So you’ve bagged a brilliant opportunity to interview at a company and you couldn’t be more excited. But how should you conduct yourself on the day?
Here, we’ll share some of our job interview tips to help you land your next dream role.
WHAT ARE FIVE GOOD INTERVIEW TIPS?
1. Make a great first impression
One of the most obvious tips for interviews is to make a great first impression. But how exactly do you go about doing that?
Some simple pointers can include:
- Present yourself professionally: It might be that the company’s culture is quite relaxed and you don’t feel wearing a full suit and tie would be appropriate. However, think about how you would dress if you go the job and needed to show a client around the office. A smart pair of chino trousers or skirt, tucked-in shirt, suit jacket and smart shoes should be the very least to aim for.
- Give a firm handshake: It may sound obvious but there’s nothing more off-putting to a potential hiring manager than an interviewee who gives a limp, unenthusiastic handshake!
- Make a suitable level of eye contact – and remember to smile: Job interviews are serious stuff, but your body language and eye contact levels can go a long way to showing an attractively relaxed kind of inner confidence. That’s why one of the simplest job interview tips we can offer is to hold your interviewer’s gaze for a few seconds, nod, smile, and talk with your hands to show energy and enthusiasm. Doing so in a way that feels natural and conversational can all help to make a fantastic first impression.
2. Know your own experience inside-out
Many posts on the best interview tips will tell you to know the job spec inside out. And it’s true, you should certainly take time to familiarise yourself with the role and company. But focusing on how much you know about your potential employer will only go so far towards impressing at interview. You’re there to sell yourself, and the real substance behind your answers will lie in how well you’re able to do that.
The first step to acing your interview skills is therefore to spend some time going through your own CV and cross referencing it with the job spec to pull out examples of work you’ve done that might relate to the new role. If you’ve followed the CV guidance in our post Top Tips To Get Your CV Noticed this should be relatively simple to do, since you’ll have a concise career story that can help you think back across your career and organise your workplace examples.
3. Respond in this format: point > example > comment
Remember being encouraged to answer essay questions in GCSE English using the format point > quotation > comment? A similar approach is remarkably effective when it comes to job interviews.
For instance, you might be asked a question like “Tell me how you would measure success of a project.” A very on-the-nose answer to this might be that you would measure against the department’s typical key performance indicators (KPIs). This may not be wrong per se, but it’s an uninspired answer that misses an enormous opportunity to convey your creativity and initiative.
Compare that to this approach:
Point: “I’ve actually measured success in a number of different ways across different projects.”
Example: “For instance, on one project that involved [project details] I began by using the department’s typical KPIs. However, I realised they could only show us so much in terms of quantitative data, and that to truly understand our successes and failures we would also need to pair those with deeper qualitative data. I therefore led the inception of a company-wide anonymous survey, which included making a business case for new survey tools to my line manager and presenting the idea to the board. The tools were not only invaluable in the success of the project, but they have since been rolled out across the company and employees at all levels are now trained in their use to gather additional user comments on their own projects.”
Context: “Obviously I realise the role I am applying for may present different challenges, but what that does show I feel is a willingness to challenge the status quo for a much more comprehensive result, and the ability to navigate corporate politics in order to make effective changes that can benefit an entire business beyond the scope of a single project.”
When you compare the two approaches, it’s not hard to see why we’ve included this in our list of top tips to nail that job interview!
4. Answering the tricky questions
There are some particularly tricky questions that are almost guaranteed to come up at interview. We couldn’t write a post on job interview tips without suggestions on how to handle these:
- “Why do you want to leave your current role / Why do you want this job?”
These may sound like two different questions but in truth they’re two sides of the same coin and the answer is the same either way. Essentially, what your current role lacks, is something you believe the new role will offer.
The reason this can be tricky to answer is that it’s seen as poor form to criticise your current employer. However, not making some effort to address the elephant in the room can lead to an answer that feels inauthentic.
Those with good will walk the line between these two extremes. First, explain the many great aspects your current role offers and how much you’ve been able to achieve there. Then follow it up by talking through the career development avenues that are important to you and explain how they aren’t available to you in your current role. Finally, detail why, based on the job spec and your research, you believe the role at the prospective employer might offer that. You can then use that to segway into asking questions of your own around this.
Taking this approach is respectful to your old employer, while candidly answering the question without avoiding it. It also shows you have done your research into the new company, while proactively turning the tables in the interview to make you the one asking questions – which shows poise, confidence and ambition, without things feeling out of context. In fact, these are some of best interview tips since they show you’re also looking for a role that’s the right fit for you.
- “What do you see as your biggest weakness?”
This question is designed to test your ability to show self-awareness but can prove a bit of a trap if you don’t know how to answer it properly. Thankfully, that’s what our job interview tips are here for!
Of course, the cliché here is to say you’re “a perfectionist.” Whatever you do, avoid this answer! It’s overdone and seen as the ‘get-out’ that won’t win you any points for original thinking.
One approach we’ve seen work particularly well is telling the interviewer what a weakness of yours used to be, followed by how you identified it, the approach you took to working on it, and the end result.
For instance, it could be that your boss identified your project time management as a weakness at an appraisal. So you found a course that you enrolled onto, then you set about putting those learnings into practice, including had regular catch-ups with your boss to measure how effective the results were and what needed fine-tuning.
You can then finish by saying “This probably still isn’t something that comes incredibly naturally to me, but it’s something that I’ve worked diligently and purposefully on. I now I see it more as a growing strength than an outright weakness, which is something I’m quite proud of.”
The purpose of this answer is not to come across as infallible, but to show how you maturely handled a potentially career-damaging negative and turned it into a positive through dedication and a responsible attitude.
- What sort of salary are you looking for?
The salary question can be a stumbling block because it catches you between two stalls. On one hand you want to convey that you’re more passionate about the role itself than the salary package. On the other hand, lowballing yourself can convey at best poor self-worth and a lack of ambition, and at worst can show that you’re completely out of touch with current trends in your industry or field.
One of the best we can offer here is to do your research and answer by telling them what you feel a sensible salary bracket looks like for your skill set and experience.
In some instances, the company may do this for you by giving a salary range. In which case, you can tell them “I noticed the given salary range for this role way between X and Y, and I’ve previously earned Z. I feel that fact, coupled with my years of experience, suggests I should realistically be looking at starting in the lower/mid/upper (delete as appropriate) part of this range.”
For roles where a salary isn’t given, you can modify the above somewhat. Tell them that your research indicates what a sensible range would look like, and where your level of experience would fit into that. You can follow that up by conveying how excited you are about the role, and how you’d be open to negotiating depending on their own expectations for the role.
5. Be prepared to do all this on Zoom, Skype or on the phone!
We’re often asked for virtual interview tips by candidates, but honestly, one of the best things you can do is treat a video or phone interview in almost exactly the same way you would were it an in-person meet and greet (well, minus the handshake!).
For telephone interviews, that means preparing in exactly the same way: knowing your experience, being willing to tell stories about it, and relating as much of it as possible to what you feel the employer is looking for.
Our Skype and Zoom interview tips go even further, extending to making sure you’re well-presented and make the best visual first impression possible – both in how you dress, and the way you convey confidence through your body language in front of a camera.
Of course, video interviews can occasionally throw up unusual circumstances that you’d never get at an in-person interview. One of our personal favourites saw a pet walk into the room during the middle of the interview. The interviewer asked what kind it was, so the candidate offered to pick it up and show them! It created a short, simple insight into the candidate’s life that cast them as relaxed and personable, but it was the way they handled the situation by reading the room and asking permission that really led the interviewer to feeling endeared. They got the job, and they’ve been very happy in it since!