Top Ten Interview Tips
Whether it’s for your first job, dream university, internship or later career move, doing well in an interview is an important part of personal advancement. Just as some people are naturally gifted at sport, some people naturally interview well, but everyone can improve their skills through preparation and practice. No matter how talented a football player is, he or she wouldn’t perform well on the pitch without understanding the rules of the game and doing drills and exercises. Below are ten tips to help you understand what’s expected of you, and to perform your best under pressure:
Do your homework
The best way for an interviewer to see how excited you are about the opportunity is to be knowledgeable about the position you are interviewing for and the institution it’s with. This is also the time to think of specific questions you could ask your interviewer, which shows you have done your research and prepared thoughtfully.
Visualise the ideal candidate
Once you’ve researched the institution and position you will be interviewing for, build a profile of the ideal candidate. For Oxford admission interviews, this is likely a student with excellent academic results who has shown extraordinary commitment to a subject area or cause. How can you highlight your achievements and demonstrate your passion? Understanding what a successful candidate looks like can help you fit your skills and experience into a narrative that matches what the interviewer is looking for.
Build a compelling story
Storytelling is a powerful technique that helps interviewers remember your achievements and recount them to others. Rather than listing individual parts of your transcripts or CV, add colourful background details to engage the interviewer. Everyone loves an underdog, so try building your story around how you overcame obstacles to become a strong candidate for the position.
Practise with a friend
The old adage is right, practice does make perfect! Enlist a friend to help you refine your story and answer questions coherently. Each time you go through this process, you will likely find new ways of making your story better. Your friend can provide feedback on your performance, which can be used to improve your delivery.
Have a strategy for remaining calm
Interviews are a stressful time for most people, but remaining calm and poised is important for making a good impression. Common relaxation techniques, such as slowing your breath or visualising a tranquil place, can be used before you head into the interview. If there are specific things you know stress you out, be sure to think of ways to avoid them before you arrive.
First impressions matter. The best way to make a good first impression is to be appropriately dressed. If you are unsure about what to wear, it’s always better to err on the side of too formal.
Showing up late to interviews seriously hurts your chances of getting the position.
If you are a habitually tardy person, the best way to deal with lateness is to imagine the interview starts 15 minutes earlier than it does. Once you get there, you can use the extra time to practise your calming techniques and mentally rehearse your story. Rushing into an interview just in time is likely to make you more stressed and dishevelled when you arrive.
Remember to be personable
Likability is an important part of the interview process. If an interviewer gets along well with you, he or she will be much more likely to recommend you. The stress of interviewing can make many people nervous and awkward, but reminding yourself to smile, thinking up a few bits of small talk and asking the interviewer questions about his or her experiences are all great ways to improve your likeability. Studies have shown that people like others who seem similar to them, so finding interests you and your interviewer have in common can also help your chances.
Follow up with a thank you email
Although it may seem old-fashioned, sending a short e-mail to your interviewer thanking him or her for their time leaves a good impression. Adding a personal comment about something you talked about in the interview is also a nice touch.
Don’t get discouraged
Not every person can be offered every job or placement, and even the most qualified candidates experience rejection. The final and most important tip is not to be discouraged if an interview goes badly or you don’t get the place. Every interview you have can be a valuable learning experience if you can look back on it and think of ways you could improve next time. There are so many paths to success in life that one closed door will not determine your future; learning to handle rejection and how to search for new opportunities are crucial skills for long-term success.