Do interviews scare you?

For many people the interview is the most daunting part of the recruitment process and can be filled with dread. Over the years I have interviewed perhaps thousands of people and have formed some pretty clear ideas on what can make a good impression or, indeed, a bad one. I have also come to the view that preparing properly for an interview can make a big difference to the way you perform.


42577917 - interview panel listening to applicant in the office

The interview is a special kind of race.
Most people think of the interview as a one-on-one or perhaps two-on-one transaction. You are invited to see an organisation and you will be met by some of their representatives.  If successful you will perhaps be invited back for a second meeting. I view an interview as something slightly different: I actually see it as a race, but one where you are unable to see the competitors. It is quite likely that any organisation will be seeing a number of people for a particular position and you have to persuade them that you are the first choice for the role. How are you going to make sure that you break the tape ahead of the other competitors?
Extensive research has shown that people recruit candidates they like.
Perhaps that seems an obvious thing to say, but it’s not that easy to persuade somebody to like you when your legs have turned to jelly and your stomach is liquefied. Okay, you may not be that nervous but the vast majority of interviewees have some nerves. This can result in going to an extreme of either ‘transmit’ (where you express your ideas) or ‘receive’ (where you actively listen); this commonly finds expression in the bland regurgitation of a speech you practised in front of the bathroom mirror, or under your breath when watching TV last night. Many times I have said to people that if the interviewer has their forehead on the desk and is snoring gently, pick up your papers, leave the room quietly and assume you haven’t got the job. It may sound funny but I have listened to many speeches during interviews which are of limited interest and have no relevance to the job for which I am recruiting.
The most important thing you can do in any interview is engage with your audience.
If you do not do so, and as a result they don’t particularly like you, then you are unlikely to be successful regardless of how close your experience is to their requirements. Most organisations would rather recruit somebody they liked but whose experience was not ideal, rather than somebody whose experience was spot on but they didn’t like. But how you get somebody to like you? Obviously it’s not that easy in a short space of time… but there are things you can do.
Take an active interest in the person you are meeting.
Try to find out a little bit about them before you go; consider that they may have a profile on LinkedIn, or even Facebook. Once you are in the same room as them you are inevitably bombarded with information you can use. For instance, their appearance including: the way they dress; their build; their body language; the tone and intonation of their voice and the words they use. Try to use this information to guide your conversation. Watch their body language to see if they are interested in what you’re saying, and try to use an open rather than closed style of communication.
Above all try to empathize. Allow the interviewer to talk about themselves or their company but avoid making assumptions, or finishing off their sentences. Ask questions that demonstrate that you have been actively listening and respect their opinions. Try to put yourself into the interviewers’ shoes: if, for example, they appear rushed then consider being brief.

This post has inevitably merely scratched the surface.  If you would like to hear more of my ideas on interviews please call me on 07802 238697 or email


Who am I? A chap living in Nottingham, United Kingdom who perhaps has a much higher level of enthusiasm than ability leading to an interest in many things but mastery of none. A father of three no longer dependent children, or so they tell me, and husband to a one-time nurse who now works with me (or rather I work for). I attempt to take photographs and occasionally fluke half decent shots though thank goodness I no longer have to buy film. I endeavour to practice karate but with advancing years spend more time instructing them participating but actively participate in the more gentle tai chi. Professionally I have spent the last twenty years in recruitment – not always the most highly regarded ‘industry’. For my part I take great pleasure in helping companies to find the right people and a lot of satisfaction out of seeing them thrive and succeed. More recently I have spent a lot of time helping people who have, or fear they may, lose their jobs. For many putting a CV together is so difficult and then finding opportuniteis can be a major challenge. Interviews can be a different problem altogether but with a little help most people can perform a lot better than they otherwise would.

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