Interviews can be a terrifying experience for the uninitiated - whether you are looking to start a long-term career or even just applying for a work experience placement to test the water, eventually you are going to find yourself in an interview. But, don’t panic, with a little bit of pre-planning and organisation, the stress of an interview can be greatly reduced, so that you can concentrate on being yourself, without disproportionate anxiety! Here are some top tips to get you started:
Make sure you have the proper address for the location of the interview, and that you have it programmed into your mobile phone if you need to use a route planner. It is always a good idea to rehearse the travel routine before the day of the interview so that you can make sure that you can get there easily; that you recognise the building; and to reduce the risk of something going wrong. Get there early - aim to arrive at the interview location at least 10-15 minutes before the interview time. And make sure you have eaten - there are plenty of student-friendly food offers to take advantage of.
Dress to Impress
What to wear is key, and although very clichéd it is also very true those first impressions really do count. Every employer is different, and your dry run when you rehearse traveling will help you to get the right look by checking what existing employees wear. As a guide, most employers expect men to wear a suit, and women to dress soberly and professionally. It’ not so common these days for everyone in an office to wear a tie, but it is always recommended to do so in an interview. And make sure your shoes are clean and shined. If in doubt - ask.
Do Your Homework
Research the company before you arrive. You don’t need to review their annual reports, but in the age of the internet, it is expected that you will at least have read the key areas of an organisation’s website and learned a bit about the company’s main focuses, as well as it’s ethos. The interviewer will want to see that you know where their company fits in the market, and what they are known for. You can also research how to answer some common interview questions - but don’t rehearse so much that you end up reciting out answers like a robot! Just know enough about what you are going to say, to allow yourself to be confident and remain calm, which leads us to:
Keep Calm and Breathe!
It’s natural to be nervous. Accept a glass of water if one is offered, and always pause and take a deep breath before answering a question. If you need some thinking time, pick up your glass of water, and take a drink. Another handy stalling tactic is to repeat the question back to the interviewers while you consider your answer.
Be a STAR
The STAR technique is a powerful way to structure your answers and to prevent yourself from babbling. It gives your answers a structure so that both you and the interviewer know when you have finished talking. to ‘competency-based’ questions.
Situation - Give some background: What was the situation? How did it come about?
Task - What was the task you were set, or suggested?
Action - What did YOU do, and HOW did you go about doing it? Describe it step by step.
Result - What was the outcome? What did you learn from the experience?
Although, try not to obsess to much about using the STAR technique, otherwise you will end up doing the opposite from what it is trying to achieve and start stalling and hesitating. Practice using it before the interview and if it comes back to mind, great; if not, it should still have provided you with some ideas of what to say.
Stay positive. Do not criticise others, or the company’s competitors. Also be positive about your own performance. Turn negative points into positives by describing how you learned from them, and how being aware of your weaknesses helps you identify and analyse where you need more support.
Always, always talk about YOU and what YOU did. Many candidates fall into the trap of saying “we,” which makes interviewers wonder just how much of the work was done by you, and how much by others.
Keep it Simple
Avoid using technical jargon and fully explain any specialist terms, until you are sure of who you are talking to and what their role is. Your interviewer may be an HR professional, especially in the first round of interviews and so assume nothing straight off the bat.
Always Ask Questions
If there is an opportunity to ask a question at the end, then do so. Avoid asking about salary and holidays, but some ideas if you are stuck are:
What is the company’s culture like?
Could you describe what an average day would be like for the post holder?
Follow Up and Feedback
After a week, if you have not heard anything, then get on the phone and call the company to thank them for the opportunity and to ask if they need anything more from you to help them make their decision. Even if you are rejected, do not take this personally: ask them for feedback and use their advice to help you further refine your interview technique.