You've been invited to interview and are feeling pretty upbeat. And why not? It's an achievement to get past the application stage. The prospect of starting your first "real" job now seems like a realistic possibility. Enjoy that feeling of excitement, but don't get carried away just yet. There's still a way to go before you bag that job.
Research, research, researchThis might sound painfully obvious but you'd be surprised how many candidates fall at the first hurdle. You might be hoping to get by on charm and wit alone, but it will take more than a sparkling personality to get you through. Many companies will use competency based questions (aligned with the job specification) so your interviewer will be looking for robust evidence that you have what's required. There's no question establishing a great rapport is an important first step, but you need to deliver more than a warm smile and quick joke. Don't assume it's safe to concentrate your research on the company alone, without reference to the bigger picture. You will need to articulate a sound grasp of sector trends and any political or economic factors that interplay.
…And that includes interviewers!If you know who your interviewers are try to find out a little more about them. This could help you identify areas of common interest, or help build a picture of the characteristics and traits required to succeed in the company and sector. The more information you can glean about every aspect of the interview, the better. Harness the power of LinkedIn to help you dig for useful information, but remember to change your activity feed settings. You don't necessarily want your interviewers to know you've been reading their profile!
Anticipate questionsAlthough interview formats with vary from between roles and across sectors, it is reasonable to assume questions with focus on four main areas: you, the role, the company and the sector. Cross-check your evidence with the key competencies required for the job and be prepared to demonstrate a thorough knowledge of the company structure and culture. Expect to be asked some biographical and motivational questions to help the interviewer assess 'fit'. Use all the information at your disposal to help you prepare for and anticipate questions. Check in with your careers service; use the various job/student portals or simply Google!
Book a practice interviewIf this is your first big interview or you've had a run of rejections it might be worth booking a practice or mock interview to help you prepare. Getting constructive feedback from a Careers Professional can prove invaluable and may well stop you sabotaging your chances on the day. It's much better to know about any annoying verbal tics (punctuating every word with "like"…) or negative body language beforehand, so you can give a smooth performance when it counts.
Review your applicationRead all of your application documents thoroughly the day before, to remind yourself what you said, which examples you used and your motivations for applying. You don't want to get caught out during the interview because you can't recall a particular incident, example or anecdote. This is not the time to wing it - you won't get another chance! As an aside: always make sure you have printed copies of the job description as this might not be available online past the closing date. You might find it useful to create a brief crib sheet of examples and prompts to help refresh your memory on the morning of the interview.
Check your appearanceFirst impressions really do count, so pay due care and attention to your appearance. If you are applying for a City job with a bank or law firm, always err on the side of caution. Choose dark colours, a traditional suit and keep jewellery to a minimum. Outside of the more conservative sectors, there is freedom to be a little more individual and consider a splash of colour but you should still dress smartly. This conveys you are serious about the job and want to be seen as a real contender.
Channel those nervesBefore going into the interview, take a few deep breaths and then smile. Remember that phrase: "Fake it ' till you make it?" - half the battle is projecting confidence. Yes, you might be quaking inside but you don't have to let it show. Channel that adrenalin and give a knock-out performance!
By Helen Stringer,
Careers Services Manager
, University of Warwick
Still unsure about tackling that big interview? Check out our Interview Reviews to see if you can learn from other people's experiences.