You’re sitting in reception waiting. Waiting and waiting and waiting for your interview. You hear the sound of heels clicking down the corridor. Your hands are sweaty (not ideal as you’re definitely going to be shaking hands soon) and your heart is pounding. You quickly gulp down the cup of water you’re holding and dribble it down your front. Excellent. Could this be…? Nope she’s walked past you.
It’s a classic. No matter when you arrive for your interview, you can guarantee that you will be waiting at least 10 minutes before someone comes to get you. 10 minutes (well if you’re lucky, I’ve waited a looong 40 minutes for an interview before) can be a lot of time for self doubt. Did I research the company enough? What are my strengths again? Oh god I can’t remember the MD’s name… By the end of it you will have practically talked yourself out of the door before the thing has even begun.
Unfortunately these days, most jobs have an interview process. Gone are the days where you could just meet the boss and have a little chat over some tepid PG Tips. No, now companies have robust processes, some so vigorous you end up questioning your very existence. It can be especially daunting when, due to having a baby or raising children, you’ve been out of the work game for a while. Therefore I’ve compiled some tips to help give you some confidence about this interviewing shiz.
1. Preparation is key
First and foremost; do as much of this as you can possibly face. Obviously it needs to be within reason. Sitting up until 2am pouring over the company’s 2004 business plan is probably not necessary. However, it might be worth having some pre prepared answers to some of the classic interview questions:
- What do you know about the company?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses? (Be careful here; employers don’t want to know that you have a tendency to get drunk on two glasses of Pinot – try and make your ‘weakness’ something that can be turned into a positive. For example ‘I can sometimes struggle to delegate my work as I like to see a task through to the end myself’).
- Why should we employ you?
Additionally, many employers ask what are known as ‘competency based’ questions. You know, the ones that start with ‘tell me about a time when…’ Often job descriptions will list the key competencies required within the role (for example ‘teamwork’) therefore my best advice here would be to try and focus on the competencies listed and prepare suitable examples for each. If they’re not explicitly written down, some of them may be obvious from the type of role you’re going for. E.g. for a sales role one of the key compentencies is likely to be ‘resilience’.
Remember that ultimately, the more prepared you are, the calmer you will feel.
2. Plan your outfit in advance
Picture the scene: You wake up on the morning of your interview with plenty of time. You smile smugly to yourself as you sit at the breakfast table in your dressing gown, sipping tea. All three children are ready (and actually eating breakfast- shock) the cat is fed, all you need to do is throw on your suit and head out the door. I mean you haven’t actually worn your suit since you were 8 weeks pregnant with number 3 but of course it will fi…. OH CRAP IT DOESN’T FIT! It doesn’t fit! Will it be bad form to rock up in my cereal covered, threadbare dressing gown?
Clearly this is not ideal. Try and dig out your interview attire a few days before, just to make sure it still fits and isn’t covered in ground-in ginger biscuit crumbs from your days of constant snacking to avoid pregnancy nausea.
3. Don’t arrive too early
Essentially, arriving too early will simply mean you have longer sitting in Reception, smiling awkwardly at anyone who walks past and wishing you hadn’t eaten that garlic infused pasta dish last night. The general etiquette is to aim to arrive 10 to 15 minutes early for an interview but no more than that.
4. Don’t arrive late
Obviously this doesn’t look great. However as we all know, it will of course be on interview day that Mr Bull decides to dig up the road and set up a diversion which takes you 3 times around the M25. Delays happen. Make sure you write down the contact number before you head off, just in case you get stuck in traffic-ing hell or if you have trouble getting the kids out the door.
5. Remember first impressions count
Even if you are feeling about as confident as the day you took your toddler out of the house on day 3 of potty training, try and shake hands as if you already have the job. Evidence suggests that employers make up their mind on candidates in the first 7 minutes of an interview, so make those 7 minutes count.
6. If you don’t have an answer to a question – don’t panic
This can happen, especially if you are feeling particularly nervous. Remember; an interviewer is very unlikely to base a job rejection on the single fact that you failed to answer one question. Do ask them if you can come back to it at the end of the interview though as you may be feeling less nervous and have a clearer head by this point.
7. Sell yourself
It’s awkward. Nobody likes blowing their own trumpet but really, you need to. Especially if you have been out of the work game for a while, you need to show an employer why they should hire you for the role and what exactly they would be missing out on if they didn’t. Why do you stand out from the other candidates? What could you bring to the role/company? What ideas do you have for innovation?
Another tip is to try and sell your skills in line with what you understand the role to be. For example, you’re going for a role as a PA working predominantly under your own steam, it’s no good focusing solely on your outstanding teamworking abilities. Make sure you up sell your relevant skills.
8. Make sure you have some questions to ask
Because this is something that 99.9% of interviews will end on. This is your chance to not only find out more about the company and the role, but also to show that you are interested in the business and what they do. Well thought out questions will show an employer that you are serious about the role. It might be worth noting a few down before you go in so you don’t end up being put in the spot, with the only question coming to mind being where did the interviewer get her eyebrows done. (Obviously unless it’s a beauty based role in which case this may well be relevant…!)
9. Ask when they will let you know the outcome
There’s nothing worse than leaving an interview with the belief that you will find out your fate the next day, only to hear nothing for over a week. Then, upon your (carefully constructed, enthusiastic but obviously not desperate chasing email) you are told that of course you wont hear anything yet, the MD is sunning himself with a Pina Colada in the Bahamas for a week. Make sure you ask what sort of timeframes they are looking at.
10. Remember interviews are a two way process
Finally and most importantly; the company needs to be the right fit for you too. Make sure you find out the important things like pay and working hours and ensure that they work for you and your family. There is no point accepting a job with the belief that you will be able to fit work around the school run, only to find out that the role is 9-6pm every day with a non negotiable trip to Azerbaizan every month.
Do you have any tips to add? I’d love to hear them!