After designing the most awesome CV, crafting that brilliant cover letter, you just got notified: they would like to invite you for a job interview. Well done! However, being invited for a job interview is only half the success. The bigger part of the battle is still ahead.
What to wear for the occasion? How to act professionally? What kind of questions to ask at the end? Your palms are probably already sweating, just thinking about all the tiny details to pay attention to. When it comes to the final selection of dozens of equally qualified candidates, these tiny details – like the tone of your voice or your answers to behavioural questions – can actually make a difference. Don’t panic, read on instead: we collected the solutions to your most pressing issues of the job interview.
#1: How to dress for an interview?
In every case, your preparation for an interview should start with an in-depth research about the company. The best way to figure out the dress code for an interview is to understand the company’s culture. So, instead of googling this season’s fashion trends, just visit the company’s website. Check out the language they use, and how they communicate. Is it formal or informal? Look at how the people in the pictures are dressed. Are there any employee testimonies in the career section? Check out how they are worded. All this will give you a good feeling about what kind of style they prefer.
First impressions matter, so make sure to dress appropriately! As a rule of thumb, it is always better to be a bit overdressed, than the other way around. If you need some more inspiration, dive into our detailed interview outfit guide.
If you go international and apply for positions abroad, chances are that you will be invited to an interview in a country where you are not accustomed to the local norms. Still no worries, here are sneak peeks at how to succeed in a typical Belgian, Dutch, French or Scandinavian interview.
#2: How to prepare for interview questions in advance?
Your future employer will assume that you arrive prepared and rehearsed at the job interview. And you should be prepared indeed, as there are some common interview questions that can be easily practised in advance.
“Why did you apply for this specific job? What are your weaknesses?” It’s always a good idea to jot down a couple of thoughts on those questions beforehand. Even though you won’t be able to use the notes in an actual interview, writing something down actually makes it easier to remember the most important bits. So, when the “Tell me about yourself”-part kicks in, you know exactly what you need to say.
When answering these common questions, avoid reciting your CV because the hiring manager already knows that. The main question behind every job interview is not if your skills match the position (that’s already been established by the time you get invited to the interview), but why you are a better match than any other candidate. Therefore, it is key to keeping your answers brief and highlight your two or three most outstanding qualities – always illustrated by concrete examples from your study or working background. If you want to put together your answers beforehand, check out our cheat sheet on how to answer common interview questions.
#3: How to react when you get unexpected questions?
We have some bad news. In order to really get to know you as a candidate, some crafty hiring managers will ask you unusual questions to catch a glimpse of your real personality that shines through in unforeseen situations.
Even though these surprising questions often do not have a right or wrong answer, the way that you handle these questions can be a deciding factor for the interviewer. Try to think with the mind of the employer here, and always remember, that the aim of these abstract questions is to get to know you better as a person. If you feel like preparing for the unexpected, see our selection of possible answers to the weirdest interview questions.
#4: What the heck is a behavioural question and how can you master it?
Just like the abstract questions, behavioural questions are also aimed at uncovering your personality during an interview. The main difference between a standard interview question and a behavioural one is in the way you should answer them. While a common interview question like “What are your biggest strengths?” can be answered by using simple adjectives, a behavioural question like “Tell us about one of your recent successes” needs to be answered in a storytelling, descriptive way.
Behavioural interview questions usually start with phrases like “Tell us about when/how/in what way” or “Describe a situation”. You are expected to give an elaborate answer to these questions so that the interviewer can investigate your leadership and problem-solving skills, or how you handling conflict.
To provide the perfect answer for these behavioural questions, there is an easy method to use, known as the STAR method. Read more about this method in our guide for behavioural interview questions.
#5: How can your body language help you to make a better impression?
In a recent survey, Graduateland has asked 73 hiring managers from different companies about the most important traits they look for when interviewing candidates. Results have shown that the most decisive factor in an interview is the applicant’s personality, cognitive skills and self-confidence.
Talking about coming across as self-confident, did you know that 93% of our communication is nonverbal? It means that it’s not only about what to say, it is how you say it. This is distressing. The body language you use in interviews might turn out to be the decisive factor for securing your dream job.
However, when you are talking about your average language skills or moderate work experience, the tone of your voice, your handling of eye-contact, or the micro expressions on your face not always reflect the verbal message that you are trying to say. Fortunately, these body language mistakes can easily be corrected.
Before the actual interview, it is a good idea to think about situations you are familiar with and topics you are confident speaking about. You will most likely see that your body language is in sync with what you are saying. If you find it hard to picture yourself, then examine one of your friend’s body language as an example.
If you are still wondering about questions like how the perfect handshake should feel like or how much eye contact is desirable, see our thorough body language tips for a successful interview.
#6: What if you’re having a phone or Skype interview?
Long distance interviews are not easy to approach. At first, you won’t probably know when it is most appropriate to speak and what tone to use, where to look and how to use your hands. However, from the employers’ perspective, these video interviews are becoming increasingly popular as a pre-step to assess a candidate’s way of handling themselves and their manners before inviting them to a face-to-face interview.
As a bottom line, you should prepare for a long distance interview as you would for a regular interview, but sure there is a certain etiquette that you need to be aware of when turning your speakers on. You can get to know the do’s and don’ts of phone and Skype interviews in our step-by-step article. Until then, here are the basics:
- Keep resume and notepad close to you. A cheat sheet with answers to the most common questions can come in handy if you tend to become nervous and lose your train of thought.
- Make sure that the background behind you is clean and organised, the more neutral it is the better.
- Listen carefully to the interviewer and don’t interrupt. If you have something you want to say, write it down on your notepad and mention it when it's your turn to talk.
- If you need a few seconds to gather your thoughts, don't worry, but don't leave too much dead air. Keep a glass of water close to you in case your throat feels dry.
#7: What are you supposed to ask the end of the interview?
It is always a good idea to ask questions at the end of the interview as it shows that you are interested, and gives you valuable information about the company. When it is your turn to ask, you need to be critical and smart in the way you approach your interviewer about the company. It is therefore always a good idea to have 2-3 questions ready up your sleeve. These are some of our suggestions:
- How would you describe the work culture at the office?
- What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
- What do you like most about working for this company?
If you could use more inspiration, visit our article where we collected 10 professional question examples to ask at the end of the job interview.
#8: To call or not to call? Follow-up after the interview
After you get home from the interview, send a personal thank you e-mail to everyone that interviewed you. If you did not receive a business card from your interviewer or do not have their email address from earlier, contact HR and ask for them.
Your follow-up should always include a thank you note for taking the time to interview you, as well as a reminder of why you believe you are the best fit for the position. Make a reference to something the person said during the interview and emphasise how it has improved even more the positive image you had of the company.
Good luck out there!