Interviews: Putting your best foot forward

Never assume anything: this piece of advice has been at the forefront of our minds as we enter our fourth month of trading. We are delighted to have made some great appointments and are in the process of recruiting for some exciting new roles with some fantastic new clients.

However, whilst recruiters may assume that candidates are well briefed on interview etiquette and how to succeed, our experience has shown that this is not always the case. Never assume anything is a good piece of advice for recruiters – but also for candidates preparing for interviews. We are adamant that Sitka candidates receive the best service from us throughout the interview and recruitment process, and this includes preparing them effectively.

There is an abundance of useful information and advice on how to perform well at interviews but, following our own advice to never assume anything, we have pulled together our top tips on how to put your best foot forward at interviews in the competitive job market.

1. What interview preparation should you focus on?  

It’s unlikely to come as a surprise to anyone reading this, but preparation is key. We guarantee that time spent researching the business and the role – including the job and person specifications – will be time well spent.  

It’s a good idea to write down practical examples for each listed competency as writing information down helps us remember it much better. Practice reading your answers out loud or invite a friend who works in HR or recruitment to give you a mock interview – but make sure it’s someone who will challenge you and be tough!

Have the ‘Tell me a little about yourself’ answer ready; five concise facts that sum up you and your career is always a good opening gambit. There’s a great article about how to answer the ‘Tell me about yourself’ question here:

Knowledge is power: carrying out research beyond an employer’s website is invaluable and referring to industry knowledge or relative current affairs throughout the interview can give you the edge over other candidates.   

Don’t be afraid to check out the LinkedIn profile of the interviewer: it shows that you are inquisitive and interested in working with them as an individual as well as with the business itself. As a manager at Cardiff and Vale College, I interviewed many candidates and could easily identify those that had researched the College and checked out the latest news. That preparation never failed to impress me.

2. How do you overcome pre interview nerves?

If you believe in yourself and your ability to do the job well then you’re halfway there and, with a little positive thought, your nerves should subside. But what do you do if you have prepared as much as you can but still feel the nerves creeping in? Well, rest assured – employers really don’t mind a nervous candidate; as one client recently said: ‘nerves mean they care’.  

Having said that, there are some things you can do to help you relax. Take the five minutes before your interview to focus on your breath; breathing in through your nose and slowly out through your mouth can slow your heartbeat and reduce anxiety. Being mindful and visualising a successful outcome is also a good tool for overcoming nerves. There are some more great tips for beating interview nerves in this article: here One even suggests squeezing your buttocks! Well, if it works, who are we to judge?

If you can’t overcome your nerves, what’s the worst that can happen?  If you don’t get get the job, well perhaps it wasn’t the right opportunity for you.

3. How important are first impressions?

The short answer is: very! How you present yourself is important; you don’t have to wear a suit, but always dress smartly, and don’t be afraid to show your personality. Be on time; if your interview is at 11.30am, aim to get there for 11am.  If you’re running late, phone, explain and apologise when you arrive – one apology is enough. Eye contact and a firm handshake are small but vital components for making a first impression that counts.

Time is key. This article in Entrepreneur Magazine highlighted the finding of a study into first impressions and found that employers decide in just over 6 minutes whether you are a potential candidate for the role or not. So, you need to grab their attention and convince them you are the best person for the job quickly.

4. How do you ensure you keep putting your best foot forward throughout the interview?

An interview is an audition, a chance to showcase your preparation and practice. Many people struggle with interviews because they haven’t prepared, but if you’ve done the groundwork you will feel more confident, and confidence is a key factor for ensuring a strong performance.  As Henry Ford famously said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right”.

Look to maintain a good dialogue with the interviewer and you may be in line for ‘best performance’.  Building rapport and common ground is vital for engagement. Always provide examples of specific experiences, rather than general responses. Ask the interviewer/s questions about the business, role and team culture throughout, rather than waiting for the end of the interview. This is where you demonstrate that you would be a good employee and the best person for the job.  

Your performance isn’t over until you’ve had an opportunity to ask questions; this is really your ‘curtain call’, a chance to claw back control and cover off points you haven’t yet had the chance to. We are always impressed when people use this time to demonstrate further strengths and relevant experience, or take out pre-prepared questions.

5. What’s the best way to follow up an interview?

Even after the interview has finished, you have an opportunity to make a good impression. Sending a letter or email, thanking the interviewer/s for their time and reiterating your interest in the role will go a long way. It’s a good idea to review the key points of the interview, any challenges and opportunities you discussed and how you can help them meet those. Always ask for feedback, positive or negative. If you are working with an agency, they should feed back to you on the employer’s behalf. After everything you’ve invested, it’s only fair you receive constructive feedback from the experience.

It’s also a good idea to write your own notes on your experience; which questions you answered well, which questions you weren’t quite prepared for, what aspects of your experience you felt you didn’t get across.

On a final note, please remember to smile and enjoy the interview experience if you can; after all, an interview is one step closer to your ideal job.

We hope you have found these tips useful. Please feel free to ask us questions or share your thoughts in the comments.

If you’d like to talk with us in more detail about a job in HR, marketing, finance or business development, please contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

To find out how we can work with you, please drop us a line