The interview

The first impression is vital. The old adage that you don’t get a second chance is true and if you don’t get it right the interview can effectively be over within 60 seconds.

Personal Presentation

To some extent the way you dress for an interview will depend on the type of job you are applying for. If in doubt, being too smart is better than being too casual. General advice would be to dress conservatively. You do not want the way you present yourself to distract the interviewers. 

Arrival 

Make sure you arrive on time – but if you are going to be late telephone and let them know. Be in ‘interview mode’ from the moment you walk into the premises as everyone you meet may be asked for their opinion.

Attitude/Approach 

Ideally you want to give the impression of being self assured and quietly confident – even if you don’t feel it. The following can help:

  • When you are first introduced, smile, make eye contact and shake hands firmly. If you suffer from ‘sweaty palms’ discretely wipe your hand first. 
  • During the interview maintain eye contact 
  • If there is more than one interviewer make sure you include both (all) – address your answers to all the interviewers although give you primary focus to the person that asked the particular question. Remember that a lot of interviewers are not that experienced and adopting this ‘inclusive’ approach can give the impression that you have an element of control that can work to your advantage.
  • If you have any nervous habits take steps to control them. Tapping feet or a shaky leg will distract the interviewer but if you are aware of the habit you will be able to control it e.g. just keep your feet together and still on the floor.

Body Language

Body language is also very important in creating a positive impression. Try to avoid sitting with your arms and legs crossed whilst turning away from the interviewer. This closed, negative body language will leave the wrong impression. Generally feet on the floor, hands in lap, body turned towards the interviewer is all that is required.

Mirroring and matching body language can also be beneficial e.g. if the interviewer’s posture is relaxed, you could do similar (within reason) and verbally adapt the pace of your answers to the pace of the interviewer’s conversation/questions. If you haven’t tried to mirror and match body language don’t practice for the first time in an interview – you will have enough to think about as it is.

Active Listening

When the interviewer is talking (e.g. describing the role/the company etc) try and look interested – hopefully you will be if the job is for you, but you need to ensure you convey that impression. The occasional nod and/or murmur of agreement will give the impression you are listening and taking the information in.

Be Positive

When talking about yourself and your experience you must be positive and enthusiastic. Do not, however, cross the line into arrogance. Highlight and quantify your achievements to show how you can make a difference to an organisation. When talking about previous employers avoid being critical of either the company or the individuals you worked with.

Do not bring up salary at the first interview – concentrate on selling yourself and convincing the employer of your suitability. In most cases you would expect to have an idea of the salary range on offer anyway and should have made a judgment on whether it is acceptable. If you are asked specifically about salary expectations answer honestly and be realistic.

End Of The Interview

The end of the interview is traditionally the time you will be asked if you have any questions. Your interview preparation should have included the preparation of questions for your potential employer. 

Unless they have all been answered you will now get the chance to ask them. If the interview has been a two way process that has allowed you to ask plenty of questions throughout then if there is nothing else you need to know say so but recap on the areas you would have asked about e.g. ‘well the area I was particularly interested in was the interaction between finance and sales but as we covered that earlier…’

If you cannot think of any other questions at least ask about what the next stage of the process is, timescales etc

Finally, always end the interview on a positive note. Thank the interviewer(s) for his/her time, let them know you enjoyed the meeting and found it beneficial.