – Remember an interview is a social setting. Try to demonstrate an amiable nature
- Eye contact – as you answer questions, maintain eye contact with the interviewer
- Pay attention – Be sure to pay attention to the question so that you don’t forget it and listen to the entire question before you answer. Avoid cutting off the interviewer especially when he/she is asking questions. Don’t feel pressured to answer each question in rapid fire – take your time and consider the question
- Language – Use language that is appropriate for the job environment and demonstrate your experience by using a bit of well-placed jargon
- Lean in – If you feel the interviewer might be becoming distant, often it is helpful to lean in. Position your torso so that it is leaning slightly towards the interviewer – it will help re-engage them and will make you appear interested in the content of the interview.
Tip 10 – Make the most of the “Tell me about yourself question”
Many interviewers begin interviews with the question “Tell me about yourself”.
Its a golden opportunity to craft a response that engages the interviewer and conveys the key pieces of information you want them to learn. You don’t need to waste the interviewer’s time with the name of your dog, and what your favourite colour is.
There are 2 ways to address this question and it largely depends on you and the type of job you are going for.
- Consider responding like: “Well, obviously I could tell you about lots of things, and if I’m missing what you want, please let me know. But the three things I think are most important for you to know about me are [your selling points]. I can expand on those a little if you’d like.” Interviewers will always say, “Sure, go ahead.” Then you say, “Well, regarding the first point, [give your example]. And when I was working for [company], I [example of another selling point].” Etc. This strategy enables you to focus the first 10-15 minutes of the interview on all of your key selling points.
- Alternatively – consider a story statement. A story statement tells a story and answers questions like: What was your moment of epiphany? How did your childhood influence you? Why does this job move you? An example of a story statement is outlined below:
I grew up in a country town in Australia where we had a great teacher called Mrs Smith. With her support, I was able to attend Sydney University. It was Mrs Smith’s influence on my life that opened up many opportunities to me. She helped me realise the importance of education and the impact a teacher has on students.
I decided to become a teacher myself because I saw myself being able to provide opportunities to many students in your school – and that is why I am so excited about the opportunity to meet with you today. Like Mrs Smith, I want to impact the next generation of students by supporting them and understanding the experiences they are facing.
A story statement shows that you are a person, not just a professional, and that your passion for the job extends beyond financial remuneration. It also helps the interviewer relate to you on a human level.
Tip 11 – Clarify your key selling points and reasons you want the job
Prepare to go into every interview with three to five key selling points in mind – these are your strengths, the points that make you the best candidate for the position. Have an example for each selling point.
Be prepared to fit those selling points to the job you are applying for and make sure you indicate to your interviewer why you want the job.
Tip 12 – Line up your questions for the interviewer
Often the interviewer may ask whether you have any questions for them. This is a great way to not just ask questions that you may have, but may also help convey certain messages about yourself. If you reply – “No” – he or she may conclude that you are not all that interested in the job.
Line up your questions for the interviewer beforehand. Come with some intelligent questions ready that demonstrate your knowledge of the company as well as your serious intent. In Part 3 of our series on how to nail your interview – we discuss Questions for the Interviewer.
Tip 13 – Don’ts
These are the cardinal rules of what not to do:
- Don’t turn up late to the interview
- Don’t dress sloppily or inappropriately
- Don’t smoke or drink alcohol before your interview – whilst it might seem like a good idea to calm the nerves, the smell will be noticeable to your interviewer and might make your interviewer question your confidence or raise concerns for your well being.
- Don’t lie – Your interviewer will likely see through it and likely rule you out for the job. Tie your answers back to your skills and accomplishments by providing examples of solutions and results you’ve achieved. And if you don’t have an answer, don’t be afraid to admit it – its better than faking it.
- Don’t volunteer your weaknesses – only volunteer your shortfalls when asked directly.
- Don’t over-answer questions or let it go into a tangent – try to keep it succinct. Don’t let yourself ramble.
- Don’t criticise your current or previous employer – whilst tempting, it will give your interviewer the impression you are difficult to work with. Companies want to hire problem solvers who overcome tough situations. If you feel discouraged about your current job, focus on talking about what you’ve gained from the experience and what you want to do next.
- Don’t brag or oversell yourself. Your interviewer or hiring manager may form a view that you won’t be easy to work with especially in a team environment if you seek all the glory.
- Don’t ask about salary, bonuses or holidays in the first interview – unless you are confident they will hire you or the interviewer raises this first. But know your market value.
Tip 14 – End on a positive
If a salesman came to you and demonstrated his product, then thanked you for your time and walked out the door, what did he do wrong? He didn’t ask you to buy it! If you get to the end of an interview and think you’d really like that job, ask for it! Tell the interviewer that you’d really, really like the job – that you were excited about it before the interview and are even more excited now, and that you’re convinced you’d like to work there. If there are two equally good candidates at the end of the search – you and someone else – the interviewer will think you’re more likely to accept the offer, and thus may be more inclined to make an offer to you.
And don’t forget to thank the interviewer for their time.
Tip 15 – Thank you notes
Thank your interviewer within 24 hours of finishing. Not only does it show gratitude and etiquette, but also shows you are keen for the role, enthusiastic and proactive. It also keeps you front of mind to the interviewer especially if you interviewed early. Here are a few important points:
- Make sure you get the name or names of everyone in the interview. If in doubt about the correct spelling, look them up in the interview or try to get their business card in the interview.
- State the email by thanking them for their time.
- Ensure the email is personalised and references specific detail about the role that you gleaned from the interview. Make sure it doesn’t look copy-and-pasted.
- Keep the emphasis on the positive and state or restate your suitability for the role.
- If there is a potential for a second job interview, do not ask directly but state your availability to meet again.
- Keep your tone formal – and make sure there are no spelling errors. Whilst you may have built up a rapport in the interview, written communication should be completely professional.
- Draft your email, but don’t send it straight away. Take a break, come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.
- Send the interview follow-up email within 24 hours, or latest, 48 hours. Any later and you could look disinterested or lazy.
Handwritten notes might be better if you are thanking a personal contact for helping you in your job search.
Here is a good sample thank you email:
Dear [Interviewer’s first name],
Thank you for taking the time [today/yesterday] to discuss the [role name] role. It was great to meet you.
I was really impressed with [insert company or role detail highlighted in the interview, such as ‘the vision of the company’ or ‘the great company culture’ or ‘the opportunities for career development’] that you described.
I’m confident that my skills and experience, most specifically [list specific skills/experience that are relevant] are a great match for the role.
[If you connected with your potential hiring manager, here is a good time to mention it. For example, ‘I hope you enjoy the watching the Formula 1 this weekend. I’m hoping RedBull will challenge for a podium’ If you didn’t unearth any personal details, don’t make it up or force it.]
I am available to meet with you any time, should you have any further questions. I look forward to hearing from you again.
Tip 16 – Take some notes for the next interview
Take time after each interview to jot down a few things about what the interviewer said. Also write down what you could have done better in the interview, and make adjustments before you head off for your next interview. This will help you perfect your interview technique. Stay tuned for Part 2 – next week when we discuss Common Interview Questions.
Remember, before you get to the interview stage, you need to make sure your Cover Letter and CV are up to scratch. Here are a few pieces of information that might help.
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