Over the past 22 years, we have helped over 14,000 great people to find their dream job. We’ve learned a lot about what employers are looking for when they interview candidates.

Here are our 22 top tips to help you make the best impression at your next interview.

1. Research the company and industry

Knowledge of the company and industry will impress an interviewer.  It will also provide you with information to prepare one or two insightful questions beyond what the pay rate is. Showing genuine interest makes a real difference.

2. Prepare for common interview questions.

Every “how to interview” book has a list of a hundred or more “common interview questions”.  So how do you prepare – even for the dreaded “Where do you see yourself in 5 years” Think about which questions you’re most likely to encounter given your background and the job you are applying for.  Then prepare your answers so you won’t have to fumble for them during the actual interview.

3. Anticipate the interviewer’s concerns and reservations.

There are always more candidates for jobs than there are positions available.  Interviewers look for ways to screen people out that don’t immediately match their expectations.  Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself why they might not want to recruit you (“I don’t have this,” “I’m not that,” etc.).  Then prepare your response: “I know you may be thinking that I might not be the best fit for this position because [their reservation]. But you should know that [reason the interviewer shouldn’t be overly concerned].”

4. Clarify your “selling points” and the reasons you want the job.

Prepare to go into every interview with four or five key selling points in mind, such as what makes you the best person for the position.  Have an example of each selling point and be prepared to tell the interviewer why you want that job, including what interests you about it and what abilities it requires that you possess.  If an interviewer doesn’t think you’re really interested in the job, they won’t give you an offer.

5. Prepare questions for the interviewer.

Go to the interview with some intelligent and insightful questions for the interviewer that demonstrate your knowledge of the company.  Interviewers always ask if you have any questions, and no matter what, you should have one or two ready.

6. Practice out loud.

It’s one thing to come prepared with a mental answer to a question like, “Why should we hire you?” It’s another thing to say it out loud in a confident and convincing way.  The first time you try it, you’ll sound garbled and confused, no matter how clear your thoughts are in your own mind!  Like the best presenters – do it another 10 times, and you’ll sound a lot smoother and more articulate.

7. Be on time!

It should go without saying, but it is never acceptable to be late to an interview.  This is such a common standard that some employers will refuse to interview a candidate if they are late. Sadly, some candidates still fail to realise that there is a basic requirement to be on time.

8. Make the right impression in the first five minutes.

Some studies indicate that interviewers make up their minds about candidates in the first five minutes of the interview – and then spend the rest of the interview looking for things to confirm that decision.  So what can you do in those five minutes?  Go in with energy and enthusiasm, and express your appreciation for the interviewer’s time.  Remember they may be seeing a lot of other candidates that day and some will have sapped their energy.  Be the one to brighten up their day!

9. Be assertive and take responsibility for the interview.

Perhaps out of an effort to be polite, some usually assertive candidates become overly reserved during job interviews.  Being polite doesn’t mean you have to be reserved or passive. An interview is like any other conversation – it’s a dance in which you and a partner move together, both responding to the other.  Don’t make the mistake of just sitting there waiting for the interviewer to ask you about how impressive you are.  It’s your responsibility to make sure they walk away knowing your key selling points.

10. Make your selling points clear.

Don’t bury your selling points in long-winded stories.  Instead, tell the interviewer what your selling point is first, then give an example.

11. Be on the same side as the interviewer.

Some interviewers see job interviews as adversarial.  Your job is to transform a potential “tug of war” into a relationship in which you’re both on the same side.  Look at things from their point of view and make it clear you understand how important it is that they find the right person.

12. Think and behave positively.

No one likes a whinger, so don’t dwell on negative experiences during an interview.  Even if the interviewer asks you point blank, “What did you like least about that previous job?” don’t answer the question as it’s been asked.  Instead, say something like “I liked my previous job quite a bit, although now I know that I really want to make a career change”

13. End on a positive note.

Let the interviewer know that you’d really, really like the job, that you were excited about it before the interview, that you are even more enthusiastic now and that you’re convinced you’d like to work there.  If there are two equally good candidates at the end of the search – you and someone else – the interviewer will think you’re more likely to accept the offer, and thus may be more inclined to make an offer to you.

14. Take a copy of your CV to every interview.

Have a copy of your CV with you when you go to every interview.  If the interviewer has misplaced their copy, you’ll save a lot of time (and embarrassment on the interviewer’s part) if you can just pull your extra copy out and hand it over.

15. Make the most of the “Tell me about yourself” question.

Many interviewers begin interviews with this question. So how should you respond?

As well as an ice breaker, this question is a way for the interviewer to gain some insight into your personality.  They also want to determine your fit for the job and the organisation.  The interviewer doesn’t want to know everything about you – your answer needs to be a careful balance between declaring too much and making them wonder why you aren’t being more open with your answer.  The interviewer wants to know that you have the sort of well-rounded personality and outlook that will fit well with their culture.  Your research should, of course, include finding out about the culture of the organisation that you are hoping to join.

16. Don’t worry about sounding over-rehearsed.

Some people are concerned that if they rehearse their answers, they’ll sound overly polished or glib during the interview.  Don’t worry. If you’re well prepared, you’ll sound smooth and articulate, not “canned”.

17. Speak the right body language.

Dress appropriately, make eye contact, give a firm handshake, have good posture, speak clearly and be well groomed.

18. Be ready for “competence-based” interviews”.

One of the most common interview styles today is to ask people to describe experiences they have had that demonstrate behaviours and competencies that the company thinks are important for a particular position. You might be asked to talk about a time when you made an unpopular decision, displayed a high level of persistence, or made a decision under time pressure and with limited information, for example.

Step one is to anticipate the behaviours the recruitment manager is likely to be looking for.

Step two is to identify at least one example of when you demonstrated each behaviour.

Step three is to prepare a story for each example.

19. Send thank-you notes.

Write a thank-you note after every interview. Type each note on paper or send them by email, depending on the interviewers’ preferences. Customize your notes by referring specifically to what you and the interviewer discussed. Handwritten notes might be better if you’re thanking a personal contact for helping you in your job search.  Whatever method you choose, notes should be sent within 48 hours of the interview.

To write a good thank-you note, take time after each interview to jot down a few things about what the interviewer said.

20. Don’t give up!

If you’ve had a bad interview for a job that you truly think would be a great fit for you don’t give up! Maintaining a high level of motivation throughout your job search will mean the difference between securing a job sooner rather than later.  Staying positive and motivated are the best qualities to keep you going and it will be worth it once you come to start your first day in your new job!

21. What do employers really want?

We’ve spent time with recruiting managers, HR directors, CEO’s and business owners.  We’ve recruited for short term temporary contracts, part time admin roles to senior management position. When it comes to the people organisations want to hire, the story tends to be the same.  All employers want the same things.  They all want the ‘best’ candidates to apply, they all want to attract ‘great’ people.  Good people shouldn’t be hard to find but you might be surprised how rare it is for candidates to see things from the employers point of view.

Check out this blog to remind yourself about seeing things from your potential employers point of view.

22. Make sure you keep the First Base interview checklist to hand!

If you’d like to know more about how the team at First Base can help you with your next career move call 01453 755330 or email tricia.hay@first-base.co.uk