When the day finally comes
It’s showtime, kid! Time to apply everything you’ve learnt so far. Leave nice and early, follow your pre-planned route and use the journey time to go over any notes you may have made. Use your research on the company culture to pick out an appropriate outfit for the occasion.
Matching the dress code of the place you’re interviewing shows that, again, you’ve researched the company and assessed the vibe ahead of time.
Remember: interviewers take into account appearance and personality too.
Showing up to a corporate setting in smart-casual gear, or worse, rocking up to a start-up in a full business suit will immediately fire off all the signals that say you don’t know what the company’s about. For some recruiters, that’s a deal breaker right off the bat.
In an ideal world, you’ll arrive in the vicinity of your interview approximately half an hour before your interview starts. You might seem super keen, sure, but it also affords you the opportunity to do some last-minute research.
Grab a seat at a nearby coffee shop and compose yourself post-commute. It’s important though, that you don’t arrive at the company headquarters no earlier than 5 mins before your interview. It’s nightmarish for recruiters to try and accommodate someone they aren’t ready for, so respect the appointment time they’ve given you.
When you do get to the interview, take your extra 5 minutes to take a quick look around at the office surroundings. From them, you can look beyond what it says on the corporate websites and stock images and get a sense of what the company culture is really like. Are the facilities well looked after? Is there an up-to-date noticeboard? Are there many pictures of the team around? The answers to these questions can say a lot about the company and the people who work there.
Glean what you can from the front desk staff too – they’re always happy to help and oftentimes, they’ll have information that you can’t find anywhere else. You can use all this to flesh out your answers when it comes to interview time.
During the interview
When you finally come to the point where you’re face-to-face with the interviewer, don’t panic. The whole reason you’re in the room is because they see something in you. Interviewing and hiring is a very expensive business of companies.
If you’ve made it this far, that means they can envisage you in the position. All they want to know is that you can demonstrate the skills listed in your CV and cover letter when called upon to do it and showcase your natural personality while doing it.
You needn’t worry too much about how you’re going to do that. Most companies ask you specific questions to see if you possess certain characteristics they’re looking for in the role. This is known as competency-based recruitment. To answer them successfully you’ll need to demonstrate that you have what they need.
This is where looking at the job description becomes key. The company you’re talking to is looking to hire because they have a problem to address. From the job description, you need to ascertain how you can use your own set of unique skills to solve that problem(s). Bear that in mind when answering each question – the recruiter would most like to know what you can do for them, rather than vice versa.
When you answer each question, make sure you do so with concrete examples of your previous achievements. This evidence usually needs to be either qualitative (story-based) or quantitative (number-based). For instance, if you can regale a time when you stepped up and showed great leadership when it wasn’t asked of you, that’s qualitative. Increased the readership of your student newspaper by 70%? That’s quantitative. You’ll need to use your good judgement to work out which you need to use.
Introverts needn’t worry when it comes to interviews, there are plenty of tricks you can use to ensure you’re not misunderstood. If you’re not a natural talker, feel free to take a breath before you answer a question. It’ll calm you down, give you a chance to think and show the recruiters that you’re giving your answers some thought. If it’s a panel, answer each member individually to give a more intimate feel.
When you come to the end, remember to ask questions. It shows engagement, depth of study and again, will give you valuable insight you can use when you come to the job offer stage. Prepare some beforehand
When you get out of the interview, congratulate yourself. The hardest part is behind you now. But there are still a few things you need to do to tie up the loose ends.
First, ensure that you thank the interviewer for their time both as you leave the building and via email afterwards. It’s a move that not only immediately separates you immediately from other candidates in the interviewer’s mind, but it allows you the opportunity to link them to work you might have referenced in the interview or add points that you didn’t have time to express. Think of it as an extra-credit assignment. The recruiters will lap up your politeness and enthusiasm.
And then all that remains is to wait. And then either graciously accept, reject or admit rejection when the employer returns to you. If you do get rejected, remember: there are plenty of reasons an employer might reject a candidate and not all of them are to do with you not being good enough for the role. Take it on the chin and apply what you’ve learnt next time. If you don’t get any feedback from the employer after a rejection, chase them for it. For the time you spent preparing to meet them, they owe it to you to tell you how to improve in future. A company who doesn’t do this isn’t fit to be your employer anyway, pal.
If you get the job, rejoice! You’ve reached the top of the mountain, but your careers journey is just beginning – check the rest of our guides out for more info on preparing for the world of work.