So, at last, you've bagged an interview for that place at university, or for your ideal job after years of study and hard slog. The difficult part is over. Or is it? What can you do to sway the balance in your favour? What are questions to ask, the right things to say, even the best thing to wear? Help is at hand – let's take a look at a few top interview tips...
Rediscover your inner boy scout! Seriously, preparation is key. Get an early night the night beforehand; know where you're going, and how long it will take you to get there. Put the address into your phone and look it up on Google Maps. Plan to arrive 10 minutes before you need to be there. First hurdle over!
Research the Role
The other kind of preparation. Research the role you are applying for – and then ask yourself a few questions: Does it fit YOU? Will you be happy there? Do you fit IT? Are your skills and experience right for the role? Find out what the organisation/employer is looking for, and try and anticipate the interview questions that you might be asked.
That onesie is great for long study days or a career as a couch potato, but when it comes to what to wear to an interview, go for the formal look. Suits are still best (in almost all professions), shine your shoes and look confident to feel confident. You'll make a great impression before you open your mouth.
Old-fashioned manners still go a long way when it comes to impressing someone for the first time. Explain how you've looked forward to the big day, and thank your interviewer at the end no matter how it goes.
It's tactful to use diplomacy in an interview – they're both inextricably linked. Show that you can use both to diffuse possible future tricky situations and you're halfway there. While it's important to be confident (see Point 9 below) it's sometimes necessary to show that you can bite your tongue or be the calm one in a sticky situation. Weigh up the situation.
The mistake most people make when they're nervous (and we're all a little bit nervous during interviews) is to talk too much. Listen carefully to any interview questions asked – some may be looking for an answer that’s not entirely clear – and take a moment before rushing to get that response in.
Ask the Questions
Remember that preparation in Point 1 and come well-armed to ask the right questions. Make them all relevant to the course or job that you so want: if you're knowledgeable in the questions you ask in an interview then you'll sound interested – and interesting.
As well as asking the right questions and looking like the right person for the post you'll want to leave a lasting impression. Be the person they remember, from your entrance to your exit. Go over every little detail – practising your interview techniques by talking to the mirror or, better still, your phone. You won't feel so silly when they choose YOU.
Competition for jobs at the best companies has never been fiercer. Show that you can ably contend with pressure and multi-tasking and you'll be seen as a confident individual. Take a breath and think before answering (see Point 6), and sit up straight – old-fashioned advice that works. Look your interviewer in the eye; demonstrate how you're the right candidate for the post.
If it all goes wrong, learn from your mistakes – try and try again. Good interviewees can be lucky, great ones are practised and confident people who never give up.
Not quite at the interview stage yet? Check out our guide to writing the perfect CV.