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Every Stage of Attending a Job Interview

By Craig O

Updated October 12, 2017 Updated October 12, 2017

Job interviews. Just the very mention of them is enough to make some people’s palms break out into a nervous sweat. Nobody likes the idea of sitting in a room being judged by a group of strangers, and the fact your future is at stake doesn’t make the process any easier.

However, this doesn’t mean you need to descend into a quivering, nervous wreck before every interview, desperately attempting to psyche yourself up in the bathroom mirror before leaving the house. Yes, interviews are daunting but they’re also remarkably repetitive, and once you get used to anticipating the rhythms of an interview, the whole experience feels a lot less terrifying.

If you’re heading for a job interview soon, here’s an exact and precise run-through of everything you’ll experience.

You’ve been invited to an interview!


Depending on the employer, this is likely to either come via an email or a phone call. If it’s a phone call, the first thing to navigate successfully is not sounding either a) too keen or b) not keen enough. It’s not the hardest needle to thread, but can be if the call catches you unawares. Give yourself some warning by looking up the phone number(s) of the company you’ve applied to, and saving them in your phone. That way, the number will come up with their name when they ring your mobile, and you’ll be able to compose yourself before answering. This also buys you some time to step into a quieter room or stop whatever you’re doing if necessary.

Research, research, research


Now you know you’ve got the interview, it’s time to prepare. Sure, you’ll have a brief idea of the company and the role from writing your job application but it’s time to revisit all of that information and try to anticipate potential lines of questioning. Have a think about why you want the role and what you can bring to it, as well as what you’d look to change or introduce. If you’ve got experience in a particular area that you think the company will benefit from, figure out how to bring this up organically.

Panic about what to wear


If you’re lucky, you’ll have been told in the interview invite what the expected dress code is. For some industries, it will be fairly obvious (i.e. smart), but if you’re going for a role in a more creative industry or perhaps at a smaller, less formal company then you might have to navigate the uncertain terrain of “smart-casual”. Nobody ever really knows what this means but some basic rules you should definitely follow: no jeans/denim, shorts or low-cut tops are a big no-no, and it’s always better to be over-dressed than under-dressed. Worst case scenario: stake out the company’s office a few days before your interview and see what people working there are wearing (we’re only half-joking).

Getting there


It’s the day of the interview, you’ve picked out your outfit and now it’s time to travel to the interview. Unless the interview is happening over Skype or the phone, you’ll probably be relying upon public transport or driving to the interview, which means you’ll need to leave enough time in case you hit traffic or other delays. It’s much better to get to the interview location early and sit in a coffee shop going over your application one last time, than leave it to the last minute and risk being late. Getting there early also means you don’t have to worry about being sweaty or flustered when you arrive.

Mastering the greeting


First impressions count, so make sure you know exactly where you’re meant to go when you arrive for the interview and who you’re meeting with. Treat everyone you meet, from the receptionist to the person sharing the lift with you, with respect and friendliness, as it’s not uncommon for other people within a company to be asked for their opinion of candidates. If you’re rude or dismissive to a secretary, word will reach the people responsible for deciding who to hire. When you meet your interviewers, shake hands (ideally make sure you don’t have sweaty palms) and make plenty of eye contact.

The interrogation begins


OK, so it’s not as bad as an interrogation, but now you’re there in the room and it’s time to face some questions. We’ve covered how to answer some of the most common interview questions here, but it’s also worth realizing you won’t have an answer for everything. If something technical comes up that you don’t understand, ask for it to be explained. If you’re asked about something and you don’t know the answer, don’t try and lie: you’ll be found out. Interviewers are rarely looking for someone with all the answers, they’re much more interested in learning what you’re like as a person. Which leads us onto…

Making small talk


It’s fairly common for interviewers to also throw in some questions about you as a person, what you like to do in your spare time and what your passions or interests are. These questions might seem impossible to get “wrong” but some answers are still better than others. If possible, reference hobbies or interests that demonstrate skills your interviewers might be looking for (e.g. volunteering work will show your ability to work within a team and give a positive impression of your own character).

Now it’s your turn to ask a question


As the interview draws to a close, you’ll often be asked if you have any questions. Saying no is rarely a good idea, but you also don’t want to ask questions that have already been answered or you could have learned in your research before the interview. Good examples of things to ask include:

  • What aspect of this role do you feel is the most important?
  • What things are your company currently not achieving that you hope to accomplish in the future?
  • What do you think makes this company a particularly good one to work for?

Questions such as these show an active interest in the role you’ve applied for and how you could improve the company if they hired you, as well as showing that you care about the opinions of your interviewer(s).

Time to leave


When the interview ends, repeat the cycle of handshakes and eye contact from your greeting and let your interviewer(s) know you’re looking forward to hearing from them. As you leave, make sure you avoid any pratfalls or slips which could tarnish your entire interview. Tripping over a chair leg or struggling to open a door could quickly escalate into mortifying embarrassments that cost you a job.

Once you’re out, that’s it. The interview is over, you can finally relax. Now you just have the nervous wait to hear back about how you did…

Lead image: HSGTalents (Wikimedia Commons)

This article was originally published in October 2017 .

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Written by

As Head of Content, Craig is responsible for all articles and guides published across TopUniversities and TopMBA. He has nearly 10 years of experience writing for a student audience and extensive knowledge of universities and study programs around the world.

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