How to do Well at Job Interviews

Simple tips to help you perform your best


Do you know someone who always seems to get offered every job that they apply for? Perhaps you’ve held yourself back from leaving the job you hate and applying for something new because it’s been such a long time since you’ve had a job interview? Or maybe you have an awesome resume so you have no problem being invited to interviews, but you struggle to get any job offers?

I’ve tried and tested some relatively straightforward tips that you can follow to maximise your chances of doing well on the day and securing an offer.

Know your hiring manager

Whether you are applying for a new job within your current company or hoping to join somewhere new, do your homework on the hiring manager. If you are not told who this is (weirdly it happens ..) then ask. Read anything available online such as LinkedIn and other social media profile.

As a result, you will know if you have any shared interests with the interviewer that you can use to build rapport.

Know the company you are hoping to join

You have no excuses for not doing detailed research on the company that you are hoping to join. Be clear about why you want to join that particular organisation as you will definitely be asked the question!

You are guaranteed to create a bad impression if you do not convince the interviewer that you have done your homework on the company. I am not saying that they will expect you to be an expert if you are applying externally but they will certainly expect you to know the basics

When and where was the company founded?
How many employees?
How many countries do they operate in?
What is the company stated purpose and mission?

Be clear on the interview format

Your invitation to interview will include clear instructions on the location, time and format. If you do not get clear expectations on the format, then ask. For large corporates, there is usually detailed interview process information available online. Who do you know already in the company? Do you know anyone who had interviewed there previously? Ask them.

A commonly used interview format lasts one hour and comprises;

· Introductions

· Tell me about yourself (10 mins)

· Competency-based questions (30 mins)

· Presentation of the pre-assigned task (15 mins)

· Chance for you to ask questions (5 mins)

What to wear

This can be a tricky area where rules change over time.

Generally speaking, what to wear will depend on the industry, with fairly predictable expectations. For anything technology or media related, “business casual” is the order of the day.

For women, I like to think of dressing as though you are meeting your future mother-in-law for the first time. Business casual can be harder for men and gone are the days where a suit and tie is expected with the possible exception of jobs in banking, finance and legal.

And all of the above applies in these times of remote interview by video call even though your top half only will be visible….

Be comfortable in what you are wearing and you are more likely to be confident.

Plan the journey (or more likely the technology) ahead of time

Chances are in these current times that you won’t be asked for a face to face interview but a video or audio call instead. Neither are substitutes for face-to-face, but video calling is better than audio. If you are told that the interview will be an audio phone call, ask if video calling would be possible. Why? Because you are in a much stronger position to convince the interviewer that you are the right candidate for the job if they can see you as well as hear you.

If you are in a location where face to face interviews are taking place, then make sure you carefully plan out your journey to arrive in plenty of time. And do make a note of the number to call if you get held. It may not harm your chances of being hired if you are late provided you keep them informed.

Power pose

I am a huge fan of Amy Cuddy. If you haven’t watched her insanely popular TED talk watch it now and learn about the impact that power posing can have on boosting your confidence.

Before my most recent job interviews, I have sneaked off to a quiet place (the female bathroom usually) to pose like wonder woman. Feet apart, hands-on-hips, standing tall and confidently. You do feel a bit silly, but it works. Professor Cuddy’s has shown in her research that the impact of thoughts over body language works both ways. In other words, not only can our thoughts impact our body language, but our body language can change our brain chemistry. We can switch on our confident and happy brain hormones by assuming a strong and assertive body position.

Try it before your next interview, public speaking event or any situation where you want to trick your brain into the confident mode.

STAR technique

At an interview, you are selling yourself. As a result, you will prepare for the questions you are likely to be asked to clearly structure your thoughts. Aim to hit home the “why you?” in response to every question.

Competency-based questions are popular and are designed to understand your underlying attitude and approach to work as much as your specific experience. Examples are;

“Tell me about a time where you managed conflict?” and “What achievement are you most proud of?”

Using the STAR technique will really help you structure your answers in a clear and compelling way;

Situation.…I was faced with a colleague who disagreed with me on our project plan for launching a shiny widget.

Task…….I was tasked with leading the shiny widget project and we were in danger of missing our launch date if I didn’t resolve the conflict

Action……I decided it would be a good approach to do a SWAT analysis with the whole project team, accepting that my approach might be over-ruled

Result.……. We reached a consensus that was at the end different to both mine and my disagreeing co-worker. The team and my Director thanked me for identifying the problems and bringing us all together to resolve.

By having the STAR acronym in your mind when answering each question, you will have well-structured answers that tell a complete story.

Ask questions and follow up

Be prepared to ask questions at the of the interview. The worst thing to do when asked is to say that you have none. Questions that have impressed me in the past are

“How would you describe your management style?”

“What do you most enjoy about working here?”

If your interviewer doesn’t make it clear, don’t forget to ask when you can expect to hear from them. Send a short email the following day simply saying “I really enjoyed meeting you yesterday and look forward to hearing the outcome soon”. Short and sweet to let them know you are a polite and considerate person who wants the job while not being at all pushy.

By following these principles before the day, during the interview and in follow up, you set yourself for the best chances of being offered the job. Then all you have to do is decide if it’s right for you.

Curious Creature. Voracious learner. Scientist turned writer with lots in between. Obsessed with running and personal growth.

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