Coping With Job Interviews - A CV Centre Guide
Most of our clients are understandably nervous about attending job interviews - but nerves can often be a useful tool for sharpening up your performance. However, if your nerves take over to the extent that they interfere with your ability to come across well at interview, then it's clear that you need to calm down. The key to preventing pre-interview jitters is to prepare yourself thoroughly.
In most cases, you will be notified that you have got through to the interview stage a few days in advance. You can use this time to prepare - and the better prepared you are, the fewer your reasons to be nervous. Try to find out as much as you can about the employer. Reference libraries, your local careers centre and the Internet (if you have access) are all good sources of information. You should also read up on the type of work you are applying for. Go over the job description thoroughly and make a note of any questions you would like to ask at the interview.
It is vital that you find out:
- Where the employer is based - it seems obvious but if you need to get the train, find out where the nearest railway station is
- When the interview is to be held - calculate how long it will take you to get there and make sure that you leave in plenty of time (particularly if you are relying on public transport)
- Where the interview is taking place - if the employer occupies a number of rooms in separate buildings, it is easy to end up in the wrong place
- What the name of your contact is
- Who exactly will be interviewing you
Confident people inspire confidence in others - if you appear confident that you are able to do the job, the employer is likely to believe that you can. Naturally it is important not to go to the other extreme and appear over confident, arrogant or pushy.
Expect The Unexpected
Bear in mind that interviews vary enormously. You may be asked to sit an aptitude test or prove that you have the necessary skills for the job - a typing test for example. The interview itself may be a quick, informal chat across a crowded office or it could involve a panel of interviewers all firing questions at you. There may even be group activities with other candidates designed to see how you perform in a team situation, or you may be called back for further interviews on another day. Often, candidates fail to perform to the best of their abilities because they were thrown into a situation they were not expecting. The answer: expect the unexpected. You cannot prepare for every eventuality but you can be aware that the format of the interview may come as a surprise to you. Have faith in your own skills and experience and allow the employer to see you at your best.
Obviously, no one can know exactly what questions they will be asked at interview but there are certain topics that will almost certainly come up. Think through your answers to the following questions beforehand:
- Tell me about your work experience - what did you do, what did you enjoy, what were you good at, why did you leave each job.
- Why have you applied for this job?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What can you, above all the other applicants, bring to this job?
- What did you do with your time when you were out of paid employment?
Look Good, Feel Good
Research has shown that your interviewer is likely to make up his or her mind about you within 30 seconds of having met you. Use this. Make sure that you have an outfit that is smart and presentable. It's a good idea to try the whole thing on before the day of the interview to check that there are no drooping hems or buttons missing. It is also worthwhile polishing your shoes - details like this can make all the difference. And if you feel that you have made an effort and look good, you will appear to be more confident and relaxed.
The Big Day
Make sure that you allow yourself enough time to get ready and that you have all your exam certificates, records of achievement, testimonials and anything else relevant to the job with you. Also remember to take the letter inviting you to the interview and any maps that you might need. Leave in time to arrive about 10 minutes early for the interview - this will allow you to gather your thoughts, go to the loo, check your appearance, etc. When you arrive, give your name to the receptionist if there is one. Try to relax - everyone gets nervous before interviews. The chances are that you will feel more nervous than you look and anyway, most interviewers are trained to make allowances for the fact that you are likely to be on edge.
The majority of job interviews are straightforward in terms of personal safety but there are a few simple rules which should always be adhered to:
- Always tell a friend or relative where you are going and what time they can expect you back.
- Never agree to be interviewed in a car park or over a meal. The interview should be held at the organisation's premises or in some other public or official place.
- Always arrange to have someone pick you up if the interview is taking place outside normal office hours. Never let the interviewer drive you home.
The following tips will help you make a positive impression:
- Shake hands firmly (but not to the extent that they require first aid) with all the interviewers when you first enter the room - and smile
- Maintain eye contact while answering all questions - and remember to speak up
- Don't smoke unless you are offered a cigarette
- Try to avoid 'Yes' and 'No' answers to questions even if they seem appropriate - they tend to be conversation stoppers. Make sure that you answer questions fully without chattering on unnecessarily.
- Never lie at interview or say something that you cannot substantiate, but make sure that you present yourself in the best possible light
- When you are asked if you have any questions, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm. Begin with questions about training, other people you will be working with, and the job specification. Save questions about pay and holidays until last.
- If you are not asked about something which you feel illustrates an important aspect of your ability to do the job, don't be afraid to bring it up yourself at the end of the interview
- Make sure that you find out when you can expect to hear whether you have been successful - it could be anything from the same day (in which case, you may be asked to wait around for a decision) to a few days.
- Remember to thank the interviewers for their time before you leave.
You should hear one way or the other within a week or so of the interview taking place, unless they have specified otherwise. If you do not hear within this time, telephone the organisation and enquire politely whether a decision has been reached. If you were not successful, try to treat the interview as a learning experience - nearly everybody gets a few setbacks when they are hunting for a new job. Think about why you were not selected and if there was anything that you could have done differently to improve your chances of getting the job. Don't be too hard on yourself. It may simply have been that there was a better qualified or more suitable candidate and that given your experience and skills, you performed to the best of your abilities. Indeed, sometimes there is so little to choose between candidates that more than anything, success or failure at interview is down to luck. Above all else, remember: there is a job out there with your name on it and if employers haven't recognised your star quality yet it's up to you to dazzle them!
Professional Interview Coaching
At The CV Centre, day in day out, we successfully coach our clients to truly excel at interview. This enables us to bring you the very best of what we have learnt - helping you to excel at interview yourself.
When it comes to interviews, people often think, "Well, I'll just turn up and be myself." Which is fine, but it won’t get you the job! You need to plan and prepare for an interview as you are still up against many other applicants and this is your key opportunity to make an impact. Your CV may get your foot in the door but you're on your own in the interview – and sometimes the most able candidate on paper can really shoot themselves in the foot when they actually get to the interview.
On average, there's likely to be at least 5 other candidates being interviewed for the same vacancy. So, everything else being equal, that gives you, at the most, a 20% chance of getting the job. But there's so much you can do to improve your odds of success.
Author: James Innes