How to excel at interview


Timma Marett

We had the enormous pleasure of hosting the brilliant Victoria McLean, CEO of City CV, on our webinar series recently. Victoria is truly your best friend when it comes to securing your perfect job. Her expertise in all things CV, LinkedIn, cover letters and interviews is hard to beat. 

You’ve made it through the Applicant Tracking System, you’ve convinced a human on paper that you could be right for the job and you are finally at the interview stage. On average, people apply for 27 roles to get just one interview, so you don’t want to waste it. So how do you give the interviewer the confidence they need to employ you?

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Here are a few of Victoria’s top tips for nailing that interview.

Firstly, tackle those nerves! If you are riddled with doubts, that will be hard to disguise. Remember, it’s not always about how good you are, but about how well you sell yourself. Consider your personal brand and feel proud of it before you begin. 

For online interviews, wear your smart shoes even though no-one can see them, adjust your lighting (a ring light performs miracles!) and make eye contact with the interviewer just as you would in person. Stand up to get more air into your lungs and energy into your voice. A few strategically-placed post-it notes around your screen will give you extra confidence. Lights, Camera, Action!

Plan your attack

Marry up what the company actually needs with your skills. In your mind, assign one skill (along with the evidence and data to prove it) to each finger of your hand so you don’t forget to mention something crucial.

Drop in a memory marker

Mention in your interview something about you which will help them remember you. They might refer to you in their discussions as ‘the candidate who climbed Evererst,’ or perhaps, ‘the children’s charity volunteer’.

Listen carefully to the questions

Victoria says one of the key things to work out is whether the interviewer is asking you to demonstrate your strengths, track record or motivation? Be strategic about how you answer. If the question is about your strengths, consider what the role actually needs, provide hard evidence to prove the particular strength, show how you are different to (better than) the rest and wrap up with a closing sale. Be bold and tell them you are here to get that job. 

Don’t get lost in your story

When it comes to your track record, interviewers want to hear about real achievements, not the minutiae of how you got there. Make sure you say the best bits first, when you have their full attention. Try packaging up your experiences into the STAR formula of “situation - task - action - result”. Don’t forget to wrap up as before with a positive statement of intent.

Explain how you fit

With motivation, there are three aspects to consider. How do you fit into the role, the company and the sector? You’ll want to demonstrate your passion here without forgetting to sell yourself along the way. Be animated and tie your claims to real evidence. Research the company values and power structure and show how you’ve thrived in similar situations. 

Crack a competence-based interview

A top piece of advice from City CV is to practice STAR answers for every behaviour they are assessing in a competency framework interview. Be aware that all they are really interested in is the action, so make sure it relates exactly to the competence in question. This style of interview is methodical so help them tick those boxes! 

How to explain a career break at interview

Approach a break from a position of positivity. You don’t have to defend a career break or explain it in detail. Keep it brief, say it was planned and state that you are fully ready to return to work.  Then bring the discussion back to your professional experience. 

How and when should you ask for flexibility?

Victoria’s strong advice is to save this for the later stage of the hiring process and get ready to negotiate. Do your homework and present ways you can make this work. Consider the cost savings the company would make if they hired you into less than a full-time role. Show them practically how you can service clients. If needed, suggest a trial period and then, make it work!

Judge a man by his questions, not his answers

Voltaire knew what he was talking about. When the panel asks if you have any questions, wow them with your considered response. Dig deeper into the company and show them through your questioning that you are going to add value to the organisation. HINT: This is not the moment to ask them about benefits and working patterns!

  • City CV has recently launched a fantastic Career Refinery app. It’s packed with advice, sample questions, elevator pitch tools and so much more. They also offer bespoke professional CV writing, LinkedIn, interview coaching, redundancy and career coaching packages.

Good luck!


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