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Top tips for interview success

So, your cracking CV or amazing application form has got you an interview. Well done!

Whether it’s in person, online, over the phone or pre-recorded, a job interview can be a daunting experience. But remember, it’s your chance to show your skills and qualities in the best light.

We’ve put together some interview tips from our Jobcentre Plus work coaches.

Before the interview

Plan your journey

  • Plan your journey to a face-to-face interview and allow extra time for any unexpected delays. If the timing doesn’t work, make polite contact to explain.
  • Take the interviewer’s phone number with you when you start your journey, just in case you need to alert them to unexpected and unavoidable travel problems.

Test your tech

  • For online or phone interviews, it’s up to you to make sure your tech works. Check your mic, speakers, and wi-fi are up to the job and that you have any essential apps. Try a test run beforehand.
  • Make sure you have a quiet space to yourself for the interview, without interruptions from household activities, doorbells, family, pets, texts or messages.

Check your online profile 

  • Think about how your social media accounts look to an outsider. Employers often check you out online before making a job offer.
  • Upgrading your privacy settings prior to applying could prevent unwanted viewing.

Research the employer

  • Go into the interview with a good knowledge of the company. It gives you confidence and tells the employer that you are serious about the job.
  • Find out about the employer’s history, what it does and has achieved, any current news or campaigns, and who its competitors or partners are.
  • Make a list of key points that you can quickly glance at if you get stuck. It will help you make your interview answers more relevant to the employer.

Think about the questions

  • Look again at the job advert to remind yourself what the employer is looking for.
  • Look over your CV or application form objectively – what would you ask if you were the interviewer?
  • Try a quick internet search to help predict what you might be asked. It might, for example, bring up forums and discussion boards relating to other people’s interview experiences with the company.

The National Careers Service website has a list of the top ten interview questions here (external website).

Prepare your answers  

  • Spend some time thinking about the answers or examples you could give to best showcase your skills.
  • Use the STAR interview method, which stands for Situation-Task-Action-Result. Providing real examples of times when you have done something well will give employers a good understanding of your experience.
  • Make notes – just a few words to remind you what you want to say, there’s no need to write full sentences.

The National Careers Service website has more about the STAR interview method (external website).

Practise your answers

  • Rehearse your responses. No matter how confident you are, nerves can get the better of anyone once they’re in an interview scenario.
  • Practise saying your answers out loud to a friend or family member or try a mock interview. It can really help you get over your nerves and build your confidence.
  • If you’re comfortable with online calls, try filming yourself giving answers to the most likely questions.

Dress to impress

  • Think smart, clean and professional. Many workplace dress codes prohibit jeans, sportswear, trainers or clothing with slogans. It’s also advisable to keep jewellery and perfume minimal too.
  • Always have some suitable interview clothes ready at home in case of an unexpected invitation to interview. Try them on and move around in them to check they still fit you.
  • You should always think about how you are dressed whether your interview is in person or online.
  • Check the face mask policy where you’re being interviewed. Or take a face mask just in case.

Taking forms

  • Carry a spare copy of your CV or application form. You might need it if an interviewer asks you something specific about it. Having a spare to offer them if they need it shows you’re prepared, organised and considerate.
  • Remember to take any other documents the employer may have asked for, such as photo-ID or certificates and know your National Insurance Number.

At the interview

Be aware of your body language

  • What you say and how confidently you say it is important at any interview, but this could be lost if your body language is contradicting.
  • A few deep breaths before you go in will calm your nerves and heart rate.
  • Make eye contact, smile and sit upright.
  • You will assure the interviewer you are actively listening by using nods to acknowledge your understanding.
  • Watch out for bad body language, such as slouching, gazing into space or fidgeting.

Keep calm

  • It’s OK to bring or ask for a drink of water before the interview starts.
  • As the interview progresses, allow yourself time to think before answering every question. Taking a breath slows the pace of speech down and give you a moment to get your thoughts together. This might help you make your points clearly, and avoid garbling.
  • Use holding phrases to buy time to think. For example, saying ‘that’s a really interesting question, can I take a moment to think about it?’ can give you time to calm your thoughts and word your answer clearly.
  • Don’t be afraid to say that there may be some skills that you don’t have yet. If you explain you are keen to learn employers are often happy to train you.

 Ask questions

  • It’s OK to ask your interviewer to repeat or rephrase a question that you haven’t understood.
  • Have a question to ask the interviewer at the end. If you can’t think of any, suggestions include what day-to-day work will look like, what the opportunities are for training and development, or what the interviewer likes about working there.
  • It’s reasonable to ask when and how you should expect to hear the interviewer’s decision.

After the interview

Be politely patient 

  • You could have quite a long wait to hear from the employer. It will depend on how many interviewees they are seeing.
  • A brief and friendly email along the lines of ‘thanks for seeing me, I hope to hear from you soon’ the day after the interview is polite and confirms your interest. There is no need to follow it up with further emails.
  • Try to resist calling them until they have contacted you.

Accept a job offer promptly  

  • If you’re offered the job, send your acceptance in writing (an email is often fine). It’s usually OK to follow up by phone to discuss the practicalities of starting the job.

Ask for feedback  

  • If you’re not offered the job, ask for feedback.
  • Knowing what you could improve can help your job seeking. It could be that some work experience, online training or more interview practise could be the key to securing the next role.
  • Feedback can help your confidence too, if you find out what you did well and what the interviewers liked in your interview.

Find out more

If you want further help with interviews, LifeSkills, created with Barclays, has a module covering the purpose of job interviews and the process of preparing for one. Visit the LifeSkills (external website) to find out more.

There is a step-by-step guide to the interview process (external website) on the National Careers Service website.

Look up the services that are available through the National Careers Service (external website) (England), the Careers Wales (external website) (Wales), or the My World of Work (external website) (Scotland).