Take a deep breath
There are few things as unnerving as your first interview with a business, when you feel like you're being judged on everything from your shoes to your skills. But they really don't have to be horrifying, and the more prepared you are the better.
Take a deep breath, be yourself, and keep our guide to interviewing in the back of your mind. Good luck!
Where to begin
Research should form the basis of your approach to any interview. It’s the perfect starting block for your preparation and can be divided into three areas; the company, the role itself, and your interviewer(s).
Start by researching about the brand; its history, its current positioning, its customer, its competitors. The more knowledgeable you sound about the brand and the marketplace, the more your interviewer will buy into you as a candidate who could add real value to their business.
It sounds obvious, but if you’re interviewing for a specific role, make sure that you’ve read the job spec the whole way through and you have thought about how you might be relevant in relation to its requirements.
If the interview is speculative, then think about how you could personally add value to the business (in what capacity) and be prepared to sell yourself in.
LinkedIn is a powerful tool for gaining insight into the people interviewing you as well. Don’t be scared to have a stalk beforehand; in thinking about your interviewer’s background, you’ll also be able to draw some quite fair conclusions about their skill set and way they approach their role; and again how it might benefit them from having you within their business.
Practice makes perfect
Talking about yourself is something that comes naturally to some, and less so to others. The best advice we can offer on this is that it gets easier with practice.
One of the first questions your interviewer will probably ask you in some capacity is to tell them about your current role and career path. We always tell our candidates that the best way to do this is to think about your career history as a story, and be prepared to talk about it from start to finish in a clear and concise way. If you haven’t interviewed for a long time, sometimes it’s useful to write it down and practice saying it out loud a few times to yourself beforehand. That way you’ll never be caught off guard.
What questions to ask
This is sometimes a tricky one and definitely one to address beforehand as having some questions in your arsenal can make all the difference between appearing engaged and disinterested. In all likelihood during the course of your research you will have formed several of your own; whether about your interviewer and how they came to join the company, the specifics of the role or the company itself. But for any additional material, a few different areas to think about are as follows:
In all likelihood throughout the course of the interview, you will have come up with a few questions on the spot as well. Remember an interview is really a two way conversation and designed to give the interviewee a chance to consider whether it will be a good fit, for you.
What to Wear
Once a time for your interview has been secured, one of the first questions you will ask yourself is often: “What to wear?” We recommend dressing to reflect the brand you’re meeting with. Often, a company is looking for somebody who is able to act as a brand ambassador as well as employee, so it’s important to gauge the tone and dress accordingly.
Think about who it is that you’re meeting with, and how they might be dressed. It’s always a good idea to look smart, but if you’re meeting with a creative business, nine times out of ten you’ll be overdressed wearing a typical suit.
Above all else, choose an outfit that you feel comfortable in, and shoes that you can walk in. There’s nothing worse than not being able to concentrate on the task at hand because you’re worried about a costume malfunction, or not being able to fully converse with your interviewer as they show you to the door because you’ve just been confronted with two flights of stairs and five-inch heels.
To minimise stress on the day, it’s always best to plan your journey beforehand and know how you’re going to get there well in advance. It sounds obvious, but arriving early will make you feel a whole lot calmer, and allow you to arrive confident and composed. If you’re anything over half an hour early, it’s probably best to settle down in a coffee shop around the corner and kill time until a ten minutes before. Even if you’re happy to wait in reception, it’s likely that your interviewer will be informed of your arrival, and might feel under pressure to receive you sooner than arrange. Plus, it makes you seem a bit neurotic.
The Interview Itself
The more prepared that you are beforehand, the calmer you will feel. Simple. Take a few deep breaths before you enter the room, and remind yourself that an interview is nothing more than a conversation.
It can be tempting to rattle off every answer you’ve prepared the moment you sit down, but the reality is an interview should be a two-way discussion. So, listen to your interviewer and really think about their questions rather than just regurgitating pre-prepared answers. They can tell the difference.
Also, be ready to sell yourself. It’s not always necessary to go in for the hard sell from the outset, but if your interviewer identifies a characteristic or an area of experience that they are looking for, try to loop back to it when you have an opportunity to discuss why you might be relevant for the role.
Trying to appear composed can sometimes have the adverse affect of appearing bored; so when it’s your chance to speak, don’t be afraid to sound passionate about what you’re saying.
Finally, a smile and a good attitude goes a long way. The chances are that, if you get the job, your interviewer will be someone who you will interact with on a daily basis, so having a personal connection is just as important as ticking all of the boxes in terms of experience.
The period after your interview can an emotional whirlwind. If it’s a role that we’ve put you up for, we’re here for a debrief: pick up the phone.
Otherwise, it’s often a good idea to talk it through with a friend, partner or ex-colleague while it’s still fresh in your mind. And, if your interviewer mentioned the possibility of a follow-up, it’s worth using what you’ve just learned to hone in on that company’s requirements and tailor your next preparation to address them.