Whether its for a job, internship, placement or whatever, here’s my top tips for the interview process. You might think: “She’s not qualified to give interview tips!”. And you would be absolutely correct, but I have had a few successful interviews, and I have family who work in training people for job applications and interviews, and these are some points that really helped me!
Firstly, if you’ve got to the interview process, well done! It’s an achievement in itself to even get this far. You’ve obviously got something they like.
1. Know your stuff!
Research, research, research. Make sure you know exactly what it is the employer is looking for by really studying the job description. Know exactly who you’re applying for by doing lots of research into their company, what they do, what they’re about.
What you know about the company and why you want to work for them are commonly asked questions, but even if they’re not asked, it’s super helpful as context for everything else. Know who is conducting the interview if possible; their name, position and background to build up the foundation of a relationship before you even step through the door. Use all your research to make some questions that you can bring to ask the employer as well. After all, interviews are also for you to decide if you want to work for them.
2. Positive vibes only.
This may sound obvious but avoid negative responses at all costs because that’s an instant red flag for the interviewer. Questions where this could apply are ones like: “What was your relationship with your previous manager like?”, “What are one of your weaknesses?”, or “Give an example of when you had to work with a difficult person”.
All of these could lead to you talking negatively about yourself or other people, instead turn everything into the positive. If you hated your last manager because they were strict and mean, then talk about how you respected their work ethic and their discipline and it made you a better employee. If you have to pick a weakness, pick something that others may find a weakness but is actually a positive to the employer.
For instance, “My friends say I work too hard!”. And finally, if you’ve had to work with a difficult person (prime example: group project where one person didn’t pull their weight) then talk about how others found it difficult but how well you managed it (even if you maybe didn’t).
3. Take a deep breath.
Before you go to speak or answer a question, have a nice big inhalation. This gives your brain time to process and pick out the information it needs and helps avoid any nervous fumblings, “umm”s, “like”, and generally tripping over your words.
Make an effort to try calm and hide your nerves as much as possible, take a pause to think before you speak, repeat the question back to them to clarify you’ve understood correctly (also demonstrates active listening). Of course you’re going to be nervous and some signs are unavoidable like shaky hands and getting a bit sweaty, so try use your hands a lot emotively to hide the shakes and to improve your body language so you look really involved in the conversation.
4. Blag, blag, blag.
Don’t worry too much if you don’t have the best experience, most people applying for a position will not have all the relevant experience, and a lot of the time that doesn’t even matter.
It’s about how you sell yourself (but not like that). If you can pull positive traits, experience and skill indirectly from different parts of your life, you’ll have plenty to talk about. Do you take part in a sport, hobby or activity of some kind? That demonstrates discipline, motivation and persistence.
Ever lead a group project? That demonstrates leadership, ability to work and collaborate with others, active listening and support. In a club or society? That can demonstrate creativity, managerial skills, handling budgets, liaising with external organisations and building partnerships, advertising etc depending on the position. There is a gold mine waiting, you just have to pull it out of your ass.
5. Communication is key.
This is what the whole process is about: Communicating yourself effectively. Every time you make a point about your skills or experience, you need to relate it directly to the job position. There is no point talking about things that aren’t relevant to them or what they’re looking for – which is where the job research comes in handy.
When making a point, always include an example to back it up and why its relevant to the job position. It’s hard to avoid the temptation to ramble and end up repeating yourself, try to keep answers concise.
6. Prep like a boss.
I don’t care if you’re the most smooth-talking, confident, badass person in the world– prep for your interview! Research. Do a load of practise questions, book a mock interview appointment with the Career Development Centre, get their advice, get your friends or family to ask you questions and rehearse the key things you want to get across. This doesn’t mean you have to follow a script in your head but so you have a foundation of things you want to say that you can work into your answers.
7. Common things to avoid.
Here are the obvious ones: Avoid a weak handshake; never talk badly about a former employer or colleague; don’t apologise for anything out of your control; admit if there’s something you don’t know, but instead emphasise how quick you are to learn; don’t talk about salary or pay on the first interview; don’t be too arrogant or cocky (but confidence is important!).
8. Interviewers are not all-knowing.
Its very off-putting knowing that the person sat directly opposite you is there for the sole purpose of judging you, but interviewers are still just people too, and at the end of the day it’s only a conversation. A lot of the time, interviewers aren’t trained in giving a proper interview and could be just as nervous or under pressure as you are!
Yes, in this instance they are your superior, and you want to impress them, but in the grand scheme of things, we’re all just people fumbling around trying to make sense of our lives They probably have the same feeling of not knowing what the hell they’re doing as you do.
9. Be aware of your body language.
There are subtle things we can do when we’re nervous or uncomfortable, like angling our bodies slightly averted from our seats, crossing our arms, biting lips, chewing nails, etc. Pick up on these things before your interview so you can be aware of them and rectify them in your interview.
A big one is to maintain a decent level of eye contact, especially if there are a couple of people conducting the interview. If you’re like me and have really bad posture, sitting slouched most of the time, make sure to sit up straight and have an open demeanour.
10. Most importantly, CONFIDENCE.
The single most important thing you can bring to your interview is confidence. Even if you’re not, fake it till you make it. Before you go into the building, take a deep breath, compose yourself, put a smile on your face and a spring in your step, and let yourself shine through.
Do whatever you need to put yourself in the right frame of mind and mood that day; treat yourself to a good breakfast, get your hair done beforehand, buy some cute new underwear (girls), or a new outfit for the interview. I bought a nice new blouse and got my eyebrows done, because if you feel good, you’ll do good. You could be the most qualified person for the job but totally bland and lack personality, whereas if you’re maybe not as experienced but show off your incredible personality, you’ll do much better.
And remember, the process doesn’t end when you leave the interview. Always get in touch with the interviewer afterwards to thank them for their time, and that you look forward to hearing from them. If you’re proactive you will stick out in their minds more.
Everyone goes through it, your interviewer will have gone through it, and each time you go through it you will only get better. So, don’t worry if you don’t get accepted after your interview, because every interview you have prepares you for the next one!