Ralph Watkins

January 10, 2019

When you have a received an invitation to an interview there are a few simple things every candidate can do to maximise their chances of success, and a few obvious pitfalls to avoid.

These are common sense, but it is astonishing how often a candidate who is otherwise a perfect fit for a job can come unstuck.

These top tips are all based upon real life examples that our clients have shared with us.

  1. Be punctual: Being late for an interview is an obvious no-no. A less obvious mistake is arriving too early. Ten minutes early is fine.  Arriving half an hour early can be disruptive to your interviewer’s schedule.
  2. Be polite: Interviewing can be a stressful process, and it is far too common for candidates to be brusque with reception staff while waiting for the ‘main event’. One of our clients has a habit of ending every interview with the question ‘What was the name of the receptionist who checked you in today?’  It can be a sobering note for an interview to end on!
  3. Be appropriately attired and groomed: While there is a trend in some industries and  companies away from ‘business’ to ‘smart casual’ attire, it is unprofessional to arrive at an interview under dressed. Make sure you know the dress code in advance. If you smoke or vape, do not indulge before the interview, the smell will not enhance your chances. Do not wear overpowering perfume or after-shave, your interviewer(s) may be sensitive to strong scents.
  4. Be informed: It is vital that you research the company in advance of your interview. It is a basic requirement to be familiar with the company’s markets, products, history, competitors, recent financial performance and key people (this is usually easy to find on the internet). What is critical is to understand the company’s mission culture, and values, and to be sure that you fit with them. Know all you can about the role you are interviewing for. Be ready to demonstrate how your qualifications, skills, experience and qualities will ensure you deliver the key performance indicators of the job.
  5. Be sociable: Body language is important in an interview. Maintain good eye contact, an upright posture and a confident demeanour.  Interviews can naturally make people nervous, just remember there is no difference between being confident, and pretending to be confident!
  6. Be positive: Do not speak ill of your former (or current) employer, or colleagues, and avoid disparaging comments generally.  In the first place, companies naturally prefer positive to negative people. Second, such comments can lead to a seismic faux pas One of our clients interviewed a candidate (not ours!) who spent 5 minutes criticising the town they were currently living in before realising that their interviewer grew up there and was an avid supporter of the local football team!
  7. Be authentic: Depending on your background, you may have become immersed in an environment awash with ‘management speak’. Try to avoid it at interview.  In the first case the ‘lingo’ used at one company does not often translate to another, and using stock management phrases (e.g. ‘Blue Sky Thinking’ ‘Touch Base’, using ‘Action’ as a verb, ‘Going Forward’ etc.) gives the impression that a candidate is talking without really thinking about what they are saying.
  8. Be relatable: Many interviewers will ask for it as matter of course, but it is always a good idea to relate any answers you give back to a real-life example e.g. if asked what good team work means to you, you might say something like: ‘Different people, bringing different and complementary strengths and skills to achieve a common, shared goal that they all believe in’….then provide a specific example of that ‘I led the project management team that consisted of colleagues from the sales, marketing, customer service and compliance and training teams to deliver a 25% year on year uplift in sales and a 10% year on year increase in customer satisfaction of our financial services product by changing the marketing, upgrading the training for the service and sales team while ensuring that we did so in a way that was compliant with regulations.’
  9. Be succinct: There is often a temptation in an interview to talk too much, driven by nerves and an eagerness to do yourself justice. It is better to be succinct, (although not terse) rather than require the interviewer to interrupt you in order to ask their next question.
  10. Be truthful: Studies conducted by US psychologist Ron Friedman, suggest that a staggering 81% of people have admitted to lying in an interview in order to get a job. It is a risky strategy. Experienced interviewers are good at determining if a candidate is lying to them, and the chances are that even candidates who get away with it at interview will be found out later on. Every candidate should also be true to themselves, and be sure that they really want the job they are applying for.

Venture further with Vallum. At Vallum, we coach our candidates to prepare them for interviews with our clients, contact vallum@vallum.co.uk to find out more.

Ralph Watkins