You only get one chance to make a first impression. No matter how many qualifications you have or how well your experience matches the criteria of the role you are interviewing for, if you turn up to an interview unprepared your chances will be halved.
Congratulations! You have a first interview...
• Research, research, research! Prior to your interview, research the company – on their website, in the news, social media. When were they established? How do they operate? What is their yearly turnover? What profit did they make last year? What kind of customers do they target? The more information you know, the better; you can never predict what the interviewer will ask you about your knowledge on their company. Also, look up your interviewer on Linked In and have a fair idea of what their background is. It is always better to know a little too much than not enough!
• Know your CV inside out... Make sure you familiarise yourself with everything you have written in your CV, such as details of achievements, dates and qualifications. Read through the job description in a similar way, and do a run through of practice interview questions beforehand. Make sure you cover skills-based and competency-based questions; it is likely that you will be asked a mixture of both. There is no such thing as too much preparation!
• Prepare yourself for the common questions. Why have you applied for this role? What could you bring to this role? Why this company? What have your achievements been to date? What was a difficult situation that you had to overcome? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Etc.
• Look the part! Make sure you dress for the environment you're visiting and that your outfit is smart, clean and comfortable. It is advisable to ask about the dress code before you attend your interview, but the majority of employers would like to see you dressed in a business suit. Ladies - be sensible with your make up. Fellas - put a tie on.
• Know where you are going... If you prefer the old school method of printing a map of the location, make sure you do so with detailed directions. For the tech-savvy amongst you, make sure you're able to use your Smartphone maps / satnav to ensure you can get there. If you're driving, ensure there is somewhere to park on arrival. Please allow plenty of time for delays – a phone call to say you are running late does not deter from the fact that you are still running late!
The interview day is here! Good luck...
• Be approachable! Ensure that you greet your interviewer with a smile, a firm handshake and a friendly introduction - they will be looking for someone who is confident and comfortable. First impressions mean everything so make sure you are memorable... for the right reasons!
• Be enthusiastic! Candidates who are passionate about what they do generally make the most productive employees, therefore you should display your enthusiasm! Whether you have been approached for the role or if you applied directly, you should always attend the meeting with the intensity and seriousness it deserves. Even if this is quite a shift in personality, showing your interest for the role will make a strong impression on the employer.
• Listen, think and answer! During the interview, the most important thing is to listen to what is being asked of you, and answer with clear concise details without going off on a tangent. Not answering the question will only hinder your chances of getting through to the next stage. Think about how you would like to answer for a couple of seconds, and speak honestly and professionally. Don't babble, but don't give one word answers – find a happy medium!
• Ask questions. When your interviewer asks "Do you have any questions?" at the end of your interview, the only answer is yes. Prepare questions about the company, the role, the history of the organisation, training packages and so on. It is also advisable to ask the employer a question about themselves and their background. Let's face it; people like talking about themselves so give them a chance to tell you a little bit about them.
• What next? At the end of the interview, ask when you are likely to hear about second stage or decision, and thank the interviewer for inviting you for the meeting. If you're feeling really confident, ask the interviewer if they thought you were suitable!
You have been invited for a second interview? Well done!
• Prepare and practice! This is a good sign, but don't get overly confident – you still need to be just as prepared as you were for your first stage. Make sure you are clear on the format of the second interview – do you need to prepare a presentation? If so, will it be via PowerPoint, Keynote, USB or printed sheets? Will you need to complete any tasks or role-plays? Who will be interviewing you? Find out as much information as you can to help with your preparation.
• Make yourself stand out! A good tip is to ask the interviewer in advance how you compared to the other candidates in the first round of interviews and how many people have been invited back for second stage. This will give you an idea of what you should focus on when preparing for your interview. Demonstrate how your experience is relevant and sufficient. Make sure the examples you use are different to your first stage interview – use fresh examples of how awesome you are!
• Presentation? No problem! If you are doing a presentation, focus on speaking slowly and clearly, not exceeding the time frame, and remain calm and collected. No matter how much you dislike public speaking – always appear confident and comfortable! Focus on the subject matter you are speaking about and display your knowledge to the best of your ability. Stay relaxed.
• The best advice a candidate can be given is to find a happy medium in every aspect of the interview, ie...
1. Shake the interviewer's hand firmly, but don't break any bones.
2. Give detail to your answers... But not too much detail. If the interviewer is rolling their eyes and/or asleep, you've given too much detail.
3. Be early, but not too early – fifteen minutes is plenty of time.
4. Ask two or three questions at the end of your interview, but don't get carried away - you're the candidate, not the interviewer!
5. If you are required to do a presentation, speak slowly and clearly, but in a comfortable and normal fashion.