Pick me! Put Your Best Foot Forward at Interview
Pick Me! Put Your Best Foot Forward at Interview.
For most of us, interviews are pretty scary. They make us feel like X Factor contestants, ‘I really want this. This matters to me. I think I’m the best candidate. Why can’t you see?’. Pretty desperate, huh? Not very impressive? Indeed. Hardly likely to inspire confidence in yourself, let alone a prospective employer.
So, how to avoid the needy, nervous, not-really-like-you you and show your interviewer the confident, competent, you’d-be-mad-not-to-hire-me you?
Let’s start with the basics:
Research the job and the company
The organisation you are wanting to work for probably employs an expensive, highly-trained Human Resources person (or even department). Having spoken to their recruitment agency (Hunt Resources, natch) and read your CV, they are interested in seeing you in person and talking to you about their vacancy. You have been selected from dozens, perhaps hundreds, of candidates. Quite an investment they’ve made in you already, huh? So the very least they can expect is that you have taken the time to look them up (everyone’s on the internet, these days, after all) and find out a bit about the company and what it does. Remember to have a look at the newsfeeds/press releases, so that you can show you have been following them closely.
Talk to us about what the job involves and why we think you are a good match for the position.
Your research will help with this, or ask us. If it’s a youth-focused, hip and happening company, it may be appropriate to go for a smart-casual look, but if in doubt, go for the more formal approach. It is infinitely better to opt for the over- rather than under-dressed vibe; it shows you are taking the interview and the company seriously. It should go without saying, but make sure that you, your hair, nails, clothes and shoes are clean, uncreased and well-presented simple good manners, really.
Make a good first impression
Be friendly and open, but not over-familiar. Smile and try to look happy and enthusiastic about this opportunity. If you are plagued with some noticeable sign of nervousness (for instance, if your throat tightens and makes your voice rise), explain and move on. Being interviewed is an experience we all share and the interviewer will identify and empathise with your nerves, as long as they don’t make you incapable of conducting a convincing interview.
Watch your body language. Don’t slouch, do look your interviewer(s) in the eye when you are speaking. It’s important not just to listen, but to look as if you are listening. Many interviews begin with an outline of the organisation and/or the vacant role. Try to pick up one or two points from this briefing to include in your dialogue later in the interview.
Prepare answers to common interview questions
In a later blog, we’ll be covering good answers to the most commonly-asked questions. Rehearse how you would answer these questions, preferably aloud, with a constructive and informed friend (or agent). Having said that, be prepared for the unexpected some interviewers like to see how a candidate handles themselves if they’re off-balance, so may chuck in a curved ball like, ‘what animal do you most resemble/would you most like to be?’ or ‘describe an occasion when you messed something up at work and how you handled it’. Remember, they’re trying to find out what you’re like, not to trip you up. Be honest and be prepared to admit failure – no one is successful 100% of the time, but what’s important is how you handle disaster and what you learn from it. Above all, listen to the question you are being asked, answer it with one of two strong points you can support with descriptions and examples, then stop talking.
Prepare questions to ask
At some point in most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions. As far as possible, prepare these in advance (we’ll be covering this in a later blog, too) so that you are ready. This will improve your confidence and prevent that mouth-drying, heart-thumping panic that can derail an interview!
Don’t be too British. It’s OK to talk yourself up, emphasise your skills and experience and spell out what you can bring to a company. If you don’t tell them, who’s going to? But don’t overdo it – you don’t want to come across as arrogant, overbearing or aggressive.
What not to do!
Here are the no-nos:
Don’t be late (arriving 5-10 minutes early is the norm)
Don’t forget to switch your phone off
Don’t be rude or aggressive; if you disagree with the interviewer, just smile and move on
Don’t talk down former colleagues or employers; the world is a small place and you might just be sitting opposite their best friends – at the very least, people don’t like to hear one side of a story and it makes you sound whiney, no matter how true
Try to avoid any verbal tics you may have – particularly punctuating your speech with meaningless words (right, yes, OK, so, etc.) and don’t upspeak or uptalk (the rising note at the end of a sentence that makes a statement sound like a question)
Don’t lie – the chances of you being able to carry this off in a stressful interview situation are slim, but even if you do, be sure your sins will find you out.