16 Nov 2021

How to Give a Great Job Interview

Job-hunting can feel like a marathon. Responding to adverts is a major undertaking, requiring assiduous research, self-examination and self-promotion. But getting your CV to stand out will only get your foot in the door; the job interview is the decisive hurdle.

While there are some factors that may be out of your control when you interview for a new job (a favoured internal candidate, an irrational prejudice against you on the part of the interviewer), there are several elements of your performance that you can improve:

Job Interviews: Steps to Success

The first thing for any candidate to do is to respond to the invitation to the interview – ie to let the recruiter know whether or not he or she will attend. Candidates should research the company before attending interviews: a lot of information can be gleaned from websites, especially the ‘About us’ section

The next priority is to present yourself to your best advantage. Obviously you should never turn up looking crumpled or ill-dressed. Given the great range of office environments in the 21st century, it might be wise to do some research before the interview to ensure that you are ‘reading’ the company correctly. Wearing a city-smart suit (and tie for men), with polished shoes or your best heels, to an interview at a company where everyone wears jeans, sweatshirts and trainers might seem uncomfortably anomalous. While you may not want to completely mirror the super-casual style, it might be wise to downplay your clothes and go for something more understated.

On the day of the interview it is vital to arrive at the right place at the right time. Research the route to the office and the public transport options before your interview day. The trouble is the trains are often late, roads are often blocked, buses don’t materialise – so none of these excuses for being late is impressive and none of them brings any real sympathy. Simply having recourse to your mobile and texting a message that you’ve been delayed wins points for communication but the fact that you haven’t been able to arrive at the interview on time may well count against you. Many people are increasingly frustrated that text updates are being used as a substitute for punctuality.                

Of course, if something disastrous happens, something way beyond your control, and you know you are going to be late, then you should communicate this information as soon and as politely as possible.

When you arrive at the interview you should take notice of who and what is around you. Smiling at the receptionist, doorman, and any staff who greet you always helps. You might leave a favourable impression with a colleague of your interviewer, which will help your case.

At the interview itself it’s wise to assume that you should adopt the tone of the panel or interviewer. Be wary of over-familiarity – it might be a test. It’s best to be polite, but not ingratiatingly so. If you are nervous that may well be apparent. In extremis you can always acknowledge that you are feeling nervous.

Questions should be answered as directly as possible – experienced panels and interviewers have a built-in radar for recognising waffle. If you don’t understand the question, say so, and ask for it to be repeated, or rephrased or explained. Take your time. A deliberate pause when you are asked a question will not be detrimental – it shows that you are thinking about your answer.

Save your own questions for the end of the interview unless invited to state them earlier. It’s quite permissible to ask about the salary, conditions of employment, whether there is a staff canteen, etc etc. It isn’t a good idea to ask if you can have the first two weeks off in June before you’ve even been offered the job. When it’s clear that the interview is over, thank the panel generally, and the chairperson in particular, or the sole interviewer, and then take your leave.

If they don’t tell you when and how you will hear the results of the interview, it does no harm to ask.

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