In a competitive job market, getting an interview is an achievement in itself. Now that you’ve got the employer’s attention, how can you ensure that you make the best impression in person? In part two of a three-part series, Matt Moody considers interview performance
Perform at interview
Take your cue from the interviewer, says Greg Dowden, associate director at Indigo Planning. “The way they open and guide you through the interview will give you a good idea of how formal or informal they expect you to be.”
Before you even speak, your interviewer will assess you through non-verbal signals, says Lauren Edwards planning management consultant at recruitment consultancy Oyster Partnership. “First impressions are really important, so make sure you make a strong introduction – smile, keep a good posture, have a solid handshake and make eye contact.”
Edwards also advocates a conversational approach to the interview, if the format allows. “Talking should be as close to a 50/50 split as possible. You should be trying to find out about the job just as much as the interviewer is finding out about you.”
Informal interviews can throw up unexpected questions that you may struggle to answer immediately. But you can use these to your advantage, says Dowden. “Stay calm, take a deep breath and give your best answer. How you deal with this is often just as important as the answer you give.”
"The questions section tells me just as much about you as the interview itself”
Asking questions shows that you are engaged and interested – they can also steer the interviewer towards your strong topics. In more formal interviews, however, you might be expected to wait until the end for questions. “There’s a good chance some of your questions will get answered during the interview, so keep making notes throughout so you don’t draw a blank at the end,” advises Edwards.
This is your “time to shine”, says Dowden, so it’s crucial to prepare questions that will impress. “The questions section tells me just as much about you as the interview itself,” he says. “I’m looking for intelligent questions that show you’re genuinely interested in working for us. But the roles are reversed. You can judge how interesting our answers are for yourself, and it’s prime time to fill in any gaps in your knowledge of the company.”
- Accept an offer of a drink – taking a sip can give you extra thinking time if you’re faced with a tough question.
- Criticising your current company or colleagues is unprofessional – talk positively where you can.
Lauren Edwards is a planning management consultant at Oyster Partnership.
Greg Dowden is an associate director at Indigo Planning.