Job interview tips: your 101 guide

Jumping for joy at a job interview

Prepare yourself for your next job interview

So you’ve applied for lots of jobs and you’ve finally gotten an interview. That’s great news! However, the hard work isn’t over just yet, and underestimating the preparation for a job interview is the most common mistake made today.

Another common mistake job seekers make is assuming that their résumé or CV is enough to get them the job. An abundance of qualifications and work experience may have gotten you a foot in the door, but will it see you successfully through the interview and ultimately get you the job?

The answer, in short, is no…

Job interviews give employees the chance to see if you are what they are looking for. It doesn’t matter if your CV says you are the right person for the job if they don’t think you would be easy to get along with! If you don’t turn up looking smart and clean, you are also going to struggle to impress; and impressing a potential employer is what it’s all about.

Here is our ultimate collection of 9 job interview tips, with the the dos and don’ts to help you be successful in a job interview:

Funny job interview - begging

Job interview tip #1: Dress appropriately for the role

You can never make a second first impression! What you wear to an interview is probably one of the most important aspects of being successful, as your appearance is the very first thing an interviewer will see. It’s also human nature for an interviewer to judge you the second you walk through the door.

So make sure you dress appropriately for the position and industry you are applying for. Above all else, make sure you make an effort to look smart and presentable as this will definitely get noticed. If you fail to make an effort with your presentation, then the interviewer will immediately assume that you are not a hard worker and don’t care. And in all fairness, if you don’t take the time and effort to look smart, then maybe this is true! Click here to read our guide on what to wear in a job interview for men and women. It’s also worth checking out the BBC’s guide to image makeovers for job interviews:

Job interview clothes checklist

Job interview tips - look after your personal hygiene

Job interview tip #2: Ensure your personal hygiene is impeccable

This is always an awkward topic to discuss and give advice on, but it still cannot be ignored if you want to have a successful interview. At the end of the day it’s very simple – take care of yourself, make sure you’re clean and presentable. And that’s basically it!

Someone who is clean and looks after themselves portrays a sense of organisation and care. Employers have to make quick judgements based upon your CV and your answers in the interview. It’s all good and well sat there telling them how organised you are, but they will never really know until you actually do the job. So one aspect an employer will judge you upon is your appearance, and if this isn’t up to par, then they will assume your work ethic won’t be either.

Job interview tip #3: Do some reconnaissance

You must always do some research on the exact whereabouts of the job interview, as well as planning out the journey and the time it will take to get there. The time of the interview is also essential, because certain times of the day encounter different levels of traffic.

If you show up late to the interview, then you are very likely to get turned away instantly without even stepping one foot in the building. And if they do decide to still go ahead with the interview, then your chances of success have immediately plummeted.

Job interview tips - don't be late for the interview

When considering your route and mode of transport, make sure you plan to arrive 45 minutes before the scheduled interview. This gives you 30 minutes of potential problems with traffic or getting lost, and an extra 15 minutes to arrive early.

If for example you have your interview scheduled for 1pm, then make sure you turn up 15 minutes early. It doesn’t matter if you have to sit and wait for 15 minutes, because you’ve already shown your potential employer that you are not only a punctual person, but you also like to be early.

Employers love workers who are never late and do a few minutes extra before the official start time. So it’s important you make it clear to them from that start that this is the type of worker you are, and that you are reliable and won’t let them down.

Argument in a job interview

Job interview tip #4: Be polite, respectful and professional

“I used to be a Customer Service Manager, and I would ring a few shortlisted candidates just to see how well they came across on the phone. So before they even had an official interview I would essentially be conducting a short interview over the phone, without them even realising it! This would also happen if communications were via e-mail, because if I ever came across an e-mail that wasn’t very professional or contained a lot of spelling and grammatical errors, then they were instantly scratched off the list”

From the minute you receive an e-mail or telephone call, you must ensure you are polite and professional. Every word you type or speak is another indication to the employer on how well you will do in the role. This is of course especially true if you are applying for a customer facing or telephone role.

It’s also important not to be too opinionated, and an open minded easy going person is far more likely to get hired. Employers are looking for people who are easy to get along with, and who will gladly help out without kicking up a fuss. Someone who comes across a little difficult may not be who they’re looking for.

