We’re pleased to share another guest blog post from one of our trusted employers, Frank Recruitment Group. The organisation is the parent company of several successful technology recruitment brands.
This piece was written by James McDonagh, Director of EMEA at Nigel Frank International. Now heading up both the firm’s Newcastle and Warsaw locations, James joined the company in 2010 after completing a Master’s degree in international studies and diplomacy.
When you’re looking for a job, a great CV is essential in getting you noticed by employers, but it’s the interview stage that’ll really make or break your chances of landing the job you want.
Interviews can be pretty nerve-wracking, no matter how many you’ve done in the past. However, being properly prepared can go a long way toward taking the edge off. Once you know you’ve done your homework and are equipped to deal with (almost) anything that the interviewer might throw your way, you’ll be confident and comfortable enough to really let yourself shine.
As recruiters, we’ve coached tens of thousands of people through interviews over the years and helped countless businesses hire the right candidate. Of course, every job and every employer is different, but there are a lot of things that hiring managers across the board will be watching out for, whether you’re gunning for a position as a chef or a software developer.
Here are my top tips for really impressing your interviewer.
Research, research, research
This is probably the most important thing you can do to boost your chances of wowing your interviewer and putting yourself head and shoulders above other candidates: homework.
There’s absolutely nothing that will deflate an interviewer faster than turning up knowing nothing about the job, or the company you’re interviewing for.
Employers want people who are passionate about their work and care enough about their job to want to do it well. If an interviewer asks you what you know about their company, and the best you can do is reel off a few basic lines you’ve cribbed from their website, they’re not going to believe that you really want to work for them.
With a bit of Googling, you should be able to find out what the company is really about, what their mission is, what their culture is like, what they believe in. Cast your net a bit wider too, and read up on the industry the company operate in, the current state of the marketplace, and look out for trends and developments that might affect the job role in the future.
On time is too late
When it comes to job interviews, early is on time, and on time is late. But there’s a difference between arriving in good time and hanging around in the lobby for half an hour feeling awkward.
It’s best to arrive around ten minutes before your interview; that’s enough time for you to introduce yourself and for your interviewer to get ready, but not so much time that you’ll be sitting around like a spare part with poor time management skills.
You don’t want to leave any room for travel hiccups or getting lost on the way, so it’s good practice to arrive in the neighbourhood early—even if you don’t head right to the location of your interview. That way you could grab a coffee and spend some time reading your notes, safe in the knowledge that your destination is just a stride away.
Good manners cost nothing—but a lack of could cost you a job
It’s not just your interviewer that you want to impress when you turn up at a potential employer’s HQ. It really should go without saying, but be polite and friendly to everyone you meet along the way—doormen, receptionists, and anyone else you might cross paths with. Behave as though every interaction you have is being witnessed by your interviewer. They’ll want to see that you’re a decent, well-mannered person who’s going to be pleasant to work with.
Fix up, look sharp
It’s said that you have approximately one minute to impress your interviewer. That’s not strictly true—you’ll have several opportunities to wow your interviewer throughout the meeting with your answers, your attitude, and your enthusiasm, but first impressions do count. And no matter what you do throughout the rest of your interview, a poor first impression is difficult to shake.
The first things your interviewer is going to notice about you, before you get sat down to chat, are physical. The way you’re dressed, the way you carry yourself, and your handshake will all contribute to your interviewer’s overall estimation of you. Stand tall, smile, and make eye contact—all of these things let your interviewer know that you’re confident and approachable.
Some businesses are more relaxed about interview attire these days, and if they have any particular dress code requirements for the interview, they’ll usually let you know ahead of time. If they don’t, always assume business formal is the default no matter what the job is. It’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Even if they’re a laidback kind of place that’s happy for interviewees to forgo the fully suited look, make sure your clothing is clean, neat, and appropriate.
CVs at the ready
Having a few copies of your CV with you will help you remember your talking points and align your experiences to the job role before you head into your interview. It also makes you look super prepared and capable in the event that your interviewer doesn’t have a copy on them.
If you’re taking part in a group interview, or your interviewer is seeing multiple people that day, they might not have a copy to hand. Being able to pull one out when discussing your work history, or to refresh your interviewer’s memory, makes you look like a pro and will help you stand out in the interviewer’s mind.
Your interviewer will want to know all about your skills, your experience, and how you plan to deliver on the objectives outlined in the job description, but they’ll also want to get a feel for you as a person.
Employers today put a lot of emphasis on culture fit; they want to know that you share their values (this is where your homework comes in handy again) and that you’ll fit in with their teams. People who’re a good cultural fit tend to be more engaged with their work and stay in roles longer, so finding the right match not only in terms of skills, but personality too, is crucial.
Be professional, but don’t be a robot. Let your personality come through, make conversation, and remember that your interviewer is just another person, no matter how intimidated you might be by the circumstances. Making a connection with your interviewer puts you in a great light and makes you more memorable as a candidate.
Tailor your answers
If you’ve got to this stage, you’ll have already submitted a CV and a cover letter that, ideally, mapped your skills and experience to the job description for the role you applied for. If you didn’t do that, you definitely should before your interview. The interviewer will want to hear about what makes you the right fit for the job, and what you can bring to the role. You need to thoroughly digest the job spec and come up with a few points about how you can deliver on these responsibilities.
Don’t worry too much if you haven’t got like-for-like experience for every part of the job role; think about your transferable skills, or at least be prepared to explain to the interviewer how you plan to upskill to be able to carry out these responsibilities if you don’t have relevant experience. Interviewers love to hear about your personal development plans and see your trainability, so use any skills gaps you might have to show off your enthusiasm to learn!
Show them that you’re not just looking for any old job; you want this job, and you’re a perfect fit for it. Your interviewer has a problem, and you need to tell them exactly why you are the answer.
Before the big day, think about everything you’ve learned about the company and the job role and come up with a handful of questions you can ask during your interview.
Asking questions shows interest in the business and makes it clear that you’ve thought hard about how you can succeed in the role. Your questions should be open-ended, meaningful, and designed to demonstrate your intent to do a great job and develop your skills for the benefit of the business.
Yes, you want to gather as much information as possible so you can make the right decision—an interview works two ways, after all—but simply asking something basic and self-serving like how many days holiday you’ll get is a wasted opportunity to dazzle your interviewer.
- What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
- What are the greatest challenges you’re facing in your industry?
- How would you describe the culture of this company?
- What’s the most important thing I can do to help within the first month of my employment?
- What kind of training plans do you have in place to help employees upskill?
- What do you like most about this company?
If your interviewer is thorough, they might well answer some of your questions throughout the course of the interview, so it’s always best to have a few in mind so you’re not stumped and scrambling to think of something to say at the end.
Follow up promptly
The last thing you can do to really impress your interviewer and mark yourself out from the pack is simply to follow up.
Send a brief, simple note to your interviewer an hour or two after your interview. Let them know it was nice to meet them, thank them for the opportunity, and tell them you’re looking forward to hearing from them.
You’d be surprised how much difference this little gesture makes and pitches you as a thoughtful and thoroughly invested candidate.