The Perfect Job Interview

By HR Heads

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‘More than four hours sleep, three hours research, two ironed shirts and a well-timed jouuuurney….’ It’s all in the preparation.

So, just 7 sleeps to go and if you haven’t already ordered your Christmas turkey then now might a good time to start making some polite enquiries. Preparation is a key element of Christmas and one where failing to plan really can be planning to fail.  One of the things we do regularly as recruiters is offer people advice on preparation, particularly around interviews, and just like basting the turkey and peeling the sprouts for Christmas Dinner, there are some aspects that shouldn’t be missed if you’re getting ready to meet a potential employer.


First and foremost (before you even think about what you’re going to wear) you need to make sure you have a thorough understanding of the organisation you could be joining to include their culture, values and strategy. You must also gain some sound knowledge of the role and be able to demonstrate where your skills align to the specification. This is where working with a good recruiter can be invaluable as they will have formed a close working relationship with the hiring managers and will have been given a full brief on all of these key elements. If you’re not being represented by a consultant there are still resources you can turn to such as the company’s website and social media channels. Many job seekers also turn to the increasingly popular Glassdoor that offers reviews and ratings on many of the UK’s employers by people they have actually employed. This means you can get a good gauge on what it might genuinely be like to work there and what aspects of your personality could be a good fit for their culture.


Once you’ve done your research it’s time to get to grips with something more personal. It’s time to reinvestigate your CV and make sure you’re comfortable with explaining your work history to the people you will be meeting. Some of you may be lucky enough to have a straightforward, self-explanatory career path but most of us are far too human not to have had the odd gap or a permanent role that didn’t last very long. If this sounds more like you then don’t worry, just make sure you explain your career decisions in a clear and positive way. Another vital component of your preparation should be to pre-prepare some answers to potential interview questions. Click here for access to the National Careers Service’s list of the top ten to include some of the more unusual. 


So now you’ve completed the ground work it’s time to move on from the substantial and onto the more superficial elements of your preparation such as personal appearance, where there is real value in keeping things smart, simple and clean. Don’t pick something overly dressy, colourful or flamboyant. Take the time to iron shirts, clean shoes and tame your hair. Avoid anything strong smelling like too much perfume, aftershave or (dare we say it) cigarettes which can be off putting for the interview panel and may detract from what you’re saying. It may also be useful to have a standby outfit ready just in case something unexpected happens. I know one job seeker, whose toddler decided to wipe chocolate biscuit all over his clean white shirt two minutes before leaving to attend an interview and…. no, he didn’t have another one ironed.


Another vital element of interview preparation, like Christmas, is the timing and logistics of the day which should never be left to chance. Doing a dummy run to the location a few days before at a similar time is really worthwhile as it will give you a good idea of how long it should take. Once you’re in receipt of this information allow an extra half hour for your journey time in case of any unexpected delays (who knows when that farmer and his tractor will decide to hit the a-roads). If for any reason you’re still in danger of running late, it pays to have the number for the organisation in your phone that you can call ahead and let them know. Conversely, if you do turn up ridiculously early it can be off putting for the panel so find a coffee shop or do some quiet preparation in the car.

In the Interview

Once you’ve arrived it’s time to unleash one final item from your interview preparation kitbag. Just as you would plaster a smile on your face, make eye contact with and embrace the in-laws on Christmas morning, you need to allow your interviewer the same grace. Practise a confident handshake, warm smile and eye contact with people you feel comfortable with so that your approach is genuine and natural on the day.

As with Christmas, it’s easy to feel nervous and overwhelmed by big events such as interviews but being organised and thinking ahead can free you up to actually enjoy the experience. Meeting a potential employer can be inspiring and exhilarating if you’re not worried about tricky questions (them), a questionable choice in tie (you) and bad traffic (the rest of the world). Christmas too can be magical once you’ve factored in picking up your Mother-in-law, getting the turkey in the oven on time and getting the extended family sat down in time to watch the Queens speech.

Whatever challenges you face over the coming weeks we wish you the very best of luck, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New year.


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