The employer was clearly impressed by your CV or application form, and now you have another opportunity to wow them. If you follow the tips and techniques outlined here you’ll have the best possible chance of getting the job.
If you want to approach the interview in the best possible frame of mind it’s absolutely critical that you prepare for it.
You should have made a copy of your job application. Now’s the time to study it, making sure you’re familiar with your answers and can elaborate where necessary.
Research the organisation in question, learning as much as possible about their products or services, their customers, their history and their ethos. The more you know about an organisation the easier you’ll find it to convince the interviewer that you’re a good match. You can even spend a while checking them out on social media as that will give you a good idea what they’ve been up to recently. If you have an opportunity to weave this knowledge into your conversation it will grab their attention and could give you the edge.
You may also wish to do some interview practice with a friend or careers consultant. While you can never be sure what questions will arise, interview practice can form a framework and also get you used to the process. When it comes to the real thing you should be calmer and have a better idea of what to expect.
Make sure you leave plenty of time to get to the interview location – there’s nothing worse than a manic dash that means you arriving unprepared and stressed at the interview. If you arrive with plenty of time to spare you can look over your application again and check that you’re well presented.
2. Dress appropriately
How candidates should dress for interviews is a hotly debated topic and can be a bit of a minefield, but it shouldn’t be so difficult.
Unless you’re applying for a role at an organisation in the creative industry you should probably dress conservatively. If you dress smartly and simply it’s unlikely the interviewer will take much notice of what you’re wearing, focusing instead on what you have to say. Avoid prominent designer logos and anything too garish, go easy on the perfume or aftershave, make sure your shoes are clean and suit the rest of your attire.
If you’re in any doubt, Monster’s article highlighting the worst things to wear to a job interview may save the day.
3. Bring any relevant documentation
Your prospective employer may have asked you to bring ID for them to check should you wish to progress further in the process. Don’t forget to bring these if you’ve been asked, as good first impressions are critical.
If you haven’t already provided them with details of referees, they may ask that you provide this information following the interview. With this in mind, take a copy of your referees’ contact details and make sure you’ve checked that they’re happy to be contacted.
Bring along a couple copies of your CV should anybody on the interview panel ask to see the document.
Carry a copy of your application form so you can have a quick look through prior to the interview. It’s really important that you’re able to recall what you wrote and are able to elaborate on your answers should you be asked to.
For a creative role it’s likely that the employer would want to see your portfolio. Even if they’ve already seen this online it would be a good idea to bring a printed version along with you, or carry an iPad that you can use to show examples of your work to the interviewer.
4. Turn off your phone
Your phone ringing mid-interview may not be enough for an interviewer to decide you’re not the right candidate for the job, but how you deal with it certainly could be.
For peace of mind and to avoid any potential pitfalls, just turn your phone off or to silent. Don’t leave it on vibrate – if it rings in your pocket you may find yourself momentarily distracted and unable to engage effectively with the interviewer.
If you forgot to turn your phone off and it does ring, let’s hope you don’t have a terrible ringtone. Apologise, turn your phone to silent and then move on. If you answer the phone or lose your composure because your phone interrupted the interview, don’t be surprised if your interview isn’t a success.
5. Be enthusiastic
Any prospective employer will hope to see evidence of your motivation to succeed and it stands to reason that they’ll also want to see that you’re enthusiastic about the prospect of working for them. Bring energy into the room and make sure you’re able to communicate the passion you have for your field. Start the interview with a firm handshake, maintain eye contact throughout and try to speak clearly and confidently, in spite of your nerves.
An interview isn’t just about waiting for your turn to speak, it’s an opportunity to engage with the interviewer and find out more about the role, their organisation and your potential role within it.
When given the opportunity you should of course sell yourself, emphasising your qualities, but the ability to listen attentively is a valued quality and one that you can demonstrate in your interview. Don’t interrupt, do maintain eye contact, and carefully consider the questions being asked of you before answering as fully and as clearly as possible.
7. Use examples to outline your selling points
Many people find it difficult to sell themselves, and that’s understandable. Selling yourself depends on your sense of self-worth and if you’re not used to talking up your qualities it can be difficult to appear authentic.
Unfortunately you’ll struggle to achieve a successful interview outcome if you aren’t able to highlight what you’re best at. This comes with practice but also depends on greater familiarity with your CV and your selling points. It’s also important that you don’t bury the positives – make sure you emphasise the specific quality or selling point first and then offer a specific example of how you relied on this quality to get the job done.
It’s important that you’ve prepared a selection of selling points prior to your interview. These will likely be things touched upon in your CV or application form, but make sure you can elaborate further on each. And expect the interviewer to try to throw you off with the dreaded “What are your weaknesses?” question! Don’t go with the “perfectionist” response – it’s cliché and there are other ways to more effectively deal with this. You could suggest that you can be too detail oriented or self-critical, as each of these can be interpreted as strengths as well as weaknesses, but it often pays to be honest. If your weakness is public speaking, say so – and then go on to talk about how you’d like to rectify that. Showing willingness to address your weaknesses will be seen as a positive.
8. Anticipate the interviewer’s concerns
If you feel that you managed to secure the interview despite not completely satisfying essential or desirable criteria, it will be beneficial to spend some time thinking about how to deal with this issue if it arises during your interview.
Perhaps you’re not quite as experienced in the field as the employer would like, or you could be missing certain skills that they feel are desirable. Research how you could acquire these skills or talk about relevant work experience and extracurricular activities, as this might help offset these concerns.
They invited you to interview despite having reservations so you still have an opportunity to take the initiative by showing willing and demonstrating that you’re the best candidate, despite an apparent shortcoming on your application form or CV.
9. Ask good questions
Interviewers frequently offer candidates the opportunity to ask questions. It would be a waste to not use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your interest in the role and the organisation.
“Why has this role opened up?” is a great one because it shows interest in staff turnover and retention, which suggests that you’re planning on sticking around.
Likewise, asking about staff training and education shows that you’re thinking long-term and would be interested in advancing within the organisation.
Don’t be shy about asking your interviewer about their experiences and what they enjoy most about their work.
10. End on a positive
While first impressions are all important, so are the final moments of any interview as they’ll remain fresh in your interviewers’ minds when they consider your meeting.
It may seem forward but don’t be shy about making it clear that you would like the job. You could also consider whether you’ve covered all your selling points, and if not then briefly take the opportunity to highlight what you’ve missed.
Don’t forget to thank the interviewer or interview panel for the opportunity. It’s polite and it further demonstrates your interest in the role.
You should also follow-up with an email that reinforces your interest and addresses any concerns that may have been expressed.