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Preparing for an interview; How to make a good first impression

Interviews can be daunting and we understand that selling yourself to a company is not easy for everyone. We believe the best way to present yourself is by being prepared so here are our top tips for making the best first impression at your interview.

Step one- Research

Firstly, you want to understand just who you are going to see and why the role is appropriate for you. All companies will conduct the interview process differently however, we will let you know what to expect beforehand.

Research the company Spend a few hours using various sources to learn everything you can about the company. Talk to people in your network to find current and previous employees, check them out on social media – including Linkedin-, visit the company website and see what people are saying on google. Often, we focus on the information a company is pushing out on its website and fail to look at what others are saying. By looking at multiple sources, you will get a broader picture of the company (including any negative feedback), and be ready to talk about why you would like to work there as well as what you can do for them.

Research the position. Before you can show your interviewer why you’d be a great hire, you need to know what they’re looking for. Most organizations have detailed descriptions of just who they are looking for within the job listing. Make sure to go through and examine the key features they are looking for, you can then highlight any experience and personality traits that make you perfect for the role.

Step two- Prepare and practice

Next, you’ll want to use what you’ve learned and prepare your answers to common interview questions.

Identify your selling points for this job. You’ll likely get asked why you’re interested in this particular role and company. So to make sure you can answer, identify a couple of key factors about the job and the organization that aligns well with your strengths, interests, and/or work style and gets you excited about the position.

Be ready to tell the interviewer about yourself. For every interview, you’ll want to have an answer to “Tell me about yourself” that’s tailored to this job and company and ready to go. Interviewers almost always ask this question or a similar one to start the conversation. Make sure you’re getting started on the right foot and not fumbling for an answer.

Familiarize yourself with the STAR method. Whenever you’re answering interview questions with a story, you want to make sure that story is well structured and the takeaway is clear. Your goal should be to give your interviewer all the context they need to understand what happened while still answering the question clearly and concisely. One way to do this is by using the STAR method. STAR stands for: Situation: Briefly lay out the scenario using just enough detail that the interviewer will understand the stakes and everything else in your answer. Task: Talk about what your role in the situation was. Action: Discuss what you did and why. Result: Tell your interviewer about the outcome and what you learned. Note that for some questions you might want to tweak this structure slightly. For example, if you’re talking about a time you demonstrated leadership skills, consider defining what leadership means to you before jumping into the situation. But the STAR method will ensure your stories always have a beginning, middle, and end.

Practice answers to common interview questions. You can and should familiarize yourself with common interview questions—but don’t prepare by writing out your entire answer; instead, jot down a few notes or bullet points and keep them on hand for the interview itself. Practice looking in the mirror and answering them out loud. This prep work will help you clarify your thoughts and make you much more comfortable during the interview. Interviewers are also consciously or subconsciously picking up on how well they use other interview skills such as active listening, small talk, and empathy. These skills not only help you impress an interviewer, but also give them a sense of what it might be like to work with you as a colleague.

Write down questions you’ll ask them. Most interviews will wrap up with “Do you have any questions for me?” and you should have some questions. You can start with this list of interview questions to ask, but you should also plan some questions that are very specific to the job and company. And prepare more than you think you’ll need—you don’t want to ask questions that have already been answered or be left without any backup options if the interviewer already touched on your first two questions during your conversation.

Prepare for technical interviews or skill tests. If you’re getting ready for a technical interview or you’ve been told there will be a skill test during your interview, start preparing and practicing as early as possible. Working through a prep book or sample questions will not only give you good practice, but it’ll also put you in the right problem-solving mindset.

Step three- Planning

Once you’ve prepped for the content of your interview, it’s time to make sure you walk in looking and feeling your best.

Figure out what to wear. Unless you’re prepping for a phone interview, you’ll need to take your physical appearance into account. (And yes, for video interviews, that does include pants.) Not sure what to wear? Contact us for the company dress code or if in doubt, aim for business professional attire. Feeling good about yourself will boost your confidence—and we probably don’t have to tell you that confidence is key to landing the job.

Figure out where you’re going and how you’re getting there (in-person interview). Whether you’re driving or taking public transportation, make sure you look up your route ahead of time (including where you’ll park). Know how long it should take you to get there and add plenty of extra time in case of traffic or transit delays.

Prepare your environment (virtual interviews). If you’re doing a remote interview, you’re responsible for your environment, so make sure that you’re in a quiet place without distractions and that anything you’ll need to reference during the interview is laid out in front of you along with a notepad, working pen, and beverage. We recommend you pay attention to what’s going on behind you, making sure your background is free of clutter and distraction, and making sure you are also well-lit is a bonus. It’s also important you test your technology ahead of time to ensure your internet connection; camera and speaker are all working as they should.

Interview cheat sheet. An interview cheat sheet will contain all the important details and questions you want to remember on the day. Jot down your key information to re-read just before you head into your interview to keep everything fresh in your memory.

Get a good night’s sleep. This may sound trivial but sleep is vital in making sure you feel your best for the day of your interview. If you are prone to insomnia when you are nervous take steps to ensure you are as calm and relaxed as you can be before you head to bed.

Calm your nerves. Before your interview, you’ll want to get yourself in the right headspace. It’s natural to feel nervous so planning for this ahead of time will ensure you go into your interview confident, calm, positive, and ready to conduct yourself during the interview. Of, we are all different and what works for you may not for others. However, some common ways to calm nerves include songs, breathing exercises, giving yourself a pep talk, or speaking to a friend/ loved one.

Step four- During the interview

Now to the fun part, the interview!

Firstly you want to make sure you shake hands firmly with the interviewer-if they are comfortable doing so post-pandemic- at the beginning and end of the interview. Make sure you stay friendly and approachable with your language and facial expressions, maintaining good eye contact with the person asking you questions will help with this.

Remember your interview preparation to keep answers concise and to the point. If you are unsure about something give yourself the time to take a deep breath in and ponder on the question before deciding if it’s something you can or cannot answer. A slow but composed answer is always going to sound better than a panicked rushed one. Should you not know something simply tell them! You will look more professional by being honest than lying or fumbling over an answer. This attitude will also make your questions stand out; make sure you are not hesitating desperately trying to think of something to say. Take a breath and go over the questions you have prepared beforehand.

Don’t forget to be yourself! That’s who they want to see and in the end, it’s whom you need to be if you are going to be happy in this role.

Remember an interview is not just so the interviewer can find out about you, it is also for you to establish whether or not this is a role you want to do and a company you want to work for. Take mental or physical notes on what the reception feels like and the relationship the staff has with each other.

Finally, we recommend asking the interviewer what the next steps will be before thanking them for their time.

Step five- After the interview

The interview may be over but the opportunity to learn is not! Take some much-needed rest and then think about your interview. How happy are you with the way you answered their questions? How could you improve your answers? Use each interview as a tool to make yourself better for the next one. If you are unsuccessful, ask for feedback to review your interview process for next time. Always remember every setback you might encounter is simply a new opportunity to learn.

All that is left to say is good luck! If you need any additional tips please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01844 213999

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