The Hot Seat

Congratulations on getting the interview! Now don't let your nerves get the better of you. Following our top tips will help you to keep calm and prepare you to give the interview of your life.

Before the Interview

Preparation is essential!

Research the company beforehand. Get as much information as possible as they may ask you what you know about the company. Look at the company website, social media pages, they might have Facebook and Twitter pages that will help you understand the company's personality. Trade magazines and websites can be another good place to look.

Know exactly why you want the job and be prepared to present yourself convincingly. Practice good answers to the standard interview questions:

  • Tell me about yourself/how would you describe yourself?
  • Why do you think we should give you this job?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What would you say are your major achievements?
  • Where do you see yourself going in the next five years?
  • What contribution do you make when working in a team?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • Why do you want to leave your current job?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What did you like best/least about your current/last job?

Have some perceptive questions ready to ask at the end of an interview. Ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the firm or the industry, or clarify points about the position that haven't already been covered.

Have the names, addresses and titles of two or three references ready (two of which should be work references).

Don't forget to ask their permission before you use them – you don't want them to be taken by surprise by your prospective employer.

Don't be late! If you don't know exactly where you're going, have a trial run. If you're travelling by car or public transport allow yourself half an hour's extra travelling time in case of delays.

The Interview
As far as interviews go, a positive attitude is very important. Saying 'I can't' isn't going to get you anywhere. A 'can do' attitude is a positive attribute for anyone to have. If you go into an interview or into a job and say, 'I will give that the best try that I can', you're presenting yourself in a positive light. It's all about demonstrating your enthusiasm and getting on well with people.Tom Farmer, Chairman and Chief Executive of Kwik Fit

Your attitude and personality will affect the interviewer's decision just as much as your qualifications and experience, and the overall impression you make is vitally important. However, don't try too hard to project the perfect image – be confident and, more importantly, be yourself.

Top Tips

  • Try to determine what kind of method the interviewer is using as early as possible and answer accordingly. In a structured interview, the interviewer will be following a pre-determined set of questions and will be expecting clear, concise answers from you. An unstructured interview can be more conversational, using open-ended questions and giving your personality the chance to shine through.

    My interviewing techniques are maybe a little bit different from the norm. I never even saw the CVs of the first ten people that I hired. They were hired because I thought that they were capable of doing the job. Their personality and how they presented themselves were deciding factors, and whether they'd fit in with the team was important too. My idea of the perfect candidate would be someone with that steely glint in their eye that makes them want to succeed.Iain Gardner, co-founder of Last

  • First impressions count. As a general rule, you should look smart, tidy, squeaky-clean and professional.

  • Remember the interviewer's name and pronounce it with conviction. Have a good, solid handshake – a weak handshake will not present you in the best possible light.

  • Don't sit down before the interviewer – wait until they do or until you have been asked.

  • Make eye contact during the interview – it shows you are paying attention to what the interviewer is saying.

  • Listen to what the interviewer is saying – make sure you understand the questions before you answer, think your answers through, and speak clearly and confidently. Maintain awareness of your voice, posture, energy level, and enthusiasm. Avoid using slang.

  • Don't stretch the truth – however tempting it may be, you should be as honest as possible with your answers without being negative.

  • And finally, if you feel self-assured and optimistic you will come across this way – so think positive and that job will be yours!

Telephone Interviews
There are three main types of telephone interview:

  1. A call at a date and time which have already been arranged.
  2. You have already submitted your CV and you are called without warning.
  3. You call a company to ask about employment and they conduct the interview there and then.

Telephone Interview Tips

  • Be prepared – have a copy of your CV to hand, along with any information you've received from the company, a list of your experience or skills, questions that you want to ask about the company, and a pen and paper to take notes.

  • Have a clock nearby to keep track of the time.

  • Switch off call waiting! It's annoying at the best of times, and could destroy your chances in an interview situation.

  • The interviewer can't see your face, but smile as you speak – it will make you sound more positive and amiable.

  • Lastly, make sure you've recorded a professional message on your answering machine, just in case!

After the Interview
Write down the questions and review your responses, and decide whether there's anything you could have answered differently. This could be useful in the future.

It wouldn't hurt to send a thank you letter to the interviewer, confirming your interest in the position and stating your skills and experience.

If you don't get the job, it might be worth calling up the interviewer and asking them for feedback. You will then be able to adapt your interview technique accordingly and perform even better next time around.

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