Interviews can be stressful. But they don’t need to be disastrous. If you want things to run smoothly, it’s best to be as prepared as possible. Here’s our guide on what to do before, during and after your interview to get results.
Research. Few things will be more uncomfortable than having nothing to say if they ask, “What do you know about us?” Research is an easy way to establish that you’re interested in the organisation, and it will show the interviewer you’re willing to take time out of your schedule to learn more about it. First things first: check out their website to get an overview of the business. Then delve into their social media streams, paying close attention to LinkedIn. If you know who’s conducting the interview, take a look at their profile. That way you can ask about their background if you run out of steam.
Prepare. This is the obvious stuff – make sure you’ve thought about some answers to common interview questions. Establish what skills you have that are relevant to the role, and think of examples from your previous experience where you’ve drawn on them. It’s a good idea to prepare for the flip side of these questions [i.e. “Tell me about a time you haven’t reached a goal you set yourself”, “What’s your greatest weakness?”] or you may blurt something out that gives a negative impression. Once you’ve mentally prepared, ensure you’re physically prepared. Have you laid out your smartest clothes? Do you have a pen and paper, along with a list of questions to ask the interviewer at the end? Are you clear on when you need to leave so you arrive with enough time to spare?
Practice. Find a kind soul to run through a mock interview with you. Rehearsing out loud will help to ingrain the information in your memory, making your answers more natural on the day.
Sleep. As much as preparation, research and practice will benefit you, a large part of the challenge of an interview is the need to think on your feet. You’ll definitely reduce the likelihood of success if you turn up feeling dazed and sluggish because you’re sleep-deprived. Eight hours of sleep is ideal. Six is necessary.
Arrive early. 40% of recruiters class lateness as the biggest mistake a candidate can make at an interview. It will instantly damage your credibility, and you can be sure that if there’s a struggle at any point to decide between you and someone else, your tardiness will do nicely as a deal breaker. So: plan to get there at least 10-15 minutes before the interview starts. That way you can take a bit of time to get some water, find the room and generally compose yourself. If you arrive with 30 seconds to spare, breathless and drenched in sweat, you might not be late – but it’ll be clear that you almost were.
Keep calm. Interviews may feel like the working life equivalent to school exams, but unlike GCSE maths there isn’t a right or wrong answer, just certain qualities the interviewer is looking for. If you can’t recite the perfect response to a question you practiced the night before, don’t panic: try to answer it as best you can in the moment. Above all else, try not to think of the interview as a test – more like a discussion where you put yourself in a pleasing light. For more tips on keeping your cool, click here.
Actively listen. Don’t let anticipation get the better of you! While it’s always better to be overprepared than underprepared, beware that the cramming doesn’t put you into overload. Wait for the interviewer to finish their question and take a moment to consider what they’re asking you. Even if you give a flawless answer, cutting them off will make you seem assumptive and impatient.
Ask the scary question. After running through your list of questions at the end, swallow your nerves and ask if they have any reservations about you. The directness of the question will impress the interviewer. More importantly, it will give you an exclusive opportunity to mitigate any concerns they may have there and then.
Follow up. If you haven’t done this on the day, make sure you get in touch within 24 hours to thank them for their time. Remember to ask if there’s anything else you can do to help them make their decision. A brief email will do fine.
Continue your job search. Nothing takes the pressure off a stressful interview like a load of other prospects in the pipeline. Keep applying for more positions to keep your options open.