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How to ace the case at an interview

You have a 2:1 from a reputable university, were the captain of your sports team, had an internship at a law firm and have a great smile?  The recruiter said it would just be a chat about your experience and your personality? You’ve already had three interviews and two assessment centres; this new interview will just be a walk in the park?

Well, let me tell you; never ever think that it’s in the bag!

Freshminds recently participated in a mock assessment centre with UCL as part of their Global Citizenship Employability Programme. Many MSc and BSc graduates from various specialities attended and went through a speed networking session. Here are 5 top tips from the day to share with you too. 

1) First impressions stick

Harvard Business School social psychologist, Amy Cuddy, studied first impressions and came to the conclusion that we form two impressions when we initially meet someone: Can we trust them? How competent are they? We form that opinion based on what we see or hear in less than five seconds. If that first impression is not great, you will struggle to build trust which is what you need for an interview to go well.

I always pay attention to bags: a briefcase or smart bag always looks better than a backpack dropped to the floor before the interview.

There is only so much you can control while meeting someone for the first time but at least make sure the basics have been taken care of: arrive early, have your CV and a pen as well as make sure your outfit is appropriate. The juxtaposing ‘smart casual’ dress code is a difficult one to crack, but a good rule of thumb is that it is always better to be overdressed than to stand out because you are too dressed down.

2) Know your body language

Michael Argyle, in his book “Bodily Communication,” identifies five main functions of non-verbal communication: to express emotions, communicate interpersonal relationships, support verbal interaction, reflect personality and perform rituals (greetings and goodbyes). It is important you evaluate your body language: How is your handshake? Do you make eye-contact? Do you speak with your hands or hide them beneath the table?

For example, personally, I always tie my hair up for interviews to avoid playing with it and which comes across as nervous and fidgety.

Take time to analyse: speaking to yourself in the mirror or filming yourself interviewing can seem cringey, but it can help evaluate what to say and how to say it.  

3) Have an already prepared answer for simple questions

You may have read our articles -  the previous “Freshminds’ top 5 guide to prepare an interview” and “The 10 commandments of the Graduate CV” - but do not forget the basics. You should have analysed all of your past experiences, choice of university subject, your strengths, your weaknesses, and your five-year plan – and have an answer ready for any questions about them. Your answers should be thoroughly thought through and aligned to your career desires.

Even if you don’t think you need to, try to think (in five seconds) of your two greatest weaknesses; how you are working to transform them into qualities and how, as a matter of fact, they are aligned to this new associate consulting job, for example, that you are interviewing for.  

It’s not always an easy thing. As an example, mines are perfectionism and lack of self-confidence:

Weakness: I loose time trying to over do and I believe I can always do better. Plus, regularly questioning my results can make me competitive!

Solution: I am working on it setting objectives and time frames so I manage my time better and I tone down my doubts by asking for regular feedback.

What I have done here is picked weaknesses that are also qualities, showed how they also positively impact my work and how conscious and mature I am of it. I would never tell my interviewer that I have a weird laugh and can’t dance!

4) Be natural and be you

You have done all the ground work, everything is under control and you are well prepared. Now it is time to build rapport with your interviewer, get a feel for the offices and their work atmosphere, and try to enjoy your meeting (without being arrogant) as it will come across well for you.

Where appropriate, engage in appropriate small talk. You saw on their LinkedIn they also played rugby at university? The weather has been very warm the last couple of weeks for playing conditions. Do not forget, this interview is a dialogue and you are also there to check they are the company for you! Ask questions and get to know them and the business.

5) Stay positive

You may find that you will interview again and again and with different people, from HR Coordinators to Team Managers, some of whom may not have read your CV, or give feedback you were expecting. But share the trust and an optimistic view after the interview; thank them for their time and follow up with an email. Stay confident and do not come across desperate. If they do not want you, their loss!

Try not to be overly negative about your current or previous company. It may be the case that you really want that new job because you cannot wait to change, but don’t let that come across. Don’t let the interviewer know that your actual manager is a horrible person and the company is going down. Try more of the line that it has been a great learning curve, but you feel like a new challenge.

So there’s a quick overview of making a good impression in an interview. There’s naturally a lot more to it, but remember that a Freshminds Candidate Manager is always on hand for help and advice when it comes to acing the case at an interview!

Emilie Pain

Emilie Pain

Candidate Manager, Projects Team

 

Emilie specialises in managing the research analyst network for the projects team, placing people into freelance positions in top-tier companies and consultancies.

 

Want to find out more about acing the case at interview? Get in touch with Emilie for more information and advice for you.