The Job Interview
An interview for a new job is rated as one of the most stressful events we have to face. This five-point plan can help you tackle the challenge with confidence.
1. Be prepared
Know the company you're applying to. Consult their website and ring for a brochure, job description or even their latest press releases, if it will better help you understand their market and the position you're applying for.
If you turn up with no knowledge of the company your potential employer will think you're not interested. Also, the more prepared you are, the less nervous you will be and the better you will be able to sell yourself.
Many interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first five or ten minutes, so you need to get yourself across quickly and clearly.
Arrive early – 15 minutes shows you are keen and reliable and gives you time to rehearse your key messages in your mind. Go into the interview thinking of what you have achieved and what you have to offer. This will help vanquish the negative thoughts brought on by nervousness.
2. Look the part
Always dress smartly and appropriately for the post you are applying for. Making a first impression is important and good grooming shows you have self-respect and know how to present yourself.
Leave any clutter – coat, umbrella and rucksack – in reception, so you won’t appear flustered and will have your hands free to offer the interviewer a firm, friendly handshake.
3. Body language
Body language has as much to do with communication as speech, so it’s important that you get it right. Take a deep breath and walk in with your back straight and head held high with a relaxed smile rather than a forced grin so that you look – and feel – more confident.
Sit back in your chair and don’t fidget, which will give the interviewer the impression that you are nervous, or worse still – lying. The same goes for breaking eye contact. Hold the person with whom you are talking in your gaze. Subtly imitating the interviewer’s pace of speech and body language will create empathy.
4. Say the right things
It’s too easy to talk yourself out of a job. Have some relevant points about yourself and career prepared before hand – obstacles you’ve overcome and successes you’ve enjoyed. Avoid yes and no answers, but don’t do too much talking, just stick to the key points without making it sound like a list. The interviewer may have already seen several candidates that day, so you want your points to be more memorable than the others.
Many people tend to gabble when they feel nervous. If this happens to you, collect yourself and speak steadily and clearly. You don’t have to be perfectly fluent as long as you communicate your meaning. If you have a speech impediment, such as a stammer, either mention it on the application form or at the beginning of the interview, rather than trying to hide it.
5. Be ready for anything
Some recruiters believe, probably misguidedly, that the interview process can be helped along with questions designed to put the candidate under pressure. The Reed employment agency says queries are getting more and more bizarre, from “what kind of fish would you like to be and why,” to “how would you nail jelly to the ceiling?” Don’t be thrown off-balance – simply remember that the interviewer is trying to find out what sort of person you really are while your guard is down.
More likely is a “killer” question, perhaps one about the gap in your CV. Again, have an answer prepared – one that’s concise and upbeat.
Pausing before answering a question will make your responses seem spontaneous – even if they aren’t. When asked a tricky or unexpected question, buy yourself some thinking time by asking the interviewer to repeat it.
Being asked to sum up your strengths and weaknesses is common at job interviews. Be ready for this by asking a friend or close colleague for an assessment of you in five or six words. For the interview, be able to identify situations in which you have overcome your weaknesses.
At the end of the interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions. Have three or four good ones ready, preferably some that point to the future and the way the role will develop should you win it.