Job interview tip #5: Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

One of the most common mistakes a job seeker makes is failing to research the role and business they are applying for. So many people assume that just because they’ve been in a similar role many times before that they don’t really need to know exactly what the company does. This is a huge mistake to make!

You are extremely likely to get asked questions about the company and their background, and if you don’t know some of the specifics then they are going to assume that you don’t care enough about the job and the company. The Internet usually holds enough information to gain some good knowledge on what they do and who they sell their service or product to. Failing that, why not consider phoning the company to ask.

As a minimum you need to know the following:

  • The name of the company
  • What product or service they sell
  • Who they sell that product or service to

If you spend some time researching just these three things, then you will already be one step ahead of most of the other interviewees. Don’t underestimate how much you will impress the interviewer with your knowledge about the company. It not only makes it easier for them as they don’t have to explain everything, but it also shows that you are passionate about what they do and that you’ve taken the time to do some research.

Job interview research checklist

Job interview tip #6: Be honest and positive

Job interview liesWhatever you do don’t tell any lies or try to make yourself come across as something you’re not. People like honest people – and it’s as simple as that! Try to remember how many interviews these people may have already been through, and realise how easy it is to detect when someone isn’t telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

There is a fine line between telling the truth and being negative though, so make sure you don’t cross the line too much. If for example the interviewer mentions the fact that you haven’t had much experience in this particular role, then make sure you act positively rather than just agreeing. Acknowledge this fact, but also make them aware of how confident you are that you’re up to the job and keen to learn new skills.

There are bound to be lots of times during the interview when you are questioned about certain aspects of yourself or your work experience that don’t match up to the role. This is your chance to prove how confident you are in yourself and your own ability to learn and develop.

The interviewer may purposely throw some negatives at you to test how you respond. So don’t panic and remain positive throughout. But be careful not to embellish the truth and spin a few yarns. This would actually be a lot worse than not replying at all!

Interview in trainspotting

Job interview tip #7: Take your time and relax

There is always lots of time to answer any questions they may throw at you, so don’t rush your answers. Most people assume that a job interview is all about giving great fast responses, but this isn’t always the case.

Sure, if you do give very quick answers which are also fantastic ones, then you have nothing to worry about. Other than the fact that if you are assuming this is the case, then this is your first mistake!

In all fairness, most people are nervous and tend to rush responses without thinking them through. So instead, why not take a second to digest the question that’s been asked so you can reply with a well thought out response. Yes, you are being tested on your ability to respond fairly quickly and under pressure, but not at the expense of giving bad answers. Interviewers will happily allow you a couple of seconds to think about your answer, especially if the question is quite difficult.

The vibes that an interviewer would pick up are that you are not someone who rushes head first into making a decision, which usually turns out to be a wrong one. Taking your time and keeping things relaxed demonstrates that you are able to work under pressure.

However, be careful that you don’t take too much time and make them think you are not a quick thinker! Try to find a nice balance.

Job interview tip #8: Think ahead

Try to guess some of the questions that will get asked and do your homework. Most interviewers ask similar questions, but just word them differently or change them to suit their industry. If you’ve already thought about an answer before they ask the question, then you don’t have to rush your answer and you’ll already have a great response ready to impress.

Job interview tip #9: Ask your own questions

Most people forget how important it is to ask their own questions, and usually just focus on the answers that need to be given. Asking your own questions is important because you want to do two things. First of all you want to show that you care about the company, and asking questions will show exactly that. And second of all you may need to know certain things like hours, bonuses, wages etc, so you can make a decision if you do get offered the job.

Another important aspect is the chance of promotion and development. If you are looking for a career that grants the opportunity to progress up the ladder and develop new skills, then it’s important you find out as much as you can during the interview and if the company allows this kind of opportunity. Or at the very least after the interview, if you do get offered the job.

Job interviews should always be looked upon as two way, and you need to be certain that you will be happy in the role and be comfortable working with the people who are interviewing you. Check out this excellent list for more ideas.

Dilbert job interview comic strip

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