Interview tips to outshine your competitors

Two smiling successful young businessmen shaking hands on business meeting in office

Before the Interview

Research the organisation:

Conducting thorough research is a good way of showing you are really passionate about the role. Knowing the organisation inside out will show your level of commitment and will also drive off any nerves – it’s a huge confidence booster. Use the internet to research as extensively as you can about the company; from their website, affiliated sites, what the media say, review sites like and even the organisation’s latest annual report.

Understand their:

Young architects working on project in office
  • Products and services
  • Markets and locations
  • Business models
  • Organisational values and objectives
  • Performance, recent successes and growth plans
  • People strategies
  • What the media, customers, former employees and other parties are saying about them

Study the job description and person specification:

  • Fully understand the duties and responsibilities of the role you are applying for
  • Highlight the key points that make you the ideal candidate for the role
  • Note down any gaps in your knowledge and how you hope to develop those skills if you are successful – this will help you answer questions about your weaknesses and goals.
  • Link the job specifications to your CV, highlighting any experience you think will make you stand out.
  • Know your CV inside out – this should be easy if it’s all true.

Other things to remember:

  • Make sure you prepare everything you need the night before or hours before the interviews. This includes a good quality folder, pen, copies of the job description and person specification, and two copies of your CV, just in case you need to give the extra copy to the interviewer. Write down the address/location and work out how to get there.
  • Choose and iron your outfit. We generally recommend you look as smart and professional as possible. It is generally a good idea to dress conservatively and with relatively toned-down colours, but this entirely depends on the organisation. In the end, whatever the dress code, you must look as well-groomed and as presentable as possible.
  • Have a quiet evening and a good sleep the night before, to calm your nerves and boost your confidence. Psychologists recommend avoiding distractions too, including heavy meals, intense exercise, alcohol, excessive caffeine or a night out.
  • In interviews, punctuality is critical – not arriving on time can reflect badly on you and should be avoided at all costs. Your arrival time at the interview tells your employer what to expect from you in future, so try to make it a good impression! If you happen to be genuinely ‘delayed’, please notify the interviewer that you are running late, and your estimated arrival time. Upon arrival, apologise and if possible give the reason for the delay. Aim to arrive at least fifteen minutes prior to the interview and ensure the receptionist or somebody within the business knows that you have arrived. It might also be a good idea to switch off your mobile at this point in time.

During the interview

Some of the key things to do during the interview:

  • Greet the interviewer(s) courteously, with a warm, friendly smile and a relatively firm handshake to show confidence and assertiveness. (But not too firm!)
  • Consistently maintain a reasonable level of eye contact throughout, spreading it evenly or appropriately if being interviewed by a panel of interviewers. Good eye contact demonstrates focus, interest and confidence.
  • Be a good listener – showing alertness and attention to detail reflects your enthusiasm and positive attitude and is likely to guarantee you higher scores. If there was any lack of clarity, politely ask the interviewer to repeat or clarify.
  • Confidently and clearly express yourself. You want to appear composed and assertive, without being too relaxed, aggressive or nervous. Keep your responses concise – use the one-minute limit rule to avoid being long-winded.
  • Prior to the interview, anticipate possible questions and prepare good quality responses with appropriate examples. Pause if needed to give yourself time to compose a suitable response – rushed and disorganised answers demonstrate unpreparedness. Use examples whenever possible to illustrate how your experience would fit the role.
  • Demonstrate passion and enthusiasm in the way you express yourself: include your body language and imagination, mixed with a ‘safe’ sense of humour, where appropriate. Show your eagerness and interest in the role, the company, its values and its products and services. Where necessary, asking relevant questions can further enhance your impression of keenness, and such inquisitiveness might impress the interviewers – it shows you are highly-motivated.
  • Plan one or two questions to ask the interviewer at the end. Not having any is a clear sign of lack of preparedness or interest. They must be simple and relevant. Good open-ended ‘what/where/will/who?’ questions motivate the interviewer to happily elaborate.

A few tactics for choosing a question to ask the interviewer include:

o Queries relating to the corporate literature, mission or objectives

o Ask how the company is dealing with a current industry issue or challenge.

o Inquire about the future strategies of the company or expansion plans.

o Ask about how the role will fit with the rest of the organisation and what successful candidate would need thrive.

Things to avoid include:

o criticising your previous employer;

o negative examples of your past experiences

o expressing biases, prejudices or intolerances of any form

o too much focus on money or career progression

o pride or a superiority complex

In the next issue, we are going to discuss the thirty most frequently asked interview questions together with suggestions from leading HR and Recruitment experts.