Interview do’s and don’ts


men shaking hands at an interview

As thousands of new graduates pour into the job market, a recent report uncovers the new interview and workplace do’s and don’ts in post-recession Britain.

These days traditional interview do’s like a firm handshake and asking lots of questions rate lower than a show of confidence and good grooming, according to HR Directors polled for the ‘SureMen Maximum Protection Workplace Report’ *.

“With job candidates more nervous than ever according to employers**, it’s important for interviewees to come across as calm, in control and confident of their abilities in an interview,” says former Apprentice contestant James McQuillan.

Looking scruffy and poorly groomed tops the list of today’s top interview mistakes, according to two thirds of HR Directors polled (67%), rating higher than being late and a lack of preparation and research.

Top 10 interview clangers

1.     Poor grooming and looking scruffy

2.     Swearing

3.     Being late

4.     Over-familiarity

5.     Being hung-over

6.     Using a mobile

7.     Over-confidence

8.     Lack of eye contact

9.     Lack of research and preparation

10.  Sweat patches and bad BO

And whatever you do, save the jokes for down the pub. While a good sense of humour amongst staff is valued by 61% of employers, telling jokes during an interview was rated a big no-no by almost all HR Directors polled (96%).

“For anyone who saw my demise on The Apprentice in the interview round, you’ll recall that I was fired for not taking it seriously.  While a sense of humour is an important asset, the interview is not the time or place to share your humour” comments James McQuillan.

Top interview tips

1.     Invest in a good quality dark suit and a sharp white shirt or blouse. Men need to make sure you shave, polish your shoes and wear a conservative tie. Interviews are neither the time nor the place for cartoon ties!

2.     Practise your body language and be aware of how you’re coming across. Your body language says everything about you and gives messages about your character to people looking at you. Sit up straight, keep eye contact and respond to your interviewer to show you are listening.

3.     Sounds obvious, but don’t be late. Plan your route and get there early.  If needed, do a dummy run beforehand. Modern office complexes can be quite a maze and if you’re running late for an interview, you’ll arrive hot, sweaty, flustered and out of breath. But avoid getting there so early that you spend an hour and a half killing time making yourself even more nervous than you probably already are.

4.     Never go into an interview unprepared.  In the 45 or so minutes that you have to sell yourself, you need to let the interviewer know you know your onions.  So do your homework on the company, read their annual report, do a news search on them and drop into conversation that you were impressed by their shrewdness in opening a branch in Kuala Lumpur.

5.     Never lie. People who get caught lying on their CV never get the job (well, apart from the guy who won The Apprentice a few years ago…).  I once interviewed a candidate for a job who told me that he had planned a pan-European telecoms network for one of our rivals.  Imagine his horror when one of my co-interviewers said: “No you didn’t, because it was me who did”.

6.     Don’t criticise your existing employer.  If you get asked “Why do you want to work here?”, then the reason is not “I hate my boss”.  By putting down your existing employer it makes you look like you’re a whinger, and no one ever achieved anything by moaning.

Getting ahead at work

Once you’ve landed the job, you won’t impress your boss by working long hours anymore. Four in five employers questioned (87%) said coming in early or staying late was no longer a reflection of a good work ethic.

“Today it’s about showing your employer you’re in control of your work load.  You’re not giving that impression if you constantly have to put in long hours,” comments James McQuillan.

In today’s workplace the top qualities valued by employers in their staff are coping with sensitive issues (62%), having a good sense of humour (61%) and keeping calm under pressure (58%), a far cry from pre-recession times when the focus was more on high achievers and making money.

“The Report shows that times are definitely changing, with companies across the board now looking to hire staff who can adapt to new people and situations, and are calm and controlled. Recent graduates need to acknowledge this if they want to succeed in finding a job in what remains a tough market”, says James McQuillan.

Visit our jobs page to find your next opportunity.

Click here for our Top 50 Customer Service Interview Questions

Published On: 8th Sep 2010 - Last modified: 22nd Mar 2017
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