Ace your interview!

Research the company.

Many company websites will have an ‘about us’ page. Take in as much as you can in relation to the company set-up, their values, look for blogs or ‘news’ pages to give yourself some talking points, and look on social media to get a feel for their online presence. A lot of companies will ask “why do you want to work for us?” – researching the company will give you some instant answers to this, you can talk about the brand, the company vision, their ethics etc. etc.

Think about your strengths and weaknesses.

This is a very typical interview question. Think specifically about your experience and attributes in relation to the job specification. For example, if the company is asking for strong negotiation skills, draw upon this and give an example of a successful negotiation.

Weaknesses – always a difficult one, no one wants to highlight their flaws! However, anything you can identify and explain how you are working to improve this will show that you’re wanting to develop your skills and strengths. For me personally, I have to work extremely hard at my organisation! Recruitment demands great organisational skills, and I have to chop and change how I plan my day, sometimes writing lists, sometimes using post-its, sometimes setting diary reminders – sometimes a combination of everything. It doesn’t mean I’m bad at my job, but it’s an area I’m conscious of.

If you really want the job – make it clear!

As recruiters, we’re often asked by our Clients for the Candidates’ interview feedback. They want to know that you want the job. You could tick every box of their skills & experience list, but if an employer doesn’t think you’ll bite their hand off for the opportunity, you’re very unlikely to get an offer. So if you come away from the interview feeling positive, don’t hide this. A great idea is to follow up with an e-mail thanking the interviewer for their time and expressing their interest. If you’re worried about this looking pushy, send it to us and we can discuss with the employer.

Ask questions.

Make sure you show interest in the company. Employers invest a lot of time and money in their employees, and it’s very important for them that they are hiring the right people who are a strong fit and show interest in a long-term career with the company. Going back to researching the company, you should be able to think of some questions to ask from looking at their website or social media presence. You could ask about training, long-term career opportunities, systems the company uses, the long-term aims of the company…. If money, hours, holiday etc. hasn’t come up naturally in the interview, it is OK to ask about these things – after all, they are important! – but I would advise asking other questions about the company first. It’s not a good idea for your first questions to be “how much will I get paid?” and “how much time off do I get?”.

Make a strong first impression.

  • Dress for the part – if you’re unsure how formal to dress, more formal will always go down better than underdressed. Generally a suit & tie, trousers/ skirt & blouse and smart shoes would be appropriate. If you’re attending an interview straight from work and will be in your usual work attire, most interviewers will accept this but it’s important to let them know in advance.
  • Don’t go in with food or drinks, or chewing gum.
  • Bear in mind that your interview is likely to begin the moment you arrive at the interview location. You may be sat in a reception area prior to the actual interview, but a hiring manager will often ask their colleagues how you interacted with them on arrival. So always be polite, make eye contact, don’t sit flicking through your phone while you’re waiting.
  • When your interviewer greets you, introduce yourself, make eye contact, smile and shake their hand.

Accept a drink.

If you’re offered a drink, take one. Even if it’s just a glass of water – this can help buy you a little time to think about how you want to answer a trickier question, take a sip to compose yourself before you answer - “drink while you think”!

Take evidence!

Where relevant, take copies of any training certificates or evidence of performance with you. Even if you aren’t asked to show them, taking some sort of folder with you shows you’ve come prepared/ It may be worthwhile taking your driving licence / passport or proof of right-to-work – some employers make decisions on the same day and this can help speed up the process of getting your paperwork.

Practise out loud.

You may rehearse questions and answers in your head, but rehearsing your answers out loud will make you much more coherent and confident when it comes to the interview. Talk out loud to yourself in the mirror, or get a family member or friend to help you out. You’ll probably feel uncomfortable doing this, but if it helps your confidence and lands you your dream job, it’s worth it! If you’re asked to do a presentation as part of the process, rehearsing is an absolute must.

Control your nerves.

It’s OK to be nervous! Nerves show that you care. You could always address it “sorry, I’m a little nervous, I haven’t had an interview for 4 years” or “sorry, I’m a little nervous, I’m really excited about this opportunity!” – at the end of the day, you’re only human. But try not to let them take over, take a deep breath and remember – you’ve done enough to get yourself an interview in the first place, so now is your time to shine.

Be honest.

In my opinion, the worst thing you can do is to lie. Whether it’s about your experience, your reasons for moving jobs in the past, gaps in employment…. If you try to cover something up, you’re more likely to get caught out. Also, people talk: If you’ve nailed the interview but the hiring manager speaks to someone about you and the stories don’t match, even with the best will in the world it’ll look like you’ve got something to hide.