They say that these days, it’s an employee’s market – for the right candidate.
As the pandemic has changed our perspective of work-life balance and encouraged job hunters to tip the scales towards the latter, companies are reporting difficulty in finding – and keeping – staff in what has been dubbed The Great Resignation by some.
Still, your performance in a job interview can make that all-important difference. Nothing is a given, and the market remains competitive. Make yourself a candidate that employers are desperate to get their hands on – the better you sell yourself, the more likely you are to secure the job. Plus, a strong performance at interview could put you in a better negotiating position when it comes to salary.
With that in mind, these are ten vital do’s and don’ts that will help you shine in your next job interview.
1. Do your research
There’s little worse than being asked a question in a job interview and having no answer prepared.
But the question, ‘So why do you want to work here?’ is one that floors many candidates – mainly those who haven’t done their research.
There are plenty of ways to find out more about the organisation you’re applying for, and online is usually a good place to start. Their website should tell you what you need to know about their mission and work, whilst social media outlets such as Instagram or LinkedIn, if the company is active on there, can give you an insight into the company culture.
The more knowledge you can equip yourself with, the more impressed your interviewer will be. However, more crucially, it gives you a chance to consider your potential role within the company and allows you to better demonstrate why the skills you’re bringing to the table are of value to them.
2. Don’t criticise
It’s poor form to criticise your current or previous employers in a job interview. It gives a bad impression and may suggest to your interviewer that you have a negative attitude to authority and other aspects of the workplace.
Some employers may ask you ‘What don’t you like about your current job?’ or ‘Why are you looking to leave?’. However, if you are asked this question, don’t take it as free reign to criticise your current company.
Instead, be constructive and use it to talk about potential positive opportunities in the role you’re being interviewed for.
For instance, you might say “My current role doesn’t give me many opportunities to engage in teamwork. While I’m happy to work independently, I love the collaborative approach that your company takes and would like the chance to demonstrate my skills as part of a team.”
Remember that positivity is key in any job interview, so you should always display an upbeat approach whilst keeping your comments relevant to the position you’re applying for.
3. Do ask questions
It’s often the final question at any job interview – “do you have any questions for us?”
And you should absolutely always come prepared with a couple of questions. Failing to do so can make you appear unengaged and uninterested, while asking questions demonstrates that you’ve thought about the position on offer and your potential future role within the company.
Of course, your question may get answered throughout the course of the interview, which is why it’s always good to have one or two backups.
Some great examples of questions to ask at a job interview include:
- What is the company culture like?
- Can you tell me more about the team I’ll be working with?
- What would my first thirty days in the job look like?
- What opportunities are there for training and progression within this role?
It’s important to appear engaged not just with the role but with the company overall, and anything that helps you better understand your future role within the organisation gives you a major advantage should you be successful in the interview process.
4. Don’t be too modest
No one wants to appear arrogant. But a job interview is not the time to downplay your achievements.
Don’t just wait for your interviewer to ask about certain things on your CV. This is your time to shine and you should feel free to show off. Ensure that everything you’re saying is relevant – hijacking the conversation won’t get you very far – but don’t be afraid to talk about your experience.
It’s great if you can answer questions about the skills you have, but even better if you can give examples and demonstrate your knowledge of these topics thoroughly to the interviewer.
5. Do share your soft skills
It’s important to talk about the measurable, material achievements of your career, whether it’s qualifications, promotions or simply examples of when your success has yielded results.
But as important as it is to be able to back these up, it’s also great to show off the skills that have enabled you to achieve, and the ones you’ve learned from these experiences.
Soft skills, as we’ve explored on this blog previously, are those skills that you won’t get a certificate or qualification for, but that are just as essential in the workplace as the core knowledge you’ll gain from training and education. These can be attained through a range of experiences, from your day-to-day learning in the workplace to upskilling and training, through opportunities such as distance learning degrees.
With these experiences you’ll gain not only a wealth of professional knowledge, you’ll also develop your soft skills, including time management, organisation, digital literacy and ability to work independently.
6. Don’t stretch the truth
Everyone has something on their CV that’s a little overexaggerated, right?
Whether it’s your proficiency in Microsoft Office, or your post-university work experience during which you were definitely not solely responsible for tea and coffee runs during that editorial internship.
But honestly? Honesty is your best policy.
It sounds like a cliché, but even if the most blatant of lies slips past your potential future employer at interview, if you are successful in earning the role, these topics may come up at a later date, leaving you in an awkward position.
If you’re asked about something you know little about or have little experience with, be upfront. Tell them truthfully what experience you have (if any), and highlight your willingness to learn. If you think you may be asked about a topic on which you don’t have much experience, do a little research beforehand to demonstrate forward-thinking engagement.
7. Do make a good impression
Showing up in plenty of time is good practice for just about any professional appointment.
But tardiness can reflect terribly on an interview candidate, so it’s good to be well ahead of time. Plan your journey in advance so you can’t be caught out on the day by train delays or getting lost, and if in doubt, you may want to set off extra early or carry out a practice run beforehand.
You should also take care to appear presentable – yes, even if it’s just a Zoom interview. We’re all guilty of matching a smart shirt with pyjama bottoms as some point since the WFH revolution to optimise for both comfort and professionalism, but if you’re dressing up for a job interview, you want to feel the part as well as look it. Not to mention, it’s all too easy to stand up forgetting that the attire of your lower half doesn’t match that of your top half – spare yourself the embarrassment.
Some research even indicates that candidates should dress up for phone interviews. Whilst it makes no difference theoretically, as your employer can’t see your face (or clothing) dressing as though you were attending an in-person or otherwise visual interview can help you better channel your professionalism.
8. Do be honest about your expectations
A job interview is an opportunity for a potential employer to get to know you.
But it’s also an opportunity for you to get to know the company you’re applying for, and decide if it’s the right fit for you.
Answer questions honestly, rather than saying what you think your interviewer wants to hear. Whether it’s regarding progression, salary or culture, be upfront about what you’re looking for. If you’re the right candidate, your interviewer may be willing to negotiate, and if not? Maybe it’s not the right position for you.
We hope these tips help you ace your next interview – best of luck!
Looking for more tips on employability? Check out the following blogs: