10 top tips for a successful interview
Let’s face it, most people don’t enjoy interviews. They can be nerve-wracking, confusing and sometimes downright scary. For some strange reason, I love them. I love being asked a question I hadn’t thought of, and like to find out more about the interviewers. If I could make a living attending interviews on behalf of other people, I would. Welcome to Surrogate Interviews! Unfortunately, I can’t, so I thought I’d pull together some top tips to help you instead.
Most of them aren’t new, or different from other top tips out there. However, these are steps I follow myself, with some useful pointers.
Before the interview
Let's start with the preparation.
1. Research the company and person
This is an obvious one. Make sure you research the company. What do they do? What does the future hold for them? Have they been in the news lately?
In this day and age, do research the interviewers too. Sometimes you won’t know who is interviewing but alternatively, some companies tell you who will be there in your invitation letter/email. If so, get yourself on LinkedIn and Google and do a bit of sleuthing. At the very least it means you’ll recognise them when you meet which makes it less daunting. You can also begin to get an inkling of what’s important to them as an individual and include that in an answer.
2. Research the journey
Something not done enough by many is to research your journey to the interview location. Check your timings. Check alternative routes in case of traffic or public transport closures.
I always find the building on Google maps and view it through street view from the direction I’ll be coming from so I’ll recognise it when I get there. Then on street view again I’ll wander around a bit to find a coffee shop locally that’ll have a loo where I can wait; not that I’m waiting in the loo. Tough interviewing gets the nerves going so you may well be.
3. Prepare your answers
Prep your answers to the interview questions. Yes, you heard me right. Hopefully, you’ve been sent a copy of the job description (JD) or saw it when you applied. Have a good read of it, now put yourself in the interviewer position. Think, if you were going to interview someone else based on the JD, what questions would you ask. Write them all down and write answers to all those questions. Use different examples for each.
If it helps, some people will use a framework like C.A.R. This is where you create your answer around Challenge, Action, Result. For example, if one of your questions is. “give me an example of when you’ve dealt with a difficult customer.” You create your answer around the framework. The challenge was the situation and the behaviour of the customer, the action is what you did to deal with the situation, and the result is of course what happened as a result of your action.
Sometimes interviewers don’t ask questions in the best way. If you don’t understand what they are asking, double-check - ask for a bit more clarity.
4. Prepare your questions
Make sure you have some questions to ask. You’ll never know exactly what the job is all about from a JD so ask about a typical day in the role. Why has the job become available? What do they see as the challenges in the role? There are many you can come up with. Some will likely be answered during the interview process anyway, which is fine but do ask some of your own.
5. Prepare your wardrobe
Prepare your clothes. Make sure you’ve decided what you are going to wear, it’s all clean and ready for the interview, not screwed up in the corner of your room until the morning before.
You can travel in other footwear, or if it’s going to be hot, travel in a t-shirt and change near the venue
6. Prepare your mind
Get your mind together. Think about how you want to come across in the interview. Imagine how you’ll sit and introduce yourself. Practice your interview questions so you can speak clearly. By all means, get a friend to ask you the questions as practice; whatever is going to help you feel more prepared.
Do what you can to eat well and sleep well before the interview. Hydrate properly and have some breakfast if it’s a morning interview.
During the interview
7. Wear your lucky trousers
Yes, you read that right! Do you have a lucky charm? Do you have a pair of trousers, jewellery or blouse/shirt that makes you feel comfortable and confident? If so wear them/it. Why would you not? If it makes you feel confident then go for it. Of course, the caveat here is as long as it’s appropriate to wear in an interview.
8. Listen to the question
Like the advice often given for school exams, listen properly to the questions. Give yourself time to think of your answers. If you aren’t that comfortable with silence, buy yourself a bit of thinking time by taking a drink of water or with a holding comment like, “that’s an interesting question”.
If you’ve prepared answers then it’s unlikely you’ll be asked the exact questions you came up with but you’ll be able to use them with a few tweaks.
Sometimes interviewers don’t ask questions in the best way. If you don’t understand what they are asking, double-check - ask for a bit more clarity. Ask if they could give an example of what they are after. Maybe they’ve asked three questions in one go. In which case, ask which question they’d like answered first. It’s not rude to ask. It’s in the best interests of all concerned for you to be able to give a great answer.
9. Shut up
Yep, I said it. Keep your answers to the point, not necessarily short though. In other words, answer the question then shut up. Don’t ramble. If the interviewers want more detail they’ll ask for it. Don’t panic. If they ask it doesn’t mean you missed saying something, just that they want to clarify a point or simply find out a bit more.
After the interview
10. Send a thank you
Lastly, as long as I have an email to respond to (which isn’t always), I send a thank you email once I’m home. I simply thank them for their time and I’m happy to share any further info about me if they need it. Please make it personalised though so it doesn’t feel like a stock response.
If you connected with the person, for example, I often end up talking about dogs or running if the interviewer has brought up that they have similar interests, then I’ll wish them luck on an upcoming race or send a wave to their dog. This has to be done genuinely of course not just to butter someone up.
There you go. Ten top tips for a successful interview. They can’t guarantee a job, you may simply not be the right fit for the role, or someone else had more experience; however, by doing these tips you make sure you are doing everything you can to shine.
Now go and get that job.