Making the right impression

Most people are nervous when attending an interview – but remember that you are there as much to find out if you would like to work for this employer as to find out if you are the right fit for them.

There are a number of essential things you can do to reduce your nerves – prepare well and you will feel more in control.

Before the interview

  • Know where you’re going and how long it will take to get there.  Take into account the traffic/transport timetables for the time of day you will be travelling.  Aim to arrive between 15-30 minutes beforehand – but don’t go in until about 10 minutes before your appointment.  If you’re very early, go and have a coffee somewhere or sit and relax before going in.  Make sure you have a contact telephone number for the company with you in case you run into unavoidable delay that is outside your control.  Always ring well before the interview appointment time to warn them you are delayed.
  • Dress to impress!  Appropriate business dress for an interview is essential.  Don’t choose the interview to demonstrate your latest fashions.  If you find you are a little more formally dressed than the interviewers, don’t worry, you are demonstrating professionalism and respect.
  • Do your homework – look at the company website and get to know as much about them as possible.  If you have time get a copy of their annual report (this is often available simply by ringing up and asking for it). 
  • If you haven’t had a job description or role profile, don’t be afraid to ask for one to be sent to you.  They may say ‘no’, but you may very well get extra ‘points’ for having the initiative to ask.
  • Have answers ready for the standard interview questions.  Make notes if necessary and take the notebook along.  You can expect to be asked one or all of the following
    • Why do you want to work for our company/organisation?
    • What do you know about our operation/organisation?
    • What do you think your key strengths are?
    • What do you think you’ve got to offer us that will make a difference to our organisation?
    • What are your weaknesses? (or what are you not so good at?)
    • What are your aspirations for the future?
    • Where do you see yourself in one/three/five years time? 
  • Make sure you bring along any paperwork and additional information you think may be useful.  If you don’t need it that’s fine, if you do and it’s at home you may look disorganised or inefficient. 
  • Always tell the receptionist or whoever is in the front office who you are seeing and what time your appointment is for.  If you haven’t announced your arrival they may not realise who you are, or who you are to see, especially in a large organisation.

In the interview         

  • Walk into the interview room with your right hand free (in case someone offers to shake hands); carry your briefcase or bag in the other hand. 
  • If nobody has taken your coat, take it off before entering the interview room and fold it over your arm.  Transfer it to the back of your chair before you sit down, so it’s out of the way.
  • Smile and make eye contact with the interviewer(s).  If they are in a situation where a handshake seems appropriate let them take the lead.  If they are behind a desk and a handshake would be difficult don’t attempt it.  A friendly ‘hello’ or ‘good morning’ will do just fine.
  • Answer questions clearly and concisely, don’t waffle.  If necessary use your notes (so make sure they are easily accessible) – there is nothing wrong with saying “I’ve been thinking about that and I made some notes to be sure I didn’t miss anything”.
  • There are generally three types of interview questions:
    • Standard questions (as above)
    • Specific questions related to your particular CV where more information or clarification is needed
    • Scenario questions, which are usually presented as ‘if you were in this situation (described), what action would you take?’

      Make sure you are ready for the first two and think before answering the third one!  If you need a little thinking time by all means say “I’d like to think about that for a moment,” gather your thoughts and give a considered answer, rather than rushing at it and providing a confused or garbled response.   
  • Most interviewers wind up by asking if you have any questions.  This is NOT the time to ask about salary, working conditions or other ‘housekeeping’ issues – these will usually be covered in a final interview and definitely in the offer letter if you are offered the job.  It may be a good place to ask about what opportunities there are for career development in the future, but be careful not to appear to be too keen to progress out of the role for which you’re being interviewed!  It may be a good time to ask them what the next steps will be, if they haven’t already outlined these, as in ‘when can I expect to find out the outcome of this interview?’         
  • Thank them for their time before you leave.  Leave them with a smile – and don’t forget any of your personal possessions!