Essential Guide to Interviews

Congratulations. You have an interview. Not many people see this as a success but I do. You've made a CV and other materials stand out from the crowd whilst being similar enough (i.e. keywords) to make it through the dreaded CV sift. CV's tend to be handled by everything bar humans and so getting an interview in this day and age is an achievement you should be proud of.

In this post, I'm going to talk about interview prep, do's and don'ts, different kinds of interviews and  the most commonly asked interview questions. Every interview is different but they tend to have a similar structure. They want to know why they should pick you.

1. Research the Company's profile and background. 

Even if you're an internal applicant this can make or break your interview. Look into their history, and their future goals and plans. Conducting the interview with this in mind will make you seem like a long-term, and therefore important, investment. 

Be ready to talk in depth about the company and the position. 

If possible, find out a little about who is interviewing you. I was once interviewed by a PR company. I Googled who was interviewing me and we had a really good chat about Newcastle football team - his fav. Little tricks like this can calm your nerves and break the ice. 

Network - talk to current/ex employees. If you are one going for an internal role, talk to those with that job role. What was the interview format? What's the dress code? Get a feel for what the job role and environment will be like. Social Media is your friend.

2. Think of questions to ask your employer.

People often forget that an interview is a two way process. Yes, they're interviewing you as it is their company, but you are also interviewing them. Are they good enough to employ you? Does the company reflect your goals and ambitions?

As well as the two way process, participating actively during an interview can express a high level of interest in the job. It's a great idea to come prepared with at least three thought-provoking questions to ask. 

Bonding with your interviewer is also a good idea. Ask how long they've been with the company and what they like about the company. Don't forget, you're interviewing them too.

3. Be positive

I go by the theory that if you fake confidence, you will become confident. Over a period of years I have faked it and now I can walk into a room of people and feel like we're best mates within half an hour. 

Smile. Smiles are contageous and will make both interviewer and interviewee feel at ease.

Body language, tone and words are the three things that people get judged on within the first 30 seconds of meeting. If you look like an arrogant prick before opening your mouth, they probably won't hire you. 

Sit up straight and talk with your hands. If you're passionate about something, express it. If you run a blog or YouTube channel, make it sound like it's the best thing on Earth. 

Use positive language such as "Absolutely," "Sure thing" and avoid phrases like "No problem."
The first thing a person will pick up on is the word no which will leave a negative mark. Also, make sure you're listening and nod in agreement.

"If in doubt, fake it out."

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

I love a little role-play. If I didn't love having weekends off so much, I could have ventured into the world of acting.

If you have a friend that has gone through an interview, or has one too, sit down with them and practice. 

Get feedback from the friend. This will structure your answers, get you use to the terminology, get you comfortable with the answers, make you listen and aware of where you could go wrong and let you set the pace for your answers. Even if their feedback isn't the best, it's something to keep in mind. as the actual interviewer could share the same views.

5. Anticipate their questions...

The most commonly asked questions are:

  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? - when confronting weaknesses it could be something you've worked around. With me, "I'm a control freak but a natural team leader as a result," "I'm loud but I can confidently give a presentation to a lecture theatre full of people" Weaknesses aren't bad.
  • Where do you see yourself in five years? - Don't suck up. If you want to be a manager or a team leader then say so. Tell them personal goals if they need to hear it. I.e. I'm wanting my own house by the end of the year and this job enables me to fulfill that dream.
  • 'Why do you want this job?' - "I shine in a fast paced, target driven environment and have the opportunity to cultivate that here"
There are so many possibilities. 

In every interview I have ever had, including for the job that I currently have, I have used the National Career Service. In particular, this link was so helpful with question and answer prepping.

Don't be afraid to not know something. You're only human. It's better to have a full understanding then to go in blind.

P.s. NEVER ask about money. They will determine when that's appropriate. 

6. Be early

I rejected a job from a company that weren't prepared for me an hour after I arrived. I arrived in good time, clean, professionally dressed and with all of my documents. 15 minutes had passed and I was still waiting in reception (this was the time my interview was due to begin) another 20 minutes and someone hurried passed and said they'd be right with me. Of course I smiled, courteous, I mean they were running a business. But when it hit the hour mark and a women passed me and said "oh yes, come this way" like she didn't even know I was coming, I knew I wasn't interested any longer.

They didn't have questions properly prepared and one person even went for a cigarette break during my interview. Wot.

So anyway, be early, don't drink coffee or chew gum and always be polite. You heard about that guy who told a commuter to eff himself? Well that turned out to be his interviewer :') 

7. Dress to Impress

'If you wouldn't be buried in it, don't wear it...' my number one rule.

Even if the place is a casual one, you aren't part of the team yet. Wear blacks, blues, greys and browns to make a professional impression. 

Don't wear jeans, particularly ripped ones, don't wear heels you can't walk in, don't have your boobs, butt or anything your Mama would tell you off for having on show.

Walk with absolute confidence like you could be their boss one day.

8. Eye Contact

Don't stare out your interviewer because that's just creepy.

Making the right amount of eye contact in an interview can make the difference whether you get the job or not. 

According to UCLA professor and researcher Albert Mehrabian, '55 percent of messages processed by the brain are based on a person's body language.'

The eyes become a window to your interest level and can also indicate levels of deception. 
When you establish good eye contact, you'll feel heard and appear more likable. 

9.Quit yo' jibba jabber 

Body language, tone and words are the three things that people get judged on within the first 30 seconds of meeting. If you look like an arrogant prick before opening your mouth, they probably won't hire you. 

If you struggle with an answer, it's fine, just say to the interviewer "Let me just think about that." They would much rather a good answer after a while then an immediate but bad answer.

Keep things simple and short. It can be hard trying to sound competent with sounding cocky and pompous. 

  • Structure your answers in 30-90 second chunks. Too little you seem disinterested and unqualified. Too much, you'll lose where you're going and quite frankly, your interviewer couldn't give two shits.
  • Don't use slang words or off-colour humour in your interview. Don't say "Awesome. fav. amazeballs" because they just won't get it and you'll look like an idiot. Be careful with humour because people can take some serious offence. 
  • Don't criticize a former employer. Be honest in likes and dislikes but don't launch a personal attack on the company. 
10. Take notes

As well as an updated CV and any other paperwork you have brought, it's okay to sit and take notes. I have an awful memory and so find that taking notes lets me truly process what the employer is saying.

11. After the interview

Go for a coffee or that well deserved cigarette and reflect on the experience. 
What went well?
What could you improve for next time?

Mine is that I blab wayyyyy too much. I feel the need to tell them EVERYTHING about myself in one breath. This comes across as nerves when I actually just lose track of what the hell I'm on about.

12. Follow up

The hated part. Pestering someone for more of their attention but actually this is an essential part of the process.
If you have got the job, you find out earlier! Wooo!
If not, you gather feedback to improve for the next job interview.

For an extensive Do's and Don'ts list from the National Careers Service, click here.

That's about it for my 'Essential Guide to Interviews.' 

What are your tips and tricks?

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