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  • Writer's pictureBlue Bull Recruitment

Tips on how to nail your interview and finish strong

Updated: Jan 11, 2023

Interviews can be daunting for anyone - even the most confident sales person can feel uncomfortable or nervous about an interview, so here are some of our top tips to help you nail the interview and finish strong.

We've been helping our candidates with interviews for years, we advise clients on some interview techniques as part of our hiring process reviews and we've had a fair few interviews ourselves over the years, so we have a good idea of what to expect and what hiring managers look for.

Not all interview procedures are the same so this is a general overview but these tips will work for most interview settings at some stage and are easily adaptable to suit your interview.

Tip #1 - Research, research, research!

Probably the most important one and one that some candidates forget about too. This will help you stand out from the crowd and add a little 'shine' to your interview.

As hiring managers all have different desires when it comes to research, we would advise you use some discretion on how long and how in-depth you go with your research. For instance, if you are going for a junior or trainee role, then we wouldn't advise you spend weeks researching and revising the full organisation chart, C-Suite names and hobbies and the timeline of the business. Likewise, if you are interviewing for a senior level role, we would advise some thorough research in to the department, history and future plans of the company to know where you will be sat within the company.

Think about the key points on your CV. If you say you have great attention to detail but don't know the year the company was founded (a basic knowledge) then that will be contradictory.

Here are some of the things we would research and have a basic knowledge of for an interview:

  • Company start date

  • Brief history of the company (e.g. Founded by 2 friends and quickly grew to 20 staff over 5 years)

  • Locations

  • Current Head-count

  • Ethos, culture and mission statement of the company

  • Type of service or product they offer

  • Ideal and current clients of the company

  • Key people within the company (CEO, COO, Founder, MD, Directors etc)

  • Recent events or news

Where could I find all this information?

You can find all of this information for a wide range of sources. You tend to get some notice before an interview so you will have at least a few days, if not a week, to prepare for the interview.

Firstly, we would recommend you go to the company website and see if there is a newsletter sign up button or form and subscribe - You never know what you may learn!

You will glean a lot of the information you need from the company website such as key player, locations, product or service etc. You may also find some current or previous clients listed on the website. If they have a blog or News section this will also be a great place to look.

We also recommend using LinkedIn. You will be able to get a great overview of the key people within the business from their personal LinkedIn page and there may also be a company page too. The website may not be regularly updated so some really recent events or news may be on LinkedIn but not yet on the website.

"Nearly half of all candidates are rejected because they only had a vague knowledge on the company"

Tip #2 - Get your CV in order

We know it sounds obvious but you wouldn't believe how many outdated CVs we see each week. You don't need it to be 6 pages long (actually please don't do this!) Keep it to the most recent and relevant experience. We say that if you moved from one industry or role up to your current industry 10 years ago, list your work experience up to that point and then add a line 'Previous experience upon request'

No hiring manager wants to wade through 6 pages of a CV, they want it clear, concise and to the point. They want to find the information that is important to them easily. Unfortunately, most hiring managers will skim read a CV and make a decision on whether to invite you to an interview. Not many have the time to fully read every word of your CV so keep it simple, use headings so they can pick out the sections and entice them to read the good stuff!

Add in key skills and achievements from your recent roles. If you were salesperson of the month or smashed a target by 200%, shout about it. Maybe you implemented a change that saw a rise in engagement or reduction in operating costs.

Another thing to consider is to make sure that your LinkedIn profile work history ties in with your CV. An eagle eyed employer will cross-check your CV to your LinkedIn profile and will question any discrepancies (We had this recently with a candidate!)

Finally, make sure you know what's on your CV! Again it sounds silly but most interviews have a section where you're asked to walk the interviewer through your CV. Most of the time it is acceptable to have a copy of your CV to hand to talk them through but make sure you are well versed on what you have written

Tip #3 - arrive early and prepared

We advise our candidates to arrive for their interview 15 minutes early. This will give you time to relax, visit the bathroom, find a parking space, regroup and glance through your notes one more time.

Punctuality is also a sign of respect. You respect the time of the interviewer and arrive early to ensure there are no undue delays. If you are having a video interview then log in to the link at least 10 minutes early in case there any tech issues you will have time to contact the hiring manager and hopefully have any issues rectified without it eating in to your interview time.

Another thing we suggest is to make some brief, bullet-point notes about the company, history, news etc and take them with you to glance over whilst you are waiting for your interview.

We also recommend you take a small notebook and pen (check your pen works before arriving). Try and keep the notebook neutral to not distract attention. We once had a candidate turn up to interview and their notebook had this caption on the front:

"S*!t my boss want me to do that I will ignore"

Whilst we found the funny side of this (and we already have some similar to this floating around the office and zoom meetings) it is not very appropriate to take to an interview.

Make sure you have a few copies of your CV with you and anything else that supports your suitability for the role. If you work in sales maybe take a print out of your recent targets and achievements or if you are applying for a creative role take some examples of work with you.

You may not need them but it shows you are organised and prepared. If you get the opportunity to give these to the interviewer they will have the extra information to keep you in their mind when they are reviewing all of the intwerviewees.

