Interviews are always nerve-wracking but panic not. Take our advice and you'll sail through the process.
Once your education is nearing an end you may think the tough ride is over, well think again. Another challenge lies ahead now, and that's getting the job. You've got to fight for that role, and you'll be up against hundreds of fellow applicants all vying for that same position.
Nicola Rowledge, who works within HR learning and development at Yorkshire Water has a hands-on role in the company's graduate scheme application process. She deals with interviewees regularly and can offer her advice to those about to walk into the interview room. Here are her top ten tips on succeeding in interviews.
A necessity if you want to be taken seriously for the role.
You might consider the company to have a casual outlook, however whatever it's culture, you'll be expected to be smartly suited at the interview.
Ladies, leave the accessories at home, and go for simple sophistication.
Don't go overboard on the perfume or aftershave either, you want to remembered for your skills rather than your smell.
"We are not looking for perfection but we are looking for integrity and honesty," explains Rowledge. "If you have made a mistake, that's OK. We all do that, but what did you learn from that situation? We are looking for people who reflect and want to continually improve how they do things."
Interviews can be nerve-wracking, so if you have a tendency to clam up, use notes. Always check out of politeness that it's ok to refer to them, but in the main, interviewers don't mind you using these at all.
Most of the time you wont need them, however it can be reassuring to have them there.
They're also a useful way to prepare when in the waiting room. Run through these notes to remind yourself of skills you want to demonstrate and the questions you want to ask.
If you suddenly get nervous there are tools you can use to get over this "blip".
"If you freeze and cant think of an answer, then take a sip of water," Rowledge advises. "It gives you a chance to calm down and think. It cools your brain, allowing it to work more efficiently, and cools you down if you're starting to panic or sweat, so it has multiple benefits.
"Also if you need a second, take the time to ask an interviewer to repeat a phrase or question."
Nerves can affect you and make you "waffle on", so also be sure to stop talking once you've made your point.
Keep on topic as well. Don't give examples where you played a background role, as these are not what the interviewer is looking for. Unless the question is asking about you playing a secondary role, it wont be a good example.
"Don't say anything negative or critical about past employers," Rowledge recommends. "You can say it was understaffed and quite pressured as that's a balanced approach, however saying your boss was horrid and bullied you will look bad on you more than your old company. You have to realise we're interviewing you and everything you say is a reflection on you."
Ask yourself what the organisation is about. What are they trying to achieve, what's the environment like that they work in?
Research and then pick out what attracts you and why and tell them. Just reciting the website doesn't really say anything about you, all it says is you can recite chunks of information.
"There's nothing more frustrating for an interviewer than yet another candidate who tells you how many people you employ or what your turnover was last year," says Rowledge. "Funnily enough, we know that stuff. And in isolation it doesn't mean an awful lot. Tell us why that information stood out to you i.e. why working for a successful company is important to you and how you would contribute to it."
Organisations may not be looking for a complete picture. Particularly on graduate schemes and "first jobs", companies are looking for potential and a willingness to learn.
"We're looking for a cultural fit, a match to our values and behaviours. We're looking for a willingness to learn rather than someone who knows everything," says Rowledge.
"If you're wiling to admit that you don't know the answer to a question or you made a mistake that's absolutely fine as far as we're concerned. Its all about what you learned from a situation. That ability to reflect - to see that you're not perfect but you want to improve. That's what we're looking for."
So really prepare what you want to get out of the meeting/interview. Think what you want to know in order to decide if a) it's the job for you, b) it's the culture and organisation for you and c) it's the right opportunity for you.
"Think about the questions you can ask - not just how many days holiday do I get and what's the starting salary," says Rowledge. "I recommend imagining the company is going to offer you the job and you're going to have to start in a weeks time - what information do you want to know? "
A few good questions to always ask are:
And finally, don't forget to smile and have a nice firm handshake!