Prepping for interviews

Jane Sunley CEO of PurpleCubed and author of 'It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer' gives some valuable graduate advice on prepping for interviews

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You’ve managed to land yourself an interview. This is your opportunity to shine, to stand out from the crowd and land your dream job. Make sure you give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed – leaving things to chance is not smart:

Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer – if you were them what would you want to know?  – make sure you do some work on being prepared. Think about your responses to the stuff you might be asked. Practice your responses while looking in a mirror – how do you come across? Keep practising – especially if you’re feeling nervous or apprehensive, if you ‘know your stuff’ it will really help and take away the fear of the unknown.

The most important thing to remember is: be yourself. On that note you might want to make sure your privacy settings on any social media sites are OK so that if a prospective employer decides to search you on the internet, you don’t come up on that podium in Malia.

A while ago I was interviewing graduates to join Purple Cubed. I asked one candidate what sort of things he did to let his hair down.

He responded thus: “I go to the library and hang out with my friends. I don’t really go out much – especially during the week”.

Contrast this with his Twitter feed from the evening before: “Staying in tonight – boring – have an interview in the morning so can’t get wasted”

When joining a new company or new department in your existing one, cultural fit is really important.

You’ll need to be able to relate and align with the values of the place you’re joining. By being yourself, open and honest you’ll both be able to get a good picture of how things could work between you. So if you’re pretending to be ‘library boy’ and really you’re ‘party animal’ that’s not going to give a true reflection.

So when you’re prepping for the interview, think about how your personality can shine through.

Many job seekers ask “But what if they don’t like me?” Well that’s fine, if you’re not right for the role or organization then the role or organization is probably not right for you either, so congratulate yourself on having had a lucky escape and move on. You might need to kiss a few proverbial frogs before you discover the prince or princess of jobs.

Conversely, don’t go to the other extreme and tell the interviewer everything about you. In the same round of interviews as mentioned above, one candidate went into great detail about her nervous breakdown and eating disorder. Of course we would never discriminate against someone who had been ill, though did knowing the gory details help this candidate present herself in a compelling light? Sometimes in a first interview, the old adage ‘keep your own counsel’ would be advisable so plan accordingly and decide how much you’re going to disclose. By planning ahead you’ll be more in control and won’t let your chatty, open nature work against you.

Remember why you are attending the interview; plan accordingly so you can present yourself in the best light. As mentioned previously – do your homework. Find out everything you can about the organization and their culture, the role you are applying for and the person(s) who will be interviewing you. You don’t need to relay all of this information in the session, but it will make you feel more confident and informed. As well as the company website, put the interviewer’s name into a search engine and also check them out on LinkedIn and Twitter. If you can find something you have in common that will help you build rapport with this person – make sure you get your facts right though; if in doubt, don’t use the information.

Plan what you’re going to wear and make sure it’s ready, clean and pressed. Wear something you’ll feel comfortable and confident in and always dress for the next role, not the one you’re in or applying for now. And if you’re unsure of the office dress code, take a look at the people section on their website (if there is one) and judge your outfit based on this; if in doubt always overdress – don’t assume that because it’s a creative role, jeans are appropriate attire. And this is not the time to try out a new pair of brogues or start experimenting with new make-up or unfamiliar clothing items.

USEFUL CLICHE: Always  dress for the next job, not the one you’re in now. Otherwise you could be missing an opportunity to impress. As a rule of thumb – match and mirror the best examples at the place you’re going to.

Coping with nerves:
Nerves are a good thing because they will help give your ‘performance’ an edge. Some of the best actors and actresses are sick with nerves before they go on to turn out an Oscar-winning performance. Do as they do and use your nerves to your advantage.

The feelings of nervousness are caused by stress hormones being released in the body to help you cope with the challenge ahead. They’re there for a positive reason, so make a conscious decision now to embrace your nerves; harnessing them to work for you and not against. This is always going to be a work-in-progress; something you’ll need to keep revisiting and working on to make it an asset, not an inhibitor. You really do have the power. Being prepared is a great weapon in the fight against negative feelings. As well as finding out all the information you need, look after yourself, be healthy, exercise, eat well. Get some sleep. Chill out. Be kind to yourself. And if nerves take hold, take lots of deep breaths until you feel calm.

Top tip: When nerves take hold, perspiration often flows. Avoid the ‘wet-fish’ handshake (which is instantly offputting) by practising a firm handshake beforehand. When you arrive, either visit the bathroom and wash your hands in cool water, drying thoroughly, or failing that wipe your hand surreptitiously on your trousers before going in for the shake.

Ask people for their interview stories. Imagine the interview going really well and keep thinking ahead to this positive scenario – visualizing a positive outcome will really help you to make it a reality. This is where a bit of mind control comes in very handy indeed.

If you only do three things:

  1. Do your homework and prepare yourself for this challenge.
  2. Work through potential questions and practise in the mirror.
  3. Psych yourself up, breathe deeply and imagine things going really, really well.

About the author

Jane Sunley is an experienced employment expert who works with universities, charities, schools and corporates here in the UK to help
people find the jobs they love and keep them. Her latest book is essential reading for anyone in the beginning, middle and even the end of their careers as it is never too late to affirm good habits for employability even in a difficult jobs market. It’s genuinely inspirational.

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