You’ve spent time applying for that role, tailored your CV, prepared a stand-out cover letter, and you’ve had the all-important call for interview. This is your chance to show them what you’re made of. Set yourself up for success with these nerve-busting tips.
#1 Research the company
Ok, so first let’s bust a myth here. Nine times out of ten, an interviewer isn’t asking what you know about the company because they expect you to recite chapter and verse about the history, products or people. They simply want you to show that you have done your homework and have a genuine interest in the company.
If you can show them that you have taken the time to do some research, you are showing them that you will approach other tasks with the same care and attention. A few facts and an understanding of the products and services are sufficient; they want to know that you haven’t turned up for a job in construction if you really want to be a teacher.
Put 30-40 minutes aside and get to know:
- Who owns/runs the company
- What the main products/services are
- Where the company’s head office and other offices are located
- Their team - see how they treat employees since you might be one!
- What the company have been up to – do they have a blog? What does Google say about them? What are their latest updates on social media?
The old adage really does apply here, failing to prepare is preparing to fail. If you do nothing else, do a bit of digging.
#2 Think about transferable skills
Lots of employers will recruit based on someone’s potential, not just their qualifications. So, it’s important to show that you have transferable skills.
What have you learned at school, university, in other jobs (including part-time or student work) and through any volunteering or sports that will help you to do your new job?
Being a team player, using initiative, communicating, and customer service are all vital skills that you learn by doing. Run through your experience to date, and you’ll be able to pull out loads of examples of where you have used and developed these skills.
IT and tech skills
What have you learned already that will help? What software and social media do you use? Have you worked with Microsoft Office, data analysis, coding, email marketing or any creative tools, such as Adobe programmes? Chances are you will already be using several technologies that can help in the work environment. It’s also ok if you haven’t, as you can take the opportunity to share how keen you are to learn new skills.
Are you a good listener? What group activities do you undertake that requires team communication or leadership? Do you need to tell stories or speak in public? Finally, what is your style of communication? Do you thrive on detail, or do you just need top-line information? Both have their advantages in a work environment.
Are you great with people? Brilliant at leading a team or a top team player? Are you counted on by friends and family to get things done? Do you take care of anyone in the family? All of these are admirable qualities that can be transferred to a work environment.
Are you organised, creative, great at multi-tasking? Are you brilliant with numbers, an influential negotiator, or fantastic at decision-making? Let the interviewer know.
Each skill has a valuable place in the work environment. Think about what the job role is about and try to highlight the skills you have that would help you be effective in the workplace.
#3 Get familiar with STARR (Situation, Task, Action, Result, Reflection)
Most interviews will include competency-based questions. Utilising the STARR technique will help you to answer these questions by drawing on your experiences, showing how you dealt with a situation, and what the outcome was.
Sometimes at work, things go wrong. A prospective employer simply wants to know that you have the skills to deal with a challenge. After all, you may be representing the company to a prospective customer or supplier; they want to know it is in safe hands.
Write down three or four instances where you had an individual impact on a situation. What was your role? What actions did you take? What was the result? What did you learn from the experience?
Some examples to think about:
- Overcoming a difficult or challenging situation
- Working under pressure to meet a tight deadline or deliver a project
- Resolving a customer complaint
Having a few examples ready to draw on will help you feel more confident and prepared for the interview process.
#4 Practice makes perfect
Practice some interview questions to perfect your technique. At some time, everyone will stumble over an answer or take a moment to reply - that’s ok! All an interviewer wants to know is that you can answer authentically. Take the time to think about how you would respond to the most common interview questions.
- Ask friends or family to interview you. Listening to different voices and ways of asking similar questions will help you to relax in real-life situations where you are being asked for answers by more than one person.
- If you don’t hear or don’t understand a question, don’t worry! Ask for further clarification or ask them to repeat the question.
Which brings us on to…
#5 Prepare some questions for the company
We all want to know what it’s like to work for a company. So, don’t forget to ask the interviewer(s) questions too. Showing you care about the business as well as your own career will signal to an employer that this is a two-way relationship.
Try to ask strategic questions to get to the nitty-gritty of the business. This will show you have thought beyond the basics. For instance:
- Swap ‘what will the growth of the company be next year’ to ‘where are the biggest areas of growth for your business in the next few years?’
- Or ‘what is it like working here?’ to ‘what is the biggest cultural challenge you face as you continue to grow’?
#6 Work out how to get there and how long it will take (then add 15 minutes)
We all know that arriving late through your own mismanagement is a no-no. If your train is delayed, or you are stuck in traffic, call ahead, apologise and give an estimated time of arrival.
Arriving just on time, flustered and overheating, is also not going to help. Over-estimate the time it will take to get there, allowing for nerves getting the better of you, listening to Google maps or those extra minutes finding a parking space and walking to reception.
Aim to arrive about 15 minutes before your interview time, so you’re not too early, but you have time to relax and…
We know sitting in a quiet environment, waiting for people you have never met before to ask unknown questions, can be nerve-wracking. Breathing deeply before you go into an interview will help slow your heart rate, help you to think more clearly, and help you focus. One deep breath before you enter the room will work wonders.
If you get asked a question that you need to think about, take a breath before you answer. Rather than being penalised, an interviewer will appreciate that you are taking the time to think about your answer.
#8 Finally, remember the most important thing…
An interview is a two-way conversation. It’s an opportunity for you to show the interviewer why you are the best candidate for the role. By showing your true self (and everyone gets nervous, so don’t worry about that), you will give them an idea of what it’s like to work with you.
Just as a reminder, if you’re feeling nervous…the person asking the questions is probably desperate to find their new team member, and so they will be willing for that to be you. Asking questions that will help you uncover what it’s really going to be like working for the company will give you and them the best opportunity to see if this is the start of something great.
We have created a handy STARR template for you to download here.