So you have an interview coming up. Don’t worry: here are our top ten interview essentials which should help you get through it!
1. Prepare thoroughly
Whether this is the job that will be the start of your career or just something to make some money over the holidays, you need to prepare for your interview. This means knowing about the organisation, the role, and exactly why you’re the right candidate for the job.
Many companies now expect you to know a large amount about their goals and how they market themselves, so make sure you do your homework beforehand.
2. Have answers for common questions ready
Don’t get caught out by easy questions like ‘why do you want to work here?’ You might know everything possible about the organisation’s marketing strategy from the last five years, but if you can’t answer ‘so, tell us about yourself’ then you’re going to have difficulty.
Don’t be too general either: saying you want to work somewhere because it’s ‘a top organisation’ is forgettable. Find a real and specific reason why you want to work there, and make sure that you have something individual and memorable to say about yourself.
It’s true that practice makes perfect. Answering sample questions and talking through what to expect is the best way to prepare for the best interview. Look at our interview preparation guides online, especially our service Interview Stream which allows you to answer sample questions while being recorded, so you can watch back and see how you did for yourself.
You can also book a practice interview with one of our consultants, who will help you know what to expect and how to make the best impression.
4. Be confident
This may be one of the harder things to do, especially if the interview is for a job you really want. There are many ways to make yourself more confident, or at least make yourself seem more confident.
Before the interview, psych yourself up with some music or give yourself a pep talk in the mirror. Think about what would happen if you got the job and how great that would be – don’t entertain thoughts of what will happen if you don’t. Give a firm handshake and make eye contact with your interviewers. If you’re well informed and well prepared then you should be fine.
5. Dress appropriately
Make sure you look smart and polished (definitely no dragon t-shirts). It’s important that you look clean and tidy, and don’t forget iron your interview clothes beforehand.
If you don’t need to wear a suit, then smart trousers or a skirt (not denim) and a shirt (not denim either) should work. Check there’s nothing on your face before going in the room, and that you haven’t got breakfast on your tie.
6. Be aware of your body language
Body language and presentation play a huge role in whether you ace an interview. Ensure that you’re polite and presentable to everyone, as interviewers will consult reception staff and others you come into contact with to see how you behaved from the moment you enter the building.
During the interview itself, maintain good eye contact and keep your face neutral. Sit up straight, and don’t cross your arms or sit too sprawled in your chair as you will seem unprofessional. It may be tempting to fidget during an interview, especially if you’re feeling nervous, but try and cover it by placing your hands under the table.
7. Understand your own strengths
Why are you the best candidate for the job? This can be the hardest question if you’re not entirely sure what you’re best at yet. Thankfully, LSE Careers can help.
Look at our Understanding Yourself pages and see what your personality type is, what careers may be more appropriate to your interests, and how to make the best of your skills and abilities. Back up what you say in your interview with experience, whether it’s from extra-curricular activities or your degree course.
8. Use specific (and real) examples for competency questions
You can’t fake your way through this: employers will know when you’re making things up, and if you’re vague then they’ll think you don’t have an answer.
If they ask about how you overcome problems in the workplace, give them an example of a problem that you have solved, whether from a society, previous work experience, or even personally. Anybody can say they’re good at something, but a real-life example will show the interviewers that you’re the person they’re looking for.
9. Ask questions at the end
Asking your interviewers questions shows engagement and interest in both the role and organisation, which could set you apart from the rest of the candidates.
Make sure you’ve come up with some questions, based on your research, that you can rely on at the end of the interview. Things like the future plans of the organisation are great, or even queries about how the team you could be joining interacts can make a good impression on an interviewer.
10. Thank the recruiter
You don’t have to send a grovelling note, but a courteous email thanking the people who interviewed you for their time and consideration will show that you’re professional and decent. Make sure you write it specifically for that interview: don’t have a general pre-written note that you give to everyone. Send it a few hours after the interview, and hopefully it’ll put you at the top of the pile!