Interview top tips
Congratulations! You have been shortlisted for an interview. Whether this is your first ever job interview or not, there is one word that sums up the best approach to getting that job: PREPARE!
A week before the interview:
- Research: look at the company’s website, find any recent news stories about them. Check your social media network to see if anyone you know works there or has worked there recently. Find out about the format of the interview eg how many people will be interviewing you, is it a chat or a more formal interview? Sometimes initial interviews are conducted over the phone you can read our top tips for doing well in a telephone interview here. You may also be asked to sit some online tests known as psychometric tests. If you have never done either a psychometric or vocational test try these out.
- Selling yourself: you may have already sent your CV/profile to the company, but look through it again and check it against the job description. If you haven't yet prepared a CV, check out our Top CV Tips. Even if you haven't had much work experience, what you've done at school and in your free time says a lot about you. You may need help to highlight your achievements -ask a parent or teacher
- Joined a football team? (you're a good team player)
- Worked at a weekend job or as a babysitter? (shows responsibility and work ethic)
- Did some volunteering? (shows initiative and social responsibility)
- Ran the school magazine? (shows leadership and initiative)
And proofread your CV thoroughly!
Practice: the most common questions asked at an interview include:
- "Tell me about yourself”
- “What are your strengths?”
- “Why do you think you’d be right for this job?”
- “What are your weaknesses?”
- “Where do you want to be in 3/5 years’ time?”
Think your answers through, write down your main points, practice out loud with a parent/teacher/friend
- Presentation: Plan what you’re going to wear, get a haircut if necessary, make sure your suit or outfit is clean and tidy. If in doubt, dress up rather than down; looking smart shows self-confidence and respect.
- Getting there: Plan your route to the interview, scheduling extra time for train/traffic/parking delays
- Give yourself plenty of time to look smart
- Take 3 printed copies of your CV/profile (the interviewer may not have seen it) and perhaps a notebook and pen or a tablet, but no more; don't give yourself lots of bags to juggle
- Set off for the interview in plenty of time – you can always stop for a cup of coffee near the company if you're too early (but take mints for fresh breath!)
- Go to the loo, check your appearance and that you haven't got croissant nestling in your tie
- Turn off your phone completely before you go in
- Shake hands, be polite, friendly, as relaxed and enthusiastic as you can, make lots of eye contact
- Don't forget this is a 2-way process; listen and ask questions as well as talk. Pick up on the atmosphere in the reception and around the company; do you feel comfortable there?
- Don't rush it; if you want a moment to reflect upon your answer or you need the interviewer to clarify a question, that is fine; it shows you are thinking and listening
- Try to come across as confident, but not arrogant
- Don't discuss money at this stage unless the interviewer brings it up
- Keep positive - don’t moan about a previous employer or teacher or how many job applications you've made
- At the end of your interview, you could ask what the next steps of the process are when will you hear if you've got through to the next round? And be enthusiastic about the job if you want it.
After the Interview
- As soon as you can, write down the main questions you were asked and anything you think you answered well, or badly. This will help you prepare for a second interview and/or for other job interviews
- The next day, send a brief, polite email to the interviewer or the HR department to thank them for giving you the opportunity and to express your interest in the job. Don't bombard them with questions or hilarious anecdotes about your journey home
- Even if you don't get the job, the experience of a face-to-face interview is invaluable and you will learn a lot for next time. Some companies will give feedback as to why you didn't progress, if you ask
- And if you do get through to the second round – well done!