General Interview Advice

After finding a role you’re interested in, preparing your CV and submitting your application, the next step is your interview.

Preparing for your first interview can be daunting and it’s normal to feel a little nervous. By following these interview tips and tricks, you can help calm your nerves and make sure your interview goes as well as possible.

In this article, you’ll find interview tips for before, during and after your interview to help you feel prepared and confident.

general interview tips

Contents

  1. Before Your Interview
  2. During Your Interview
  3. After Your Interview
  4. Further Reading

Before Your Interview

Spending time preparing effectively for your interview can save you unnecessary stress, nervousness and panic on the day.

Once you’ve found out you have an interview, follow the interview tips below to get ready:

1. Find out About the Organisation

During the interview, it’s likely you will be asked a question such as, “What do you know about our company?”.

Having a considered answer to this shows you’ve thought ahead and are interested in the organisation and its values, not just the job.

Two simple ways to get to know the company are by visiting its website and reading the ‘About’ page, and following it on social media to see what it shares online.

There are also some other ways you can go the extra mile to prepare a strong answer to this sort of question:

  • Look at their marketing campaigns. Researching the company’s marketing or advertising campaigns is a good way to see what service or product they are focused on right now. This shows you’re up-to-date with their work and can give you something to mention in connection with your skill set.

  • Read their mission statement and values. You should be able to find this on the organisation’s website. Think about how you fit into their mission: what skills can you offer to help them achieve it? What values do you have which fit with their own?

  • Find out about their people. Research the role you’ve applied for by looking at relevant job specifications online, or by following people on LinkedIn with a similar role in the company. 

We also recommend you think about who your interview is with and their role in the company.

Consider what they might want to know about you and make a note to mention it. For example, the HR director might want to know different things about you than a head of department or a senior partner.

2. Get Prepared

It’s essential you prepare fully for your interview to help you feel confident, and show the interviewer that you are proactive and taking the opportunity seriously.

Make sure to read through all the information you already have about the role so it’s at the front of your mind during the interview, including:

  • The job advert and specification
  • Essential and desirable criteria
  • Your original application to the role
  • Your CV and covering letter

When your interview is being arranged, make sure you’re completely clear on what type of interview it is. It could be a telephone interview, a video interview, a panel interview (where you’re speaking to several people from the organisation) or a partner interview.

Once you know, spend time preparing whatever you need. Try not to do this at the last minute as it will only cause stress.

You might be asked to prepare a short presentation, bring extra copies of your CV or a portfolio, or think of sample answers to questions.

In most interviews, you’ll be given an opportunity near the end to ask your own questions. A good tip is to prepare these questions ahead of time, so you don’t feel pressure to come up with something spontaneously.

You can use the job specification and the information you’ve found out about the company to help you come up with these.

We recommend focusing on the future of the company, its priorities and key aspects of the role.

3. Practise Communicating

The interviewer will be assessing your communication skills closely, so spending time practising them beforehand can ease your nerves and help you feel more relaxed on the day.

Some simple ways you can develop your communication skills are:

  • Doing interview practice with friends or family members;

  • Talking about yourself and your interests in a relaxed, confident way;

  • Practising your handshake so it feels natural;

  • Preparing answers to some common interview questions.

By practising these skills before the interview, you are less likely to feel anxious on the day as you won’t be doing these things for the first time.

4. Confirm the Essential Details

It seems simple, but confirming all the important details about the interview before the day can help you feel less nervous and more in control of the situation.

These details might include:

  • The time of the interview
  • The address
  • The visitor procedure
  • The dress code

If you are unsure, get in touch with your contact at the company and ask them to confirm these details.

It’s an easy mistake to turn up at the wrong branch of an organisation or not to account for the time it takes to sign into reception, adding unnecessary stress to the process.

If you have any specific requirements for the interview, make sure to let the organisation know well in advance.

This might include having the interview in an accessible room, or notifying the interviewers that you lip-read and require them to speak slowly. It’s very likely the company will meet your requirements.

One essential detail to confirm is the interview dress code.

Although this seems minor, adhering to the organisation’s dress code during the interview can help imprint a positive impression in the interviewer’s mind.

You might also want to check whether you will need to cover any tattoos, or remove any facial piercings, if this is company policy.

5. Choose Your Interview Clothes

What you wear can tell the interviewer a lot about your personality and professionalism. As such it's worth spending time choosing an appropriate interview outfit.

It’s often better to be overdressed than underdressed, so opt for a suit or coordinating separates.

A small item that highlights your personality can help you stand out, but avoid any novelty items or something that’s quirky just for the sake of it. Instead, choose an interesting accessory like a tie pin, brooch or pocket square.

If there are specific dress code conventions in the industry you want to work in, try to stick to them. For example, accountancy firms tend to prefer formal suits, while creative organisations might like something more casual.

interview tips

Checklist for the Night Before the Interview:

  • Save the address in Google Maps so it’s easy to access, even without data.

  • Work out the best way of getting there, adding a 30-minute ‘buffer’ just in case of delays.

  • Make a note of the names of the people you’re meeting.

