The ultimate guide to succeeding at interviews
Give yourself the best chance of securing a graduate job with this expert interview advice.
This is where things to start to heat up though. An interview is your chance to shine and show your potential employer exactly what you’re made of, but there’s no denying that they can be tough. From what you should wear to what you should do afterwards, it’s likely that you have masses of questions about the whole process.
To give you the best chance of success at this stage, we’ve broken the whole interview process down into the main sections that you need to focus on (because we want you to succeed).
What’s in this guide?
How to prepare
Get the correct clothes
99 times out of 100, a suit will be the best option for your job interview. Unless you’re absolutely certain that it’s not appropriate for the job that you’re going for, stick to this.
For the men, a shirt and tie is also essential, and the ladies should go for a smart fitted shirt. Make sure it’s ironed and you’re well groomed too. Now isn’t the time for crazy hairstyles, elaborate piercings or displaying your tattoos!
Prepare for common questions
You never know what your interviewer is going to ask, but it’s safe to make a couple of assumptions. Typical interview questions come up time and time again, so make sure that you know what they are and what your answers might be.
It’s good to have a few examples in mind of when you’ve really excelled during projects that you’ve been involved in.
If you are unsure of what is usually asked then double check out common interview questions and answers guide.
Do your research
You’ll be expected to know about the business and the industry that they are involved in, so put in the hours when it comes to research.
Apart from the general stuff about what a company does, seek out any recent news stories that it’s been featured in, as well as some information about competitors. Recruiters can spot you from a mile off if you don’t really know what you’re talking about in this respect!
If you’re given the name of the person that will be interviewing you, do a little research on them too. You might discover that you went to the same university or have similar work experience, which could be good talking points.
Match yourself to the job
Make sure you double check what the employer is looking for in an ideal candidate and match your skills & abilities with this.
If you want to make sure you are super prepared then pull out examples from previous work roles or life experiences for each skill & ability that you possess with the purpose of using them during an interview.
Things to take with you on the day
Always read any information that you’re given about the interview very carefully. Sometimes you might have to prepare a small presentation in advance, or there might be specific documents that you need to take along.
If the instructions are fairly vague, take along your CV, a copy of your passport, and any portfolios that you think might be relevant. All these things can fit easily into your bag, and it’s best to be on the safe side.
If there’s something you really aren’t sure of, don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and give the HR department a call. If anything, it just shows how enthusiastic you are about the role.
A few more things to consider when preparing for your interview are:
- plan the journey and account for any delays
- prepare questions to ask the interviewer (about the company or role)
- re-read your CV
- & practice with friends and family
What to do on the day?
Get there early… but not too early
Being late is a guaranteed way to not get the job, so make sure that you get there with plenty of time to spare!
If you’re not familiar with the area, it’s worth doing a test run to make sure you know the route. Always account for rush hour traffic too, and everyday occurrences such as delayed trains and buses.
However, try not to be more than 15 minuted early as you won’t want to appear too keen.
Settle your nerves
It’s absolutely normal that you’ll feel nervous before your interview, we all do. It’s a natural response, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
If you’re worried that your nerves might get the better of you though, there are a few steps that you can take to ensure that you stay calm.
Look up some breathing exercises online, look into some herbal remedies, or create your own routine for the few hours before the interview that you know will relax you and focus your mind. A walk in the park, for example, works for a lot of people.
Also, it’s worth keeping things in context. If you don’t get offered the job, it isn’t the end of the world. There’s always next time, and you can just put the whole thing down to experience.
In the Interview
Set off on the right foot
First impressions are really important, so make sure that you get off to a good start!
Turn up on time and with everything you need, and great your interviewers with a smile and a handshake.
If you have the opportunity try and fit in some small talk. Asking things such as; Busy morning? or How has the move into the new office been? are a good starting point.
Maintain positive body language
Body language gives off a strong impression when you’re in an interview, so try to get it right.
Sit up straight, don’t fold your arms, and maintain good eye contact throughout. And it might sound cheesy, but you can’t beat a good smile!
Answer questions calmly
If you took the time to prepare then you’ll have your answers prepared to a lot of questions, but try to keep calm if anything pops up that you’re unsure of.
Take your time, and resist the urge to babble or talk too quickly. If you get stuck on a particular question, don’t be afraid to ask if you can return to it at the end of the interview.
It’s also ok to take a few seconds to think before answering each question. Use this time to remember your examples and previous experiences that you can link your answer to.
Try to keep your examples varied and make sure that you go into the finer details.
Ask the interviewer a question
Use any questions that you have prepared or ask about anything that you want to elaborate on that was bought up in the interview itself.
If you are struggling for questions then a fail safe one is always “would you like me to go over anything that I haven’t covered?”
Obviously, you should avoid any questions about pay and benefits. Instead, focus on the role of the business as a whole.
End on a good note
At the end of the interview, thank the recruiter and leave with a smile and a handshake.
If they walk you to the door then try and engage in small talk again before leaving.
What to do afterwards
A good strategy is to send a brief email or a letter thanking the interviewer for their time and letting them know that you’re available should they have any questions. If it’s a toss up between you and another candidate, this proactive approach could help you to stand out.
If you haven’t heard back within a few weeks, chase it up by giving the recruiter a call.
Even if you aren’t offered the role, always seek feedback. Finding out what you got right and where you might have gone wrong is invaluable when it comes to preparing for future interviews.
Psst. if you’re looking for more advice on what to do after an interview then check out our more in depth guide here.
We really hope that this guide will help you to prepare for and excel in an interview. Remember that preparation is key, and when you have these areas, you’re much better placed for success.
Finally, good luck! Don’t forget that you’ve done really well to get this far, and you could be on the path to securing that job that you’ve been dreaming of.