[Photo Credit: A Prettier Web. Edited by me.]Make sure it's a job you really want
It sounds obvious, but if you can afford to be picky with what jobs you're applying for - be picky. Interviewers can generally spot a mile off a candidate who's just there to fulfil their Jobcentre criteria or pay the rent; interviewing for a job you really want is a whole different ballgame and, for me at least, a whole lot easier and more rewarding. Generally speaking, an interviewer will want to see passion and enthusiasm - which is hard to muster for a job you're not really bothered about.
Preparation is key! Know the job description inside out; do a bit of research into the company or department; look up any additional information you can find - this might be reviews or inspections, sales or profit reports, leaflets, client testimonials... For example, for me, interviewing for a job in the NHS, this meant looking at things like how the team I'd be working in fits into the wider trust, the results of the most recent CQC inspection, and relevant leaflets about the service for both patients and health professionals. The more background knowledge you have, the more confident you'll be - even if you don't directly mention every fact you've looked up, knowing they're there in the back of your mind if you need them is a real boost.
Then, have a think about what the interviewers might ask - there will always be questions which will take you by surprise, which is fine, but having answers prepared for common questions like, "Tell us about yourself" and, "Why did you apply for this role?" can alleviate a lot of stress! Remember to think of concrete examples you can include in your answers - anyone can say they love working in a team, but providing evidence in the next sentence will set you above other candidates.
Dress to impress
Yes, first impressions count. Make sure your interview outfit is up to scratch, including your hair, make-up, jewellery and shoes; I always err on the more conservative side, which usually means wearing long sleeves to cover up my one visible tattoo, and taking out a few of my piercings. However, I'd always choose an outfit I'm comfortable in - confidence is key! - and I'd never go for heels, because I know that would be an accident waiting to happen. If in doubt, try to find out what people in similar roles within the company wear, and go with something along those lines.
Make yourself memorable - preferably for good reasons. Try to think outside the box a little and, if you can, give an unexpected answer or mention any unusual (relevant) hobbies or experience. That doesn't meant you should tell them about your belly-dancing class when they've asked about something else entirely, but if you can relate a skill from said belly-dancing class (maybe motivation, dedication, or a willingness to try new things?) to what they're asking - go for it! I was asked about a piece of writing I was proud of and, whilst the first thing that came to mind was my dissertations, I knew that was what they'd be expecting - so instead, I spoke about some workbooks I'd produced in my voluntary role, gave examples, and mentioned why I was proud of them. The interviewers were really interested and actually asked a few more questions about the kinds of materials I'd prepared, which was lovely. Remember - the interview panel might see five, ten, twenty or even more candidates - give them a reason to choose you over the others!
First up, remember that if you weren't capable of the role, you probably wouldn't have got an interview; graduate positions are generally quite competitive, so weaker candidates simply won't get past the application stage. You've got an interview! You're doing great! Then, try to keep this positive attitude, and identify concrete reasons why you'd be brilliant at this particular job. Even if you aren't successful this time, ask for feedback from the interviewers, and try to take it on board - I was regularly told to give more detail in my answers, which is where thinking of specific examples for certain skills really came into its own.
Now - knock 'em dead! I also want to say - I'm by no means an expert, but if you're interested in a job in psychology or a similar area, I'm happy to try and help, so do feel free to drop me an email with any questions you may have.
Do you have any interview tips and wisdom to share? I'd love to hear about your interview experiences! If you're a graduate, how long did it take you to get your first grad position?