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Mastering Job Interviews: Essential Tips for Success

Diane Hall


Smiling young woman in job interview

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The job interview is a crucial step in the hiring process. It offers a unique opportunity to showcase your skills, experience, and personality. It can be a nerve-wracking experience, but with proper preparation and the right mindset, you can increase your chances of winning the job. 

As a serial job-hopper, I’ve had plenty of interviews. I tend to come off well in them, but securing an interview in the first place isn’t always easy. I reckon I’ve won more than half of all the interviews I’ve ever attended, which isn’t bad going.

One thing I feel I must mention: given our technological world today…in the last year or so, I’ve had three job interviews via Zoom. I can’t hate on them too much, as I won two of the three; however, they were definitely more difficult in my opinion, despite being a more convenient and quicker option.

I’m not fond of Zoom over an in-person interaction to start with. Yes, it’s great for communicating with people from far away, and I love that the only commute is to my desk and back, and that I don’t have to worry about what I’m wearing on my bottom half. BUT, the delay in transmittance means that users inevitably talk over each other, then stop silent on that realisation, which stunts the flow of conversation. I also become fascinated by the thumbnail my webcam throws up (not in a good way) and my attention often wanes.

I just think that a screen reduces the rapport somewhat, but for some people, I can imagine that a Zoom interview is much more appeasing.

Regardless of where or how the interview will take place, these tips will help:

Research, research, research

One of the most important steps in preparing for a job interview is conducting thorough research on the company. Familiarise yourself with the organisation's mission, values, products/services, recent achievements, and industry trends. This knowledge will enable you to tailor your answers to align with the company's goals and demonstrate your genuine interest and enthusiasm.

Understand the job description

Carefully analyse the job description and make a list of the key skills, qualifications, and experiences required. This will allow you to put forward specific and relevant examples from your past work or educational experiences that highlight your suitability for that position. Be ready to explain how your skills can benefit the company and contribute to its success.

Practice makes perfect

Practice answering common interview questions—doing this will boost your confidence and improve your response quality. Enlisting the help of another person will be more effective than talking into a mirror or recording yourself; it will allow you to refine your answers and work on your body language and presentation skills. 

Dress appropriately

First impressions matter, and dressing professionally is essential for making a positive impact during the interview. Research the company's dress code and aim to dress slightly more formal than their expectations. It's better to be slightly overdressed than underdressed, as it shows your respect for the occasion and professionalism. Once you’ve got the job, you can relax your work attire if appropriate or push for dress-down Fridays!

Arrive early and be prepared

Plan your journey in advance to ensure you arrive at the interview location on time. Aim to be at least 15 minutes early, as it demonstrates your punctuality and eagerness. Bring multiple copies of your C.V., references, and any other relevant documents. This will show your preparedness and attention to detail.

In-person interviews may take place in a location you’re unfamiliar with. If driving there, map out your journey—and where you could park, with alternatives—using Google StreetView or drive there beforehand if it’s not too far away. If using public transport, I’d advise getting the earlier bus than you would practically need to, in case of delays or cancellations. I’d much rather get there early and have a coffee in a nearby café than be stressed that I won’t get there on time due to circumstances outside of my control.

Non-verbal communication

During the interview, pay attention to your body language and non-verbal cues. Maintain eye contact, sit up straight, and exhibit a confident posture. A firm handshake, a warm smile, and a friendly demeanour can create a positive connection with the interviewer. Remember to actively listen, nod, and respond appropriately to demonstrate your engagement.

Ask thoughtful and relevant questions

At the end of the interview, the interviewer will often ask if you have any questions. This is an excellent opportunity to showcase your interest and curiosity about the company. Prepare a list of insightful questions about the company culture, team dynamics, or future projects. Avoid asking questions that could be easily answered by researching the company and/or job description beforehand. 

If there’s anything about the role that’s not been mentioned but which is hugely important, e.g. salary, working hours or working location/remote flexibility, ask it now. There’s no point wasting everyone else’s time on aspects of the job that would prove a deal-breaker to you. Admittedly, it’s not a good sign if the company actively refrains from mentioning any of these things, but assumptions can occur, and less confident people may not want to make a fuss. This is the last chance saloon, however—if it’s important to you, raise it at the ‘any questions’ stage. Because, if they can’t give you the answer you’re looking for, it’s unlikely you’ll be working with them anyway—through your own choice!

I think that’s what has held me in good stead when I’ve had interviews: I’ve been very clear about what I can do, what I’m looking for, and the values I bring. I’m not the most confident person; however, I am quick to move on if the job I’ve envisaged is not going to unravel how I imagine—a sort of ‘cut your losses’ approach. I think this has been construed as confidence by those who don’t know me, which may explain why I tend to win the job, and on the basis I’ve projected. It can’t hurt, can it?!

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