‘Tell me a joke’ said the stern faced recruiter to the quaking candidate.

Interviews are scary! Whether you’re facing your first or your twentieth, interviews have the power to make even the bravest of us nervous and tongue-tied. Whilst we can all prepare for the most obvious of questions there is always the fear of the unexpected: questions like the one above (which really has happened!) and the worry that answers to even straightforward questions may not come out quite as impressively and clearly as we would like. Unfortunately we can’t make your nerves (or your interview) disappear but the following tips will help you understand how to control them, perform to the best of your ability, and ace that interview:

1. Do your research

It’s likely you’ve already managed to display motivation in your application or you wouldn’t have been offered an interview. You will, however, be expected to explain in far more detail what you know about the organisation, why you want the role, and why you are a good fit for each other. Don’t just look at their website – that’s the very least a recruiter will expect you to have done. Look at news websites, industry publications and relevant websites. Where possible speak to people working in either the organisation or industry. You can browse and book a range of employer presentations and networking events organised by LSE Careers and make direct contact with relevant people through LinkedIn and through the LSE Alumni Mentoring Network.

2. Prepare, practise, perfect

Once you’ve done your research you should have the relevant information to start preparing answers. This is the key to performing well alongside plenty of practise. The better prepared you are the more comfortable and confident you will feel. Good interview answers are made up of two key things:

  • Relevant content, which you will have gathered when doing your research and thinking about your own past experiences, and
  • Structuring your answers will help you highlight the key points you wish to make clearly and concisely. When answering open ended questions such as ‘Why do you want to work here?’ and ‘What makes you a good candidate?’ select three or four points and focus on those. You don’t need to tell them everything and by focusing on a few key points you will make it easier for them to remember your answer. When answering competency questions follow the STAR approach describing the situation, the task, your action, and the end result. Also, remember the P’s – Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.

3. Don’t worry

Put things in perspective. An interview is just a conversation and it’s not the end of the world if you don’t pass the interview stage, there will always be other interviews and jobs. Treat each interview as a learning experience; it’s a two way process and an opportunity for you to discover whether that employer is right for you too. Even if you are not successful you can gain valuable feedback and reflect on things you may choose to do differently in future. If you are successful then you clearly had nothing to worry about in the first place!

4. Plan your route

Make sure you know exactly where you are going and how to get there. Allow plenty of time for your journey including any transport delays. If at all possible do a trial run in the days leading up to the interview so you can feel confident. On the day aim to be there early and find a local coffee shop where you can relax and compose yourself before your interview.

5. Dress comfortably

Whilst you should always aim to look business-like and smart, it’s important you wear clothes and shoes that fit well and feel comfortable. Wearing tight fitting clothes that you are unable to sit comfortably in or shoes that hurt your feet will affect your concentration and distract you.

6. Interact effectively

A large part of a recruiter’s decision making is formed by non-verbal clues and interactions. If shaking hands with people give a good firm and confident handshake. Make sure you are pleasant to everybody you meet, as recruiters may ask other members of staff, such as anyone that escorts you from reception to interview, about their interactions with you. In addition to looking for good interview answers they are also judging whether you’ll be a good fit for their organisation and whether they and their colleagues will enjoy working with you. Try to relax and be yourself, smile and maintain eye contact throughout the course of the interview. This doesn’t mean stare at them throughout or grin from start to finish but it does mean be natural and let your personality shine through.

7. Think yourself successful

Don’t underestimate the power of a positive mental attitude (PMA). Whilst waiting to go into your interview imagine getting the phone call or email offering you the job. Picture yourself getting your first pay cheque and think about what you are going to buy yourself (and you should always buy yourself a treat with your first pay cheque!) This will not only distract you from pre-interview nerves but will put you in a positive frame of mind. It will also give you a winning attitude that may well come across to those interviewing you.

8. Ask genuine questions

Asking genuine questions at the end not only demonstrates genuine motivation and interest to your interviewer but allows you to find out what you really want and need to know. Don’t ask questions you think they want to hear; ask questions that will inform you further about the role you’ll be doing, the people you’ll be working with, and the kind of training and career development available if you take the role. When planning your questions ask yourself this, ‘Do I really care?’ If the answer is no then you shouldn’t be asking it at interview.

9. Follow up

Always send a polite thank you to your interviewers and anyone who has been involved in organising the interview. It is courteous and will make you stand out in their memory as someone who is professional and has good communication and relationship building skills. This won’t necessarily secure you the job, but might tip the balance in your favour.

 10. Use LSE Careers

Good luck with your applications and interviews and don’t forget to have a good joke ready just in case you do get asked for one!

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