The best interview tips and tricks

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It’s coming up to internship application season and you may have already started looking or even managed to bag your dream role. For the rest of us, however, this time is fraught with stress when we try to balance applications with essay deadlines and some semblance of a social life. With this in mind, here are some interview tips to stop you feeling quite so nervous.

Try to do a mock interview

This is not always possible, but if you have the opportunity, you should take it. I speak as someone who is terrified of interviews and does as much as possible to avoid them, but practice really does make perfect in this case. It means you can work out which questions you’ll find the hardest to answer, as well as getting used to the interview scenario.

Do your research

Make sure you know about the company; at least see what you can find on their website and check whether they’ve been in the news recently. It’s also important to know about the specific role you are applying for – what you think you’ll be doing, for example, as it’s a common question. Anything that will make you seem well-prepared and knowledgeable can’t be a bad thing.

Don’t be late. Or too early

Everyone knows you shouldn’t be late; nothing says ‘unreliable’ more than bursting, sweaty and out of breath, 10 minutes late into your interview. Make sure you plan your route carefully, and leave time for unforeseen transport delays. Try to be there 10 minutes early, but no more. Being early just leaves more time to panic and stress, and sitting sizing up the other candidates is not a calming way to spend 20 minutes. You might think you want to sit in a coffee shop for half an hour, but in my experience this just makes it more nerve-wracking.

Be friendly and polite

You would think this would go without saying, yet I am always astounded by people who don’t seem to understand the importance of a smile and a friendly comment. When you meet your interviewer, make sure you give them a firm handshake and make eye contact. It sounds silly, but when you’re actually in the interview, make sure you sit up straight, and don’t slouch. You’ll come across as far more professional.

Don’t waffle

When asked a difficult question, it’s very easy to answer the one you have an answer prepared for, meaning that you are likely to ramble and go off topic. Try not to do this: it looks weak, and it’s obvious to the interviewer that you don’t have a good answer to the question. Instead, take a few seconds (not more than 10) to think about an answer. Even if it’s not very good, it’s still better than replying with something entirely irrelevant.

Know why you want the job

I have been to a couple of interviews for internships I was not hugely passionate about, and it shows. You need to find a really convincing reason for wanting this particular job, at this particular organisation. It doesn’t matter that it it’s a bit clichéd, as long as it’s genuine. Genuine passion for something can also be conveyed by your knowledge of the career you want to enter, so read up.

Have a bank of examples to use

You’ll be familiar with competency questions from application forms. Most of these don’t vary hugely from interview to interview – for example time management, initiative and teamwork – and so it’s worth having some go-to ones ready in case you panic and start to make things up.

Have a question for them

In all the interviews I’ve ever had, they have asked me at the end if I have any questions. Don’t be the person who just says “Ooh, I’m not sure”. This will make you look unprepared and uninterested in the job. Spend 15 minutes the day before thinking about a pertinent question; perhaps something that has been in the news recently that may affect the company or organisation. But do make sure that you don’t ask something that’s very easily available on the website.

Present yourself positively

Don’t lie. Please don’t lie. It will almost certainly come back to haunt you at one point or another, and it’s very difficult to keep track of what you’ve said and haven’t.

Instead, it’s important to present the most positive version of yourself, and don’t do yourself down. In the UK we have a culture of modesty and humility that, while polite, isn’t necessarily the best way to show you’re the best candidate for the role. Be enthusiastic about what you’ve done, and it will show to the interviewer.

Be genuine

It is clear to an interviewer when you’re being fake or insincere. It is likely that they’ve done many interviews before and can spot genuine interest and passion easily.

Don’t pretend to love something you know nothing about, just be honest and say you’re willing to learn. Clear interest in something will come across, so rely on that and you’ll be fine.

Send a follow up email

On the same day as your interview, make sure you send a polite email thanking them for the opportunity for interview. This probably won’t make a difference if you haven’t performed well in the interview, but could just tip you over the edge if you are neck and neck with another candidate.

It also means that if they are interviewing a lot of people, you are more likely to stick in their minds. And it’s generally a polite thing to do.

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