Interviewing can be an uncomfortable and tense experience. Not only do you have to answer difficult questions under intense scrutiny, but you also need to be comfortable “selling” yourself. Fortunately, with practice and the right knowledge, you can make the interview process much less stressful, and increase your chances of getting the job.
To begin with you shouldn’t be too selective about the jobs you apply for. Even if a particular opening doesn’t quite fit your criteria, whether that’s because it’s too far away, doesn’t pay well or isn’t in the area you’re interested in, having the interview provides invaluable practice. You don’t have to take the job if it’s offered to you, and you’d be surprised how many new opportunities an interview can bring.
Once you’ve been offered an interview it’s essential to make the right impression. At this stage, you’ve already caught the attention of the potential employer with your CV, and now it’s time to show them why you’d be the perfect employee. It sounds obvious but you should always arrive on time. That doesn’t mean you have to turn up an hour early, but giving yourself a bit of extra time for the journey is a good idea.
Your body language also says a lot about your personality and confidence level. A firm handshake, relaxed posture and eye contact all show that you’re a friendly but positive person. Fidgeting can have the opposite effect, as can excessive hand waving. Turning up in a smart outfit can also help to give the right impression. In a perfect world, appearance would be irrelevant if it didn’t affect your ability to do the job, but unfortunately it can have a major effect on the interviewer’s attitude towards you. Turning up in correctly fitting clothes proves to the employer, if nothing else, that you’re willing to make an effort.
Now that you’ve got the interview off on the right foot the next step is dealing with questions. Before the interview, try to imagine what you would ask a candidate if you were the interviewer. Don’t just stick to the generic interview questions, but instead think about the skills and characteristics required to work in this particular field.
Preparing answers prior to the interview is a great way of avoiding being caught off guard. On the other hand, carefully rehearsed answers can have the opposite effect, as you can appear cold and impersonal (plus it’s obvious that you’re just saying what you think the interviewer wants to hear). Have an idea of what you want to say in your head before the interview, but don’t be afraid to modify your answers to appeal to an interviewer.
Nearly all interviews will include questions about your previous workplaces, experience and skills. Avoid using one line answers for these questions. Try to draw from previous experiences to backup why you possess the skills you claim to have. It’s a good idea to practice answering these types of questions beforehand, preferably with a friend or family member as a mock interviewer.
Discrimination based on race, gender, age or disability, amongst other things, is illegal in the UK, so you don’t have to answer any questions that you feel are inappropriate. If you feel that any question is discriminatory in nature, you have every right to politely remove yourself from the interview. This is an unlikely situation, but it’s important to know your rights before you start taking interviews.
You’ve probably heard it before, but asking your own questions at the end of an interview is nearly always a good idea. It shows that you’re enthusiastic about the position, and also reinforces the fact that although you’re a potential candidate, you’re also not desperate for the job. Take a list of questions into the interview with you, and always try to ask one or two, even if the interviewer has already answered many during the interview.
Ultimately, interviewing is like any other skill. It takes practice and dedication to become proficient and the only way to do this is to have as many interviews as possible. Always remember to ask for feedback if you don’t get offered the position. By doing this you’ll consistently improve your technique.