How to nail an interview

25 Mar 2022

25 Mar 2022

What are employers looking for in your answers to their interview questions? 

For many, the prospect of an interview is daunting. Although you may have all the necessary skills the job requires, you still might get a dose of good old-fashioned nerves and a case of sweaty palms.

Besides the practical preparation, there is an aspect of mental training too, such as visualising yourself as highly confident and successful, or trying to envisage the end goal in order to feel more 

There are certain techniques that can really help, and by remembering and even practising them before meeting your interviewee, you can successfully deliver an impressive interview.


  • Do not just take a quick look at the company website the evening before your interview. 
  • Research the company with care.
  • Look at any press releases the company has made and be prepared to comment on them.
  • Ask yourself, do you know three facts about the company? When it was formed, for example? What values do they have?
  • Candidates are often asked why they want to join an organisation and need to be able to show they have done their research.


Always answer the brief:

  • If you have been asked to prepare a 10-minute presentation, make sure you only talk for 10 minutes and tell them why you would be an asset.
  • It is unnecessary to offer your life story, or give them what you think they are really asking for. They know what they want. Failure to deliver just shows them you can not complete a simple task.
  • Practise your presentation to a family member or friend.


Ask your own questions:

  • Prepare a few questions ready to ask your interviewer. This will demonstrate you are interested in the organisation.
  • Also use the opportunity to establish whether the job is what you had thought. Is there anything you need to know to be able to accept a job offer if it is made?
  • Ask about the work itself, training and career development, and not about holidays, pensions and season ticket loans.


Technical questions:

  • You may be questioned on your area of expertise, just to find out how much you really know.
  • If you were a chef going for an interview, you would probably be asked to cook something, so anticipate practical tasks and practise your skills beforehand.


Control your nerves:

  • Take time to relax ahead of the interview to get yourself into the calmest state you can.
  • It does not matter how junior or senior you are, if you rush into an interview situation without taking time to calm your nerves, you will not be able to do your best.


“What is the worst question they could ask me?”:

  • Maybe you need to explain a job move, a career gap, a lack of a skill, or a particularly poor exam grade.
  • If you have an elegant answer then you will not be flustered in the moment. Perhaps your gap year helped you to build confidence, the career move was because you couldn’t tolerate an inconsiderate organisation, or the exam grade was because you were pursuing a much-loved hobby.
  • People all have flaws in their lives and it is fine to for us to find a positive spin in any area that we are anxious about.


Keep your body language under control:

  • Practise sitting up straight, with your feet on the floor and your hands in your lap, or resting on the table.
  • You do not want to slump, or sit back looking relaxed, or click a pen, or look nervous, or shifty. An upright posture makes us look professional and interested.


Know your CV:

  • I have had interviewees ask to see their own CV to check details.
  • If the interviewer asks a question about your career history, you simply need to know all the details. You must know your own career history, so read it and read it again.


Sip water:

  • Interviewers will often offer you tea or coffee, which is fine, but is quickly drunk, or goes cold and bitter.
  • Ask for a glass of water and sip it if you need time to think about how to answer a question. Sipping water (and I mean sip, never gulp it) can help to calm us down and keep us grounded.


Eye contact:

  • Smiling helps, as does strong and confident eye contact. Do not stare, though, as that unsettles people.
  • Take a pen and pad with you and use it to break eye contact, so you can look down and make a note of the question being asked. This makes you look interested and gives you a second or two to think of a suitable answer.


Ask for the job:

  • Surprisingly many people do not do this, preferring to be modest instead.
  • At the end of the interview, you can ask a question in this way: “I would love to work here for you and am really impressed by the organisation, so I would like to know how I am doing in this interview?”
  • Follow up by asking: “Are there any questions I have not answered to your satisfaction?”
  • This makes you look enthusiastic and if they do need more information from you, they will often say so, which is good feedback for you.


Body language

We all know what we say is just one small part of how we communicate with others.

We make judgements and inferences on others from their ‘non-verbal behaviour’ (body language), which can influence who we choose to work with.

But social psychologist and professor and researcher at Harvard Business School Amy Cuddy says this non-verbal behaviour affects how we feel about ourselves, which can alter our behaviour and success in situations such as job interviews.

She says: “Our bodies change our minds, our minds can change our behaviour and our behaviour can change our outcomes."

In her talk given at a TED global conference in 2012, which has been viewed online more than 46 million times, she says adopting more powerful body language triggers hormonal changes which make us feel and act confident.

A ‘high power pose’ is one where the body is opened up, made bigger and takes up more space, for example standing with hands on your waist.

A ‘low power pose’ (for example, shoulders hunched, legs crossed and arms folded) will trigger hormonal responses in the body which makes us feel powerless.

Just two minutes of holding a ‘high power pose’ could result in a 20 per cent increase in the dominance hormone testosterone and a 25 per cent decrease in the stress hormone cortisol, she says.

She advises spending two minutes before stressful situations in a power pose.

“Configure your brain to allow it to cope the best in the situation,” she says. “Do not leave the situation feeling like, you did not show them who you are.

“Leave the situation feeling like, ‘I really feel I got to say who I am and show who I am.’”

Source: Richard Maun, career coach and author of Job Hunting 3.0, shares his advice on how to present yourself positively.