Tips for making the right impression at interview
Defining the right impression
Whatever the role you are applying for - an advertising executive, Human Resources Manager, or a Lawyer, there are certain basics relating to interview techniques that are relevant regardless of your industry or position. At all times, you will want to be perceived by a future employer as professional in your personal presentation and approach, able to communicate articulately and precisely, and able to interact well with others.
Before the interview
We interact with a potential employer on various levels before an interview. So it is important to make the right impression from these initial stages and prepare yourself adequately to ensure you do so on the day too.
- The company, the industry and the competition - It is incredible how many people do not look into these basic factors before an interview, and just how much this differentiates them from the well prepared in a negative way! Make sure that you visit the company’s website, search for relevant information on the internet, if you are using a recruitment consultancy, ask them for as much information as possible. In addition, ask your peers and network of contacts if they know anything of the company in question. The research is as much to help you find out if this is the right move for you too.
- The position - This is often more difficult than finding out general information about the company. Ask the HR Manager or recruitment agency if there is a job description that you can review. It is also useful to find out as much about the interview process as possible, how long it might be, whether there is anything you are required to prepare or bring with you, as well as whether or not there will be any additional assessments such as psychometrics or group assessments.
- Review your CV – this is likely to form the basis of your interview and is the only thing that a recruiter will know about you so far, so make sure you are up to date with the information that is on your CV, and how you would add to it when probed further.
- On the basis of your research, it is a good idea to put together a list of questions you may wish to ask the interviewer, this helps to communicate a level of interest and the fact that you have done your homework. Make sure your questions are relevant however, and don’t ask them just for the sake of impressing!
- Being prepared – Do a test drive to the interview and make sure you know who you will be meeting. Check timings, traffic, and confirm your appointment in advance.
It is said that an individual can form a lasting impression of another within the first seven seconds of meeting, so first impressions are key. Greet your interviewer standing, with a firm handshake and good eye contact, as well as a smile. A good interviewer will manage the environment and you should follow their lead concerning things such as where to sit and opening conversation. Make sure that you are comfortable, but do not appear too relaxed!
- Listen carefully to what the interviewer is telling you and the questions they are asking. Make sure that you answer the question that is asked, not what you think you heard. If you are unsure it is best to ask for clarification. It is fine to stop and think about your responses, make sure that they are considered and clear.
- Where possible, you should supplement your answers with concrete examples such as where you have faced similar situations, how you dealt with problems, what was the outcome, and what you learnt through the experience. It’s important that you have given some thought to what these may be, but try not to sound too rehearsed! Relax and try and enjoy the interview as an opportunity to discuss what you have achieved and what you are interested in. Remember also that an interview is a two-way dialogue, interviewers are genuinely interested in learning more about you, they are not trying to catch you out.
Conclusion and Follow Up
- Often you will be asked at the end of an interview whether you have any questions. You should give some thought to questions you would like to ask, prior to your interview. If however, these have been answered during the course of the interview, do not feel obliged to ask questions for the sake of it, questions should be relevant and pertinent.
- Once the interview is concluded, you may want to confirm what are the next steps in the process and the timescales in which you can expect to receive a response. Finish confidently with a smile and a handshake.
- Once you have left the interview, it sends a positive message if you email your interviewer, confirming your interest in the position and thanking them for their time.
Most interviewers will be wanting to explore experience and skill sets that are relevant to the role you are applying for, so think carefully about what the job will entail and the kind of attributes you have that will make you a success. Other avenues that an interviewer may wish to explore may include:
- About yourself – you should think about what ‘soft’ skills, such as communication, ability to work in a team, personality traits that you exhibit in your professional life.
- Reason for leaving your last employer – Do not fall into the trap of talking negatively about your previous employer, your reasons for leaving should be progressive and positive and focus on reasons why you want the job you are applying for, not why you are leaving your current/previous role.
- What do you know about our company – Do your research and be prepared
- Why do you want the job – Always be positive and think not only about what the job will mean to you, but also what you can bring to the job.
- What are your strengths and weaknesses – It’s relatively easy to tell an interviewer good things about yourself, it’s more difficult to tell them what are your negative traits. A good technique is to think of an area in which you have improved recently and talk about how you have worked hard to overcome a weakness.
- Significant achievements – Often you will be asked for examples of your achievements, Give some thought to a difficult situation, your action and the subsequent outcome.
- Why you would be the right person for the role – This should be something you have given quite some thought to and your response should include examples of where you have tackled issues similar to that you would face in the role, your key skills as you perceive them, how you would fit within the organization, and the mutual benefits your placement would bring.