How to succeed in a job interview... online or in-person!
|Date:||13 June 2021|
Looking for a job or internship but are you a bit intimidated by the interview process? It’s always exciting when you’ve found a vacancy that just looks like the perfect fit for you. Afraid you’ll be sitting across from an employer with sweaty hands and a shaky voice? Nope, not with these tips! Preparation is key, and while nerves are totally natural, there’s absolutely no reason to be afraid of job interviews. It’s all about knowing what you have to offer, how to pitch yourself and being confident that it’ll all work out no matter what. And hey, fake it till you make it. If you fake confidence, you’ll gradually start feeling confident.
I’ve applied to my fair share of jobs, internships, student assistant positions and other opportunities within and outside the university. Most of these applications involved an interview, either online (hello pandemic times) or in-person (in the good ol’ pre-pandemic era). When I really want something, I tend to get nervous about it. I’m talking about shaky hands, stomach aches, all that fun stuff. In the past years, however, I have learned to control those things enough to manage to go through job interviews and make the most of them. To help you succeed in your next interview, I’ll share some of my tips in this blog. I’ve divided them per step: your preparation, the interview itself and your steps after the interview.
Your pre-interview preparation
Light, camera, action!
Even now that some of the coronavirus measures are being lifted, it might be that your upcoming job interview will still take place online. If that’s the case, there are some technical things you need to think about. Is there enough natural light where you’ll be sitting? If not, pick a different room or even just a different spot in your room. Sit facing the window if possible, that will ensure the best lighting. Consider what’s visible in the frame. That pile of clothes on the floor? Yeah, it’s better if that’s not visible during an interview (or class for that matter). Make sure your background is calm, rather than distracting or too colourful. That way, the employer will be able to focus on you and the conversation. Sit at your desk, in front of a blank wall or even in front of your book case, for a more professional setting.
Do you have a laptop? To avoid unflattering angles (hey chin), put your laptop on a stack of books or a box if you have one so that the webcam is at eye level. That will resemble a more natural conversation. Also make sure to test your webcam ahead of time, to avoid any technical difficulties during the interview.
What to wear?
The most important thing to consider when choosing what to wear is that you should feel good and look professional. I always think it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed when you’re not sure what’s expected of you. A good way to figure out what to wear is considering the field you’ll be working in. Is it a law firm where people come to work in suits and dresses each day? Don’t pick something too casual, as that might make it seem like you don’t really take the job seriously. In terms of colour, think of which colours suit you. This is something that differs per person. While I (a very pale human) wouldn’t wear bright colours, maybe those do look good on you. Just make sure not to make your whole outfit too bright, that might be a bit distracting. I’d say colours like navy blue, burgundy and dark grey usually look pretty professional and calm, which is exactly how you’d want to come across in an interview. Maybe add an accessory or two, like a watch or earrings, but don’t overdo it. Yes, looking professional is important, but it’s an interview and not a fashion show (unless you’re applying for a modeling job, I guess!).
Watch your (body) language
When it comes to bringing across a message, there’s more than just your words. Of course, it goes without saying (pun intended) that you should be polite and respectful at all times. However, your body language and expressions also play a big part in how you communicate and how you come across.
First of all, make sure you have a good chair so you can sit up straight. Posture can make all the difference between you looking nervous and closed-off or confident and open (shoulders back, eye contact, smile).
As for your actual language, it’s important to strike the right balance between formality and informality. Just be polite, and you’ll quickly feel the dynamic of the conversation. Don’t overthink this, and see the interview as what it is: a conversation to get to know each other.
Nervous? Could you use some extra help?
Did you find your dream job and are you ready to apply? I highly recommend using the UG’s Career Services to make sure you’re as prepared as possible and ready to get that job. Career Sevices offers CV, cover letter and LinkedIn checks, but did you know that they also offer mock interviews? When you sign up for a free mock interview, you’ll be asked to provide your CV and cover letter as well as the vacancy for the job. That way, one of the students working in the Career Services team will be able to prepare questions for you that will resemble the real interview. Doing such a mock interview is really useful, as it allows you to have a practice run before your real interview. The stakes are lower, so it’s not (as) stressful, but you’ll learn from it and get helpful feedback to help you improve. After a mock interview, you’ll feel more prepared and know exactly what you still need to work on.
The interview itself
Why are you the best candidate for the job? Be prepared to sell yourself confidently. In some fields, competition for jobs can be fierce, and standing out from the crowd is the only way to make a lasting impression on employers. If you’re struggling with your pitch, ask friends and family how they see you. What do they consider to be your strengths and weaknesses? Maybe the words they use to describe you can help you describe yourself better. Many people are afraid of coming across as arrogant, but it’s important to realise that it’s ok to be confident. Actually, not ok, essential. If you don’t believe in yourself, why would the interviewer who doesn’t know you yet? Try writing a list: strengths, weaknesses, achievements, career goals. Obviously, you won’t have the list with you during the interview, but writing these things down will force you to make them more concrete. You can then go through your list and select the 3-4 you think are the most important to you. Keeping those in mind will help you with your pitch once you're in the interview.
Instead of simply saying that you’re proactive or a team player, have specific examples ready. Highlighting how you handle particular situations or what some of your achievements were in your previous job, can give the employer a better idea of who you are and how you work. It will also help you get rid of your nerves if you’re ready to give examples. Trust me, having to come up with examples on the spot is not very fun.
Show them you know them
Please, please, do your research about the organisation you are applying for. Read about their mission and vision, have a look at their website and social media channels. Have they been working on a big project recently? Have they been in the news? Personally, I think knowing as much as possible is part of being prepared and serious about a job. Doing your research will also allow you to ask better questions and understand what type of candidate the organisation is looking for.
It’s your interview, too
Sure, the job interview gives the employer the chance to find the perfect candidate for the job, but it’s also an opportunity for you to ask questions and get to know the company better. What does a workday look like? What expectations are there and what are some of the opportunities that come with this job? This is your chance to find out more about the position and make up your mind about whether or not this job really suits you.
After the interview
If the employer doesn’t mention it (although they usually do), ask when you can expect to hear from them after the interview. Will they contact you regardless of whether you’re hired or not, or will they only contact those who have been selected for the next round of interviews? Knowing this will take away some of the stress of waiting for a response. It will also allow you to know when and how to be available, should the employer want to reach out to you. Will they call you or contact you via email? Make sure you’re ready to answer some follow up questions in the days after the interview. Sometimes employers want to chat with you again to get some more information, and it would be a shame if you miss these calls or emails.
Congratulations! Looks like you managed to dazzle your new employer and stand out. What are your next steps? Check with your new employer which personal information you need to provide for them to be able to draw up your contract. And hey, good luck! You’re about to embark on an exciting new career step.
Trust me, we’ve all been there. The job search can be quite challenging, especially if you’re in a competitive field. Don’t be discouraged by rejections. Not getting hired does not mean that you have wasted your time. Each time you apply for a job and get an interview, you learn to finetune your interview skills. This helps you improve your pitch, feel more confident and come across better. It prepares you for landing a great job, even if it takes a little bit longer than expected. It’s important to remember that rejection is not personal, it simply means that someone else was a better fit for the organisation and you might just be a better fit for a different one.
Hopefully, these tips will help you feel more prepared for your next job interview. If you’re looking for more tips to help you with your job search, check out our blogs about writing a great CV, using LinkedIn to expand your network and finding an internship. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!
Do you also have some job interview tips and tricks? Do you have that one thing that always works? Share them in the comments below to help your fellow students!