How to present yourself well at job interviews


In my job I do a lot of interviewing, both for Learning Pool & for other organisations that ask me to help them out with this from time to time.  It’s taken a lot of effort to find and assemble the 50 or so perfect (ish) people that form Learning Pool’s current #teamlovely.

There are no doubt thousands of books written on this topic but having been involved in two sets of interviews this week alone, these are my top tips for interview success.  You will have loads more tips of your own & I hope you’ll share them with us in the comments section below.

·         Do take a few deep breaths before you go into your interview & try to remain calm; we know you’re nervous but you have to be able to manage your interview nerves

·         Don’t bring in a load of files & papers & copies of cvs to your interview – it’s distracting & makes you appear disorganised/forgetful/dishonest (as in you can’t remember stuff about your own career!)

·         Don’t take notes or write stuff down – again – it’s distracting

·         Instead, do really focus on what the panel are telling you or asking you; 30% of the people I interviewed this week (yep – you heard that right) asked for the question to be repeated when they were already half way through answering it.

·         Do manage your time well.  You will know in advance how long your interview is likely to be.  Don’t ramble on for ages when answering what are clearly icebreaker questions designed to make you relax a bit or you’ll have no time left to get onto the stuff you want to tell them about yourself.

·         Do really do your homework about the organisation & think about the job so that you can pre-empt the questions you might be asked – not to stalker level obviously, although if you have carried out research that’s that thorough, don’t tell the interview panel – it will scare them.

·         Do be friendly & chatty but don’t be too over familiar or go too overboard in your enthusiasm for the organisation

·         Do pre-prepare enough questions so that if some of them get covered off in the course of the interview you still have one or two left

·         Don’t ask about money in the first interview stage unless either the panel brings it up or you’re there for a sales job

·         Do think carefully about why you want the job & why you want to join that organisation as they will probably ask you – saying it’s because it’s close to the train station isn’t a good response.

I’ll leave you today with some of the weirdest interview behaviours we’ve witnessed lately:

·         The guy that drank about 3 pints of water

·         The girl that told us she would do ANYTHING to get the job – Paul’s face was a picture on that occasion

·         The guy that turned up dressed head to toe in white, including a hat

·         The girl that couldn’t stop crying – that was difficult to cope with

·         The girl that didn’t appear to have read the job description at all – despite having submitted a detailed application form

·         The guy who was so argumentative that we had to stop the interview & start over again

Looking forward to your stories, as always.


  1. Smiling about the interview we did with the guy who was related to the Mayor of Derry and completely misread and offended us, unintentionally. Remember him?!


  2. Last week I got asked “Why would I want to come and work for you?” My response was “I dunno, you applied for the job here”.


  3. I recommend interviewees need to cover 5 areas as a minimum in their preparation.StrategyWhat’s the strategy of the organisation, its objectives, its raison-d’etre? What are the objectives of the team/department within the organisation? How are these likely to change in the next 2 years? PESTLE analysis of future factors is essential.StructureNot just a structure chart, what are the responsibilities of the team/individuals inthe organisation. Who’s accountable, who’s responsible? What interdependencies are likely to exist?SystemsWhat processes do they have in place? What IT, which SoMe? Does the organisation have systems that support its structures?SkillsDoes the organisation have the skills to meet the needs of the systems? Who works there, what are they good at, what are the good news stories that come from the organisation?CultureWhat is the culture – not in specifics but more in terms of the feel, timbre, cadence? Check the dress code before you go to the interview – dress for the culture +1 level.Worst interview? The man applying for a warehouse post who turned up in just bought cheap suit shirt and tie; he still had the labels on the jacket, the creases in the shirt from the packet and the tag on the tie. He sat legs akimbo throughout the interview chewing gum open mouthed.He’d forgotten to zip his fly up.And he wasn’t wearing underwear.


  4. This is great Mary – I have been designing selection processes for 15 years and have a fair amount of interviewing under my belt. Good advice and made me chuckle. I have a few clangers I could tell you about too! If I had one essential piece of advice for anyone attending for interview, it would be to have your evidence ready! It’s not the interview panel’s job to give you a job, it’s their job to gather and assess evidence – prove that you are ‘guilty’ of being able to do the job! Get convicted!


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