  • Lay out your interview clothes.

  • Get a good night’s sleep.

Checklist for the Day of the Interview:

  • Prevent yourself from feeling faint or light-headed by eating something nutritious for breakfast.

  • Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

  • Avoid caffeinated drinks (which can exacerbate your nerves).

  • Arrive early to the interview, so you don’t feel or look rushed.

  • Be polite to the reception team and know the name of your contact when you arrive.

  • Visit the bathroom so you’re comfortable.

  • Take some deep breaths and try to relax.

During Your Interview

First impressions do count, and there are some expectations about what you should do when you first walk into the interview room:

  • If you’re able to, shake hands with the interviewer and look them in the eye.

  • Introduce yourself clearly and thank them for inviting you to the interview.

  • Make time to be amiable and friendly, as your interviewer will want to see this side of you.

Communication skills are key to a successful interview.

There are two types of communication you should focus on to be an effective interview candidate: your body language and your verbal communication.

Body Language Tips

Throughout the interview, your interviewers will pick up on your body language. They may even make decisions based on it – whether it’s conscious or not.

If you can, sit comfortably in the chair and try leaning forward slightly, to show you’re alert and paying attention.

Maintaining eye contact with the interviewer when they’re asking you a question is also important.

Crossing your legs is fine, though try not to slouch or assume a position that seems too relaxed.

Knowing what to do with your hands is tricky. Try to avoid crossing your arms as it can look defensive. Similarly, covering your mouth with your hand or twiddling your thumbs can indicate worry or nervousness.

Clasping your hands in your lap looks neutral, feels comfortable and gives you a way to calm any shakiness.

It’s often the small movements of your hands and feet which show how you’re feeling, and which your interviewers will subconsciously pick up on.

Avoid fiddling with your hair, glasses, jewellery or tie. Turning your toes inward or sitting on your hands can also suggest you feel nervous or you’re ‘hiding’, so try to keep your hands in sight and your feet on the ground.

Verbal Communication Tips

Your ability to answer your interviewer’s questions clearly and effectively will be under scrutiny during the interview, but there’s no need to become robotic in your responses.

The following tips will help to make sure your verbal communication is confident, calm and concise.

  • Slow down. When you’re nervous, it’s common for your tone of voice to get higher and the speed of your voice to increase. To combat this, take your time answering the questions and try to communicate a little slower and lower than you normally would. This will help you feel relaxed and allow the interviewer to focus on what you’re saying, rather than how you’re saying it.

  • Stay positive. When responding to questions, start with an affirmative phrase. For example, if your interviewer asks, “Can you tell us about yourself?”, say “Yes I can” before moving on. This feels positive, and demonstrates to the interviewer that you’re listening to the question and not just trying to remember your answer.

    Where you can, put a positive spin on any negative aspects of your CV such as gaps. For example, if an interviewer asks about a job on your CVthat seems unrelated to the role you’re applying for, highlight the transferable skills you learned.

  • Be honest. If you didn’t hear your interviewer’s question, you don’t quite understand it or you’d like a minute or so to think of your answer, don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat or rephrase the question or give you some time. This shows more confidence and courage than pretending you know what they said or what you’re talking about.

    It’s tricky to balance talking about your achievements in an interview without sounding boastful. One way to do this is to be as clear and objective as possible about your successes. For example, if you achieved a great sales result or received an excellent testimonial from a customer, you can share these to evidence your strengths without bragging.

Verbal Communication Do’s and Don’ts:

  • Don’t interrupt your interviewer, even if you know what question they’re going to ask.

  • Do listen carefully to the question and ask for clarification if you need it.

  • Don’t use taboo language, such as swearing.

  • Do speak in a natural, conversational way as it helps to build a rapport with your interviewer.

  • Don’t ask about money or holiday allowance – these are questions for your HR contact.

  • Do ask questions about the organisation, the role and the future of the company.

And Don’t Forget…

Your interview finishes when you’ve left the building, not when the questions end.

Keeping a professional approach from when you walk in the door to when you walk out shows your interviewer you haven’t just ‘put on an act’.

At the end of the interview:

  • Thank the interviewer for their questions and their time.

  • Ask them to explain the next stage of the process, if that’s appropriate.

  • Shake their hand, if you’re able to, and say goodbye.

  • Be courteous to all the staff members you see on your way out.

After Your Interview

Following up on your interview isn’t only polite, it’s also a great way to give the interviewer a reminder of you and how proactive you are.

Send a short email to your interviewers to say thank you for their time. We recommend emailing them the next day so it keeps you in their minds for longer.

If you don’t know their email addresses, you can ask your contact at the company to pass on your thanks to them.

Stay proactive and add a reminder to your calendar about when the organisation said they would contact you about the role. If you don’t hear from them by that point, send your contact an email or give them a quick call to demonstrate your interest in the role.

Finally, remember to give yourself an opportunity to celebrate. Interviews are hard to get and require a lot of preparation so, whatever the result, it’s important to recognise the effort you’ve put in.

Further Reading

You may be interested in these other articles on WikiJob: