On nailing the interview

Some of the best people I've had the pleasure of hiring have often performed quite poorly in the interview. I want to share some simple but effective advice from the other side of the table having conducted hundreds of interviews over the past ten years to ensure you nail the interview.

Do your research

Your first stop is to head over to the company's website and do some digging. Check out their 'About Us' page, but also check out their careers page. What other roles are they hiring for? Are the job descriptions similar? Is there a consistent tone or message across their job ads? Are there other vacancies that potentially affect the role you are interviewing for? If so, ask about them during the interview. This is one of the most obvious ways to show you've put effort into learning about the business and never fails to impress.

LinkedIn is your next stop. Look up the company, read some of their recent posts and then take a look at their employees. How many people work there? Do they employ anyone you recognise? Are you connected to any of their existing team? Would your connections be in a position to give you some insights into the company and culture prior to your interview?

For all its faults, LinkedIn really is a useful resource for additional context. Look up the people who will be interviewing you. Get a feel for their background. Check out their twitter profile (if they have one) and get a feel for their tone, their attitude, etc.

Next is good old fashioned internet searching. Check out any recent news on the company. Maybe they've recently raised a round of funding. Maybe they were recently involved in a scandal. This is all important context to consider before your interview.

Finally, pop over to Glassdoor. Most companies (with the exception of a lot of early stage startups) have a profile on Glassdoor. Here you can read reviews by existing and former employees and get a wonderful insight into the culture and working environment. Look for consistencies in the Pros and Cons in each review. Keep an eye on the date reviews were posted. If, for example, you find a lot of positive reviews posted within a short time period following a negative review, you can be almost certain the HR team are trying to bury the negative review.

Preparation is everything

There's a wealth of resources online to help you prepare for interview questions and tasks. We've written a short post to help you get started but there are other resources that you might also find useful.

  1. Interviewing.io - Created by Aline Lerner, a former developer and phenomenal recruiter, there really is no other platform that can better prepare you for technical interviews.
  2. Questions Tool - Buried in the depths of an academic job board is a free resource with a huge variety of common interview questions. They also provide tips to help you answer each question.
  3. Glassdoor Interview Questions - Based on an enormous amount of data, Glassdoor have collated an extensive list of the most common interview questions.

Avoid preparing scripted answers to these questions. Even if you're a wonderful actor, it will be clear that you are giving a scripted answer. Instead, consider why they are asking these questions. What are they hoping to learn from you based on your answer to these questions?

The questions I find most people struggle with are ones where they are asked to provide real life examples where they dealt with confrontation or had to overcome a significant challenge. It's easy to speak in hypotheticals but being asked to talk about something that you directly experienced is an altogether trickier task. Have a think about a bunch of relevant scenarios so that they are fresh in your mind going into an interview.

Make sure to read their job description on Honest Work in detail. Every vacancy on our board is required to provide information on what the interview process involves. This helps to give you an idea of what lies ahead before you even apply for the job.

Hygiene & Timing

Before you leave for an interview, have a shower. Seriously. Often you'll be spending at least an hour in a small space with a number of people and even a slight hint of body odour will be noticed. Equally, go easy on the aftershave/perfume.

Always dress appropriately. If in doubt, dress a little bit smarter than you think you need to. Overdressed is always safer than underdressed.

Plan your route and allow more time than you think you'll need in order to get there. The ideal scenario is to arrive in the area at least 30 minutes before the interview is due to start, identify where the office is, then find a local coffee shop and try and relax a little before walking in.

The ideal time to arrive for an interview is ten minutes before the interview is due to start.

Arriving too early can be frustrating for the interviewer as typically they will already be balancing a busy schedule. Arriving late is one of the worst things you can do as you are already starting the interview on the back foot. If you think you are going to be late, contact the person who organised the interview immediately. Don't make excuses, simply tell them the truth and give an accurate estimate as to what time you expect to arrive.

Breathing & Notes

You will almost always be offered a drink when you turn up. Accept this offer. Always ask for a glass of water. I don't care if you're thirsty or not. When you're sitting in an air conditioned room and are talking consistently for a couple of hours, your mouth will go dry and your glass of water becomes your new best friend.

Don't forget to breathe. Take your time when answering questions. If your nerves are kicking in, take a slow, deep breath. Interviews are hard. Everyone knows this. Slow down and just breathe.

An interviewee taking notes during an interview is a contentious point. Personally, I think it's a really positive sign but it's also easy for it to become a distraction. First and foremost, ask the interviewer if they mind if you take notes. Secondly, don't pull an iMac out of your bag and ask for the wifi password. Use a good old fashioned notepad and pen (make sure the pen works before you turn up). When taking notes, make it brief. Don't attempt to document every single word said and don't forget to make eye contact! If you are taking notes, it can be all too easy to forget to actually look up!

Do you have any questions for us?

Almost every interview ends with this question. Prepare for it.
Have an extensive list of questions prepared in advance. More questions than you'll ever get time to ask. Better yet, write them down or print them off.

The reason I suggest having an actual physical list prepared is because a good interviewer will answer most of your questions during the interview without you even needing to ask and you don't want to be caught off guard trying to think of new questions on the spot.

Again, with a physical list, it shows a fantastic level of consideration and preparedness.

All done. Now breathe.

The interview is over and you've survived! If they haven't already, politely ask the interviewers if they have time to briefly show you around the office. Getting a feel for the environment and atmosphere will be crucial when it comes to making a decision about working there.

Unfortunately, most companies are reluctant (or too lazy) to provide feedback after an interview. Often you will simply receive a curt "unfortunately you were not successful on this occasion" email and it's also not uncommon (unfortunately) to not receive any update as to whether or not you were successful.

Before you leave, ask for an approximate timeline of when you can expect to hear back. Make a note of said timeline and don't be afraid to reach out via email when that timeline expires to ask if they have any feedback on how the interview went.

If you end up in a position where a company turns you down for whatever reason, don't lose hope but also don't burn bridges. Thank them for giving you the opportunity to meet with them and wish them luck with whoever they ultimately chose to hire. People move jobs a lot and you could easily encounter these people again at another company a few years down the line.

Now that you're all set, pop over to Honest Work and check out some of the Interview Processes listed on each job description!

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