Tip #4 - Dress smartly

Being presentable is a must, in our opinion. Even if the office a relaxed environment, we advise our candidates to dress smartly for their interview. Sometimes, the hiring manager will stipulate dress code for the interview but if you're unsure ask.

Some hiring managers will still like to see a well presented, smart interviewee (whether it is via a video or in person) so we will always advise smart dress. You don't need to roll out the full suit and matching waistcoat but be mindful of your appearance.

Tip #5 - Body language - The unspoken words

Be mindful of your body language at all times from the first introduction to exiting the building or leaving the meeting if online.

"It's not what you say, it's how you say it"

You don't need to be a body language expert to get a 'vibe' from someone. Keep your body open to them, smile, show you are listening and interested. Try not to fold your arms which is seen as a blocker and maintain eye contact., If there is more than one interviewer then try and keep your eye contact even with them both so they feel you are talking to both of them. Sometimes candidates tend to subconsciously talk to one person more than the other (this is usually the more senior member of the interview panel) and this will leave the other interviewer feeling less than exuberant over you.

If you are asked a question by one interviewer, try and direct your answer to them but also include the other interviewer(s) too.

To recap, try and avoid:

  • Looking around the room all the time

  • Being distracted by anything going on in the background

  • Folded arms

  • Slouching

  • Tapping your feet

  • Fidgeting

Instead, try your best to:

  • Sit upright with good posture, but relaxed

  • Keep fidgeting to a minimum

  • Keep your arms somewhere natural and comfortable without it seeming like a blocker

  • Maintain even eye contact with all parties in the room

  • Smile and acknowledge what they are saying, especially if they are answering one of your questions

Tip #6 - Be yourself

We know we have said to do this and do that, don't do this and don't do that but you must still be yourself. As the saying goes:

"You do you and I'll do me"

It is sometimes easy to fall in to the trap of trying to be the person you think they want but they may actually want someone with personality and an engaging laugh. The worst thing anyone can do in an interview is pretend to be someone else. If you are not successful then it could be the person they are looking for is the real you and not the person you came across as.

Likewise, if you are more reserved than you normally are and you suppress your natural personality then you're successful at interview, will you love the job as much as you thought? Will you still be successful in the role?

An example of this - When I was youngster I applied for an office job as an administrator for a claims company. At the interview I reluctantly wore my best suit (as opposed to the smart trousers and blouse I was going to wear) and I kept my personality at bay. I came across as very muted, conservative and a little shy.

I was successful and started the job 2 weeks later. It didn't take me long to realise it was not the company for me. I loved the work and got along with my colleagues and senior members of staff, however, I felt I couldn't be myself there - I felt like I was living 2 lives!

Needless to say we parted ways, on good terms I might add but this could all have been avoided had I shown, even a fraction, of my true self at interview.

It may be crushing to not be successful but it is worse to start a new job and feel like you don't belong

Tip #7 - Have questions to ask them

This is usually a stumbling block for some candidates. When asked at the end of an interview "Do you have any questions?" some would say no, or everything was covered in the interview. We recommend having some questions prepared and to hand for this question.

It can show keenness, tenacity and enthusiasm. Try and use your research on the company to gauge your questions. If they have a blog posts saying they have ambitious growth plans for the next 12 months, have a question prepared based on their ambitious growth plans:

"I read on your blog that you have some great growth plans for the next year, What will this role look like in 12 months?"

Your questions should get a good conversation going, show your passion for the role and show that you are genuinely interested.

Here are some other questions you could ask:

  • How long would you expect it to take me to settle in to the role?

  • What would you see as a great achievement from me in 12 months of me being in the role?

  • What are the possible progression opportunities with [company]?

  • If I am successful, is there anything I could do in preparation for starting the role that will give me a head-start?

  • How will this role evolve as the company grows?

  • What are some the challenges I might face early on in this role?

There are no good or bad questions - If it is something you would like to know, ask the hiring manager.

We encourage candidates to not discuss salary on the first interview. This interview stage is crucial for the hiring manager to get to know you, what makes you tick, what your ambitions are and why you are perfect for their vacancy, company and team. Salary talks can happen at a final stage interview or offer stage (unless the interviewer asks you what your salary expectations are)

Tip #8 - Thank them

We always advise our candidates to thank the interviewer(s) for their time. It is a polite exit to the interview and common courtesy to thank them for their time. Hand shakes are making a comeback but not everyone is so follow the interviewers lead on that one. Even just a heart-felt thank you and smile will be great!

Another thing we advise is to drop an email to the hiring manager when you arrive back home from the interview. This will shows your appreciation once again but also your enthusiasm and will help you stand out a little bit, keeping you at the forefront of their memory.

Nailing an interview in a nutshell...

Do your research. Be punctual. Be prepared. Be smart. Be yourself. Ask questions (even 1 is better than none). Be polite. Follow these tips and we are confident that you will gain an advantage during your first interview and be invited to a second or final interview

Worry about competency-based interviews? Read our post on how to nail competency-based interviews and other useful hints and tips on our Blog!

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