How to survive an interview

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By Sophie Stephenson

We’ve all experienced the mixed emotions that an impending interview can bring; the initial excitement that quickly turns to anxiety and dread when we realise that yes, we actually do need to turn up and sit across from someone who is judging our every move. Once the initial excitement of securing an interview is forgotten, it can quickly become a daunting prospect. It’s not all bad though, nerves can give us an edge and stop us from settling into the “over-confident-bordering-on-arrogant” zone.

Here are some top tips on how to successfully survive an interview – no matter what emotions it may provoke in you – to help you give the best impression to your potential employer. They are invaluable; even to the most confident of people!

1) Do. Your. Homework.

An obvious but often overlooked point. It is a given that any potential employer will expect you to have researched the company and what it is that they do. It is useful not only for you to know the type of organisation you are hoping to work for, but it also allows you to impress the employer with a bit of background knowledge. However, don’t confuse the type of research that is expected of you; no one expects you to quote the company’s mission statement or sit there and tell them what their revenue was last year – they already know that! The best thing to do is to find something about the company that genuinely interests you. This is essential as it will make discussing the particular topic feel natural and easy. A sincere passion for the subject will shine through to the employer. Remember, quality above quantity, an in-depth knowledge of one topic is far more impressive than simply stating irrelevant quotes and facts.

2) Dress. To. Impress.

We all wish we could rock up to an interview in our comfy clothes, or even a onesie, if a) it was socially acceptable and b) we’d get the job; but unfortunately, the working world doesn’t cater to our home comforts and sadly we do have to get actually dressed. As much as employers would like to deny this, they will be making judgements based on your appearance, probably before you’ve even sat down. Therefore, your appearance in an interview is crucial. Remember, you will be representing this company and the potential employer is definitely not going for unkempt.

So, here’s the advice… Generally, it is better to be overdressed than underdressed. Guys, get yourself down to Next for a good quality and reasonably priced suit, maybe even grab yourself a tie if you’re feeling super formal. Girls, suits are also a good choice, and you can’t go wrong with a smart blouse and skirt combo. New Look and Primark have a great and affordable range. No excuses, you can no longer embrace the interview onesie now.

3) Body. Language.

Body language is always hard to perfect when you’re feeling so nervous that you think you might throw up all over the interviewer’s desk, but there are some small things even the most jittery candidate can remember:

    1. Eye contact: We all know that eye contact can be a bit awkward. No one likes being stared at relentlessly throughout the entire conversation. So, please do remember to blink from time to time. Eye contact is useful in showing that you are focused, interested and it shows a certain level of respect to the person you are talking to.
    2. Use hand movements: Hand gestures can help emphasise your points and show that you are relaxed and enthusiastic. Hand gestures are so natural that you’ll probably do them without realising (unless you’ve decided to sit on your hands to stop yourself fidgeting – in which case, that probably looks even weirder, so avoid that). Fun fact: scientific studies have concluded that hand gestures can help you to be more fluent and articulate in the way you communicate, so be sure to flail those arms about, well, a little bit.
    3. Smile: A warm smile can show that you are a confident and cheerful person and can help the interviewer form a good first impression of you. Smiling it also contagious, so extra brownie points if you can get your interviewer to smile, too.


4) Use. Your. Weaknesses.

Never reply to the question “What is your biggest weakness?”, with “I work too hard”, “I take too much on”, etc… You know that you’re lying, the interviewer knows that you’re lying, we ALL know that you’re lying. A weakness, despite the name, doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing. There’s something commendable about someone who is willing to say, “Okay, I’m not great at this but now that I know, here’s what I’m doing to improve”, as opposed to someone who sits there and claims to be superhumanly perfect. Being aware of your weaknesses will show the interviewer that not only are you open and honest, but that you are also always trying to improve.

5) Give. The. Right. Impression.

It isn’t all about having the right qualifications and experience. A significant part of the package is if you personally, are someone that the potential employer would want to work with. Given the choice, employers are more likely to choose the candidate that may not hold all the required characteristics for the job but who they actually like, rather than someone highly skilled but arrogant or egocentric. Sometimes it is the simplest of gestures that can create a good impression:

  1. Arrive early: Being punctual shows that you recognise the importance of the interviewer’s time, as well as showing that you are organised and reliable.
  2. Be polite: Manners cost nothing and go a long way.
  3. Make small talk: Maybe crack a few lighthearted jokes, just avoid the dad jokes. This can show that you are at ease with the situation, and that you are a fun and friendly person to be around.

Got a tip of your own? Get in touch @HumanityHallows and share your advice.

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