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Interview Advice

The majority of people are nervous about attending job interviews – but nerves can be a useful tool for sharpening up your performance. However, if your nerves take over to the extent that they affect your ability to come across well at interview, it’s clear that you need to calm down. The key to preventing pre-interview jitters is to prepare thoroughly in advance.

Organise Yourself

In most cases, you will be notified that you have got through to the interview stage a few days before the interview itself. You can use this time to prepare – and the better prepared you are, the fewer the reasons you will have to be nervous. Try to find out as much as you can about your prospective new employer. Reference libraries, your local careers centre and the Internet are all good sources of information. You should also read up on the type of job you are applying for. Go over the job description thoroughly and note down any questions you would like to ask at the interview.

Travel Arrangements

It is vital to find out: 

  • Where the employer is based – it may seem obvious but if you need to get the train, find out where the nearest railway station is;
  • When the interview is to be held – work out how long it will take you to get there and make sure that you leave in plenty of time (particularly if you are relying on public transport);
  • Where the interview is taking place – if the employer occupies a number of rooms in different buildings, it is easy to end up in the wrong place;
  • What your contact is called;
  • Who exactly will be interviewing you

Expect the Unexpected

Bear in mind that interviews do vary enormously. You may be asked to sit a psychometric test or prove that you have the necessary skills for the job – a typing test for example. The interview itself may be a quick, informal chat in a crowded office or it could involve a panel of interviewers all firing questions at you. There may even be group activities with other candidates designed to see how well you perform in a team situation, or you may be called back for a further interview another day. Often, candidates fail to perform to the best of their abilities because they are thrown into a situation they are not expecting. The answer is to expect the unexpected. You cannot prepare for every eventuality but you can be aware that the format of the interview may come as a surprise. Have faith in your own skills and experience and allow the employer to see you at your very best.

Interview Questions

Obviously, no one can know exactly what questions they will be asked at an interview but there are certain topics that will almost certainly come up. Think through your answers to the following questions:

  • Tell me about your employment history – what did you do, what did you enjoy, what were you good at, why did you leave each job.
  • Why have you applied for the job?
  • Why do you want to work for our company?
  • What can you, above all of the other applicants, bring to this job?
  • What did you do with your time when you were out of work?

The best way to prepare for interview questions is naturally to know what they are in advance. There are many sites that offer sample interview questions, or you can buy a book. The CV Centre sponsor "Great Answers To Tough Interview Questions", generally considered to be the leading text on the subject.

The Big Day

Make sure that you allow yourself enough time to get yourself ready and that you have all your exam certificates, records of achievement, testimonials and anything else relevant to the job with you. Also remember to take the letter inviting you to the interview and any maps, etc. that you might need. Leave in time to arrive 5-10 minutes early for the interview – this will allow you to gather your thoughts, go to the toilet, check your appearance, etc. Try to relax – everyone gets nervous before an interview. The chances are that you will feel more nervous than you look and anyway, most interviewers are trained to make allowances for the fact that you are likely to be somewhat on edge.


The majority of job interviews are straightforward in terms of personal safety but there are a few simple rules you should always adhere to:

  • Always tell someone where you are going and what time they can expect you back.
  • Never agree to be interviewed in a car park or over lunch, etc. The interview should be held at the organisation’s own premises or in some other public or official place.
  • Always arrange to have someone pick you up if your interview is taking place outside normal office hours. You should never let the interviewer drive you home.

First Impressions

The following tips will help you make a positive first impression:

  • Shake hands firmly (but not to they extent that they require first aid!) with all the interviewers when you first enter the room – and do try to smile!
  • Maintain eye contact whilst answering questions – and remember to speak up clearly
  • Don’t smoke unless you are offered a cigarette and, even then, it may well be wise to politely decline the offer
  • Try to avoid simple ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ answers to questions even if they seem appropriate – they tend to be conversation stoppers. Make sure that you answer questions fully but concisely - without chattering on unnecessarily.
  • Never lie at an interview or say something that you cannot substantiate, but make sure that you present yourself in the best possible light
  • When you are asked if you have any questions, use this as an opportunity to demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm to the interviewer. Begin with questions about training, who you will be working with, and the job specification. Save questions about pay and holidays until the end.
  • If you are not asked about something which you feel illustrates an important aspect of your ability to do the job then don’t be afraid to bring it up yourself
  • Make sure you find out when you can expect to hear whether you have been successful – it could be anything from the same day (in which case, you may be asked to wait around) to a few days.
  • Remember to thank the interviewer(s) for their time before you leave

The Wait

You should hear one way or the other within a week or two of the interview taking place, unless they have specified otherwise. If you do not hear within this time, telephone to enquire politely whether a decision has been reached. If you were not successful, try to treat the interview as a learning experience – nearly everybody gets a few setbacks when they are job-hunting. Think about why you were not selected and if there was anything you feel you could have done differently to improve your chances of getting the job. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It may simply have been that there was a better qualified candidate and that, given your experience and skills, you performed to the best of your abilities. Indeed, sometimes there is so little to choose between candidates that success or failure at interview can simply be down to luck. Above all else, remember: there is a job out there with your name on it and if employers haven't recognised your star quality yet then it's up to you to dazzle them!
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