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Post by Nathan Ghann

Looking for a good career in this day and age should begin as early as your first lecture! The time spent between that first lecture  and the first day in “the office”, students and graduates need to build an ample amount of work experience to even be considered. This inevitably means internships, part-time jobs and volunteering which all equate to that dreaded 9 letter word.  ‘INTERVIEW’.

Not to fear, The Lecture Room is here! – naff I know. Lucky for you guys, I have decided to share my secrets with you!

Initially I had only thought of ten things that needed to be done but then I was fortunate enough to convince one of the most employable graduates I know, Tobi Usman; winner of Most Enterprising Student 2008, to share some of his secrets and together create the 20 guaranteed ways to ace an interview series!

As recent graduates, we have been fortunate enough to not only have gone through a host of interviews but also to have given a number of interviews also. I have held interviews for my start-up business, entrepreneur society and even on behalf of a committee hiring a Chief Executive for a large organisation. Tobi, with similar experience, has a 100% rate in his interviews – often having to turn many a company down.  Along the way, we learnt a few things on both sides of the interview table.

Take note as we countdown the list of 20 guaranteed things needed to ace that interview.

20) Practice doesn’t make perfect

….But it does make progress!  Ask a friend to role play with you! sounds silly I know, but reliving the experience over and over again makes you more comfortable.  One of the largest problems you will have when taking your interview is feeling comfortable. The more you practice the interview in your mind, in the mirror and with a friend the more comfortable you will be on the day.

19) Google ‘em

In the cover letter and CV stage  you should have displayed an adequate amount of research or at least interest in the company you are applying for. If you did, then great. If you didn’t, NOW is the time to  start. What a large majority of students and graduates fail to understand time and time again is that interviews are not about you! They are all about the employer.  It’s not about how fantastic you are or how many extracurricular activities or qualifications you have. It’s about how your extracurricular activities and qualifications will help them do what they do.

Herein lies one of the biggest problems… Many people looking for work don’t actually know what the company they are applying to work for does!

I remember having an interview at Tesco head office once and for some reason  I felt there was no question they could ask me that I couldn’t answer. It was Tesco! Who didn’t know what Tesco does!  Until I was asked what I knew about  the non-food manufacturing quality control process… Huh?!?   Needless to say I didn’t get the job. A quick Google search can tell you the answer to the following essential questions:

What are the company’s objectives and what is mission statement? – Who are the founders? What did they want the company to do?

How well are they doing? – look for their annual report; what are news channels saying about them?

What are their main products/services? – Don’t make assumptions based on what you see in the general media channels (like I did),  find out about every revenue stream.

What’s the latest thing happening in the organisation or the organisation’s environment? – This is important as it will show that you are aware of the current challenges the company faces. In my Tesco scenario, I should have found  out about the  increase of food prices or increase in non food purchases from supermarkets.

How can your skills and qualifications help the organisation? – This is your opportunity to link you to them; what degree modules can help the job role? Maybe a module in psychology can help with aiding customer service or the research skills you learnt in a law module can be used in researching opportunities within their market.

18) Dress Code is ALWAYS formal

One of the most important thinks I learnt in the time I spent trying to dissuade the corporate community from thinking that I was just another student was that investing in my appearance was just as necessary as knowing what the company did.  A previous employer, the head of a Corporate Affairs department, advised  me, “When in doubt always be formal”. You can never go wrong. When you appear for an interview, whether for McDonald’s or Merrill Lynch, you should dress formally. It signals to your employer that you take the job opportunity seriously and you know how to present yourself.

17)  Be Early

There is a difference from getting there early and being early. The difference is your mentality. Getting there early means leaving at a time you feel is adequate to arrive shortly before the interview. Being early, means you research transport routes and alternatives from before you set out. Have money ready on you in case you need to use a taxi.   Aim to arrive 1 hour to 30 mins before your interview, take a book or a magazine with you  to pass the time. The worst thing you  can do is BE late.  If you are going to be late due to things out of your control make sure you call as soon as they happen and let them know of the situation.

Lateness is an automatic turn off – it’s like kryptonite, it’s an action that says to your potential employer i don’t really care about this job, but it would be good if you give it too me.

16) Use your ears, your eyes and your mouth

The three most important things you can use in an interview are your ears your eyes and your mouth. Listen, carefully to what the interviewer says and doesn’t say.

A good interviewer should always give you a brief intro. Eye contact shows your employer you are engaged with them and that you are attentive. It may feel weird at first as we rarely look into people’s eyes for long periods of time but the more you do it the more natural it becomes.

Your mouth has two uses in the interview; to communicate and to smile – with more of the latter 🙂  A smile can brighten up a persons face and make the interviewer feel more comfortable with you in the interview. A good smile is infectious.

Communication is a skill. Later in this series I will cover the best ways to answer questions in interviews but for now just keep in mind that the questions you ask are of particular importance. Asking questions shows your interested in the job and will change the dynamics of the interview.  Questions can also imply how you are thinking about the job:

  • What prospects are there for progression?
  • What is the culture here at the organisation?
  • Are there personal development opportunities available here?

Questions like this signal your interest in participating in the company for the longer term and that you are looking at the grander scheme of things.

In ‘Part 2’,  I will be covering how to answer difficult questions and more secrets that help ensure your interview runs smoothly.

This post originally featured on The Lecture Room blog