How to succeed at your next job interview; our 7 expert tips for candidates

Two women shaking hands
December 13, 2021

Congratulations on being invited for an interview. We have written this guide to ensure that you feel confident and calm because you are as prepared as you can be.

1. Expectations

The company inviting you to interview should confirm the following information. If not, we would encourage you to be proactive and ask the following questions so you know can prepare accordingly.

  • How long is the interview expected to last?
  • How many people will be interviewing you, including their names and job titles?
  • Will the interview be in person? If it is going to be by video conference (VC) then please read our guide to preparing for an online interview
  • Are you expected to give a presentation, and if so on what topic and for how long?
  • What presentation formats/tech are available on the day?
  • Contact details on the day of the interview in case something unavoidable comes up

2. Research

Take your time to properly research the company, the division/department (more applicable for large organisations) and the person(s) who are going to be interviewing you. It is screamingly obvious to an interviewer if you have not taken the time to do this.

In today’s world, with everything online this is straightforward to do. With regards to the company, start by thoroughly reading their website and pay particular attention to any blogs and articles that are relevant to the job in question.

Then widen your search by going onto the internet and looking for company specific articles that relate to your chosen field as well as for topics around the industry/department/role that you are looking to join. By doing both you will ensure that you are up to speed with the activity of the company as well as the current trends in the industry sector.

Ahead of your interview you should also know the name and job title of the person(s) who is going to be interviewing you. Check to see if they have a profile on the company website as well as reading their LinkedIn profile and (if applicable) any posts or articles that they have published on their profile. You can then go on to do a wider search on the internet for any additional work that they have been involved in.

3. Interview Questions

You will need to spend time thinking about the kinds of questions you will be asked, and how you will answer them. Expect your interviewers to come prepared with a variety of different types of questions which can broadly be summarised as functional, behavioural, and situational.

Functional questions

These questions are a simple sifting tool to determine if you can do the job that they are hiring for. They focus on what the individual has done in the past.

Behavioural and Situational questions

Both types of questions are specifically designed to be very open-ended and to “short-circuit” memorised answers and force you to think on their feet. The main difference between behavioural and situational interview questions is that behavioural questions are focused on the past and situational questions are focused on the future. Here’s a great list of 11 most frequently asked behavioural questions

Situational questions are forward focused and designed to find out if you have the appropriate skills and experience to tackle a variety of different scenarios that the job may well encompass.

The art to answering these questions well is by using the STAR framework which stands for: 

Situation: Set the scene and give the necessary details of your example.

Task: Describe what your responsibility was in that situation.

Action: Explain exactly what steps you took to address it.

Result: Share what outcomes your actions achieved.

Here’s a great video to help explain the STAR technique in action.

But remember, an interview is a two-way conversation. Asking intelligent well thought through questions is as important (if not more so) than the questions you will be asked. Therefore, it is critical that you spend as much time beforehand preparing incisive, searching questions as it is to prepare your answers.

4. What to wear

An interview is a formal occasion so smart business attire is the default. What this means will vary depending on the industry sector and to a certain extent the age of the people interviewing you. By dressing correctly, it will not only help you to get into the right mindset, but it also sends a powerful message to the interviewer that you are taking the interview seriously. Under this context also wear clothes that you feel great in, that are comfortable and that ultimately help to bring the best out of you!

5. Punctuality

First impressions count. Punctuality is a key business skill. Therefore, plan your journey ahead of the interview, factor in some extra time in case your mode of transport is delayed and have the contact number/email of the company to hand in case your best made plans go awry.

6. Body language and what to do with your hands

93% of all communication is nonverbal.

In other words, your body language and how you show up in the room is even more important than what you say! This is not about faking it, it’s important to be yourself, but being really aware about how you come across. Factor in a few minutes before the interview to centre yourself and get yourself into the right physical mindset. We highly recommend you watch Amy Cuddy’s famous TED talk that talks about why the power pose is so powerful, especially before an interview.

Think about how you sit and take up the space – shoulders back, lean slightly forward and unfold your arms, all of which will automatically command more presence and give off an air of greater confidence. When it comes to what to do with your hands this great video sums up neatly all the do’s and don’ts! Always remember to smile – but the key is to be natural. If it is appropriate to shake hands, make sure yours is comfortably firm.

7. Supporting documents

Take your CV (and covering letter, if asked to write one) with you. Also, if you have been asked to make a presentation and this involves the use of technology, ensure that your laptop (if appropriate) is fully charged. Alternatively email the presentation ahead of your interview and/or put it on a memory stick to take to the meeting. If, however, you are presenting hard copies remember to take enough for everyone in the room.

And finally, good luck. We would love to know how you get on!

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