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Interview tips


Interview tips Initial Impact

Why is it that well-prepared candidates exit an interview without a job offer?  Often it’s about the opening moments.  An interviewer makes a snap judgement about you in the first 10-20 seconds of an interview.  This isn’t a complete hiring decision, but a quick take on how personable you are and whether you look and sound the part.  A great deal of this is based largely on how you are at interview rather than what you say. 


Think carefully about the messages you send out as you walk into the room.  Check out the dress codes of the organisation and try to look as if you already work there.  Leave your coat and bag in reception, and walk in with just a slim document folder, and you will look like an employee rather than a visitor.


Opening Questions

An interview may open with the broad but off-putting question ‘tell us about yourself’.  The question is usually thrown in at the beginning of an interview (maybe to throw you off balance just a little). The difficulty is that you have no frame of reference. Should you talk about your experience, your skills, or your personality?


The trap that too many candidates fall into is to give a long-winded answer that tries to summarise their complete work history.  The main reason an interviewer asks this question is to get you talking.  The second is to see if you can deliver concise reasons you are in the interview room.



Any employer is probably only looking for about half a dozen ‘deal breaker’ elements.  Don’t leave it to the interviewer to draw out matching information – match yourself, point by point, to the employer’s big ticket items.  When you are asked about strengths, list these top skills and talk about how you match all of them, giving yourself good back-up evidence with real stories of achievement.


If time is really tight, look at the employer’s website and find one interesting thing you can say about the organisation when you are greeted, and two pieces of information that you might introduce during the interview as comments or questions. 

Spend time reviewing the employer’s shopping list. 


Telling Your Career Story

Interviewers remember stories more than they remember facts, so get your best material across in punchy, memorable narratives.  The night before an interview you may not be able to rehearse a fund of stories, so go for half a dozen good ones which match the top six items outlined above.


Additionally, interviewers often give the job to candidates who have a clear career story – don’t apologise for variety or disconnection in your CV, but talk about your history as a coherent overall story of challenges and development, and show how the job on offer is the next natural step.


Be ready to wrap the interview up with some clear reasons about why you should be taken on.  An employer who hears that you understand the job - and you are enthusiastic to solve its problems - will pay you close attention.

Article by John Lees.


John Lees is the author of a wide range of career titles including How To Get A Job You’ll Love and The Interview Expert (Pearson).

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