How to make a good impression in an interview
Almost everyone has dreaded a job interview at some point. Scrutiny can be stressful – even more so when it comes down to your future career.
But remember: you were offered an interview because, on paper, they think you can do the job. Make a good impression, and you'll already have a good chance of being successful.
Be punctual and presentable
This really should go without saying: dress professionally and don't be late. Any psychologist will tell you that first impressions have a massive effect on people's perception of you. And a job interview may not provide enough time for you to change their minds after that first impression. Smile, make eye contact (without scaring them), and give the interviewer a confident, firm handshake.
But make sure you feel and look comfortable. If you're not used to wearing a suit, wear one every day for a week before the interview. By the time you walk through their door, you want to be relaxed and at ease – not rigidly adjusting your cuffs.
Ask relevant questions at appropriate moments
Don't feel that you have to wait until the end of the interview to ask your questions. A well-timed, thought-provoking question can show that you're really listening and interested, and questions of clarification can show the interviewer that you're not afraid to get the information that you need.
But don't interrupt. While a good interview should be a fairly natural, two-way exchange, remember that the interviewer is expecting to lead the flow of conversation, and may not appreciate being derailed.
Be thoroughly prepared
Do some research on the company and the role – and not just on the night before. You need to show at least a basic grasp of how the organisation operates and how you would be contributing to the business, or you won't appear interested in the role at all.
One of the most useful things you can do to prepare before a job interview is to conduct a few mock interviews. Write down a list of questions that you expect to be asked – including the challenging ones – and get a few different friends to act as mock interviewers. This can be a great chance to rehearse your prepared answers to some of the toughest questions, and can help your execution seem more natural when the real interview comes along.
And if none of your friends are available that week, let your mirror be the interviewer. You might feel silly, but repeatedly vocalising your answers is much better practice than just reciting them in your head.
Remain positive and enthusiastic
When you're talking about ‘your biggest weakness’ or ‘a time you were unsuccessful’, always end the story with a positive spin. The story should turn into one about how you overcame your weakness, or how you recovered from a failure – not how you admitted defeat and still have trouble with it.
And remember to stay upbeat and outgoing. The interviewer has probably never met you before. So while you know that it's your nerves that are making you subdued and overly careful in how you speak, they might just think that you're inarticulate and disinterested.
An experienced interviewer can sense an amateur actor. While you certainly shouldn't reveal your deepest fears and flaws, you shouldn't have to pretend to be someone you're not in order to get the job.
Relax. A job interview is just like any other sales pitch. The only difference is that you're selling yourself, rather than a product. The interviewer should be well aware that their candidates can be apprehensive, and they'll be impressed by someone who can let their natural personality shine through in a stressful situation.