I’ll be frank with you…there’s no set formula for interview success. They’re all going to be different, even if you only ever experience one type of interview during your job search. But you have to prepare, show you really know your stuff and make sure you stand out. Essentially, there are 5Ps for interview success: Prepare, Practice, Present, Participate.

1. Prepare

Remember, the purpose of every interview is to demonstrate to the people in the room that you have the skills, experience and attitude necessary to perform in the role they’re talking to you about. Doing your research and preparing properly will not only increase your chances of impressing the interviewer, it will boost your confidence and increase your effectiveness.

Firstly, deal with the logistics. Find out how the interview will be structured, who will be attending, where the interview will take place, and at what time. Then knuckle down to your research. Find out about the organisation and the job you’re applying for:

  • Study the organisation’s website in detail. This can give you a sense of how the company operates, its mission and values, how it views its employees, and the types of people in the leadership team.
  • Look for the latest annual report as this can give you a wealth of insights into how the business is performing, its structure, and its CSR initiatives.
  • Scour the internet for any recent news releases – they’re not always available on the company’s website, and they may reveal additional, useful information, whilst demonstrating to the interviewer that you know your stuff.
  • Talk to people in your network that may work for the organisation; they can be the strongest source of information about the people you may meet during the interview, the role you’re interviewing for, as well as giving you the lowdown on the company culture.
  • Make sure your online presence is respectable. Google yourself and make sure that the interviewer is only going to see the very best version of you. If that means changing privacy settings, updating your LinkedIn profile, or temporarily shutting down a social media account, do it.

Revisit the job description

  • If you haven’t already received a detailed description for the role you’re applying for, ask for one.
  • Identify the positive qualities you bring to the job. Make a list of your skills, competencies, values, personal characteristics and accomplishments from your work, leisure and volunteering activities.
  • Prepare a list of potential questions that you would ask someone if you were looking to hire them. This will give you a sense of what you might be asked.
  • Use the STAR technique (Situation-Threat-Action-Result) to create a list of your skills, competencies and accomplishments in previous roles, so that you’re ready to talk about them. This form of storytelling demonstrates, in a succinct way, that you understand what’s required for the role.


‘Tell me a story and I remember. Give me a whole list of facts and figures, I forget.’


2. Practice

Practising what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it will help you speak confidently. Don’t memorise what you want to say as you’ll end up sounding like a robot. Instead, work out which key points you want to focus on. My recommendations:

  • Review the questions you prepared and practice your STAR stories.
  • The interview is also a chance for you to ask questions of the interviewer(s). List three things you want to know about the job or organisation and practice asking these questions.
  • Record/video yourself asking and answering specific questions. This will give you a sense of how you will look, sound and respond in what is, let’s face it, a nerve-wracking situation. Your body language speaks volumes so it’s just as important as how you sound!
  • Ask a friend to help you practice. Role-playing different types of interviews can be helpful, and they can offer constructive feedback.
  • Test the equipment! If you’re going to be attending a phone or video interview, make sure everything works. There’s nothing more excruciating than dialling in to a call, only to find your microphone is making you sound like you’re in a goldfish bowl!


3. Present

30 seconds. Studies show that’s the amount of time you have to make an excellent first impression with your interviewer. How you present yourself in the interview is vitally important.  Your interviewer will be observingeverything about you – your appearance, your attitude and your body language. It’s normal to be nervous but acting confidently even when you aren’t can have a positive effect on you and on the interviewer. If you haven’t tried it before, check out the ‘Power Pose’ by Amy Cuddy.

  • Arrive ten minutes early – there’s nothing worse than being late.
  • Dress the way you expect the interviewer to dress. Be clean, neat and well groomed. Stick to conservative colours overall but a splash of colour in a pair of socks, tie, scarf or lipstick can leave a positive lasting impression.
  • When you meet the interviewer stand tall, feet a shoulder width apart – and don’t slouch. Smile, establish eye contact, introduce yourself and shake hands. Wait to be invited to sit down.
  • When you take your seat, sit straight with your feet on the floor. Lean forward from time to time (but not too far!) – this shows the interviewer you’re engaged in the discussion. Try to mirror some of the movements of your interviewer: psychologically it shows admiration and agreement.
  • Be careful of over-gesticulating. Except when you’re making a point, keep your hands still in your lap or on the arms of the chair. Don’t cross your arms.


4. Participate

You’ve done a tonne of work to get yourself in the room with the interviewer. Don’t blow it by switching off now that you’ve got this far! You need to be present in the moment, not wondering off and looking at the view out of the window. These suggestions will help you stay focused and stand out:

  • Turn off your mobile when you arrive and leave it off until you’re out of the building.
  • Take a notebook to write notes during the interview. Don’t use a laptop or other device.
  • Follow the interviewer’s lead. Even unusual or irrelevant questions get asked for a reason.
  • Listen closely to the questions so you can answer them accurately. If you don’t understand a question, ask the interviewer to rephrase it. If you don’t know the answer, be honest and say so.
  • Take a moment to mentally flick through your STAR stories before you answer a question and remember to stay on topic.
  • Be pleasant, sincere and direct. But avoid answering with only ‘yes’ or ‘no.’
  • At the end of the interview, ask about next steps. This reiterates your interest in the role and demonstrates engagement with, and understanding of, the process. And don’t forget to ask for a business card.

There’s one final technique I’ve used in the past but it’s not for everyone. At the end of the interview, you might consider asking “Do you think I’m the right person for the role?” It can be asked differently but can open up the opportunity for instant feedback from the interviewer, even if the response is ‘no’. At least then you’ll not be waiting for weeks for a call that never comes.

The 5th P? Proffer thanks.

Okay, so it’s not strictly a P, but following-up after the interview is essential. Regardless of whether the interview went well or not, send a thank-you note or email that emphasises two or three reasons why you’re the best person for the job. It costs nothing, shows professionalism, and helps them remember you.

Having helped hundreds of people successfully transition to new roles, using the techniques above will stand you in good stead and increase your chances of getting the job. Moreover, it will boost your confidence and help you relax and enjoy the interview! For more information on how I can help you with your interview preparations, get in touch.