Interview advice

It’s widely believed that human beings take between two and thirty seconds to form a first impression. Once this first impression has been formed, it’s very hard to change it. When it comes to interviews, getting it right has never been more important.

The word interview can be daunting for some people. I like to think of them as meetings. After all, you are meeting with a company to decide if you want to work for them, as well as to see if they want to work with you. It’s a 50/50 thing, which many people forget.

If you end up working in a job which you don’t enjoy, it may impact your personal life as well as your professional life. We often spend more time at work than we do at home so getting your job right is a key factor for your wellbeing and happiness.

Here are some tips that I’ve gathered over the last twenty-two years of arranging and receiving feedback for candidates going to meetings.

1. Be smart 

You will never receive negative feedback for being overdressed. The most important thing is to dress in something that makes you feel comfortable, confident and professional. If in doubt, dress smartly.

2. Be early

This may sound like common sense but if you’re late for an interview, you’re likely to arrive flustered, making it very hard to regain composure. If you arrive early, you can go over your notes, grab a coffee or just get yourself in the ‘interview mindset’. Personally, I would plan the route the night before and allow plenty of extra time. Some business’s may be difficult to find. If in doubt, do a test run to familiarise yourself with the route.

3. Be prepared

Treat the interview like a business meeting. You wouldn’t turn up to a business meeting unprepared would you? Have a look at the company website and make any appropriate notes. Take these notes with you and have a notepad and a pen ready. You should also take your passport, driving licence and any relevant qualifications you may have. Before the interview starts, take out your notes and documents. That way the interviewer can already see that you are ready to start. It shows that you’ve turned up prepared and have put thought into the meeting.

4. Be curious

At the end of the interview, you may be asked, “do you have any questions?”. At this point, it may be hard to think of a question on the spot, bearing in mind you’ve just been in the interview for probably almost an hour. Creating a list of two or three questions before the interview may be helpful so you can refer to these when you’re asked. There’s a strong likelihood that the questions will get covered but again it shows that you’ve turned up prepared.

5. Be ready with examples

Many companies will ask you competency-based questions. All this means is they’ll ask you a question about a challenge or problem that you’ve faced at work and how you overcame it. Think about some problem scenarios you’ve faced and how you solved them. Competency based questions are normally used to see how you think on your feet. They tend to focus on Teamwork, Responsibility, Communication, Decision Making, Leadership, Problem-Solving, Organisation and Goal Orientation.

6. Be assertive

At the end of the interview, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask about the company about their timescales and the process moving forward. At the end of the day, you wouldn’t leave a business meeting without an action plan that has been agreed by both parties.

7. Be flexible

Due to the current Covid-19 pandemic, many companies are now using Zoom or Teams for the first stage interview. Treat this as you would a normal interview. Before your call, test your technology to make sure it works and that you can access the software or application that the company are using. Make sure you have been sent the meeting invite and any codes you need to access it. Find a quiet space where you won’t be disturbed and think about your background. It is still an interview so treat it like you would a face to face meeting.

Following the above advice doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be offered every job which you go for, but it should put you in a strong position. Be positive, approach every meeting with the same preparation and remember, interviews are as much for you as they are for the employer.

Good luck!


Alex Ritchie (Director, Alaska Black)