So you’ve been invited for an interview – well done! The employer obviously likes what they have seen so far (eg, on your CV, application form, etc) and they want to meet you in person. So make sure you don’t blow your chances – here are some blunders to avoid:
- Dressing inappropriately
Dressing too casually, or wearing clothes that are too revealing, makes it look like you aren’t taking the interview seriously. Think about the impression you make with your appearance. Dress smartly and appropriately for the interview to give a professional impression. Think about the appropriateness of any jewellery, piercings, nail varnish, etc. You want them to remember you for the right reasons!
- Not researching the company
Many interviews will include a question along the lines of “Why do you want to work for this company?”, so you really need to be ready to with an answer to this. You need to have done your homework beforehand – as a minimum, you should look at the company’s website (if they have one) and find out more about them and their products or services. Visit beforehand if possible, or talk to someone at the company, or some of the company’s customers or service users. Find out more about their competitors and the sector in which they operate, and read recent relevant news articles and industry journals, so that you understand issues facing the company. If you have researched the company well, you may be able to bring these insights into answers to other questions. If it is clear you don’t know much about the company and what they do, it looks like you aren’t really that interested in working for them – so why should they be interested in hiring you?
- Not enough preparation for possible questions
It is impossible to prepare for every single question an employer asks at interview – usually you will have to think on your feet to some extent. However, there are some common questions that are more likely to come up, so it is useful to put some time beforehand into thinking about how you might answer them. There are some examples on our website here.
The job specification will probably also give you an idea of the kinds of things they are likely to ask about. If it includes a list of skills and competencies they want candidates to demonstrate (eg, communication skills, team work skills, decision making, etc), then there is a good chance they will ask you something along these lines: ‘Can you describe a time when you had to work as part of a team?’ or ‘Give us an example of when you demonstrated excellent communication skills.’ Prepare some specific examples to demonstrate your skills and experience. Real examples of things you have actually done are far more convincing than vague statements.
- Talking too much… or too little!
It is easy to fall into one of two traps when answering questions – either talking too much, so that your answer is lost in unnecessary waffle, or not giving a full enough answer. Using something like the CAR (Context, Action, Result) model can help you remember and succinctly summarise your examples. This makes sure you cover everything needed (including the outcome – always important, and easily missed out!), and that your answer has a logical and easy-to-follow structure.
- Asking no questions
There is often an opportunity at the end of the interview to ask questions. If you don’t ask any questions, it might look like you are not very interested. If you have some good questions prepared, it can be an excellent way to demonstrate your research into the company and emphasise your interest in the role. However, if you make up questions on the spot, you might not make the right impression, so put some thought into this beforehand.
And don’t even get me started on leaving your phone on…!
If you need help preparing for interviews, or want to know more about other types of interviews (eg, via telephone or Skype), come to the Careers and Employability Service for support. We have lots more information online which you can access by following this link. We also have regular interview skills workshops and mock interviews with employers. You can also book an appointment with an adviser for individual help.
By Emily Peach, Careers Adviser