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11 Tips to make the best impression at your next job interview

By Danielle van Wyk

The job interview process can be daunting to say the least. There’s so much to think about, from what you should wear and how firm a handshake you should give to being well-researched on the company and planning how early to arrive. To help you through the process, here are eleven of the best tips.

Dress to impress: Before you even open your mouth, what you wear says a lot about who you are and what you are trying to convey. That’s why, dressing for the role at the interview is important; it shows the interviewer or potential employer that you put thought into your appearance and that you can already see yourself in that role.

But formal wear is not always the best choice for a job interview. If you show up wearing a suit and tie while all the employees are wearing shorts and flip-flops, you will look out of place, feel uncomfortable, and may give off the wrong energy. The same is true of the opposite. Before the interview, visit the company’s careers portal for insight into typical office attire, look at the headshots of the leadership team (you can often find this on the company website or in LinkedIn profiles) and social platforms like Facebook and Instagram to get a feel for what’s the norm. 

“Try and match what you wear to your research or be only slightly dressier that the dress code of the company,” adds Alan Russell, Founder and Managing Director of ThornTree Group.

Be mindful of non-verbal communication: “Going into an interview with a confident, friendly, and positive attitude is one step to success but what you say during an interview forms only part of your message. The rest comes from your body language and tone of voice.”

“You can make a solid first impression with a firm, but not iron, handshake that accompanies eye contact and a smile,” Russell states. “Show confidence by sitting tall and all the way back in your seat. Use hand gestures when you talk, keep an interested expression, and nod your head while listening to the interviewer to indicate that you are engaged and interested in the conversation.”

Be prepared: Doing your research before walking into an interview is key as it speaks to preparedness. But what exactly do you research? 

According to Russell, these are good places to start.

The company culture: The company culture has a direct impact on the environment in which employee’s work. And given the amount of time we spend working, it’s important to know the culture upfront. 

“You can find out more about the culture by visiting the company's website and reading their vision and mission statement,” he adds, “If you know of anyone working for the company or shared LinkedIn connections, ask them about the company culture and management style. For example, does the company have a team-based culture with employee participation on all levels, does it have a more traditional and formal management style, or is it a very casual workplace without many rules and regulations?”

The company itself: It’s vital to have a good knowledge about a company to make a good impression on an interviewer. This will help you figure out whether this is a place where you could be happy and grow in your career.

“This includes knowing who the key players are in the organisation, understanding the company’s unique selling point (what makes them different to their competitors), and doing a search on Google to scan recent news about the company,” Russell says. “This should also give you insight into the type of skills and experience the company values.”

The interviewer/s: This is where you have permission to stalk! That’s because, as Russell says, “Having some background information on the person with whom you’ll be interviewing can help you better prepare.”

Get the name and title of the interviewer and, find out how they fit into the organisation. Visit their LinkedIn profile and visit their social media profiles, see if you have any common connections who can offer any insight into their personality. Also look for shared interests that can help you build rapport.

Prepare for the basics: “There is never any guarantee on how an interview can run or the format that it will follow but there are a few things (and standard questions) that often come up.

“Could you tell us about yourself? What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? Where do you see yourself in five years? Why should we hire you? Be prepared for these,” continues Russell.

Prepare your own quality questions: By being prepared not only for the interviewer’s questions but also having your own questions to ask, gives you an edge. But these questions should relate specifically to your role.

“If you’re in the IT sector you can ask questions about what processes the company runs, the IT infrastructure, and whether the company makes use of a collaborative approach like the agile and scrum methodology,” Russell says. “Questions to avoid include salary, benefits, leave, or parking related questions - unless brought up by the interviewer.”

Be on time: It goes without saying that you should arrive on time for an interview. But if you arrive early, Russell suggests that you avoid entering the office or reception area more than 10 minutes prior to the time.

Be kind to everyone in your past: “It goes without saying that you should always maintain your professional relationships but it’s particularly important to never say anything negative about previous employers or companies in an interview,” Russell advises. “This almost always reflects badly on you.”

Avoid oversharing: When you’re nervous you may have a tendency to ramble and share details of how bad the traffic was or how you almost may have overslept. Don’t!

Russell suggests that you keep your personal information to a minimum and avoid airing your dirty laundry, at all costs. Navigating this process is always tricky and it’s okay to be nervous but being prepared can go a long way in calming those nerves.

Good luck! 

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