Career advice

Advice from a fellow graduate: how to ace the interview

 
It’s time to hang up your academic boots, shrug off those post-university blues and enter the real world. Yeah, that big nasty world of work we have been trying to avoid for as long as possible. But before you can begin dreaming of a bank balance that doesn’t start with a minus, you’ll inevitably have to battle through an interview of some form. For some reason, interviews seem to send us into a spiral of panic to a point where we become so nervous that pronouncing our own name becomes difficult. But thankfully for you, help is at hand. This article brings you the key ‘dos and don’ts’ that I have picked up from my time ‘on the inside’, which will hopefully help you on the path to securing that killer job.

Do’s

  • Know your stuff – please, please, please go into the interview having read and fully understood the job description. Far too many people waste their time and the company’s time by not fully understanding the role that they are going for. I always do some research to get an idea of the markets that the business operates in, the products it sells and its overall strategy – most of which can be found on their company page. 
     
  • Make your social media profiles private– if a company is considering you as a promising candidate they are going to check out your profiles on social media. Before an interview I would always make sure that my privacy settings on Facebook and Twitter are set to private and any ‘inappropriate’ photos/groups I had joined are deleted. You may think that drunken selfie of you in a bar is rather cool, but chances are your potential employers will not.
     
  • Practice – in the weeks and days before your interview, practice should be at the forefront of your mind. In the bath, in the shower, walking down the street, it doesn’t matter, just keep on practicing your responses and have your examples ready. I often find the best thing to do is to stand in front of a mirror and visualise myself in the interview room. I also record myself and listen back to it to see whether I sound convincing and confident when delivering my answers. 
     
  • Relax –try your very best to relax, compose yourself and remember that this is just a professional conversation - not a personal interrogation. When I am struggling to relax I use specific breathing techniques that help in calming and steadying my nerve. Do some online research to find some that work for you. Avoid listening to Eminem’s ‘Lose yourself’ beforehand. This isn’t your ‘one shot’ and chances are you will have plenty of other opportunities, even if this one is unsuccessful.
     
  • Ask questions – when you have the chance, always take the opportunity to ask clear and concise questions. Very often the difference between two candidates can become apparent at this point - it separates those who can think on their feet from those who are one-dimensional. I would always try and avoid my first question being about my salary or holiday, even though these are important aspects it could give off the wrong impression about my intentions for the role. Here are some tips on what questions you can ask to really impress your interviewer.
 

Advice from a fellow graduate

 

Don’ts

  • Be late – being late demonstrates poor time management, a lack of organisation and quite frankly, looks like you aren’t that interested - so you can imagine what an employer is going to think if you aren’t on time. Be prepared - if I was driving to the place I would consider doing a ‘dry run’ of the journey the day before, so that I know exactly how long to leave, and even then I would allow an extra 10 minutes. If there is no possible way to get there on time then always ring ahead and give warning – at least then the interviewer isn’t sat waiting for you.
     
  • Appear overly nervous–I always try to maintain an open body stance, and ensure that from the moment I walk into the door I appear confident in myself. Practice your handshake. A limp handshake can give off signs of insecurity and shyness, not something you want your employer to think of you. 
     
  • Look scruffy – one of the biggest pet hates for interviewers is people who turn up like they have just rolled out of bed. Get in contact with your interviewer prior to your interview and inquire what the typical dress code is at the office if you are really unsure always err on the side of smart, rather than casual.
     
  • Overuse filler words – our generation is increasingly becoming defined by its use of the word ‘like’. Every other sentence is ‘like’ this and ‘like’ that and it really annoys employers. By avoiding filler words such as ‘like’ and ‘um’ you demonstrate, not only better communication skills but also greater confidence in what you are saying. For me, the best way is to record myself responding to a series of questions and then listen to it back while counting the number of filler words I use.  I guarantee you will be shocked at how often you use them. Then, as you come to practice again really focus on what you are saying and focus on avoiding the use of these words. ‘Yeah...umm...I feel like I am a really good team player and...ummm...I can really like work well in pressure situations...’ 
 
Now that you are fully prepped with the vital dos and don’ts of interview situations, why not check out this article on finding the right job for you?