So you’ve been invited to interview! Congratulations. Now what??
Be yourself // People are often quick to offer nuggets of wisdom such as, “make sure you smile!!!” or “be a Serious Professional Person” or “Be an All Round Fun Guy/Gal”. I say, be yourself. If you’re going to end up working at this company, with these people who are interviewing you, you’ll want to make sure you fit with the culture. If you don’t, you’re not going to enjoy working there. That’s all there is to it. It’s not personal – we are all different and flourish in different types of environments, like houseplants. Don’t force yourself to act the way you think you should, because all that will happen is that you’ll end up in an place that doesn’t suit you, and your colleagues will wonder what happened to that jokey/super serious/sports enthusiast candidate they interviewed.
Wear a suit, dammit // Excuses are boring*. I don’t care if it’s a “creative company”. I don’t care if you’re just starting out and you don’t yet own one. Do what it takes – beg, borrow, make one yourself. Just please turn up in a suit. If it turns out it is indeed a more casual kind of place, you can always take off your jacket or undo your top button, but it’s always better to be overdressed than underdressed. If you’re asked back for a second interview then you can play that one by ear – however I’d say for all but the most creative and relaxed of workplaces, erring on the side of suit is always best.
Do your research // Spend a good couple of hours on Google before your first contact with a company, whether that’s a phone interview or a face to face (or even an online assessment). Be thoroughly familiar with the corporate structure or lack thereof, leadership team, values, and future strategy. This is all stuff you should be interested in anyway, and it’s far better if you know all of this in advance of an interview. As well as a general level of prepared-ness, I’ve also been able to work out who exactly will be interviewing me, researched them and their background and then prepared questions specifically for them. If you can’t get this from creative use of the internet, dig out the required information from the recruitment agent, your internal contact or the friendly receptionist.
Prepare questions // This is one area where you can really set yourself apart as a candidate. Asking specific, thorough and intelligent questions reveals a lot about you and can really make the difference between an ok interview and a fantastic one. This is particularly valuable for positions with a lot of similar candidates; you can demonstrate what matters to you the most and why you’d be a great fit for the firm.
Winners – Why did you choose to join Company X? What’s your favourite thing about working here? What’s your least favourite thing about working here? What do you see as Company X’s role in the marketplace, given the circumstances of <XYZ industry news>? Reference the knowledge you’ve gained via your research above – “I currently run the Women’s Network at my company. I see you have one, too. What scope would there be for me to get involved? What types of events does it run throughout the year?”
Faux-pas – how many holiday days do I get? What will my salary be? Where will I sit? Do I get a company car?
Above all, remember it’s a two way process. Unless you’re just doing this for a bit of quick cash and you don’t plan to stay long, being happy where you work is so, so important. The purpose of the interview is just as much for you to decide whether you want to work in that job with those colleagues as it is for them to decide whether they’d like you to fill the role. Take courage! You have a lot to offer!
*Credit to UFYH for this catch-all.