You only get one chance to make a first impression, so when it comes to that all-important job interview, it’s crucial you get it right.
It’s not about luck – it’s about attention to detail, doing your homework and lots of practice with plenty of time to spare. As the old saying goes, fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
At Forward Role, we’ve placed thousands of people in jobs across the UK and we’re always on hand to offer our candidates interview advice on the best ways to impress an employer. So, whether you’re looking to get your foot on the career ladder for the first time, hoping for a promotion, or planning to start a fresh challenge somewhere new, here are five of our top tips to help you grab the opportunity with both hands.
Do your research
It seems simple, but far too many people don’t do enough homework before walking into the interview room. Those that take the time to really get to know the company they want to work for, as well as the people working for it, always stand head and shoulders above the rest in the eyes of a recruiter.
Before your interview, make sure you have a look at the company’s website and try to get a feel for the things they’re involved in. What are their key services, who are they trying to appeal to, and how do they try to portray themselves?
The company’s online newsroom is a great place to look for clues. There could be new products, investments or community activity that give you a much better grasp of the what they’re all about, so take the time to familiarise yourself with as much of that as possible. The overwhelming majority of brands are on some form of social media too, so have a scroll through their latest feeds to see what they’ve been talking about recently.
Your body language is an enormous part of that first impression. A study in America by UCLA found that 93 percent of how people form first impressions has nothing to do with words. It was more about facial expressions, appearance, the level of interest they showed and their vocal tone.
I always tell people to focus on three key things which are smiling, a good amount of eye contact and a firm handshake. Switch on as soon as you leave the house and make sure you’re positive in every conversation you have – that includes the receptionists or other people you might meet in the waiting room. People talk – especially in an office environment – and sometimes what you do outside of the interview room is just as important as what you do in it.
Practice, practice, practice
It might feel awkward, but actually practicing the interview, perhaps with a friend or family member, is a great way to refine your answers. Really think through the kind of questions you’re likely to get asked and have a suite of answers ready to go. Wherever you can, draw upon experiences that relate to the question, so you can demonstrate your capability to do the job. If you’ve only got a limited amount of experience, try to think about things that you’ve done outside of a work environment that might resonate.
More and more we’re seeing employers ask competency-based questions, especially for entry-level or graduate positions. These are where the interviewers really want to know whether you have the right skills to take the position on. The questions will often require you to give an example of something, and the things the business will be looking for can usually be found within the company values on their website; such as teamwork, problem-solving, responsibility or communication skills. Try to think of a good response on these types of areas before you go in and practice the art of telling them in a way that has impact.
This is probably my biggest tip and it might go against what some other recruitment companies say but being true to who you are is always the best approach in my opinion. Your personality and your interests should shine through during an interview and you should never pretend to be someone you’re not. Of course, you want to put the best version of yourself forward. But don’t fake interests or experience because the chances are, the person on the other side of the interview table will see right through it. You obviously need to look the part too – walking into an interview completely under-dressed or looking scruffy will make it really difficult to land the job, no matter how good your personality is.
I’m a big believer in self-selection. Sometimes, no matter what you may think the job just isn’t right for you and if you don’t get it, perhaps it wasn’t meant to be. Learn from the experience and take that into your next interview. The job of your dreams could be just around the corner.
The vast majority of interviewers like candidates to ask questions. It shows that you’ve really put some thought into the interview and the company and are keen to know more.
You can cover simple things like “when are you hoping to make a decision” but do try to think a little deeper. Put the interviewer on the spot and ask them what their favourite things are about working for that company. Or if they’re a founder or director, why not ask what motivated them to start-up the business in the first place. You’ll be amazed how well received those types of questions can be.
If you’re feeling particularly confident, you could even go one step further and ask the interviewer at the end if they think there’s any reason you wouldn’t be a good fit for the role. It gives you an opportunity to tackle any final doubts they may have in their head before you leave the room.
Tread carefully with this one though and only use it if it feels appropriate. There’s a fine line between confidence and arrogance and you never want to overstep the mark!
Forward Role is a leading Marketing, Analytics, Digital, Creative and Tech recruitment consultancy based out of Manchester and London. Visit www.forwardrolerecruitment.co.uk for more information.