How to improve your interview skills

A guide to help you get better at interviews

Overview

Have you ever left a job interview and wished you’d performed better? Perhaps you thought you were a little too muddy in your explanation, or became flustered under the pressure of the boardroom?

It’s easy to put yourself down when you can’t change the past, but if you pay careful attention to your interview technique you can take care of the future. Next time you’ll leave knowing you managed to perform to the best of your abilities.

Remember the following points and impress your interviewers.

Prepare, prepare and prepare again 

As Abraham Lincoln said: “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”.  There’s no point having good technique and skills without having done the preparation to back it up.

You need to know, off by heart, the answers to these questions:

  • What exactly does the company do?
  • What exactly does the job entail?
  • What you can offer the employer?

Write the answers down and learn them.

Know the typical questions: Consider the common questions interviewers may ask

  • Can you list your strengths/weaknesses?
  • What achievement are you most proud of?
  • Where do you see yourself five years from now?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What is your motivation?

Think STAR:

You may be asked about your behaviour in the workplace, to understand how you act in certain situations. Questions might be

  • Tell us about a problem you faced in the workplace and how you dealt with it?
  • How have you dealt with unhappy clients in the past?
  • How have you given negative feedback to a member of your team?

These can be tricky questions to answer clearly, but you can use the STAR acronym to remember an effective way of answering:

  • Situation – What was the general problem you were trying to solve?
  • Task – What were you responsible for?
  • Action – What did you do to meet the demands of the task?
  • Result – What was the outcome of your individual action?

Make yourself relax

You need to be confident in an interview, but you can’t do this unless you’re relaxed. You can remember a few things to help you make sure you’re in the right mind-set.

  • Prepare early, and arrive early - Don’t be cramming your mind full of facts right before you go in, instead take 10 minutes or so to clear your thoughts.
  • Take your time ­­- Don’t rush over your answers, it is perfectly fine to take a moment to think over your answer to a question. When you do answer, speak clearly and not too fast.
  • Take in a bottle of water – It’s a horrible feeling to be dying of thirst when you’re trying to concentrate – keep yourself hydrated.

Engage with your interviewer

Be interested and pay attention.

  • Maintain eye contact – You obviously don’t want to be staring them down, but eye contact is a fundamental rule of good interview technique.
  • Listen carefully –Make sure you listen to everything, including any comments or conversation between your interviewers, if there is more than one.
  • Prepare and ask questions – When interviewers ask if you have any questions (which they always do), they’re not doing this out of courtesy, it’s part of the test. To show you’re genuinely interested in the job and role, you will be expected to have prepared some good questions about the company, industry or role.

Sell yourself

You need to tell your interviewer why they should hire you. Be clear on your skills, attributes and successes – don’t be shy.  

Follow up

You can show your enthusiasm even after the interview itself by emailing a short note to your interviewer expressing thanks while reiterating your interest. You can also use this as an opportunity to mention anything you might have forgotten.