• Surviving an interview Interview presentations Questions to answer Questions to ask CV writing guidelines     How to resign professionallyCounter offers Useful links Abbreviations & terminology

    Surviving an interview

    This may be the first interview you’ve ever been to or it might be the third this week. Whatever it is, it’s important that you prepare for your interview and then present yourself properly. Here is some essential advice on getting ready for a job interview, polishing your technique and calming your interview nerves...

    Pre-interview

    • Find out as much as you can about the company and role - if they have a company website then make sure you have a good look at it. Likewise look for the latest company news online – this can also include relevant industry news too.

    • Think about how your skills, experience and abilities could be of benefit to both the role and the company – find out what they are actually looking for.

    • Find out about the interview itself – who are you going to meet? Look them up on LinkedIn.Are you meeting more than one person? What form will it take – informal, competency based, will there be any psychometric tests?

    • Plan your journey. Know where, when and who you are going to see. Plan to arrive at least 10-20 minutes beforehand so you can relax and not arrive in a sweat! If travelling by train catch the earlier one, but know when the next one goes as well. If going by car think where you are going to park and have change for the ticket machine if necessary.

    • Have your mobile fully charged with all the contact numbers you need (company, agency etc.) in case of problems or delays.

    • Make sure you look the part. Wear suitably smart clothes whilst having tidy hair and appearance. Ladies (and gents!) should not wear too much jewellery nor make up. Avoid fashion extremes…

    • Take at least two copies of your CV with you - and read through it thoroughly since it may be a while since you wrote it! Also take along any job brief that you may have.

    • Prepare positive answers for questions that you may be asked - practise answers to anything that you’re concerned about – out loud is best. Likewise prepare questions that you want to ask – writing them down is fine so that you don’t forget anything.

    • Practice makes perfect! You can always ask a friend or colleague to do a dummy run with you, not necessarily giving you a grilling, but equally not shying away from any trickier questions.

    • Try and have an early night to ensure tip top performance on your behalf!

    The interview itself

    • Turn off your mobile phone – there is nothing worse than it going off during an interview! The only exception to this of course is if you’re having a telephone interview – see below.

    • Relax - interview nerves can make you forget to do the simplest of things like smiling and listening properly. Preparing well will also help you be more at ease, but don’t be laid back nor over-confident!

    • Give a nice, firm handshake and use the interviewer’s name e.g. ‘Pleased to meet you Mr / Mrs Smith or Mike / Linda.’ Have good eye contact and keep your body language open – sit up straight, lean slightly forward and try not to cross your legs nor fold your arms.

    • If offered tea, coffee or water than at least accept the water - don’t turn down their hospitality! Besides, it suggests confidence and if you have a difficult question, and need time to think, having a sip is a good delay tactic!

    • Listen carefully to questions and answer them clearly, concisely and as honestly as you can. Don’t waffle. If you don’t understand something then ask the interviewer to clarify what they mean. If you can’t give a direct answer, try to delay it and come back to it later.

    • Be enthusiastic! No one likes a ‘moaning minnie’ so avoid spending the whole interview moaning about previous employers.

    • Use positive and upbeat language, but remember that body language conveys an enormous amount of information to an experienced interviewer. Before answers a difficult question, pause and take time to give yourself time to think – take a sip of that water!

    • Enjoy the interview. It’s a two-way process they are interviewing you as much as you should be interviewing them!

    • At the end of the interview it’s always great to ask if there are any concerns that they have which you could clear up for them now. You can also ask them about what the next stage is and when is it likely to happen.

    • Finally shake their hand firmly again and thank them, by name, for their time and also the opportunity to come and see them.

    Telephone and Skype interviews

    Telephone interviews are less common than face to face ones and are very often used as a pre-screen. You need to make sure that your phone is fully charged and that you have somewhere quiet to talk from – and somewhere that nobody is likely to stumble into either! 

    The advantage to you is that you can freely use notes and prompts if necessary. Given that telephone interviews are fairly quick affairs, you will need to be able to get your points across succinctly and concisely. 

    If the interview has a visual side, e.g. Skype, remember that how you appear in terms of dress code, appearance and body language are still vitally important. 

    Post- interview

    Assess your performance.  What do you feel as though went well, and, perhaps more importantly, what might not have gone according to plan…how could you have done this better?  What could you do next time to improve upon your performance?  If you’re using an agency then give your feedback to them as soon as you can – they will likewise be able to give you feedback from the company. You can also relay to them any concerns or questions that you might have. 

    We also recommend that you follow up with a thank you letter, especially if you’re not going through an agency – our blog might be of interest – the two most important words

    GOOD LUCK!