Tips for Face to Face Interviews

It seems that interviewing for a new job never gets easier, and regardless of job market status and economic climate changes, the job interview stays largely the same; it’s almost always nerve racking as you will consciously be trying to make a good impression on a prospective employer and not fumble your words, which itself can be stressful and cause you to fumble your words!

The first 30 seconds of the interview are also very important; remember you only get one chance to make a first impression so you need to make it a good one! This can seem like a lot of pressure, but if you take the time to prepare, you’ll be very surprised at how much more comfortable you can feel when interviewing. So read on and use our face to face interview tips guide to help you stand out from the crowd and leave a lasting impression on your potential employers!

Top tips for blasting through an interview:

It’s easy to compile a list of tips for interviewing, but this can sometimes be too much to digest; with this in mind we’ve put the below list together in chronological order, so you’ll learn what you need to do, in the order that you need to do it…

When applying for posts:

Be selective with your applications: Really think about the type of job you want and the type of company you’d like to work for. It’s easy to send out your CV to hundreds of potential employers, but getting interest in the wrong one and going for it straight away could mean you miss out on a potential dream job. Be selective and apply for fewer posts that you really want; this way you can then tailor your CV specifically for each post you have applied for. It’ll also mean you get the job you actually want, and make a career of it.

Prepare, prepare, prepare: Get multiple copies of your CV and any interview notes printed out, polish your shoes and have your clothes and everything you are taking with you ready the day before; this will help you to avoid scrambling around on the morning of your interview. Plan your route to your interview location and if necessary make the trip in advance so you are comfortable with it (these may seem like minor details but it’ll help you keep calm knowing they’ve been take care of, leaving you to concentrate on other things such as what questions to ask in the interview). Also learn your interviewers name beforehand and if you don’t know, call ahead and ask – this is polite. Lastly, just before your interview you should recheck your CV against the job post that’s advertised so you can relate any specific questions that come up to specific skills and knowledge that you possess.

Do as much research as you can: Research everything you can about the company beforehand. You may be asked specific questions about them like their previous profits, latest developments and future business plans, so it never hurts to bone up on this information. At the very least it will show your interviewer that you are conscientious. Also understand that doing this research can actually help you decide if it’s a company you really do want to work for, because you do not want to commit to a job and regret it a year or two later. You may also want to research the salary for the post you’re applying for as this can also be a factor that helps you decide to go for it or not.

Network, network, network: Use the Genie social network to your advantage. Once you have an interview somewhere, getting to know people that already work there can be a great way of getting inside knowledge into what it’s like to work for that company. Again this can be helpful when deciding to accept an offer or not.

Be a people person: Your interviewer is not only looking for you to be qualified (which you almost certainly should be), but to see if you will fit into their businesses culture. Are you a team player that will fit into their existing team and help others? Are you trustworthy with work that will be passed to you? Try to get a feel for the current culture and see if you think you’d fit in.

Tailor your work history: The same way you would tailor your CV to fit for a specific job post, you can do so with your past experiences. The job description may require someone who can multitask regularly; with this in mind you can talk about a past project or event that required just this. Look at the job descriptions requirements and try to think of one example for each requirement. This will help you to present yourself as the ideal candidate, and may even highlight if you’re not; it’s always best to know!

Keep your online profile clean: This will give employers an insight into who you are so it needs to be clean and professional. How others interact with you can also be important, so keep on top of your privacy settings and keep anything that could have a negative impact on your employability hidden. Remember that your online profile could be the first thing a potential employer sees.

Do some research on your interviewer beforehand: It won’t hurt to learn about the person who will be interviewing you as this can highlight some common ground and interests which can help the mood and flow of the interview, and may also help you think of potential questions to ask about the role or the company.

Keep your referees informed: You should only use people you feel comfortable with, but regardless of who you use for a reference, make sure you let them know you’re using them so they can be prepared. Also be sure to have printed copies of your referees contact details with you in case you are asked to provide them after your interview.

Practice dummy interviews with friends and family: Doing this with people beforehand can be a great way to prepare for the real thing, as friends and family will most likely be quick to note any problems with your answers, tone and body language. If you’re going to make mistakes then it’s best to make them among friends and learn from your mistakes, so when you come to the main event you will have already gotten plenty of practice in and feel a lot more confident.

Keep notes with you: During the interview you may want to have notes with bullet points on. These could be answers to difficult questions that you think may arise, key occasions when you solved a big problem for your current/previous employer. Just make sure these are in bullet points and not long sentences or paragraphs; the information in a bullet point is usually enough to help you remember the full story, plus you can quickly glance at them if need be and they will most definitely be simpler to memorize than paragraphs.

Interview questions you should prepare for:

Tell me about yourself: This is not an invitation to talk about your hobbies, rather you should spend a minute or two talking about your education, work history and recent career experience. Something like a short story that describes your values and work ethic, and why these are important for the position.

Why do you want to work here: As already mentioned you should research the company for which you are interviewing. You should tell them what you know about their company and how you can add value to their team, and help them with the challenges they face.

