So, you have submitted your CV or application form and you have been short-listed for an interview. For most roles, there will only be one position available, so you have to aim for the gold medal spot. Generally, you’ll get nothing for coming second unless the successful person declines the job, and definitely nothing if you finish below that. Therefore, you have to get the details right to give yourself the best possible chance of success.
Here are some useful hints and tips that will help you:
Know your availability. If a recruiter or business contacts you for an interview, ensure you have direct access to an up-to-date calendar enabling you to arrange a meeting there and then. Show yourself immediately to be decisive and well-organised.
Know where you are going. Not all businesses are easy to find, and some may be hidden away or share large office space with other businesses, so use Google Maps beforehand to identify exactly where you are going. Familiarise yourself with the environment and, if you are driving, make sure you have identified at least two local car parks.
Plan your trip. Arriving late for an interview is a really bad start, so plan to arrive at least 30 minutes early, or longer if the interview is a lengthy distance from where you live. If you arrive early, you will have an opportunity for one last review of your CV or some last-minute interview preparation. If you do get stuck in traffic, make sure you have a contact name and number to hand so you can let the interviewer know. Generally, they will try and juggle their time to accommodate you.
The seven-minute rule. Plan to arrive at the office’s location seven minutes before the interview. This will ensure you are neither too early, which will have you hanging around the reception for too long, nor cutting it too fine. This will demonstrate sound time management.
At reception. It’s always good, providing they are clearly not rushed off their feet, to establish some rapport with the receptionist, as they will most likely provide good feedback to the interviewer if you do. Also, check out any awards or significant milestones that might be on show in the reception area. You might be able to use these during the interview, demonstrating a real interest in the business.
What should I wear? Work attire greatly differs from business to business but, put simply, no one has ever not got a job because they were dressed too smartly. So, keep it formal. Rolling the dice and dressing a little more casually could be a decision you live to regret.
Should I take a copy of my CV? No. Take three copies as more than one person could be interviewing you and make sure you know, in detail, every word on it.
Will I be offered the job, if successful, after the first interview? Not always. Many businesses will invite you back to a second and maybe a third interview to ensure that you fit with the culture of the company. It may be worth asking about this at the end of your first meeting.
Should I take my mobile phone with me? Yes. You may need it if you are running late or need to find an alternative route, etc. But always, and I mean always, have this switched off. If, because you have been distracted by the forthcoming interview, you forget to do this and it rings or bleeps, apologise profusely and switch it off. Never ever answer it mid-interview. Unbelievably, I have seen this done!
Is it okay to smoke or vape before an interview? If you think that bringing a foul, lingering smell to an interview will enhance your chances, then go for it. Otherwise, do not smoke after you have had a shower and have dressed for your interview. If you get really nervous, I recommend you taking it out on a stick of chewing gum.
Some other logistics
- you have enough petrol. Stopping to buy some could delay you
- you have change for the car park
- your mobile phone is fully charged
- you have the name of the person who is interviewing you
- you take a pen, paper and copies of your CV
The initial meet and greet. If, when you get nervous, you tend to stumble over your words, then practise this. Try to use the person’s name with a very articulate ‘nice to meet you’ added to this. Your handshake should be firm without being vice-like, and if you suffer with sweaty hands, take a handkerchief and discreetly dry your hands as you are walking to meet the interviewer.
Should I accept the offer of a drink? If you accept the offer of a tea or coffee, it is likely that someone has to leave the room and make this. I would be more inclined to simply ask for a glass of water, which you can sip whilst being asked questions.
Should I ask questions? Yes, as this will demonstrate an interest in the role. However, be sure to show interest in the feedback you receive otherwise it will appear that you are simply going through the motions. Prepare five questions beforehand as it is likely that at least two of these may have been answered during the interview, leaving you three questions to ask.
What if I establish during the interview that the role is not for me? There is no problem with you telling the interviewer this at the time of the interview, but we recommend that you are polite and constructive. Making derisory comments about their business may come back to haunt you at a later date. We would always recommend you going away and having a think about it. You may reflect later that there were actually a number of real positives that could be beneficial to you.
After the interview. Be sure to leave very politely. Hand in your visitors badge and/or sign out of the building, and then call your recruiter from your car whilst the interview is fresh in your mind. They will be really interested in your feedback and, if the role isn’t for you, they can continue searching for alternatives.