Succeeding at interview


You’ve found the job, wowed with your CV, and now you’re through to the interview stage. Take a moment to congratulate yourself — just a moment mind; there’s work to be done.

Succeeding at interview is the ultimate goal of any job search (unless you just really want the practice), so you need to approach it with as much thought, planning and thoroughness as the search, CV preparation, and cover letter stages.

Your potential new employer will be trying to decipher what sort of person you are, whether you can do the job, and how well you’ll fit in with their company culture; your aim is to convince them that you’re the person they’re looking for, more than capable of taking on the role, and the perfect fit for their company.

Not all interviews are the same

As well as the traditional one-to-one interview (which we know can be intimidating enough), there’s always a chance that you might be interviewed over the phone, by a panel of people, or be asked to take assessment tests. The good news is that if you get an interview through Office Angels, we’ll tell you what to expect on the day, including:

  • What format the interview is likely to take
  • How many interviews you’ll have
  • The name and job titles of your interviewer(s)
  • Who else you’re likely to meet and when
  • If you should expect any assessments, and if so, which type
  • Whether you’ll be expected to deliver any presentations

Because we’re focused on your future, it’s really important to us that you go into each interview feeling confident and well prepared; which is why we’ll always do our utmost to help you understand the culture, values and ethos of the company that you’re interviewing for — but you need to put in the groundwork too.

Know what you want to say

It’s safe to assume that you’ll be asked some fairly standard questions about work, the job you’re being interviewed for, and your strengths, weaknesses, and experience. You might also be asked about how you’d handle certain professional situations, such as dealing with a difficult customer or juggling a heavy workload, so it’s wise to plan some answers prior to the interview — that way, you’ve got something to draw on at the crucial moment.

But the preparation doesn’t end there. You need to think of some questions of your own to demonstrate your interest in the job, such as:

  • How did the vacancy come about?
  • How do they see the role developing?
  • What challenges face the team/department/organisation?
  • What would they expect you to achieve in the first three months?

It’s also a good idea to think of some questions that demonstrate your research into the job, the organisation, and the market in which it operates.

You only get one chance at a first impression

It’s a cliché, but it’s true. You need the interviewer to believe in you from the moment you walk through the door, so help them out by getting to your interview early. Nothing makes a worse first impression than arriving late, so double check the time of your interview, where it’s being held and how to get there.

If it’s practical, try to visit the place your interview is being held beforehand so that you know how to get there, how long it’s likely to take, and what the parking facilities are like. If you’re arriving by public transport, make sure you give yourself enough time to allow for delays and disruptions — a cancelled train isn’t a good enough excuse when you could have caught the one before.

Perfecting your interview technique

The most important thing when you first meet your interviewer is to appear confident. Even if you don’t feel it, you can still convey confidence with your actions.

  • Start with a firm handshake and be aware of your body language
  • Speak clearly and make sure that your voice sounds warm
  • Keep enough eye contact to establish sincerity, and remember to smile
  • Be enthusiastic about the job and the prospect of working for them
  • Use body language to emphasise your enthusiasm and support what you’re saying

The interviewer isn’t trying to trick you; they just want to make sure that you’re the right person for the job — so leave them in no doubt.

  • Use convincing STAR examples (Situation, Task, Action, Result) to show what you’ve achieved in previous jobs, and what you could contribute to this one
  • Talk positively about results, profitability and productivity, so that the interviewer can see evidence of your success and determination
  • Communicate your points in a factual but sincere way

You’re bound to be nervous, and if you’ve rehearsed the questions beforehand, you might be eager to get your answers across as soon as you have the chance; but before you rush in, make sure that you’ve listened attentively to the question you’re being asked. You should also avoid yes/no answers where possible — the interviewer is keen to get to know who you are, and such short responses won’t give them anything to go on.

If you’re ever unsure about a question and need more clarification, it’s much better to ask and be clear about what you’re answering, than to guess and answer incorrectly. After all, it shows great confidence and communication skills on your part.

Before you leave the interview, remember to politely shake hands and thank your interviewer(s) for the chance to learn more about the job and the organisation — however you think it went.

Some final thoughts from the experts

  • Get a good night’s rest before each interview
  • Try to arrive early to showcase your timekeeping skills
  • Take a mobile in case of unexpected delays, but switch it off when you get there
  • Make sure your clothes and personal grooming make the right impression
  • Limit hand luggage to a good quality briefcase or portfolio
  • Take a notebook, file or diary to write down key issues and questions
  • Read company press releases and brochures for up-to-date information
  • Resist the urge to criticise your previous employer
  • Avoid trying to negotiate salary or terms of employment until you receive an offer
  • Never pressurise your interviewer for a decision — nobody likes to be put on the spot

And when the whole process is over, make sure you give us a call to talk through how you think the interview went; we’ll do the same with your employer, and have feedback for you as soon as we can.