How to make a good impression at interview

You’ve got an interview. Hurray! But now comes the hard part – winning the job. How should you prepare? Consultant Annie Ghanmi provides some tips for success on the big day.

As much as it may seem shallow, appearance is probably the first and most important area to concentrate on when preparing for interview.   When we meet new people we tend to graduate towards people who we perceive to be like ourselves, and rightly or wrongly we believe that people who look like us will also be like us.
Your mission therefore when preparing for interview is to find out as much as possible about the people you are intending to work for. If you are applying for the job via an agency, you may be able to find out more about the dress codes from them.
Update your wardrobe. Particularly if you have been out of the workplace for a number of years your work clothes may be out of date. Even a plain suit can go out of style as the shape and cut changes. Treat yourself to a new up-to-date outfit – it will give you a confidence boost too. Pay particular attention to details like hair, nails, shoes etc. You need to look well-groomed from top to toe. Tiny details like scuffed shoes or dirty nails can give a poor impression.

In terms of interview success, confidence is everything. Even if you don’t feel confident, you must make every effort to appear so. The key to building confidence is preparation. Make sure you get a detailed job description for the job you are applying for in plenty of time before the interview. If you are expected to use computer software as part of you role, make sure you know the product name and version number, so that you can swot up.

Check your CV
Keep copies of the CV you submitted any application forms that you fill in.   Go through this in detail and try to imagine the questions that an employer will ask you based on the information you have given them.  It is important that you are prepared for any difficult questions they may ask. If you have any periods when you were out of work or left after a short period you may be asked to account for them. Put a positive spin on these if you can and avoid mentioning situations where you came into conflict with your employer.
Try to think of positive questions that you will ask at the interview. Try to focus on questions that show how keen you are to work in the industry and to progress. Avoid too many questions about benefits and holidays, you can negotiate these once you have been offered the post.

Preparing a Presentation
If you are required to prepare a presentation for interview try to avoid “death by PowerPoint”, if you are using slides, keep bullet points short and not more than six or seven points per slide. Never read from your slides, try to learn your presentation by heart if you can. If you can’t, keep your notes brief so that you have to formulate the sentence afresh in your head each time. This will keep your presentation sounding spontaneous. Try to include as many graphics and charts as are relevant to give visual interest, and if you can include video and sound clips.

Be Prepared for Equipment Failure
Make sure you have a back-up plan if you are using technology during your presentation. Make sure you can still do your presentation with or without the computer. See if you can gain access to the room where you will be giving the presentation early so that you can iron out any technical hitches. Never make any assumptions about the equipment that will be available to you, always check in advance if you require laptops, projectors etc.

Big Yourself Up
You need to be on top form prior to an interview, so particularly if you suffer from anxiety you can prepare yourself by positive “self-talk”. That little voice that goes on in your head can be a positive force or a negative one. Some techniques such as NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming, for example, ‘training’ your brain to see yourself getting the job) can be helpful in building your confidence prior to stressful events. There are self-help books available on the subject, and training courses available.

Body Language
Our body language gives away a great deal about our state of mind. On the day remember to stand straight, hold your head up high. Give a firm handshake, smile and make eye contact with everyone on the panel when you are speaking. This will do more to convey a positive message about yourself than anything else you do that day.    Good luck and may the force be with you…..
Annie Ghanmi works as a freelance trainer running IT courses  and “soft-skills” courses such as presentation skills and communication skills.

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