How to ace a job interview: 10 top tips

Published
26 Nov 2018

26 Nov 2018

Has the thought of a New Year just around the corner inspired you to find a new - better paid - job? This expert guide could help.

For many of us the start of a New Year is the time to think about a change of job, perhaps with a view to earning more cash.

If that's the case, great; now you just need to get searching, and prepare to make the best possible impression when you apply.

Getting interviews right can be tricky - even if you're confident in your ability to do the job you're applying for.

Overcoming nerves and the pressure of the day to put in your best performance can throw even the most experienced candidates off balance - so here are some step-by-step tips from Laura Holden at jobs website reed.co.uk, to help you through the interview process...

BEFORE THE INTERVIEW:

1. Prepare answers to questions you may be asked

You can't prepare answers to every possible question, but you can prepare for the most likely ones. Make a list of questions you're likely to be asked and prepare some bullet points for each one. Common questions may include: "Tell me about yourself", "Why do you want this job?", "Where do you see yourself in five years' time?", and, "What are your weaknesses?". If it helps, rehearse your answers with a friend or family member before the big day.

2. Research the company

Most companies will expect you to come to an interview armed with a basic understanding of how they operate and what they do. It's also a good idea to research the marketplace, know who their main competitors are and what distinguishes them from the competition. At the very least, you should check their company website and prepare a few talking points.

3. Research the role you're applying for

As well as researching the company, it also helps to research the role that you're applying for, which goes beyond reading the job description. This could involve anything from talking to people already doing the job to find out what their day-to-day entails, to reading industry blog posts. Make sure that for each requirement listed in the job description you have an example in mind of when you have demonstrated that skill.

4. Prepare questions to ask at the end of the interview

Prepare questions for your interviewer. If you can, link your question back to something earlier in the interview, for example: "You say your company has a collaborative approach. What kind of person do you think will thrive in this kind of environment?"

5. Dress the part

Selecting the perfect interview outfit can be a minefield. You can ask the recruiter or hiring manager what the dress code is, but sometimes this isn't prescriptive enough to make a decision on the right outfit. If in doubt, drop by the office to find out what other people are wearing and aim for something similar.

6. Plan your journey

Nothing ramps up anxiety levels like a last-minute dash for the train, or turning up late to an important interview. This is why it's always a good idea to plan your journey to the office before the day of your interview. You can do a practice run and time how long it takes to travel from your house to the office, or use a navigational app to find the fastest route.

DURING THE INTERVIEW:

7. First impressions count

However unfair it may seem, often the first few seconds when you meet your interviewer can have a lasting impression and make or break your interview. Make sure you check off all the basics: Smile, give a firm handshake, and be confident.

8. Remember to breathe

No matter how prepared you are, it's likely that you'll be thrown off by a question you weren't expecting at some stage. Try to avoid the fight-or-flight response by taking a deep breath before you answer. If you need time to think, take a few sips of water. Your interviewer will appreciate you taking a few minutes to compose yourself, rather than blurting out something you later regret just to fill the silence.

9. Be aware of your body language

An interview isn't the most natural environment, so it's easy to unintentionally come across as a little stiff. Keep your body language open during the interview. Avoid folded arms, or distracting behaviour like fiddling with a pen.

AFTER THE INTERVIEW

10. Follow up

As a courtesy and to ensure you're front of mind, after your interview drop your interviewer a quick follow-up email. Use the opportunity to thank them for their time, express your enthusiasm for the role, and ask for any additional feedback on your performance.