It’s that time of year again. Summer, placement years, and graduations are looming, you’ve spent hours in CV surgeries and written cover letter after cover letter, and finally you have reached the next stage of the application process! Hurrah! Well done! You feel a moment of sweet relief before you realise that this means that you have an interview. Yes. A real life, face to face, palm-sweating, voice-quivering interview. Well take a deep breath and keep reading, for I have compiled an interviewee’s guide to success.
Research, Remember, Relate
Research your employer until you’re confident enough to tell a friend in detail about what they do and how they do it. Find specific points of interest; maybe a paper published, a manifesto or a project that you know you will remember, then relate it to you: either to something you’ve previously done or why it has really piqued your interest.
Look smart, Feel comfortable, Smell good
No personal hygiene issues please. Always be on the side of too smart and make sure you’re dressed in a style that suits your employer. This is more important than you realise, first impressions count. Don’t be the person that wears brown shoes to an office where everyone wears black shoes. You will not get hired. This is a true story.
Write an ‘Elevator Pitch’
This is a 20 or 30 second excerpt (the length of an elevator ride, hence the name) which describes you, your skills and abilities, how these relate to the job you’re applying for, and why they should hire you. It should roll off the tip of your tongue and sound natural in a conversation, or in response to a general question asking about you. Make it clear, concise, engaging, and relevant. Also, it might be a good idea to memorise it; that way you won’t forget any key details when you’re nervous and tongue-tied in an interview.
Be the best version of yourself
Before you walk through the door, your interviewer will have an image in her or his head about what they’re looking for in a new potential employee. Let’s call this image a unicorn (because they’re a magical and perfect being that doesn’t actually exist). Over time, their image of what they want will change and evolve, and your job is to make that image you. Be the person who is perfect for the job; prove to the person interviewing you that they need you working for them, by telling them exactly what you will bring to the table and why you’re so valuable. Don’t be afraid to blow your own trumpet (in a modest and endearing way, like a trumpet serenade or something).
Make them like you
I have no doubt that you’re a well-mannered, friendly and likable person (probably), but it doesn’t hurt to work extra hard to make sure that you give a really good impression of yourself. People generally feel like they’ve had a successful and enjoyable conversation with someone if they themselves have talked the most throughout. This interview is about you, but remember to ask lots of questions and create a dynamic and active two-way conversation. Engage with them personally and find common ground in order to make the conversation flow better. Secondly, people like to feel in charge. Make yourself physically smaller than your interviewer, that way they feel completely in control and thus better about themselves, leaving them with a good feeling after the conversation. Also, if your interviewer asks you how you would act in a certain situation, don’t be afraid to ask them what the deeper meaning behind this conversational role play is. Ask them what they are really trying to discover about you, this will open up the conversation and also make it less likely that you’ll give a ‘wrong answer’.
Don’t be disheartened
If you’re not right for the job, the chances are the job wasn’t right for you either. If you are not what they are looking for, don’t take it personally. You have no idea what the unicorn in their head looked like. Make sure you’re only applying to jobs you really want, as your passion and enthusiasm will shine through you in the interview. One more thing, allow each rejection to become a learning curve. Either you learn how to do the next interview better, or you learn that actually that job wasn’t right for you in the first place. Good luck!