Being Your Best at an Interview

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published On: 23 Feb 2016

Job interviews are the best way for an employer to put a face to the application. They can be very nerve-racking, daunting experiences. Everybody has to go through them to get that superb job, and the best way to secure that post is to make sure you’ve prepared first. If you don’t have much experience of interviews, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Read our handy guide on how to impress your employer to-be.

Before the interview

You may have applied for so many jobs that you don’t actually remember this particular company. Once you hear you’ve got an interview, read up on the company as much as you can. Have another look at the job posting and the person requirements. Revise this document thoroughly, highlighting key words and phrases that you can use in the interview (without repeating the entire document to them of course).

Get your outfit together the night before. A good rule of thumb for what to wear is to go for an outfit that’s roughly one pay grade above what you would be on. All work environments are different however, so there’s no exact rule of what to wear. Ensure that you have everything you need the night before so you’re not flustered the next day.

Do you know where the venue is? Find out in advance where the location of your interview is and how long it will take to get there. If you have time, it’s a good idea to go on a dummy run first. How much will rush hour affect the journey time? Are there any alternative routes? Do you need an on-site parking permit? These are all things you can request from the company leading up to the interview.

If you’re worried about what they’ll ask you, make sure you have some answers prepared for these basic interview questions:

  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Can you give an example of how you overcame a difficult situation?
  • What’s your five-year plan?

Where you can, use phrases from the person specification on the job application.

Make enough time for sleep and breakfast the next day. Even if you don’t normally eat breakfast in the mornings, it might be a good idea to do so as you don’t want to be distracted by hunger during your interview! Don’t spend the night before cramming in information about the company. It’s stressful, time consuming and you won’t be retaining any of it.

Think of some questions you may want to ask at the end of the interview. Even if it’s just one, it shows your interest in the company. As well as this, you need to remember that interviews are a two-way street. You want to make sure that the employer is for you. However, it’s not good practice to ask about perks and time off.

During the interview

It sounds obvious, but always make a good first impression with a smile and a handshake. Be polite to everyone you meet on the way to your interview room. They might not be interviewing you but their opinion of you could cost you the position.

Eye contact is key during interviews. Most interviews have two or three people in them, so make sure when answering their questions you make eye contact with each of them. If one person has asked you a question, you’re answering it for everyone there.

Try to keep on topic with your answers. If you feel you’re going off-topic, finish your sentence as soon as possible, or wrap up what you’re saying with a direct answer to the question.

Never swear or use slang words in an interview. Depending on the work environment, the interview could be incredibly formal or quite relaxed. If it’s a relaxed atmosphere, don’t let this fool you. If you start acting like you already work there, it’ll come across as arrogant. Don’t criticise former colleagues or employers. What you’re saying may be correct, but it won’t portray the impression you want to give.

Always try to give examples in your interview answers. If you can use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result) in your answers it’ll give the employer a well-rounded example of what kind of employee you are:

Situation: Name a situation that may be relevant to the question (e.g. health and safety, training, client conflicts etc.)
Task: What was required of you in this particular example? What were you responsible for here?
Action: What did you yourself do in this situation that helped it?
Result: Because of your actions, what was the result of the situation?

Here’s an example of STAR:
“There was a mix up on an order of supplies we requested for a promotional event. Instead of getting one-hundred magnets to give out at an event, we got two-thousand and couldn’t return them. (Situation) It was my job to raise awareness of the company by giving these freebies out at a conference. (Task) With the leftover magnets, I sent them to our old clients as gifts. (Action) We ended up getting some old clients come back to us as a result. (Result)

STAR shows the employer how competent you are as an employee and how you would react in certain situations in the workplace.

Prepare for a test or a small task if you can. This usually comes along for second interviews if it didn’t happen at the first. If you get invited to a second interview, ask if you need to prepare anything in advance for it.

If you’re asked something you don’t know much about, don’t panic. Answer the question as best as you can but admit that you’re a little bit inexperienced in this particular area. Highlight to the interviewer(s) that you’re an eager learner and willing to look into the subject in more detail to develop your skills.

Always end on a positive note for all of the answers you give where you can. Shake the hand of each person who has interviewed you before you leave and thank them for their time. Ask them when you can expect to hear back from them.

After the interview

You may have left the building, but the interview process isn’t over yet. If you can that same day, write them a quick email to thank them once again for interviewing you and express your interest in the role. You can ask any extra questions here that you may have forgotten to bring up in the interview too. Keep the email brief and to the point.

All in all, as long as you’ve read the person specification, researched the company well and given examples using the STAR technique, you’re in a good position with your competitors for the role.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter: @EandTJ