Why is there a gap in your employment history: It’s not always easy to walk straight into another job after losing one, but you need to show that your time off has been well spent; you could list volunteer work you have done, projects relating to your chosen vocation etc. Anything that shows your interviewer that you have spent your free time productively will show them that you are a serious candidate to consider.

What are your strengths: This is a fair question but you need to avoid bragging, and moreover you will need to back up your strengths with proof like the last quarter’s sales figures, testimonials from happy clients etc.

What are your weaknesses: No one likes this question because you need to highlight your shortcomings, which goes against what your natural instincts are telling you to do in an interview situation. A weakness doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re bad at something, for example you could pick a skill that you have improved upon during your previous job, but that you still wish to enhance going forward; this shows that you are keen and capable of improvement. Another example could be that you spend a longer time than usual double-checking your work before it goes out (not necessarily a negative), but that you are working on improving this.

Describe a time when you had to cope under pressure: Have a story ready that describes how you had to cope with an unexpected problem; it could be that you had to complete work to a tighter than usual deadline, or work out of your comfort zone (for example if you’re used to working alone and then suddenly put into a team).

Have you ever had a disagreement with an employer: This question can sometimes be used to put you on the spot. You need to answer honestly but diplomatically. If you’ve always got on well with your former boss then say so, if you did have a disagreement be honest but diplomatic. Your interviewer will be thinking about what it would be like to work alongside you, so you should not bad mouth previous employers or colleagues.

Why did you leave your previous employer: Be honest and as stated earlier, do not bad mouth any previous employers; instead use this question as an opportunity to describe why this position is better suited for you.

Where do you see yourself in five years time: Use this question as an opportunity to really show off the research you have done on the company. Don’t be arrogant and say “I want your job” to the interviewer, rather be enthusiastic and make sure your response is specific to the post you are applying for and the opportunities for advancement you feel will come your way should you get the job.

Why should I employ you? You need to show that you are the most qualified candidate for the job and this is where you should review the job description and qualifications required very carefully. Identify the key skills and knowledge that are required, and then draw from your past experiences that match up to those skills and that knowledge.

The day of the interview:

Dress appropriately: They say appearances shouldn't matter, but they do! It is always better to be overdressed than underdressed because in many cases you will often be judged before you’ve even opened your mouth. If all else fails remember that overdressing shows that you are taking the interview seriously and that you have a desire to succeed and push forward.

Don’t be late, be on time: Get there ten minutes early; being late will only make you look sloppy and like we said before; you only get one chance to make a first impression so make it count!

Keep your phone on silent: You do not want this ringing or buzzing at any time during your interview. If you need to take any contact details, write them down or ask for a business card.

Have copies of your CV with you: Your interviewer may not have this handy and if they don’t, it will only help to show them that you come prepared.

Be nice to every one you meet: You never know who your interviewer will speak to after you’ve left. They could ask the PA about you’re demeanor, your mood or how you treated others so treat everyone with respect and smile when appropriate. This only helps you to sell yourself on a personal level and show that you would be a good fit for the company; after all everyone likes a happy person.

Make a good first impression: When you meet your interviewer, smile and shake hands firmly. Maintain eye contact and try to avoid uncomfortable silences by talking on the way to your interview room. Remember they may also be nervous and by talking and being friendly you can help put them at ease. In the first 30 seconds of meeting you your interviewer will be deciding if you’re a good fit on a personal level, so you need to make these seconds count; be nice, be friendly and be confident.

Be aware of your body language: Remember that how you say something can have a big impact so make sure your body language reflects confidence.

Make sure you DO:

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor (this will help keep your back straight and upright)
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Lean forward when speaking or making a point
  • Listen to what the interviewer is saying

Make sure you DO NOT:

  • Look at the floor
  • Lean back or slouch
  • Fold your arms
  • Yawn (try to get a good night’s sleep beforehand to avoid this)
  • Interrupt the interviewer mid-question, wait for them to finish

Keep calm: Always try to remain calm and relaxed. Make sure you pay close attention and listen to the entire question before attempting to answer. If you are not sure how to answer a question then ask the interviewer to repeat it. There is nothing wrong with this, and it’s better to take a moment to collect your thoughts and answer correctly than to try and rush your answer and blurt out something unrelated.

Stay on topic: Answer questions properly and don’t stray off topic, otherwise you’ll end up babbling about something else entirely. If you need a few seconds to think about your answer that’s fine; it’s better to take a minute and answer properly, rather than quickly blurt out something unrelated to the question and regret it. A concise answer that is relevant is better than a long answer that is not. A good way of doing this is to give a short answer that’s on point, and then go into more depth or elaborate afterwards if necessary.

Speak the truth, always: Never lie about any experience or skills. If you don’t know something then just say so, otherwise you can end up looking untrustworthy, and even incompetent in the future. It’s better to be honest from the start and you’ll be far more respected for that than you would if you lied.

