After working hard on your application, putting together a killer CV and cover letter and - maybe - making it through a phone interview, you've had the call you wanted and been invited to a face-to-face interview. You might think the hard work is done, but it’s not over yet, there is still plenty to do. Preparing for a face-to-face interview means research, preparation and practice to make sure you put your best foot forward and get the job you want. Following these top ten tips for face-to-face interviews will help you do just that.
BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Even before the interview, there are things you can do to prepare and plan:
1. Research the company: This may sound ridiculously obvious, but a lot of candidates don’t know too much about who they might be working for, so do your research. Look at their website, read their annual report, check out their social media feed, look up recent news stories, and figure out who their competitors are. If you know anyone who works there or has in the past, pick their brains and find out what they know and think about the organisation. Use this information to prepare a list of potential questions about the company, its future, and the role you will play in helping it achieve its goals. If you know who’s interviewing you, include them in your research too (hint: search LinkedIn).
2. Understand the job: Reading the job description thoroughly is key to knowing what you will be doing on a day-to-day basis and the skills, experience and qualifications you need to successfully carry out the role. You might have already done this when applying for the position but use the job description and person specification to think about how your skills and experience meet the requirements of the role and how you will answer any questions as to why you are the right person for the job.
3. Prepare examples: A lot of employers use competency-based questions in interviews, asking candidates for examples to evidence how they meet specific job requirements. Come up with a list of examples, one for each key requirement, using the STAR technique - Situation, Task, Action and Result - to make sure they are detailed and clearly show your skills and suitability.
4. What you are bringing to the job: It is not enough to be able to meet the job requirements and carry out the tasks listed in the job description. Today’s employers are often looking for more, for employees who can add value to their organisation. Think about what you bring to the table: better performance figures, increased income, efficiencies, specific skills they might need.
5. Plan your day: Don’t wait until the morning of the interview to decide what you’re going to wear or how you’re going to get to your interview. Look at the route you will take and work out when you need to leave to get there with plenty of time to spare. If you're braving the road or rail network, assume the wrong kind of snow will have fallen and allow extra time. Think about what you might wear and err on the side of caution if you aren’t sure of the work environment; it is better to be over rather than under-dressed for an interview and interviewers will likely appreciate the effort you have made. That said, unless the role is that of a maître d'hôtel, leave the tux or evening dress in the wardrobe.
DURING THE INTERVIEW
6. Talk to your interviewers, not at them: You will likely be nervous during your interview and it’s easy to fall into the trap of talking to, but not engaging with, your interviewers. You may understand the company and the job and have a raft of intelligent questions to ask but, research shows that if you don’t get the interviewer(s) to like you, they are unlikely to hire you. Shocker. Use their names when addressing them and try to create a dialogue in the first few minutes before formal questions start. There is a fine line here so be conscious of that - jokes, for example, are probably not appropriate as they can be misunderstood.
7. Be an active listener: When you get to interview, nerves may make you talk more than you listen. It’s important to find the balance (around 50/50 is recommended), listening to what is being asked of you, so you understand the questions and answer them, reducing the chances of rambling rather than getting your point across.
8. Take your time: If you’re asked a question that requires you to think through the answer, do that rather than jumping in with a response. If you aren’t sure you have understood, ask for clarity. If you can’t answer the question straight away, tell the interviewer that you need a minute to think through your response. Don’t rush into speaking but take time to structure your answers, using the examples you prepared previously. Also, be honest, if you don’t know the answer or can’t give an exact example, say that but link it to a similar example that evidences your abilities.
9. Look out for body language: non-verbal cues are a larger part of successful interviewing than people realise. Think about how you are presenting yourself from the moment you walk through the door: look confident, give a firm handshake, smile. Once you are in the interview, think about how you are sitting - are you slumped in your chair, looking bored, or are you sat up, looking engaged? What about your interviewers, are they looking interested in your answer? As you talk, try and maintain eye contact and smile as you talk.
10. Show your passion for the role: At the end of the interview, candidates are nearly always asked if they have any questions or would like to add anything not covered. This is your last chance to make a good impression. Ask some questions that show you have researched the company and want to work for them and take the opportunity to restate your interest in the role; try and stay away from questions on salaries and start dates unless asked.