Ideal interview: Why preparation is indispensable

Manners, and a few minutes of peace and quiet, will go a long way

If life boils down to a few decisive moments, a job interview is surely one of them. Arguably, your time, money, health, social status and happiness can all be determined in part by the work you do. So when going for the job of a lifetime, how can you give yourself the best chance of success?

As chairman of Reed, at any one time, I have access to thousands of organisations that are looking for staff – from recruiters, to direct employers and charities. I’ve used these connections to compile a list of 101 questions that are being asked by real employers. I then asked Reed interview consultants for their input on how to answer these questions.
Of course, great interview technique isn’t just about being able to answer difficult questions brilliantly. It’s also the art of being yourself while doing so. In reality, and especially when under pressure, it’s often remarkably difficult to achieve this.
One of the most important things to do is remove stress-inducers and mishaps that can stop you from showcasing what you have to offer.
That means preparation is vital, and the old adage “fail to prepare, prepare to fail” really does have relevance when seeking new jobs. The key is to go back to basics and revisit the rules that can help you ease those interview nerves and maximise your chances of success. Here’s how to do that.
Standard preparation
With the pressure of preparing what you’ll say in the interview, it’s easy to forget logistics. Pack your basic job interview toolkit a day or two beforehand, not hours before.
In it, include your CV, references, and the job description, as well as the name, location and contact telephone numbers of the people you will be meeting. And it sounds obvious, but it’s vital to get a good night’s sleep before your interview. The day before, set aside some time to relax or exercise. And don’t drink too much coffee!
Etiquette
You need to be punctual, but not too early. From the moment you enter the building, act in a professional manner and be very polite to everyone. Again, it’s straightforward advice, but important: switch off your mobile phone. Not only will a ringing or vibrating phone distract you, it’s a no-no for most interviewers.
More zen
It is simply not worth trying to read through preparation notes just before you go into the interview room. Instead, use those few minutes to gather your thoughts. Sit quietly, and try to be as calm as possible so that you’re focused on the current situation, rather than trying to work to a script.
Be confident
Several surveys have shown that 33 per cent of bosses will know within 90 seconds if they are going to hire you. So even if you feel nervous, walk into the room with confidence. Offer a firm handshake and make eye contact. Where possible, use the interviewers name, and always flash a smile.
James Reed is chairman of Reed and author of Why You? 101 Interview Questions You'll Never Fear Again, published by Portfolio Penguin. He’s speaking at Business for Bohemians at the Idler Academy on 26 March.

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