How to Succeed in Interviews: Our Top Ten Tips

Kathryn Handley
April 2, 2021

1. Prepare to succeed. This is an obvious but important point - do your research before the interview. At the very least you should have researched the organisation, including their objectives and most recent and high-profile work. You will probably also need to do some reading on current developments in the general area of work.

2. Practice makes perfect. Practice running through the questions that you know you are likely to be asked during the interview, such as “why are you applying for this? What makes you a good candidate?” Record yourself answering these questions concisely with good structure.  If you are prepared and feeling confident even for at least some of the questions, this will put you in a good position for the rest of the interview. 

3. Dress to impress. Wear professional clothing suitable for the role you are applying for. Not only will this help in creating a great first impression, but it will put you in the right frame of mind for the interview.

4. Stay calm. It’s completely natural to feel nervous for your interview, but you can’t let those nerves come between you and your success! You should develop a pre-interview strategy to manage any anxiousness. Different things work for different people, but some commonly used tactics include meditation, listening to a certain song, visualising success, and going for a walk or run. 

5. Smile like you mean it. There are two reasons for this. One, smiling automatically makes you look more confident (just make sure your smile is natural and not strained). Two, it is very difficult not to smile back at someone - the interviewers will probably return your grin, making you feel instantly more comfortable. 

6. The eyes have it. Make sure that you are making eye contact with the interviewer throughout your entire interview. This also suggests confidence and demonstrates good communication skills. If you have more than one interviewer, then switch your gaze between them as you are speaking to make everyone feel included. 

7. Get in position. Your body language can affect the impression you create during your interview. You should sit upright, but relaxed in your chair. If you have a tendency to fiddle when you’re nervous, place your hands on the desk in front of you, either clasped or face down. Finally, leaning very slightly forward towards the interviewer indicates that you are engaged and involved. If it’s an online interview, set up your camera angle beforehand and make sure you have good lighting and a decluttered background. 

8. Honesty is the best policy. if you don’t know the answer to a question, the safest approach is to be honest and say so. You can then follow up with an intelligent point of view based on the knowledge you do have, for example: “I’m honestly not sure of the answer, but based on first principles I would say…” Interviewers often ask questions designed to see how you think - they don’t expect you to know everything!

9. Read the room. Sometimes (and only sometimes!) it can be appropriate to make jokes during an interview. Done correctly, this enables you to show off your personality and lighten the mood. But make sure you read the room - if the interviewers are behaving completely seriously, so should you!  

10. The interviewer is not always right. Hopefully you will never have to deal with a situation where an interviewer asks you a question they shouldn’t. However, if you are ever asked a question that is entirely inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should never feel that you have to answer. Some interview questions (detailed here) are actually forbidden by law, and you should make yourself aware of these.

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How to Succeed in Interviews: Our Top Ten Tips

Kathryn Handley

January 26, 2021

1. Prepare to succeed. This is an obvious but important point - do your research before the interview. At the very least you should have researched the organisation, including their objectives and most recent and high-profile work. You will probably also need to do some reading on current developments in the general area of work.

2. Practice makes perfect. Practice running through the questions that you know you are likely to be asked during the interview, such as “why are you applying for this? What makes you a good candidate?” Record yourself answering these questions concisely with good structure.  If you are prepared and feeling confident even for at least some of the questions, this will put you in a good position for the rest of the interview. 

3. Dress to impress. Wear professional clothing suitable for the role you are applying for. Not only will this help in creating a great first impression, but it will put you in the right frame of mind for the interview.

4. Stay calm. It’s completely natural to feel nervous for your interview, but you can’t let those nerves come between you and your success! You should develop a pre-interview strategy to manage any anxiousness. Different things work for different people, but some commonly used tactics include meditation, listening to a certain song, visualising success, and going for a walk or run. 

5. Smile like you mean it. There are two reasons for this. One, smiling automatically makes you look more confident (just make sure your smile is natural and not strained). Two, it is very difficult not to smile back at someone - the interviewers will probably return your grin, making you feel instantly more comfortable. 

6. The eyes have it. Make sure that you are making eye contact with the interviewer throughout your entire interview. This also suggests confidence and demonstrates good communication skills. If you have more than one interviewer, then switch your gaze between them as you are speaking to make everyone feel included. 

7. Get in position. Your body language can affect the impression you create during your interview. You should sit upright, but relaxed in your chair. If you have a tendency to fiddle when you’re nervous, place your hands on the desk in front of you, either clasped or face down. Finally, leaning very slightly forward towards the interviewer indicates that you are engaged and involved. If it’s an online interview, set up your camera angle beforehand and make sure you have good lighting and a decluttered background. 

8. Honesty is the best policy. if you don’t know the answer to a question, the safest approach is to be honest and say so. You can then follow up with an intelligent point of view based on the knowledge you do have, for example: “I’m honestly not sure of the answer, but based on first principles I would say…” Interviewers often ask questions designed to see how you think - they don’t expect you to know everything!

9. Read the room. Sometimes (and only sometimes!) it can be appropriate to make jokes during an interview. Done correctly, this enables you to show off your personality and lighten the mood. But make sure you read the room - if the interviewers are behaving completely seriously, so should you!  

10. The interviewer is not always right. Hopefully you will never have to deal with a situation where an interviewer asks you a question they shouldn’t. However, if you are ever asked a question that is entirely inappropriate or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should never feel that you have to answer. Some interview questions (detailed here) are actually forbidden by law, and you should make yourself aware of these.

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