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You’ve gotten over the first part of the job hunt and soon you’re going to walk into the job interview – now you need to be prepared.

Whether you’re a graduate or experienced professional in your mid-late 20s*, here are my top 10 tips to smash the interview (and most of this can be done the night before if you’ve left it last minute – though I recommend prepping before then!):

1. Research the company. Get Googling in advance to find out who their key staff members are, their clients/services, their social media and if there’s anything you might be passionate about. Give yourself as much information to talk to in the interview as possible. And don’t be shy to say, “Yes I saw that on your website”. Also, try and see if they’ve been in the news recently – you could talk about that. Plus you should get a good idea about who their major competitors are.

2. Be positive. Never never never say anything negative – particularly about your last employer or the work you were doing. It doesn’t matter if you were flipping burgers at your last job or if it was a company that went under. Always be proud of your achievements and thankful for your opportunities. Plus, turn things around if you need to and find the positive. For example, if you worked in a supermarket or as a sales assistant in a clothing store, talk about how you’ve got excellent sales skills and customer relations. Skills are transferable and can be applied to [almost] any job or industry.

3. Dress to impress. First impressions really count and make a difference. Show that you want to be there with how you dress. Wear heels and a smart outfit – look the part!

4. Know your industry. You want to be prepared for industry related chat and things that are specific to your type of job. For example, if you’re interviewing for a writing position, know who your favourite writers are and talk about them.

5. Have examples up your sleeve. Think of things you’ve gone through that you can speak about. From good situations to negative ones – and don’t worry if it’s something you think was only “small”. For example, if it’s a time when you had to ask your manager to help you with something, talk about how you recognised it as a situation where you needed assistance so you drew on the more senior person around you. Another good one to be prepared for is what book you’re reading or last read. If it’s been a while since you picked up a paper-back (or an e-book on your tablet), re-brief yourself on it and be equipped with opinions to share, otherwise talk about your favourite publications. If you’ve got work that you can showcase, take along a “portfolio” of some examples – even if it’s your uni work, they’ll be impressed you went to the effort, it also shows great organisation skills.

6. Never say no – don’t doubt yourself. If you get questions that you don’t feel confident about, just find something to speak to. For example, “What experience do you have that fits with this job?” You might be sitting there, palms sweaty, thinking “Ermm, I don’t?” but turn it around and use examples from your everyday life. Also take your time. Don’t be afraid to pause for 20 seconds and think about your answer if you need to – this will not only help you but it can also show that you’re a well measured person.

7. Don’t oversell yourself and know your place. I don’t want to take away any confidence from you with this point, as I’ve mentioned above you need to be able show your strengths. However, as a graduate or someone with little experience, it’s not a good look to show off about skills you might not necessarily have yet. For example, how great you are at writing strategies or bringing in new work etc. You won’t be expected to do those senior tasks just yet – you might have learned about them at university but perhaps talk about how those areas are ones of interest that you want to work your way up to. Employers understand that graduates do not yet have the hard skills (these can be taught) however they are looking for the right behaviours and cultural fit.

8. Don’t compare yourself to others. I was recently conducting an interview and the girl really started doubting herself and saying how she didn’t get to do as many things as the other people at her level were doing in a recent internship. She would start to say a good thing about herself but then backtrack and add that everyone else got to do that sort of thing too. I felt sorry for her and told her to stop worrying about other people and to just focus on herself. You’re in an interview to talk about yourself – ultimately, to sell how great you are.

9. Ask questions. Often at the end of interviews, you’ll be asked if you’ve got any questions. It’s really important to ask a few – it helps show that you’re keen and interested. Some to have up your sleeve could be about the company structure, culture, number of staff, who you would be working with, what your main tasks would be etc.

10. Smile. Never underestimate the power of a smile. Smile on your way in the door and smile on the way out 🙂

If you don’t get the job, I recommend emailing them asking for feedback. You’d be surprised at how willing business managers / human resources are to share their thoughts. They might point out some really helpful things to take on board for your next interview.

Here are some generic questions, which often get asked in interviews, so you can prepare yourself:

  • Why do you want this job?
  • What are your positive attributes/assets?
  • Name two negative things about yourself? (I recommend being honest with this one but keep it short, it’s also a chance to talk about learning experiences.)
  • What experience do you have that relates to this job?
  • If you had two conflicting priorities at once, how would you manage them?
  • What will you bring to this job?
  • What are your phone skills like?
  • Are you good at writing?
  • Have you had any good mentors in your life? Who are they?
  • What is a recent example of an industry campaign/activity/exercise that you liked and why?
  • Who’s your mentor?
  • Tell me about a tricky situation that you’ve had to deal with – and how did you manage it?
  • Anything else to add? (This is like a freebie and a chance to say anything important that you might not have said, so please make the most of this if you get it!)

For more interview questions, you could head to Job Search.

For other tips and hints for nailing the interview, check out Forbes.

Good luck! x

*I originally wrote this post for graduates and beginners but upon reflection, it really applies to a wider age range too!

Laura is the Founder & Editor of The Workher. She is an award winning Public Relations professional, who loves blogging about surviving and thriving in the workplace as a young woman.

3 comments on “Top tips for acing the job interview”

  1. These points are fantastic. I’m currently preparing for my first big job interview, and this has been an enormous help. Can I ask for an example of how you would frame a response to the “negative attributes” question?

    • Hi Stephanie, thanks for your comment!
      I would probably say something along the lines of: “I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but attention to detail in PR is important, I’m also quite efficient and direct so when managing other people I do need to make a conscious effort to soften what I think sometimes.” So follow each point up with a positive and keep it brief. Another good line could be “I can sometimes work too hard”!
      Hope that helps? Good luck, good luck, good luck!

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