Expect the unexpected: There are no rules to say that your interviewer will not ask you difficult questions or not try to catch you off guard; this can give them an insight into how you react when under pressure. You should be prepared for tough questions, but if you are caught off guard try to stay calm and relaxed. If you didn’t hear or don’t fully understand a question always ask the interviewer to repeat it for your clarification. You’ll find that if you ask a question back, then both you and the interviewer will have worked your way through tough questions over the course of the back and forth conversation that ensues. Never try to evade a tough question as this will only work as a disservice to your character. When the interview has finished always ask your interviewer if there is any other information they need from you; this helps to show that you are open, honest and keen to move forward.

Ask questions: You want to know as much as possible about the company and culture that you’ll potentially be joining so you should always have at least five questions ready for your interviewer. This will let them know that you’re serious about this opportunity and will clearly demonstrate your interest. Below are some example questions:

  • What skills and experiences would make an ideal candidate for this position?
  • What problems is the company facing? Would I be in a position to help you solve these problems?
  • What do you enjoy most about working here?
  • Do you have any hesitations about my qualifications?
  • What type of training or continuing education do you offer?
  • What are the company’s plans for growth?
  • Who previously held the position I’m applying for?
  • What is the next step in the process?

By asking questions you can get a greater insight into the company and see if it’s a place you actually want to work for.

Be happy: Show a sense of humour and smile when appropriate; no one wants to employ someone that’s too serious. It’s always a good idea to show energy and enthusiasm; you can even ask the interviewer questions about themselves, like how they find it working at the company or how long they’ve worked there. We’re all human and everyone likes to be happy, and when it comes down to it, it’s difficult to dislike someone who’s happy!

After the interview:

Thank your interviewer: Send a thank you note to your interviewer within 24 hours of meeting them. Keep it short, be sincere and don’t babble but be sure to reiterate why you are interested in the company and the position.

Follow up: Wait one week and then check in to see how things are moving, reminding them of why you’re the ideal candidate for the job. Do this once a week; it will show them that you are keen, persistent and pro-active – all qualities that any employer would look for.

The second interview:

If you’re at this stage then they like you enough to want to see you again. You’ll likely be feeling great and it can be tempting to think you’ve got the job, but there’s still a lot to do. You need to do just as much preparation for the second interview as you did for the first…

Why did you invite me for a second interview: This is a question that is rarely asked, but the answer can give you a greater insight into what exactly they were impressed with and allow you to elaborate further on the particular skills and knowledge that they highlight in their answer. It’s clear that they like you so you should find out why and continue pressing forward.

Go all out: This is the time to show your interviewer what you can do; to show them your best and sell yourself. Talk about your past achievements and go into more detail about them, and what you did to achieve them. They are already sincerely considering hiring you so you should go for it and confirm to them that their interest in you is justified. Be prepared for questions that may be more technical (in relation to the role), and that they may bring in a second interviewer who is more experienced in the technical part of the role to ask these questions. Again you need to sell yourself and go all out at this stage; ask plenty of questions and don’t just let them do all the talking as this will make you seem like you lack confidence. Answer any and all questions asked and elaborate on any answers that relate to the role so you can show them that you’re the perfect fit for it.

Not just a job, but a career: Let them know how enthusiastic and serious you are about joining their company, and that you are treating it as a career and not a stop-gap. They’ll feel more at ease in offering you a position if they know that you want to stay.

Getting personal: The second interview process is also the employer’s opportunity to ask more personal questions to see how well you’ll fit into the company, the culture and the team of people you’ll be working alongside. You could be asked a question that may not seem relevant to the position (such as you age or political views), but your answer can give the interviewer some knowledge into how well you handle questions such as these or react under pressure. Be prepared for potentially tricky questions and answer honestly. If you really think they are not relevant to the position then politely ask “is that relevant?” This is also a very good time for you to see if you’ll fit in to the company and can be yet another factor in your decision to accept or reject an offer.

Ask questions: At the second interview stage they will expect you to ask more questions as they have already expressed an interest in hiring you, so they’ll expect you to have plenty of inquiries in relation to the role, company, prospects etc. If a question comes to mind during the interview then ask it as this will help the interview flow more naturally; remember that they are interested in hiring you so you need to get more information at this stage to see if you’d be happy with what they’re potentially offering. If at the end of the interview you do not receive an offer you should ask them what the next step in the process will be. Below are some example questions you could ask; some of these will be similar to those asked in the first interview:

  • What are the company’s plans for growth and expansion? How would my department fit into that?
  • What opportunities for development exist here for employees?
  • Who would be monitoring my performance, and on what criteria would I be measured?
  • What would I need to do to succeed and advance here? How would my success be measured?
  • How do I compare with other people that have applied for this post?
  • Do you have any doubts about hiring me for the role?
  • What are the biggest opportunities for the company? What are the company’s strengths?
  • What are the biggest threats facing this company right now? What are the company’s weaknesses?

These questions should give you a greater insight into what opportunities you can expect, and what challenges you could face working for this company.

After the interview:

Say thank you: Just as before, thank your interviewer and actually ask for the job; confirm again your interest in the company and how serious you are about the role and the opportunity.

Chase them: Follow-up again just as you would have after your first interview. At this stage it’s clear that they’re interested so you can be a little more persistent. If after 10 working days you get no response then send an email expressing your continued interest for the role, and how good a fit you are for it. Ask for a timeframe so you can know when to expect an offer or not.