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Planning a better future
Planning a better future

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8.1 Interview tips

Here are some initial tips for interviews:

  • Interviewers want you to do yourself justice. They’re hoping that you’ll be an excellent candidate and that the interview time and effort will be well spent.
  • Interviewers may also be inexperienced or nervous. It’s up to you to help them out and make them feel comfortable.
  • When faced with a panel of interviewers, you should address the majority of your response to the interviewer who has asked you a question, while ensuring that you still have some eye contact with the rest of the panel.
  • Show acceptance of the interviewer as a person. Remember that interviewers want to be liked and hope to be supported in their day-to-day work and career by your appointment. They’ll be asking themselves ‘Could we get on?’ and ‘Would this person be supportive?’
  • Balance the initiative-taking. The ideal interview should flow like a conversation, reaching greater depths as the rapport develops between the two parties. Neither should psychologically dominate the discussion, although as the candidate you should do most of the talking, in effect determining the content, while the interviewer sets the format.
  • A few seconds’ silence in an interview can seem an eternity. Don’t be panicked into responding too quickly, perhaps in an illogical way. Fill a thinking gap with comments such as ‘That’s an interesting question – I need a moment or two to think about it’.
  • Always try to be positive in what you say and never be critical of a previous employer.
  • Guard against being too open.
  • When asked whether you have any questions, it can be useful to ask about future business plans. If the interview has already covered that, use the opportunity to add relevant information about yourself that you haven’t had an adequate opportunity to express.

From the vast amount of research into interviews as a selection method, some important insights for candidates emerge. For example:

  • Some interviewers make up their minds about candidates within the first four minutes of an interview, and aren’t easily swayed by factual information thereafter. First impressions count: initial answers are critical.
  • Interviewers are more likely to be swayed by negative information or behaviour on the part of the candidate than positive. Interviews tend to exclude rather than to include.
  • Interviewers may be poor at assessing the personality characteristics of individual candidates with any validity, but they make very consistent judgements and assessments between candidates. This suggests that a good interview performance is likely to impress.
  • A candidate’s body language in an interview (for example, not maintaining eye contact) can be more important in determining its outcome than experience or qualifications.
  • Interviewers’ judgements about a candidate are always made in relation to judgements about earlier candidates, so the sequence of interviews assumes an importance of its own. If you’re given a choice, go first. You can set a standard against which the others will be judged.