We’ve all been through the nightmare that is the job search. The endless days scrolling through indeed, keeping an ear out for any opportunities through your network, cold-calling/emailing and agonising over the wording – it’s a long and arduous process full of ups and downs that can really take their toll on you.
But when you do get called for an interview, there’s no feeling like it. Excitement, nervousness, the need to prepare, trying not to get too attached to the idea in case it doesn’t work out – there’s a lot to go through before you walk through that office door to sit down with your interviewers.
It can feel overwhelming when faced with the prospect of interview preparation, usually with only a few days to get everything together, but these are some of the best tips and tricks I’ve heard over the years to really ace your applications and interview process to give you the best shot possible at getting the job.
(But remember, sometimes you can be an amazing candidate and do everything right and thing still just don’t quite go your way. It doesn’t make you any less valuable, it’s just not the right fit. The important thing is to pick yourself up and carry on to find the position that’s meant for you!)
Fine tune your CV
You probably did this before the interview, which is why they picked you out of the many applications they likely received, but it never hurts to go over the little things that will push your CV to the top of the pile. One thing that’s important is to try to keep your CV as short and to the point as possible. Recruiters have gone through so many of these that they start to blur together, so having a clear and concise layout will really help. Clear headers to let them know what they’re reading and relevant experience is all very important – this is not the place for flowery language. Action verbs like ‘coordinated’ ‘managed’ ‘developed’ or whatever is applicable to your experience are much more assertive than sentences like ‘I worked the till/I looked after customers’. Those sentences don’t give us detail or tell us much about what skills you learned in the job.
Have things like achievements and results in bullet points, along with nay quantifiable progress or data. For example, ‘Sales by 15% after my marketing campaign’ or whatever. Your hard skills should also be front and centre, showing your technical experience. You can show off soft skills in the interview or cover letter.
Check out the company website
Look at their ‘latest news’ page, their mission statement or ethos, read their ‘about’ page and their ‘introducing the team’ page. Any information that you can find and use is useful. One of the team may mention an interest in an area that you also have an interest in – if they happen to be interviewing you, you’ll know to bring it up. If creativity and innovation are a major part of their company ethos, make sure to emphasize those traits in the interview – it never hurts to have some insider info. By mentioning something like ‘I saw your [latest product] launched last month. I think it’s interesting that…’ they know you’re really interested, well informed and have made an effort for this position, which will always be appreciated.
Sample interview questions for position
If you haven’t interviewed for a role like this before, then this is definitely a step worth taking. It can flag questions that you may not see coming and help you figure out how to get as much detail into your answers as possible without overloading them. Knowing what’s coming – or at least having an idea of the general direction of the questions can help you to feel more prepared and less anxious when going into the interview. It will allow you to play to your strengths and prep for questions you may not have an instinctual answer for so that you still come away in a good light.
Reread the job description
Go through it with a fine tooth comb. Pick out the qualities they’re looking for, the hard and soft skills as well as any mentions of how the company functions. Be sure to use those words in your answers and have answers ready for any gaps that may be in your CV. For example, if they’re looking for someone who has a proficiency in something like EXCEL and you’ve never used the program before, it’s no harm to sign up for a class that teaches EXCEL or else check out some online tutorials. That way, if they bring up that you don’t have experience, you can mention that it’s something you’re working on or that you have plans to fix. Don’t let these gaps put you off though – apply, even if you don’t have all the criteria they’re looking for – there’s always room to learn if you show you’re willing.
Have questions ready
It comes to the end of the interview, you’re pretty happy with how it went and now all you want to do is get out of there so you can release the breath you’ve been holding and dissect the whole thing. They ask you if you’ve any questions and you’re so drained after the whole process that you can’t think of anything. This is a big mistake.
Having questions about the company – especially impressive questions – looks professional, makes you look interested and shows you’ve thought about this position within the company a lot. I’m not talking things like how many vacation days you get or benefits – because asking those questions isn’t a good look when you haven’t even been offered the job. But questions like ‘what does a typical day in this role look like’ or ‘how would someone excel in this role’ all show you’re interested and hoping to do well and make a difference to the company with this position.
Send a follow up email
This is key and not something I’ve heard of a lot of people doing. I think a lot of us are worried we’ll come across over-eager or that it will be awkward if we get rejected, but really it’s just good manners, as well as a sneaky way to remind them of you. It shows you’re polite and good with people if you follow up with a friendly email thanking them for the opportunity to interview. By adding in a detail that you and the interviewer may have bonded over, like a book you both read or a maybe you both went to the same college or whatever – just something to remind them of who you are can make you a memorable candidate among the sea of people they may have seen. Don’t wait too long either – follow up the next morning so the conversation doesn’t fade from their memory.
Practice your answers out loud
This is a good one that I haven’t tried before, but sounds like really good advice. During your questions prep, taking notes is great to clear your head and have your answers laid out in bullet points in front of you. But actually saying answers aloud allows around those bullet points allows you to connect the different skills and achievements so that it doesn’t sound like you’re just listing off a bunch of words. Plus, actually hearing the answers repeatedly is a great way to remember your points when you don’t have your notes in front of you in the interview!