How to take the stress out of job interviews
Thorough preparation and research are the most important things you can do to ensure a successful interview. You’ll need to show you understand the business, where your role fits in, and prepare thoughtful questions and answers that demonstrate this.
But taking care of the smaller details before your interview means you have less to worry about on the big day, making you feel more confident and in control.
Use your online network to your advantage
Your basic research should go beyond the company website to give you a wider insight into general industry trends, opportunities and challenges.
You can glean information about the company and employees from LinkedIn. If they have a company page, check out the insights link to see where employees came from, former employees you may know and employees with new titles. All this information helps you see how people progress within the organisation, which you can then use as a basis for questions about career opportunities during your interview.
Check to see if anyone in your network has ties to the organisation – you can also ask them about what it’s like to work there, or maybe even about your interviewer.
CV and online checks
Employers are increasingly using social media to check out candidates. Make sure that what people can see out about you online matches the details on your CV. For example, dates and job titles should correspond with information on your LinkedIn profile. Check your social media profiles and try to push down any negative activity with more positive tweets, comments or blogs – or impose tighter privacy settings.
Learn your CV inside-out. If you can’t speak in more detail on any point on your CV, you’ll lose credibility. You can use some of the information to form an achievement story. Predict any ‘red flag’ areas, such as gaps or reasons for leaving a previous company. Preparing and practising polished replies to these (as well as to the predictable “tell me about yourself” type questions) will help you feel more confident.
Try on your interview clothes to make sure they fit, are clean and in a good state of repair. Don’t leave this to the night before, and get someone else to check your outfit over. Are you inadvertently showing more of yourself than is professional? Is your jewellery distracting? How do you look when you sit down? Interviewers can make all sorts of judgments about you based on what you wear and how you act, so it’s important to get this part right.
If you aren’t sure what to wear, go along to the company offices at opening or leaving times to get a feel for what people generally wear. Aim for the same level of formality, or one notch up. Otherwise, a business suit is appropriate for most sectors.
Take along written references for your interviewer and provide a list of people who can speak for you. It sounds obvious, but make sure your referees are primed, happy and available to be contacted – and that their contact details are accurate.
Take along paper and a pen to make notes during your interview. You won’t need to scribble everything down, but make a subtle note if you want to come back to something at a later stage. Don’t use your phone for this, as it could look like you’re texting someone. Also write down a couple of pre-prepared questions to ask the interviewer, and a note to yourself to remind you to ask for two things at the end of your interview: the business card of your interviewer, and a timeframe for a hiring decision. Both of these will help later on if you need to find out about the status of your application.
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