Job interview tips: Your complete guide to succeeding in interviews
There’s no doubt about it – interviews are scary. But there’s no getting away from them so instead, you should see them as an opportunity to sell yourself and prove why you are the perfect candidate for the job.
We’ve put together some job interview tips for you – including tips, job interview questions, what you should ask, and what to wear. And remember, the more you practice and prepare, the easier it'll be.
What are interviewers looking for?
Not only do employers want to know that you can do the job – this is where you need to expand on your CV and give real-life examples of how you’ve applied your knowledge and skills – they are also looking at things like:
- Do you have the key skills needed to do the job?
- Body language – your body language gives away a lot more than you might think. So sit up straight (don’t slouch!), smile and make eye contact.
- What kind of person are you? Are you friendly and approachable?
- Will you be a good team fit? Do you suit the company’s values?
- Do you really want the job? Do you have a genuine interest in the organisation? Did you take the time to learn about the company?
- Will your skills and knowledge help solve their problems?
- Can you bring new skills or ideas to the job?
- Are you flexible/adaptable?
- Will you be a self-starter or will you need constant supervision?
- Will you respect management?
Typical job interview questions
Tell me a bit about yourself?Every experience is different, but many employers will ask you the same kind of job interview questions and use similar interview techniques. Here are the most common interview questions:
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- Tell me about a challenge you’ve faced and how you dealt with it.
- What motivates you?
- How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations?
- Give an example of when you’ve worked in a team to achieve something.
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- Do you have any questions for us?
It’s a really good idea to practice your answers to these questions in advance so that you’re not panicking on the day. Don’t fall into the trap of memorising a pre-prepared speech because it’s important that your answer sounds natural, but having some idea of how you’ll respond will help you feel more confident. Although preparing for a job interview is essential, you need to strike a balance between knowing your content and sounding natural.
Unusual job interview questions
Some more unusual interview questions that people claim to have been asked over the years include:
- If you were an animal what would you be?
- How many tennis balls can you fit inside a limousine?
- How many petrol stations are there inside the M25?
- Who would win a fight between Spiderman and Batman?
- How would you get an elephant into a fridge?
Don’t fret too much about whether you’ll get asked an oddball interview question. Interviewers are not necessarily expecting an exact answer – there will be lots of possible responses and they just want to see how you react.
Take your time in answering the question and don’t panic. Think about how you could use one of your skills (like problem solving) to answer it and embrace the question even though it sounds strange to you.
Remember, there is no right answer to these questions.
'Preparation is everything when it comes to job interviews.'
Questions to ask during an interview
Asking questions shows an employer that you care about your career and that you’re genuinely interested in the job.It’s pretty likely that you’ll be asked if you have any questions yourself at the end of the interview and it’s really important to have some prepared.
Use this as an opportunity to find out some more about the role and the company culture, which will help you to decide if it’s the right place for you.
If you’re stumped about what to ask, here are some popular questions to inspire you:
- Why has the job become available?
- Where does the role fit into the overall team structure?
- What are you looking for in a candidate?
- What’s the working environment like?
- What training/development opportunities are available?
- How is performance measured and reviewed?
- When can I expect to hear from you?
While it might be tempting to start talking money, this isn’t really the time for it – unless you are actually asked what your expectations are. It’s better to save any talk of salary until you’ve been offered the job.
Job interview tips
First off, take some job interview tips from Linda Spencer – she should know, she's a careers adviser at Harvard University. Plus, she's very friendly:
Now, here's a round up of our top job interview tips:
Do your homework
One of the best job interview tips there is! Read up on the company so you can answer any questions they may ask you about them confidently. Have a look at their website and social media sites, and do an online search to see if there’s been any recent news about them.
Practice makes perfect
It really is true – if you practice your answers to some of the typical job interview questions above, you’ll be prepared for them on the day. So get in front of that mirror and get interviewing yourself!
Plan your outfit in advance
Make sure you’re dressed to impress. Read our article on what to wear for interviews for some advice on making a good first impression.
Arrive on time
Think about how you’ll get to the interview and allow plenty of time in case there’s traffic/public transport problems. It’s also a good idea to have a back up route planned so you’re not panicking on the day if it all goes wrong.
Smile – and breathe!
You may be freaking out on the inside but it’s really important to take a few deep breaths and stay calm. It’s perfectly natural to be nervous but the interviewer will want to see how you handle your nerves.
Make sure you smile and make eye contact – and a firm handshake won’t go amiss either. Good luck!
This infographic from Visually shows you some crucial job interview tips for your next interview – and that includes what not to do as well (just right click and select "Open image in new tab" to see it full size). If you'd like to know more, have a read of our very own job interview dos and don'ts page. Oh, and keep scrolling for tips on telephone interviews.
Telephone job interview tips
If you have a telephone interview, you have the added bonus of being able to have some notes to hand without the employer knowing!
But remember, it’s really important that your responses sound natural and that they answer the question being asked, so avoid preparing full responses in advance and reading them like a script.
Instead, just jot down some notes or bullet points around these topics that you can refer to:
- Your skills (including some real life examples of how you’ve applied them).
- Your strengths.
- A weakness (and think of how you turned this into a positive).
- An example of when you worked as a team - it could be a previous job, a project at school, a sports team or an after-school club.
- Some background info about the company.
- Any questions you want to ask.
Another good technique is to have your CV and cover letter (or application form) to hand, as well as a glass of water in case your throat becomes dry – you don’t want to squeak!
Make sure that you’re in a quiet place for your telephone interview where you know that there’s good phone reception. Speak slowly and clearly, being as concise as you can when you answer and avoiding too many “umms” and “likes” while you’re thinking.
For more telephone job interview tips and sample questions, visit our careers advice section.