Even with days of preparation and practice, interviews can turn the most confident candidates into bundles of nerves. What should you wear? Where exactly is the office based? What and who exactly should you be researching? There’s a lot to think about, and that’s before you even get to the interview itself.

Being a great interviewee isn’t just about saying all the right things – your overall impression will also depend on your punctuality, confidence, body language, personality and appearance. To make things that little bit easier, and help you to tick all the right boxes, we put together a list of some of the main interview dos and don’ts.

Don’t act unprofessionally

From the moment you leave your home until you are back again, behave as though everyone you encounter could impact on your interview success. Think carefully about the image you are portraying when you speak with the receptionist, any employees and even the interviewer on your way out. Being too informal, chummy or rude could negatively impact on the impression you make.

Do your research

This is a fairly obvious one but it’s staggering how many people still believe they can wing it at their interview. Failing to prepare really is preparing to fail! Spend a lot of time researching the company, thinking about why you would be a perfect fit and making sure you are aware of any recent news stories. Mentioning that you really liked a recent social media post or charity initiative shows that you aren’t just interested in yourself and what you can gain from the job.

Don’t dress inappropriately

An interviewer will make an initial impression of you in the first few seconds largely based on how you look and what you’re wearing – sometimes unfair but usually true. Always err on the side of caution and choose an outfit that is slightly more formal that you think is appropriate. It’s better to be overdressed than to appear too casual – the interviewers may assume you have a similarly slack attitude to your workload. Make sure your outfit is cleaned and ironed the night before to ensure you don’t have a last-minute wardrobe crisis.

Do use examples

Demonstrate your proficiency and credibility by backing up every claim you make with a concrete example. Anyone can say that they have great communication, organisational or time-keeping skills – and most candidates do. Using an example unique to you will give you that edge and make you much more memorable. Before the interview examine the job spec carefully and consider which examples are most relevant to the role.

Don’t speak without thinking

If you’re asked a tricky question that throws you for a second, resist the temptation to panic and blurt out whatever pops into your head first. There’s nothing wrong with a little silence – it shows you are taking time to fully comprehend the question and plan your thoughts carefully. You might even want to say “I’ll need to think about that one for a moment” to buy yourself some extra time. If you really don’t understand the question, ask the interviewer to repeat or rephrase it. It could be that they are using company-specific jargon or not being very articulate themselves.

Do talk yourself up

One of the most common reasons people don’t get offered a job is because they come across as too negative, either when discussing a past employer or themselves. If you complain about your boss, colleagues or workload, the interviewer is naturally going to wonder if you’ll be saying the same thing about them in a few months. So instead of saying “it was an awful work environment and I hated my boss”, try “the work environment was challenging with some strong personalities but I learned a lot that would definitely help me in this role”. Self-deprecation is a typically Irish trait but also speak with optimism about your own achievements – no one will believe in you if you don’t believe in yourself!

Do prepare questions of your own

Many interviewees are stumped by “Do you have any questions for me?” – yet this question is nearly always asked and gives you the opportunity to demonstrate your sincere interest in the position and find out more about what the company is actually like. No matter how curious you are, refrain from asking about salary, benefits and annual leave – you will just come across as money-hungry and disinterested in the actual role. Instead enquire about the office culture, team structure, evaluation processes and professional development opportunities.

Don’t panic

Whether you’re being interviewed to be an intern or CEO, the prospect can often be pretty daunting. Even very self-secure people can feel uncomfortable talking about themselves in front of strangers – it’s human nature! Remember that the interviewers are just people too and on your side. They wouldn’t waste time interviewing you if they didn’t think you could do the job.

Even if you have all of the relevant skills and exceptional experience, a lot is riding on how you come across on the big day. Besides preparing as much as you can, the main thing to remember is to be positive. Head down, chin up and you’ll be on the road to success.

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