Being a graduate, I have spent countless hours in university careers events being given guidance on how to be the perfect interviewee. They tell you the obvious tips such as “always ask questions” but, from my first-hand experience I have decided to compile a few of my own hints, tips, dos and don’ts for having a successful interview.
I have just graduated with an honours degree in Spanish and History and have started working as an online marketing intern at The Workplace Depot. Yes, I know, Spanish and History doesn’t have a lot in common with online marketing, but this is my first tip which actually concerns the process before you get given an interview – applying for positions.
It is always worth sending an application for a job that on first glance you don’t appear qualified for, but once you look at the job description you know that your skills and what you’ve learned through university or from previous work experience make you a perfect fit. You have to be in it to win it!
Let’s start with the positives, here are the dos:
1. It is important that you know why you want the job. To turn up to an interview when you aren’t convinced yourself will never win over a potential employer. Think about your future prospects with the company and how they fit in with your personal future plans. It’s not all about wanting a job for the pay, you have to want to do the job and gain something from it.
2. When promoting yourself in your interview try to include key words mentioned in the person specification and job description. Obviously, only use them if they flow naturally. Don’t try and force them in if they don’t make sense! By naturally slipping these terms and phrases into conversation it shows you might be just what the company is looking for.
3. Another important consideration is what to wear. It is important to make a good first impression, and what you look like is vital to this. You want to be able to walk into your interview and the interviewer see that you are the sort of person they want to have in their office. It goes without saying; you need to look smart and presentable.
From your shoes being clean to your shirt being ironed, it all makes a difference. Also, my advice is to look at the company website and try to figure out what the dress code might be. Are there pictures of employees on the website? Do you think you need to wear a suit or can you get away with more casual work wear?
Another tip of mine is: girls, do not wear high heels. There would be nothing worse than falling flat on your face in front of a potential boss. First impression can even come down to a good handshake, so practise this too.
4. My fourth tip might sound cliché, but it is key to a good interview. Be yourself. Portray some positive aspects of your personality through how you speak and your body language. Maybe mention some productive activities or hobbies you have outside of work that will make you memorable.
Whether it’s as the person who bakes cakes or the candidate who spoke French, it might not be relevant to the job but you will be remembered for those little things.
5. Finally, just relax. Going into a job interview is a nerve-wracking experience but you will come across so much better if you are calm and relaxed. Take your time to speak and remember that your interviewer is human; they understand that you might be nervous and need a couple of seconds to think of an answer or a response to a tricky question.
I don’t recommend “umming” and “arring” for minutes on end, but taking a deep breath and a couple of seconds to think before you open your mouth will work wonders and it will help you not to start babbling.
Now, the don’ts. These may seem obvious but you’ll be surprised at how many people make these common mistakes.
1. The first suggestion is something I fell victim to in one of my past interviews. Don’t arrive unprepared. Know some background about the company and what they do. I advise that you have a good look at the company website beforehand and make a mental note of key things the company does and stands for.
In my experience, I was asked who the main competitors for this brand were. I reeled off an answer, thinking off the top of my head and I was rather pleased with my quick thinking. However, when the interview was over I was slated by the interviewer for not doing my research and wasting her time.
It’s safe to say I have never made this mistake again and now I always have a thorough look through the web pages and social media of the business before an interview. It’s always better to be over-prepared than under-prepared.
2. The second point might sound foolish, but when in an interview, don’t pretend to have heard the question. If you didn’t quite catch what the interviewer has said or don’t understand the question fully, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat the question. Like I said before, they are human, and it would come across so much worse if you start answering a different question!
3. Now I turn to the dreaded “what’s your biggest weakness” question. This is always a difficult one to answer as you want to talk about how good you are, not reveal what you are not good at to a potential boss. One piece of advice is not to do what the majority of interviewees do, which is to turn a positive attribute into something negative such as: “I’m just such a perfectionist” or “I work too hard”.
These just come across as fake and it is much more advantageous to say something that is an actual weakness. By this, I don’t mean something like “I’m rubbish at time keeping”. Mention something constructive for example, if you aren’t very knowledgeable about using Microsoft Excel then say so, but it is essential that you follow up your weakness with how you intend to rectify this and progress in the particular area.
4. This is another piece of advice that comes straight from my own experience. It’s brilliant when you can show some of you personality in an interview, but don’t try to make too many jokes. In a recent interview, the interviewers were extremely casual and cracking jokes back and forward between each other throughout the meeting.
This situation was all too tempting for me and I began to join in. I left the interview thinking I’d made a great first impression and had a laugh with the staff, however after a couple of days I began to realise the mistakes I had made. A job interview is a professional situation and you have to act professionally. There is no harm in letting your sense of humour come through but do not get carried away. They are assessing your professional capabilities and not how you tell a joke. Oh and if you wondered, I didn’t get that job either.
5. The final point is all the obvious things that don’t need any explaining. Don’t be late to your interview; don’t swear; don’t answer your mobile phone or start texting (yes, people have done this!) and don’t moan about previous employment because it doesn’t come across well at all.
So, those are a few handy hints that should hopefully help to improve your interview technique. Another point I must add is not to get disheartened if you think the interview didn’t go as well as you would have liked. It’s sometimes the interviews you feel didn’t go to plan that are actually the successful ones, as I found out.
Emily Rooke is a graduate from Nottingham Trent University.