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Interview Dos and Don’ts

Interview Dos and Don’ts main image

We’ve all been told a million times how to act or how not to act with various job interview tips we’ve been given over the years, but how many of us can truthfully say we remember everything our parents, teachers and friends told us?

Below are some essential interview dos and don’ts, that should bring together all those diverse sources of advice, to help you ace your next graduate job interview.

Job interview tips – the DOs

DO have a good night’s sleep

You don’t want to be drifting off in front of your would-be boss in a job interview; that much is for sure. But you also don’t want to be yawning, puffy-eyed or just plain tired-looking. Having a good night’s sleep is the numero uno of all job interview tips, simply because you’ll be 100% more ready to take on a challenge when you’re fresh-faced and ready to impress than you would be after a late night of binge-watching Homeland.

DO sit up straight 

We all know that good posture is a fantastic thing to have, but how many of us really think about our posture more than once a month (or even once a year for the Quasimodos amongst us)? It’s easy to forget about posture, which is also why it’s easy to find people in libraries slumped agonizingly over their books, or people in offices haggardly bent over their desks, maybe even while chiding others for slouching. Don’t let this be the impression you present when applying for a graduate job: be confident and open and let your shoulders follow suit.

DO be inquisitive

If you have any questions, ask them. If you don’t, think of some to ask anyway! Although you might think that you should just be answering questions, the job interview is also your opportunity to figure out if you’ll be a good fit in the role and the company. Although you shouldn’t ask about company benefits just yet – see the DON’T list below! – you should show that you’re keen to find out how the company functions, who you’ll be working alongside, what will be expected of you and what company culture is like, to name but a few things.

DO make eye contact

Awarded a mention in every single list of job interview tips ever to written, this point can’t be stressed enough. Make eye contact naturally and don’t fear it – you’ll find that it’s easier when you’re relaxed and open.

DO sell yourself

Just as your CV and cover letter are adverts for your skills and experience, so too is the job interview itself – to an even larger extent. Use the interview time to reiterate the important facts about yourself and what you can offer the company, giving relevant examples of projects you’ve led or assignments you’ve nailed, in line with the interviewer’s questions. Make sure that everything you say is relevant, but also ensure that what you do say sparks passion in your voice – it’s this passion that all interviewers look for!

DO follow up

Forgot about not wanting to sound too eager! Following up with an email or a brief phone call is a way to reiterate your interest, giving you another chance to show your genuine enthusiasm for the role.

DO relax

Nervousness is common before (and during) a graduate job interview, but too many jitters and you may pay the price. If you do get anxious, just remember to breathe normally, speak slowly and try not to wring your hands together. They say it helps if you think of your interviewers naked, but I’d say it helps just as much (if not more) to remind yourself they’re just ordinary people – and they were in your position once!

Job interview tips – the DON’Ts

DON’T cross your arms

Good body language isn’t just something they teach you in samba class, it’s key to making a good impression with anyone you meet, including interviewers. As well as avoiding arm-crossing (which makes you look closed-off), think about other non-verbal cues you’re giving out and what these might suggest to your interviewer. Slouching, eye-rolling, shrugging, lip biting, scowling, puckering, yawning, eye-brow raising; all these things can sometimes have negative connotations so be aware of your body and the signals you’re giving, at least until the employer has gauged your inner brilliance.

DON’T play with your hair

Playing with your hair or touching your face will not only distract from what you’re saying, it may also suggest that you’re nervous, or worse, that you care more about how your hair looks than you do about the job!

DON’T be too intense

Eye contact, eye contact, eye contact every single list of interview dos and don’ts will drum this into your retinas. But beware; too much of the old eye-to-eye can sometimes come across as intimidating, or, at least just that little bit uncomfortable for the person interviewing you. To make sure this doesn’t happen, treat the interview like a conversation with a distant relative; be polite, make eye contact, smile, but also look away once in a while, look at your notes or take in your surroundings while you ponder a difficult question – this will give your employer a chance to relax too.

DON’T be unprepared

It’s alarming how many people turn up to job interviews unprepared, or only partially prepared. You may have memorized the job spec, but if you haven’t researched the company itself, this will spell bad news for you. While this doesn’t mean you should go away and trawl through the last decade of the company’s financial records, you should be aware of the work the company does, any new projects or recent campaigns, what your department in particular has been working on and, most importantly, what you can bring to their team in light of this.

DON’T underdress

Maybe you only have Converse in your footwear collection or have an extreme love of graphic t-shirts, but whatever your personal clothing habits, leave them at the door of the interview office – your habits, that is, not your clothes… An interviewer will be looking for candidates who are well presented and appropriately attired; generally a fresh white shirt, black trousers or skirt and smart black shoes with or without a suit jacket is a good starting point. If in doubt, however, just remember that it’s incredibly hard to overdress for a job interview… unless you’ve decided on a three-piece tweed affair with matching pocket square, that is. (Even this eccentricity would probably be better than an overly casual alternative.)

DON’T ask about money

It may be what you’re most concerned about, but refrain from asking about a starting salary until you’re absolutely certain the employer is interested in taking your application further. Often it’s safer to wait until you’ve been offered the job before you start discussing money – this also has the added bonus of putting you in a better position to negotiate the salary you want, as you will now know that you’re their favorite candidate. Despite this, be careful about your demands – know the going rate for similar graduate jobs in your area and take your skills level into account before trying to raise the company’s offer.

DON'T tell lies

As well as being relevant, passionate, un-slouching and brilliant, you also need to make sure that you genuinely possess all the talents that you say you have. There’s no point in selling yourself for a role which you don’t have the skills to do well; you’ll be let go before you even find the coffee pot! Instead, make the truth sound as good as it possibly can; instead of just saying that you completed an internship, explain why this internship was a valuable experience and what transferable skills it gave you. If there are skills you don’t yet have but are keen to acquire, be open about that too; you won’t be expected to know everything just yet.

Laura Tucker's profile image
Written by Laura Tucker
Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.

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