Interview tips

Your essential guide to getting the job

 

Interview taking place outside in summer

How to boss the interview process from start to finish

Are you applying for jobs this summer? Here's our advice on how to nail interviews.

Nearly everyone gets nervous before an interview. If you find that you get particularly nervous – tell-tale signs being sweaty hands, butterflies in your stomach and needing to go to the toilet constantly – then you may want to learn some relaxation techniques and tips for calming your pre-interview nerves.

1. Interview preparation

Preparation for the interview is incredibly important. If you do proper background checks, it can reassure you and give you confidence, and can also do you a BIG favour if the interviewer asks you any questions about the organisation and the work they do.

Here's what to do to prepare for your interview:

Research the company. Thorough research ensures you know exactly what the company is, what they do, their values and their history.

Think about your skills and experience that could be relevant to the job. Write them down and memorise them. Remember, the more you have to mention in the interview, the better you will look.

TSR member Agrippina says: "Ask for a job description before the interview to find out which of your skills and qualifications are relevant to the company. This will help you to prepare specifically for this job."

Make sure everything you need is ready the night before. Make sure your interview outfit is neatly ironed and looks smart. Gather any documents if you are required to take any along, like your CV or certificates.

Think of questions to ask the interviewer. At the end of the interview, they may ask if you have any questions. If you ask at least one question, it will show that you have prepared and that you have researched the company. It also shows that you are keen and interested in the job and the company.

Young woman being interviewed by two people

2. Before you go into the interview room

Stay calm. Take deep breaths and remind yourself why you're here. The company liked your application, and you like the sound of the job. Go for it!

Keep hydrated. Drink some water in advance. Keep some water with you, at least until you enter the room, as this should prevent you suffering from dry mouth, which can happen when you're nervous.

Eat well. Make sure to start the day off with a good breakfast, and that your stomach won't be rumbling in the interview room.

3. Going in

First impressions count. Make it a good one by dressing smartly, even if the interview dress code is casual. This means no jeans or trainers.

For guys, you won't necessarily need to go all out with a suit unless it's a big, prestigious company, but definitely go for a trousers-shirt-tie or trousers-shirt-jacket combo. For ladies, a dress, or a skirt or smart trousers with a blouse would all be good options.

Keep your hair tidy, don't wear too much makeup or too many accessories, and avoid overpowering perfume or aftershave.

Look confident. Remember to smile, walk confidently and shake their hand firmly, as this is a sign of composure. Make sure you make eye contact, especially at the start, but try to maintain this throughout, as it will make you look focused and engaged.

OBScene says: "Try not to seem uptight – employers understand if you're nervous but you need to prove you're outgoing and can overcome it!"

Be polite. Sit down only once you've been offered a seat; it may not seem like a big thing, but it could be seen as rude. Try to take the lead from the interviewer(s) too; if their tone and posture is relaxed then see this as a sign to be relaxed, but if they are very upright and formal with their speech, try to adopt the same manner.

Don't lean on your elbows during the interview and don't fiddle with your fingers, even if it's a nervous habit. If you find you normally fidget, try putting your hands together with your fingers interlocked as if you're praying and rest them on the desk in front of you.

Remember your manners at all times: say please and thank you and accept a glass of water, or a hot drink if offered; and if they are also going to have one.

4. In the interview

Listen carefully to what you're asked. Don't interrupt, but do ask them to clarify what they are asking if you don't understand the question. Show interest in the interview by maintaining eye contact, and nodding or smiling where appropriate. If you find you can't answer a question, don't be afraid to say, "I'm afraid I can't answer that". There's no need to spend half of the interview time trying to think of an answer or sputtering a half-decent one out. Showing that you are willing to admit straight away to not knowing something is definitely preferable to someone who tries to cover things up.

Agrippina says: "Find opportunities to sell yourself, relating your skills to the job. An employer is looking for determination, enthusiasm and a willingness to learn."

Concentrate on what you're talking about. Talk slowly and clearly; stop to think about your answers if an example or answer doesn't come straight to your mind – interviewers will prefer this as it will show you're taking the interview seriously. Avoid waffling when you answer at all costs; and try not to um and err too much. Try not to talk for too long; be precise, and end your answers with a clear conclusion to lead you into being asked the next question.

Spunky recommends: "For panel interviews make sure you're completely on top of your CV, the background of the company and have a couple of questions to ask them. You won't have any pause to think as a favourite tactic is to keep firing questions at you. Make sure you don't get flustered, make sure you look at whomever is talking to you and don't get put off if one of the interviewers just sits there and maybe makes notes."

Make sure you don't get flustered, make sure you look at whomever is talking to you and don't get put off if one of the interviewers just sits there and maybe makes notes.

Answer questions honestly, and frankly. But at the same time, be careful not to criticise current or former employers – it isn't professional and your interviewers may worry you'll do the same to them in the future. Try not to reveal any confidential information about other people either, as it would make you look untrustworthy.

If you can, try to promote your existing skills and abilities through the answers you give. Your interviewers will look kindly upon attributes like enthusiasm, determination and a willingness to learn and get involved. Attempt to use positive words, like "I enjoy..." rather than "I like..." and speak positively about the opportunity you're going for. For example, "I anticipate the challenges this job would provide", rather than "If I get the job I think I could cope with the challenges."

Here are some common interview questions that you might be asked.

Young confident man in interview

5. At the end of the interview

Ask at least one question. When the interviewers have asked you everything they will want to, they are likely to ask you if you have any questions. Make sure you do take this opportunity, as it may well be your only chance and it'll give you insights that may be useful.

An interview is about finding the best fit for both of you, so it's important to remember that you are looking for a job that suits you, just as much as whether you suit it.

Alexa8355 says: "It's extremely important to be ready to ask your own questions, as the lack of them can show the lack of interesting to the position offered."

What to ask: Keep your questions relevant; ask about future plans for the company, staff training and development. This would demonstrate your interest in the company, and if you have researched the company in advance you can prove your knowledge of the company.

Inquire as to who you would be working with when you first start, and how your development will be managed in the early stages of your career. This will show a willingness to learn as well as showing that you're taking an interest in their methods of training.

What not to ask: Don't blurt out questions about your potential salary, especially if this is a first stage interview. If there will be another round, save this question for later. If it is a last round interview, then save this question until right at the end.

Once you've finished interviewing them, make sure you thank them for giving you the interview, and remember your posture, smile, handshake and manners as you leave.

Here's some inspiration on what questions you could ask in your interview.

6. Looking ahead

Send a follow-up email if you want. After the interview, you may wish to send the interviewer an email to thank them for their time and express your keenness for the job. It's up to you.

Wait and hope. Then it's just a case of waiting for their response. Hopefully you'll get the job, if it's the right one for you, but if you don't, it's no big deal.

Learn from your experience. Remember that many people apply for the same job and some don't even get through to the interview stage, so don't be too disappointed if you're not successful.

Every interview you do is vital experience in helping you prepare for future interviews, and you never know, if you make a good enough impression they may keep your details on file and contact you in the future if a smiliar suitable role comes up.

Go to TSR's Summer hub for more articles on work experience and fun activites for the long break.

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