How to ace your interview

15 things you need to know to ace your next interview

Words by Marios Morris and Nathan Ghann.

Cheat notes
Not acceptable when studying at university but very useful for interviews. If you’ve arrived 15 minutes early (as we recommended in the first part of this series) you will have plenty of waiting time. This is good for two reasons: (1) gives you time to relax and get comfortable in your surroundings and (2) you have time to recap on your research of the company and the role.

I would copy and paste key press release headlines, mission statement, brief profile of my interviewer etc. in to a Word document and print this off the day before the interview.

Know your audience
Use your research, to help you adjust your style and tone of conversation to suit your environment. Use correct language and, where relevant, industry terminology.

Be prepared for difficult questions
The most daunting question I have ever been asked in an interview; “What would you do if someone called in, saying that they were contemplating committing suicide?”  – This was my first attempt at securing a job in the charity sector. Unfortunately, there are some questions you can only learn to answer with experience.

Here a few common, difficult questions which are a bit easier to prepare for:

  1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
  2. Why do you want to work for [insert company name]?
  3. Why did you leave your last role?
  4. Why should we choose you?

 

Print a copy of the job spec
Use a highlighter or red pen to tick off areas you know you have experience in and use this as a reminder to raise them in interview conversation. Also use the job spec beforehand to do some digging in to areas you are lacking skill or experience. Showing a basic understanding of something is better than not understanding at all.

Strengths and Weaknesses
I am yet to sit an interview where this question hasn’t come up. Consider one of your key strengths and be prepared to give an explanation of how this has positively impacted on your work. When considering your weakness, explain what it is and then follow on with what you have done/are doing to improve this.

No one is perfect. Saying you have no weaknesses is not impressive, it just shows you have not made the effort to evaluate yourself properly.

Ask questions
We covered this briefly in part 1, highlighting questions as a way to communicate your interest to the interviewer. However, an interview – much like your probation period – also gives you an opportunity to gain some extra insight in to the workings of the company/organisation you think you want to work for. Use this time to assess if you really want to work there. Read an earlier post on interview tips for the short list of possible questions to ask.

Talk as though you are the only candidate
Make it so that the interviewer is only focused on YOU. For example:

  • Who will I be reporting to?
  • When will I be required to start?

Get a bit personal
Asking your interviewer subtle, personal questions will help to open them up to viewing you as a person/potential colleague – rather than ‘interviewee number 15’.

I secured one of my first full-time roles in large part to the fact that I shared a strong interest in blogging with the person that conducted my second stage interview. We spent the last 15 minutes of my interview discussing our various personal projects!

NEVER forget that you are one of many
Not meaning to scare you but there are thousands of people applying for that “dream job” at any one time (say thanks to the internet). So prep for your interview with USPs in mind; Unique Selling Points. What are you bringing to the table that no other candidate can?

The interviewer is just another company employee
If you’re starting to feel a bit anxious before or during the interview, remember this. The person opposite you has had to sit through interviews at some point too. The key is to remove that level of intimidation.

Use LinkedIn
The dark horse of social media (not anymore) has much to offer in the way of finding out about potential employers, bosses and colleagues. When you get your interview confirmation, which, if put together properly will include details of your interviewer(s) – including name and job title, use LinkedIn to find out a bit more. Run a quick search on LinkedIn and provide yourself with some useful insight into the person’s career so far – it’s not stalking if it’s easy to find. Don’t feel awkward about doing this. They’re doing the same thing to you!

Dress to impress
Dress to impress your interviewer and anyone else you may come in to contact with during your interview experience. Dressing formally can sometimes be a blanketed concept. Not every industry demands strict dress codes.

If you have no prior face-to-face engagement with the company go formal but for second stage and any follow up engagements, take in the elements of your environment and adapt your dress code accordingly.

Round up
As the interview comes to a close, offer the interviewer(s) the opportunity to follow up on any areas they may not have covered or to revisit a question you feel you may not have answered fully. This is done with one simple question, “Is there anything you would like me to go over/expand on?”

The follow up
If you feel the interview went well and you really want the role, follow up a few days later with an email detailing how much you appreciated the interview invitation and that you would appreciate any feedback on your performance. Their feedback response will be useful for future interviews, as you can use these to adapt your approach.

Is the job for you?
For all your preparation, if you don’t want it you won’t get it. Know what you want from the role. This can be a difficult question if you haven’t properly assessed the job spec and understood what it means. Take in to account the following:

  • Do the daily duties and responsibilities contribute to any future goals?
  • Is it the right industry for you?
  • Remuneration and benefits – do they match up with your needs?