At any stage of a career and whether you're going for a permanent or contract position, the interview is often a daunting prospect. Leaving a great first impression is crucial to making it to the next stage of the process which can often be lengthy and involve various stakeholders, dependant on the type of position you're going for.
Whether you are experienced or new to interviews, preparation is key for interview success. We rounded up a few tips to strengthen your skills and help impress your interviewer.
Before the interview
It is important to bear in mind that success starts before you enter the interview. Preparation is vital and here are some of the areas and questions to think about before turning up:
Know your CV really well
Interviewers often ask you in-depth questions about your resume and previous experience. Articulating your experience and providing some level of detail to your answers is crucial to show the interviewer your competence and credibility. Express yourself concisely and make key points to highlight your experience and accomplishments. Finding the right balance here is important, providing enough depth whilst omitting unnecessary detail that does not add value to your answer.
Research the industry and company
Focusing your job search within one or a few industries enables you to have greater background knowledge about the industries themselves. It also shows the interviewer that you have carefully considered your career plans and the path you wish to take. Having concrete examples as to why you want to enter a certain industry is worthwhile thinking about prior to an interview. You want to turn up to an interview having a good level of knowledge about the company you have applied to. Some questions to think about whilst preparing include: who the main competitors of the company are, what differentiates them from these competitors and why you want to work for this company. Reading through the website of the company and researching the LinkedIn profiles of your interviewers and the wider company team can help you to feel more prepared and at ease at the interview.
Research the role and the requirements of the role you have applied to
It is also very important to understand the role you would be interviewing for. Interviewers are likely to check your understanding of the role and what in particular appeals to you about it. They are also likely to check how well you have thought about how your skills match the requirements of the role. Questions around this area may include: what skills you can bring for the role, where you have demonstrated those skills before, what you would find most challenging about the role and why and what skills you are looking to develop. Showing your passion for the role is vital. No matter how great your experience may resonate with the role, if you do not portray your interest enough, the interviewer is unlikely to proceed with your application.
Presentation and Punctuality
First impressions count, interviewers would notice your presentation from the first time you meet. Psychological research indicates that appearance and presentation greatly impact hiring decisions. It is thus essential that you turn up well-groomed and polished and have carefully considered your outfit. Simple, professional presentation is the best to aim for. Moreover, interviewers would watch out for your punctuality as this would show how seriously you take the interview and your ability to effectively manage your time. Plan your journey ahead and aim to arrive at the interview prior to its scheduled time, this would ensure you are on time even if the unexpected happens during your journey.
During the interview
During the interview, it's all about making that great impression with your skills, knowledge of the company and suitability for the role at hand.
Body language and non-verbal cues
According to research, within the first 5 minutes, interviewers make up their mind about candidates and then look for things to confirm that decision throughout the rest of the interview. Whilst this might not always be the case for all interviewers, first impressions really do count. Demonstrating confidence and composure straight from the start is essential. As the interviewer comes to greet you, stand up, give them a firm handshake, smile and introduce yourself. Before the interview begins, they are likely to initiate some small talk; keep a smile on and look open, approachable and receptive. During the interview, maintain good eye contact, keep a good posture and speak clearly. Avoid fidgeting, looking around the room or being distracted. This sends interviewers the wrong signals and it makes you come across as unprofessional and unpolished.
Striking a balance between being professional and showing your personality is vital. Interviewers want to see who you are, be yourself and allow your personality to show through. Engage in small talk at the start and end of the interview and maintain a professional tone when articulating your experience and answering questions. Try not to be too laid back or overly serious, aim for a balance. Companies want to hire intelligent, determined and fun people so try to demonstrate how smart and engaging you are. Make sure you keep your energy and enthusiasm throughout the interview and when you have the chance, express your gratitude for the interviewers’ time. Interviewers want to hire someone who is able to illustrate professionalism whilst being personable and polite.
Content and Structure
Some of the most common types of questions used at interviews are behavioural interview questions, which attempt to uncover how you behaved in the past. Interviewers use them to determine how you are likely to respond in the workplace in the future. Examples of these competency types of questions include ‘Tell me about a time you were required to complete a task under a tight deadline’ or ‘ Tell me about a time when you had to problem-solve’. During the interview, it is important to answer each question clearly and concisely. Having a clear structure when providing an answer ensures the content is more accessible and easy to follow for the interviewer. One effective method of answering behavioural interview questions in a logical and methodical way is the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) interview response technique.
Situation- Describe the event or the situation that you were in
Task- Describe the task that you had to complete
Action- Describe the specific actions you took to complete the task
Result- Describe the results of your efforts
At the end of the interview, you would likely be asked if you have any questions. Ideally, you want to come up with a couple of good inquisitive questions about the role or the company. Make sure to take time to say thank you to your interviewer and if you are feeling confident about how the interview went, enquire about what the next steps would entail.