So you have the interview lined up for the job you want. They liked your CV and cover letter, so it's down to this. And now is when the panic really sets in...
Now we can't guarantee you're going to get every job you go for. But there are plenty of things you can do to make sure you give yourself the best chance possible of being the candidate of choice. So here are some dos (and don'ts) for your job interview:
DO arrive on time. If it's face to face, give yourself plenty of time to park, or walk from the station, but also to get through the building. You want to appear relaxed and fresh-faced, not hot and sweaty. Give yourself time to use the bathroom so that you're physically comfortable. If your interview is at 9am, don't arrive at 8, but you want to be there waiting by 8:50.
If you're online, the same principle applies. Have your camera and sound up and working in plenty of time. If the meeting is on Zoom or Meets, makes sure you have the app on your computer, and that an update isn't pending! Check any headsets ahead of time. And be waiting to be let in five minutes before the start.
DON'T ignore people. Whether it's the receptionist or other candidates, be polite, friendly and courteous. And smile. No one likes the candidate who tries to dominate proceedings by talking incessantly, but making small talk will help all of you to relax. And being friendly is noticed by those around you - and you've no idea who might be watching.
DO look (and smell) the part. Smart is always good, even if employees wear casual clothing day to day. You're making an effort; you're saying that you want to impress. If you're a man, try to find out if those at board level at least wear ties and, if so, wear one. These days it's often just as acceptable to wear an open-necked shirt. Wear toned-down colours as well - dark greys and navy are always a safe bet. A lot of research suggests that decisions on whether not to hire are made in about eight seconds! A lot of that comes from unconscious bias. If you're wearing bright orange for example, and someone on the panel doesn't like orange (which apparently is a less-favourite colour amongst people) then they begin to take a dislike towards you. For most jobs, the look you're going for is conservative but not stuffy. But if you're unsure, ask.
If you're in person, cover other bases such as brushing your teeth or at least chewing gum before you go in the room (but remove it before the interview!) Take a can of deodorant along to apply in the bathroom if you're travelling some distance.
Online, try to wear plain-coloured tops. Busy patterns can pixelate on a poor connection which can be distracting. If your room isn't 'professional-looking', consider using one of the virtual backgrounds as well. Something neutral rather than the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, though...
DON'T be afraid to ask for a question again. Online, you can feign a poor connection. Face-to-face, it's ok to say, "I'm sorry, could you say that again, please?" If you're not sure what a question means, it's better to ask, "What do you mean, exactly?" than begin to waffle and go completely off track. Remember, at this point they are finding out who you are, not whether you can do the job or not. Asking questions when you're unsure is a strength, not a weakness.
DO research the company. Go back to the job description and person specification, trawl the website, read the blogs. Go onto LinkedIn and see who works for them but also who and what they follow. Sometimes the most effective research can be reading around the subject matter. Make sure you're up to date with any government policy changes that might impact upon the industry, or the status of the market currently. The more prepared you are, the more relaxed you'll be and the better you'll present yourself.
DON'T be afraid of silence. If you can't think of an answer immediately, take a breath and think. Use stalling techniques if you need. "Hmm, that's a really good question..." is a favourite and, as long as you don't use it too often, it works. These fillers give you time to compose an answer in your head.
DO make sure you know what the interview will be about. You don't have to second-guess the actuall questions, but try to find out who will be interviewing you and their roles. Is it just one interview or a series of panels on different topics? Perhaps you're attending an assessment day, with tasks to complete as well. You're perfectly within your rights to ask as many questions ahead of time as you feel you need to.
DON'T go off on a tangent. In your answers to the interview questions, try to be as concise as possible. If you're being asked about a demonstrable skill, give a brief example of when you have displayed that skill and what the impact was. If you don't have an example, be hypothetical, so, "I would do X so that Y was more effective." If you find yourself talking about something irrelevant, simply stop - don't keep digging!
DO have follow-up questions. Take in some notes with things you want to know more about, whether specific to your role or the company as a whole. If you feel you've got everything you need at this stage, a good go-to is, "What's the best thing for you about coming to work each day?" It suggests a positive mindset and also allows them to wax lyrical about (hopefully) a company they're proud of. It also guarantees that the interview ends on a high note.
DON'T PANIC! Everyone gets nervous at interviews and the interviewers will be expecting that and make allowance. A little bit of stress can be your friend, sharpening and focusing your mind on the task at hand. A I wrote previously in my blog, I'm Rubbish At Interviews, however, if you don't believe in yourself, neither will they. You've been brought in for a reason. You are good enough - so show them what they'll be missing if they don't employ you.
If you'd like any help prepping for an interview, either through some coaching or a mock run-through, drop me a line at email@example.com and I'd be happy to help.