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So you’re over the first major hurdle: you’ve got an interview. Now the work really begins. Don’t be tempted to wing it on the day. The more thought you give the interview ahead of time, the stronger your performance will be.

Here are our 7 top tips to help give you the edge:

Do your homework

Knowing the company’s plans for the year ahead, the chief exec’s name, their expansion plans and having informed views on their competitors is a sure-fire way of standing out from the crowd. It doesn’t take much to search for the latest news, so make sure you check out the company website and its presence on Twitter and Facebook. If there’s been no opportunity to casually drop your insight into the interview itself then make sure you take the opportunity in the “and do you have any questions for us” part of the interview.

Rehearse – out loud

Don’t feel silly interviewing yourself in the mirror or getting a friend to ask you questions, this can be invaluable practice. Most interviews will go along fairly predictable lines meaning you can really prepare your range of answers. Questions like ‘what are your strengths and weaknesses’ is almost certain to pop up in some form so it’s easy if you know what you’re going to say. Search on the web for other common interview question and rehearse your answers and think about the examples you’re going to use to demonstrate the qualities they’ll want to see. If you’re using a friend to practice with give them licence to throw in some real stinkers and unexpected questions to keep you on your toes and ensure you’re comfortable if you do have to go “off-script”.

Look the part

Don’t underestimate the power of a suit or smart business outfit. Even if a company has a dress down policy they’ll probably want to know you take the opportunity seriously. How much attention you pay to your appearance reflects your overall enthusiasm for the job and employers want to see people who care. As a general rule dress one level up from the job you are applying for and if in doubt it is better to dress conservatively than casually. You can always dress down after you have landed the job.

 

Plan your route and arrive early

This might sound basic – and it is – but it is still incredibly important. A candidate who arrives late gives a very bad impression and chances are you’ll be flustered and even more nervous if you think you’re off to a bad start. Being late will raise questions over your overall competence, attitude and ability to plan ahead and deal with difficulties when they arise. Make sure you know exactly where you are going and give yourself enough time to get there 15 minutes early even if you miss a train or hit bad traffic. If you’re in any doubt about how to get there and you have the time try to make the journey at least once before the big day.

Stay calm

Easier said than done, obviously, but if you have done the preparation and got there in plenty of time, you can afford to be confident. Remember those interviewing you want you to be a great candidate. They are not looking to trip you up but to find that you pass the test. Of course you will have some nervousness but keeping a handle on it will reassure them that you’re good under pressure.

Prepare to sell yourself

Of course the whole interview is about selling yourself but you should also prepare a 30 second ‘pitch’ if you are asked ‘why should we hire you?’ This is sometimes called the elevator pitch as it should be possible to deliver it in the time it takes to ride in a lift. This isn’t a time to be humble, but of course you should keep to the facts. Highlight your strengths and what you think you can bring to the role ahead of others.

Have questions ready to ask the interviewer

You should always have some questions prepared to signal both your knowledge of, and interest in, the job and organisation. If you have nothing to ask it says a lot about how much you have prepared and how much you want the role. Make your questions specific and about the company. Avoid generic queries. It shouldn’t need saying but don’t ask about holiday allowances at this stage as it just makes it look like you’re keen not to do the work. One caveat to this is if the interview style has been very conversational you may have covered a lot of your questions already, in which case don’t be afraid to either revisit something if you want to know more or to say that you think all your questions have been covered already.

There’s one final tip for after the interview, which is often forgotten in the relief of getting it over with. Always send a note or email thanking the interviewer for their time and say again how keen you are on the job. Don’t make it a long message, just a short note to reinforce what’s already been said.