Photo: Flickr/David Wall

How to avoid nightmare interviews

I’ve had a few nightmare interviews in my time. I once spilt a whole cup of coffee over myself before I went in to face a four-person panel. Another time I allegedly said the words, ‘I just walk around with a clipboard to make it look like I’m busy’ when describing my existing role. 

Somehow I got the job, although my manager-to-be was laughing so much he had to leave the room and couldn’t come back in to say goodbye. Another time I may have overplayed my PowerPoint skills only to be faced with a lengthy PowerPoint test. 

As an expert in nightmare interviews, I have a few tips to offer up if you wish to avoid ending up coffee-soaked and red-faced: 

  1. Be prepared. This seems like an obvious point, but you would be surprised how many people attend interviews without knowing enough about the role they have applied for or the company offering the job. Others turn up late because they haven’t researched their route properly. Taking time to do careful research will give you more confidence during the interview and show prospective employers that you really want the role.
  2. Tell the truth. It may be tempting to exaggerate your skills and experience, but this is never a good idea. It might be obvious to your interviewer that you are overegging the pudding, or you could end up in a role that you are not equipped to do. Be honest about any areas you are not an expert in, but try to demonstrate that you have the ability and eagerness to learn new skills.
  3. Practise with a friend. Perhaps you flounder every time an interviewer asks you the classic strengths and weaknesses question or, like me, you have a horrible habit of ending sentences with ‘and stuff…’ in an interview setting. Ask a friend to select a series of role-related and scenario-based questions and then answer them as if you were in the real interview. Try to avoid rolling your eyes when faced with questions like: ‘If you could invite five people, dead or alive, to a dinner party, who would you invite?’ And definitely avoid listing objectionable political leaders so you can ‘have a few words with them’ (yes, me again).
  4. Try to relax. Rather than cramming information the night before the interview, try to relax and take your mind off it. Have an early night and make sure that whatever your interview outfit is ready to go. This will rule out any last-minute trips to Next if you can’t find your ‘lucky’ shirt or your suit trousers have become a little snug since your last interview. Leave plenty of time to get to your interview and try to avoid packing yourself full of caffeine if you’re the jittery type (or, like me, a spiller).
  5. Think ahead. Perhaps the interview is a two-parter. During your first interview, ask what the second interview will involve. If it’s a single interview, think carefully about whether you can see yourself working at the company based on initial impressions. Ask questions if anything is unclear and, without jumping the gun, have a think about what you would say if you were offered the job. It may be worth negotiating more flexible working hours or better pay before you accept as it will be more difficult to do so once you have started the job. 

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Joy Tibbs is a freelance writer and editor regularly who contributes to Premier. Find out more at joyofediting.co.uk and find her on Twitter @joyous25

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