Interviews can be nerve wracking if you aren’t comfortable with ‘selling’ yourself. But believe it or not, being skilled in interviews is something you can learn. If you want to become a master of presentation and ask all the right questions, follow these tips and techniques for interview success.
The road to interview success should begin long before the interview. So, practice, prepare and research. Make sure to prepare a few good stories/examples that demonstrate your skills and practice your delivery; you could even record yourself and play it back to find out which areas you need to work on.
You should also do your research. Make sure you look into the company, the people and the sector in which you’re hoping to work. This will give you plenty to talk about with your interviewer. For more details on getting ready for an interview, check out our interview preparation guide.
Make a good first impression
In the first few seconds of meeting you, an interviewer will make a judgement. So it’s important to make sure it’s a positive first impression. A crucial part of this is dressing for success. Before the interview you should prepare a professional looking outfit and make sure you’re well groomed.
When you first meet with the interviewer, be sure to smile at them confidently and shake their hand. Avoid being late as this not only makes a bad impression, but you also run the risk of turning up looking flustered.
Know your stuff
Pre-interview research is so important. If you’ve done your preparation properly you should be able to demonstrate your knowledge during the interview. Show your enthusiasm not only for the job, but for your sector by giving detailed answers outlining current news or trends.
The more you know, the more meaningful conversations you can have. This could help you to stand out as a clued-up and confident candidate. If you find there are gaps in your knowledge or the interviewer mentions something you were not aware of, don’t be afraid to ask questions. You’ll look keen and can begin to build a relationship with your interviewer.
Your body language will say a lot about you, so make sure you’re aware of how you’re presenting yourself. Using your hands a lot when talking can make your stories more animated and aid communication, but be careful not to go overboard with your gestures.
Also avoid fidgeting and fiddling with things, make sure you’re not playing with your pen or constantly playing with your jewellery – the interviewer might find this distracting and a sign that you’re nervous. You want to look confident and professional (even if deep down you’re suppressing your nerves), so make sure you aren’t slouching in your chair.
Throughout the interview you should try to keep smiling and maintain eye contact with your interviewer.
Deal with nerves
If you’ve done all the correct interview preparation and you’re feeling clued-up and confident, hopefully you shouldn’t feel too nervous. This being said, interviews (especially if it’s for your dream job) can always be a bit nerve-wracking and learning how to control your nerves so they don’t get the better of you is a very important step.
You should aim to come across as calm and confident, so be aware of your breathing throughout, if you begin to feel stressed take a few (subtle) deep breaths. Listen carefully to the interviewer so you don’t miss their questions and focus completely on the answers you’ve prepared. If you build up a rapport with your interviewer, this can also help you to relax and feel more at ease around them.
Keep a calm head and try to rationalise your fears. Remember, you wouldn’t have been asked in for an interview if the company wasn’t interested in you and your CV. Control the pace of the conversation to give yourself time to answer clearly and calmly, even though you may be nervous you should avoid rushing through the interview.
Though this point may sound obvious, selling yourself is something that many find an uncomfortable task – remember, the interview is your chance to demonstrate why you’re the best candidate for the job. It is important you know the job description in great detail. Recruiters see a job vacancy as a problem, a gap that needs to be filled, so you need to market yourself as the solution to their problem.
You should know your CV inside out; use it guide you through the interview, and pick examples of your experience or education that are going to demonstrate why you’d be successful in the role. Be sure to tailor each ‘pitch’ to the specific job role you’re applying for. Pick the examples that fit best with not only the role, but the company and their values.
Give specific examples
This is an area you can begin working on during your interview preparation. After you’ve done your research begin preparing examples that demonstrate your skills – keep these detailed and specific. It’s all very well claiming that you’re ‘a good leader’ or ‘a team player’, but the interviewer has no proof of this, so each time you reference one of you skills you should support it with an example.
A popular technique for illustrating your skills is the STAR method:
Situation: Give some context to the story you’re about to tell, outline where you were and why you were there.
Task: Describe what you were doing and if you faced any challenges whilst doing it.
Action: Then explain the actions you took to complete the task and how you tackled any challenges you faced.
Results: Finally, reveal the outcome, this should demonstrate your skills, what you achieved and also anything you learnt from the situation.
Keep this method in mind and come up with a few go-to examples you can use in the interview. If you’ve done your research you should be able to tailor these examples more specifically for the role you’re applying for.
Show your humanity
One of the most successful interview techniques is going to be building rapport with your interviewer – make them like you as an individual, not just as another candidate. There are several ways to do this, the first is to make sure you’re listening carefully to what they’re saying.
Mirroring their phrases not only shows that you’re listening intently, but allows you to pick up on anything they might say about their hobbies or interests that you can later refer back to.
As you should have researched the sector and latest trends before your interview, you can start more in-depth discussions about the industry or their company. You should also take this opportunity to ask them questions; these can be about the company as a whole, but also about them and their own role.
Most importantly, let your personality shine through, and show your sense of humour and your interest in them as a person, not just an interviewer.
By building rapport with your interviewer you can enhance your chances of being memorable – try to turn your interview into more of a conversation than a strict interview-style Q and A. Before you leave, let them know you’ve really enjoyed talking with them and thank them for their time.
Ask insightful questions
You should have prepared some questions before the interview, and you shouldn’t underestimate what these questions could say about you as a candidate. Asking intelligent questions is not only going to help you decide whether you are interested in the role, but it will also demonstrate to the interviewer that you are interested and serious about the job.
Asking questions about measuring future success and what’s expected of you will show you’re a forward thinker and keen to contribute to the success of the company. For more ideas and insightful questions, check out our page on the top interview questions you should be asking.
Though it can be difficult, try not to dwell on things you wish you hadn’t said. If you fumble your words slightly or struggle to explain yourself, ask to clarify what you meant and have another go. Avoid panicking that one mistake has immediately cost you your chance at the job; stay confident and continue on as if it never happened.
Don’t share too much
Of course you’ll be sharing a lot of information about yourself – it’s an interview after all, but be careful not to share unnecessary information. You’ll certainly be talking about your previous jobs, and whatever your reason for leaving, be sure that you don’t bad mouth your employers as this will make you look unprofessional.
You may be going through a particularly hard time at work or in your private life but you should avoid sharing this during your interview.
This isn’t make or break, but it could help to demonstrate your initiative and make you look enthusiastic about the role. Take a notepad with you, that way you can jot down any important information, or any questions you might think of during the interview. However, be careful not to let the notepad distract you, and certainly don’t end up doodling!
End your job interview strongly
Find out what the next steps are and when you can expect to hear back on the outcome of the interview. Once everything has been wrapped up, be sure to thank them for taking the time to meet with you. Also, tell them that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Exit on a handshake and follow the interview up with a phone call or an email.
Ultimately, if you practice and do your research, deliver your answers concisely and get some interesting conversations going, there’s no reason why an interview can’t be a pleasant experience. You can learn from every interview you go to (even the failed attempts); keep practicing these techniques and you can become a master of presentation – good luck!