Your interview is coming round. You've picked out your outfit, and checked out the best route to the office. You know who you have to meet, and the interview style you're expecting.
You're nearly there. But before you set off, make some time check yourself for common errors. Use our guide to ten things not to do during your interview to make sure you make a knockout impression on your big day.
#1. Don't be Too Relaxed
You’re attending an interview, not hanging out with friends. You absolutely want to connect with your interviewers, and build rapport - and being confident and comfortable in yourself is crucial in this. But being so laid back you’re horizontal isn’t going to impress anyone.
In most situations, if you are not sure what tone to adopt, then err on the side of formal. The exception to this rule might be in particularly ‘chilled’ startups and small tech businesses, or in creative companies where you know the atmosphere is very deliberately cultivated to be relaxed and inspiring.
An interview with Google is going to feel very different to applying to a civil service post. If you’re attending an interview in an office with ball pits, office scooters and nap spaces, you’re probably OK to use first name, informal language. If you’re met in reception by a chap in a suit, then less so.
Match your approach and your tone to the environment, and put in some thought in advance to make sure that you have an idea of what to expect.
#2. Leave the White Lies at the Door
Interview candidates all too often get swept along by the ‘heat of the moment’ and make claims that they can not necessarily verify about their skills and experiences.
Think carefully about this, and make sure you do not give the impression you have skill sets that you could not demonstrate if required. It is a fine line, because you do want to show your best side - but over promising and ultimately under delivering is not a good plan, even if your white lies aren’t shown up in the interview itself.
Getting your practise in, in advance, is the best way to make sure you present your skills in an authentic and honest (but polished) way.
#3. Don't Apologise or Highlight Gaps
On the opposite end of the spectrum, make sure you don’t undersell yourself, either. It's completely normal to attend an interview with a nagging doubt about one or two areas of your experience and ability. Very rarely do employers find ‘the finished article’, especially in grad recruitment. They're looking instead for potential and a desire to learn.
As such, your resume will probably not match 100% of the skills listed in the job advert. Don't be intimidated by CV gaps - you've been invited to interview, so the recruiter clearly sees something of interest in you.
Instead of highlighting gaps, use the opportunity to show the soft skills you have gained during your degree. Actually these are the things that employers really want, and the best way to land a great job straight out of uni.
For example, you might not have experience of a certain software as yet, but instead of highlighting this with an apology, you can point to previous times that you have quickly developed new skills. This shows your self awareness and drive, which are traits that matter to any employer.
#4. Avoid Superficial Reasons for Your Interest
One question you will definitely be asked is ‘why are you interested in this role?’. Think carefully about your answer.
Of course, for any job or internship, there are multiple reasons why we apply. Perhaps the salary, location, benefits or the company culture are all equally important to you. The thing is, that they are not all equally important to the interviewer.
A recruiter wants to bring on board candidates who are committed to the company, to growing their own careers, and to making a lasting contribution. The more superficial reasons for applying for a specific position - such as the benefits or location - are very important to you as a candidate, but it is dangerous to frame your answer to this question in these terms.
Instead, talk about what attracts you to the company - perhaps they are leaders in their field or have a reputation for innovation that interests you. Maybe you know the culture to have specific facets that inspire you, or the personal and professional development on offer are first class. Answers in these terms will show you’re in it for the right reasons - and the long haul.
#5. Never Leave the Interviewer Guessing
As an interviewer, the most frustrating answers involve too many assumptions. A candidate might talk about a project without giving scope or details, or a team without describing the size, make up or organisational design.
Saying you worked on a project successfully, while collaborating with a team, is not impactful. Include detail to bring the example to life, so your answer might now read, ‘I delivered a successful marketing project, to launch our company website. Working as the creative lead within my team of five, who were drawn from across the business functions, I was able to increase website hits by 25%, and exceed the targets we were set initially’.
Make it easy for the interviewer to understand what you have done - and also what you have achieved. Metrics and details of scope bring context, and make sure that the interview does not have to guess at your successes.
#6. Remove all Distractions
It is very off putting to have a candidate who is distracted or fidgety.
Unfortunately when nervous (and who isn’t at an interview?), some bad habits can emerge. Watching a video of yourself in an interview environment can be quite excruciatingly embarrassing!
Some nerve related traits are difficult to eliminate altogether, but you can make an effort to remove distractions. Naturally you should have your phone switched off for your interview. However, also think about the clothes you wear, and the way you wear your hair if it is relevant. If you know you tend to play with a particular bangle, for example, do not wear it. Remove the temptation to fiddle with your complicated hairstyle, or check your watch too frequently. Your interviewer will thank you for it!
#7. ‘Off the Cuff’ Isn't Good Enough
How much preparation you do for an interview depends largely on your personality. Some people will still be putting in hours of prep for the fifth interview in a row, while others are prepared to ‘wing it’, and go into even a first interview relying mainly on their wits (and luck!)
There are very few people who can excel in an interview without some preparation. Find the prep style that suits you - perhaps you can’t imagine writing out model answers, but you can find time to talk through likely questions while driving or in the shower. Maybe you don’t want to think too hard about the questions you might be asked, but would rather practise talking through your resume in the most effective way, and build a bank of examples that way.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to planning for your interview, but the best candidates do find the way that works with their personal preferences. Take different angles on prep until you find yours.
#8. Don't Show Your Frustration
Finding a job or internship is a process fraught with frustration. As a candidate you are probably familiar with sending in applications but not receiving replies. You will have had recruiters say they will call, but fail to do so (or to put in the call significantly after they committed to). You will probably have experienced rejection.
Set all this aside during your interview, and put on a positive face. Recruiters are on the lookout for people who will make a positive contribution to the company culture, and somebody who moans is not going to be much fun to work with.
Keep a check on yourself during the interview, to make sure your words, tone and body language are all screaming ‘positive person’!
#9. Remember it's a Two Way Street
The best thing about an interview is often forgotten as candidates get wrapped up in their own desire to please. Interviews are very much a process of you assessing the business, just as the interviewers assess you.
Have some questions prepared in advance to ask the interviewers and get a better insight into the day to day working of the business. And during the interview, take some time to think about how you might feel, fitting in with the team you have met. Have a look around the office as much as you can, to see what the atmosphere and facilities are like.
By taking the time to think about how you might slot into the team, you are not only getting useful information about the potential role. You will also impress the interviewer, as you show that you’re thinking in solid terms about a role with them.
#10. Don't forget to follow up
Interview done, you’re out of the door, but not finished yet!
After your interview you should follow up with the interviewer to say thank you for their time and reiterate your interest in the position. If you are feeling brave, you might also say something like, ‘if there is anything else I can supply to support my application, then do let me know’, or offer some further words to ‘sell’ your application.
If you felt you hit it off with the recruiters, you could look them up on LinkedIn and try to connect that way. Not all employers will accept your request, so do not be downhearted if that’s the case - but it can be a great way to start to collect connections in the right place, even if you do not land this role in particular.
Whatever happens, with a great interview under your belt, you have massively upped your chances of getting that dream job offer. And once that happens, you can get on with preparing for the first day in your new internship, or job, to make sure the good impression carries you forward into a successful new venture.
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