Interviews can sometimes feel like stressful, even confrontational events, but both you and employer want the same outcome - to fill the vacancy.

Succeeding at interview can be seen as a combination of preparation and performance.

Preparation
Find out about the company - where it is based, what it sells, how it presents itself, its values, history and key personnel. Knowing about a company's new website or ad campaign, shows interest in a potential future employer.

Read and re-read everything - double-check the job description and your application. If you think you answered something badly, plan how you might express it better in case you are picked up on it at interview. Otherwise, simply make bullet-points about the things they are looking for and exact or unique reasons you meet those requirements.

Understand the process - Interviewers will usually ask certain standard questions. Think about the answers in advance, so that you can answer them clearly and concisely. Questions like:

  • Why do you want the job? (be aspirational) 
  • How do your skills and experience match the post? (be specific)
  • What did you achieve in previous jobs? (be honest)
  • Why did you leave them? (be selective)
  • Tell us about yourself' (be memorable)

Check your past! - A recent Randstad survey (World of Work Report - 2011/2012) revealed over 50% of all employers used social networking to form opinions about candidates. Check your Facebook and Twitter pages and remove anything that might embarrass you or a potential employer.

Body language
Incredible as it may seem, an impressive 56% of the overall impression you will give an interviewer will come across through your body language, opposed to what you actually say and how you say it! Therefore it is imperative that you give this some thought. Understandably you may be nervous going into an interview but try to come across as confident (but not overly).

Make sure you practice your handshake as this is the first point of contact you will have and is important - get family and friend’s opinion. Avoid crossing your arms and legs where possible. It can help to position yourself so that your feet are both on the floor and arms in your lap or on the table. Ensure that you are making eye contact with the employer, this will show that you are interested. Try to avoid distractions outside of the room and remember to smile! If you are slightly nervous, a relaxed and neutral body posture will actually relax you!
Performance
Look and feel your best - An obvious but essential checklist:

  • Get a good night's sleep
  • Dress smartly
  • Arrive early
  • Smile, maintain eye contact and give a strong handshake.
  • Address the interviewer by their surname

Engage with your interviewer - Whether interviewed by someone from HR, or an IT manager, they need to believe you are someone they could work with and who would improve their business tomorrow if chosen. Always show interest in the company, enthusiasm for the job and confidence in your abilities. Try also to 'mirror' their behaviour - are they friendly and chatty or terse and professional?

Answer the questions - Not just 'yes' or 'no', give specific details about your skills or experience and how they apply to the specific job in question. IT jobs require your answers include a higher degree of technical detail, however, remember you may be being interviewed by an HR manager, only looking for the technical qualifications and experience specifically mentioned in the job description.

Closing the interview
There are various ways of doing this, but it is vital that you close the interview on a strong and positive note. If you feel confident enough you can ask them directly what they think of you compared to other candidates and whether they will be asking you back or offering you the role.

If, like most people, you don’t feel that this is appropriate, then you could finish by thanking them for their time, reiterate any interest in the role and a good idea is to ask them whether you have answered all of their questions in enough details, do they have any reservations or anything they’d like you to clarify before you leave - i.e. is there anything else you could add to help them make their decisions.

Don’t panic! - There is almost no mistake that cannot be rectified if you feel strongly that you have handled something badly before. And even if you do not get the job, you can learn as much from a bad interview as a good one.