top 10 interview tips: how to make a positive first impression

Do you want to perfect your interview performance? Take a look at the top 10 tips in this article for best practice in-person and online interview advice.

Being interviewed, in person or online, can be nerve-wracking. You want to do well and ultimately get the job.  Unfortunately, there’s no getting away from interviews; they’re a fundamental part of the recruitment process. But there are certain things you can do to improve how well you do, including the 10 top tips listed below.   

before the interview 

do your research  

Sharing what you know about the company during your interview is a clear sign you’ve done your homework and are committed to working for the organisation. 

Read their website and social media channels, and keep an eye out for recent press articles and business news. You may also find that this research helps you generate ideas for your questions at the end of the interview. 

areas to research:

  • What does the company do? 
  • What are their successes? 
  • What are their current challenges? (e.g. market conditions, competitors, technology) 
  • Who are their main customers? 
  • Who are their top 3 competitors? 
  • What’s their USP?  

     

“One really helped me re-frame my job search, define what I can offer and evolve my online presence, while the other helped me with my general self-confidence. As a result, I was able to feel more comfortable about my age, and view myself positively as an older and more experienced employee. I remembered what I had to offer and it made me feel stronger. I went on some interviews and worked through the feedback from those with my coach. It reaffirmed my belief that I was receptive to new ideas, could use criticism constructively and resulted in enhancing my interview techniques.”

Tim

caba client

prepare your answers 

Think about the questions you think you could be asked and consider your responses. A good starting point is to prepare for questions that are centred around your CV and career history.  

questions to prepare for: 

  • Tell me about yourself? 
  • Talk me through your career to date 
  • What has been your greatest career highlight so far? 
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? 

Looking at the job specification can also help. Turn each requirement into a question and identify three examples of how you’ve demonstrated the relevant competency. 

For each of these examples you should identify the: 

  • Concept – how did you come up with an idea/plan/suggestion? 
  • Construct – what did you do and how? 
  • Outcome – what was the result for you and your previous employer? 

rehearse your answers 

While you may feel you don’t need to or you feel silly doing it, rehearsing your answers in front of a mirror will help you identify any information gaps you may have. This best practice tactic will also make sure you deliver a confident performance on the day. 

consider the practicalities  

This tip is shaped by the type of interview you’re having – in-person or virtual. 

If it’s in-person: 

  • plan your journey beforehand – you can’t be late  
  • make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel - well before your interview 
  • factor in time to have something to eat - even if it’s a snack 
  • consider your appearance – wear something that’s suitable and smart 

If it’s online: 

  • prepare your technology – how are you going to log in and is it all set up? 
  • get your links ready – have everything you need to join on time 
  • eat beforehand – it will help boost your sugar levels  
  • make sure you look smart – it’s better to overdress than underdress 
  • consider your environment – being sat at a desk in a neutral, tidy room is the most appropriate setting 
“I have now completed the career coaching programme, which included support to re-work my resume and LinkedIn profile, various workshops on using social media in my job search, networking and on applying for jobs in the government and the not-for-profit sector. We also video-recorded a mock interview that was very useful for me to watch and learn from. 6 weeks after arriving in Melbourne I secured my first contract position, and I believe that the career coaching I received through caba was a major contributor to my success.”

Jesse

caba client

during the interview  

be switched on from the outset  

The first 3 to 7 seconds of your interview are crucial. When the interviewers first come in or appear on the screen make sure you smile, give them eye contact and say, ‘good morning/afternoon’. If you are being interviewed in-person and they haven’t mentioned your name, say it as you shake their hand. This personalises the interaction and immediately builds rapport. 

be honest if you’re unsure 

If you’re asked something you aren’t sure about, don’t be afraid to say it’s an interesting question and you need a couple of seconds to think of an answer. Similarly, if you don’t understand the question, ask for it to be re-phrased. And if you genuinely don’t know the answer, be honest and say so. This makes a much better impression than getting flustered or answering incorrectly. 

turn experience gaps into positives  

You can turn any potential negatives into positives by focusing on your transferable skills. Turn the question on its head by explaining you’re a fast learner, who can easily apply yourself to gain the necessary skills. 

don’t ask about holiday and salary  

You could be perceived as being more focused on your time off and salary than the role itself. While it’s important you establish these details, it’s not best practice to ask about them at the end of your first interview. If you progress to the next phase, then you can ask more detailed questions, including how many days leave you are entitled to and what your wage will be. 

after the interview  

be patient 

Don’t pester your interviewer straight away for feedback. You don’t know how many candidates they are interviewing or the period of time the interviews are taking place – they could be spaced out over several weeks due to people’s availability. Typically, candidates are contacted 48 to 72 hours after an interview. If you haven’t heard anything after this time, then politely reach out. 

stay visible  

If, after 14 days you still haven’t heard anything, try contacting them again. Sometimes, the first person they offer the job to turns it down. By remaining visible you stand a better chance of being offered the position. If you do hear back and find you were unsuccessful, learn from the experience by asking for feedback on your application and interview performance.  

how caba can help you find work 

Our career coaches are here to help you develop a career plan that helps improve your confidence and networking skills, creates an effective job search strategy, builds a winning CV and transforms your interview skills. 

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