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Interview Strategy: The Dos and Don’ts

Here are I am recruiting’s ultimate “dos and don’ts” for any interview situation. We’re all capable of making ‘rookie errors’ after all – no matter what level we’re interviewing for – so read on to help ensure a stellar performance next time…


  1. First impressions really do count

Ok, we all have times when arriving late is unavoidable but as with weddings and funerals, arriving late to a job interview is a serious ‘no-no’ – and even more so if you don’t show a suitable amount of penitence! You risk throwing the timings out, and you won’t do yourself any favours if you’re hot and flustered, so aim to arrive a minimum of 30 minutes beforehand and get to know the area where you might be working. If arranging an interview on your lunch hour, it’s best to ensure that the panel knows you might be a little late, so that all bases are covered, and you don’t need to panic!

  1. It’s all about the hands!

Always a favourite topic, since nobody knows what to do with them! Sitting on them makes you look like a schoolchild, whereas wave them about too enthusiastically and you’ll look like a mime artist! Try not to use props, such as a pen or a tissue to keep your hands busy and try to restrict their movements to emphasising the points you want to make. Also, remember to work on the handshake, which should ALWAYS be firm and friendly – never limp, never moist, and never bone-crushingly hard. Oh, and don’t pump the interviewer’s hand on the way out, since you’ll just end up looking grateful that you’ve survived the ordeal!!!

  1. So, what do you know about our organisation?

“I…er, you…er…I think that…” is never a great way to open a sentence, and believe it or not, I recently had a candidate who seemed as though she was shocked to be sitting in front of an interview panel – as if she’d been teleported there from a different time zone. The basic openers such as “why are you interested in this role?” or “what do you know about us?” are not designed as hurdles to cross, but rather gently warm you up for the tougher questions to follow – and if you fail at these, you might as well hope that the teleport re-opens, and sucks you away to another universe…

  1. Talk me BRIEFLY through your career to date…

This is one of my favourite openers. The clue is in the above sentence. I like a candidate who can stick to a brief, especially if the brief is to be well, just that! Spend 10 minutes talking a panel through each nuance of your career, and each side-ways step, and you’ve lost them. This is one of the most common mistakes that candidates make, especially those with an impressive work history. Try to stick to an outline of your career, an elevator pitch which shows you were in control at every step, and only highlight examples of performance which are relevant to the role for which you are applying.

  1. Watch out for that tangent!

Why, when asked a simple, two-part question, do so many people go off at a tangent, and start talking about something irrelevant? You might prefer to be answering a different question, but as with an exam, you’re still expected to provide an answer for the question you’ve been asked! Again, as with the previous point, if you can’t stick to the brief, it can seem as if you don’t know how to listen nor follow instructions.

  1. The eyes have it!

Eye contact is a hugely personal issue, and some of us find it really difficult. One of the things I’m constantly amazed by in senior interviews, is how a candidate can almost ‘dismiss’ a panel member as unimportant, and answer all questions looking at the other members of the panel. This can give rise to questions about sexism in the minds of the panel – and an egalitarian, uniform approach should be adopted by all candidates in such a position. Look at each of the panel members in turn, for a few seconds, and then go back along the line; back and forth, like a particularly snail-paced game of tennis. Only by looking at each of the panel members can you bond with them – but also, you are not likely to pick up on the nuances of when you’ve said the right thing, or said too much, unless you’re making eye contact.

  1. Any questions?

It’s really interesting, from a recruiter’s point of view, to see just how engaged a panel becomes when asked a question by a candidate. If you don’t have any questions prepared, or the ones you had have already been answered, try to think of something on the spot. There will inevitably be something about the future, funding, the competition, opportunities, 5 or 10-year plans, etc., that you can ask. Failure to ask a single question implies a lack of interest in the role and the organisation and might make the difference between getting the job and coming second.


So there you have it, the ultimate interview dos and don’ts! If we can be of any further help, we’d love to hear from you! Please email us for a confidential chat about job-seeking.

I am recruiting provides an unrivalled recruitment service for candidates and clients within professional associations, membership organisations and the wider non-profit sector. Please email us for a confidential chat about any recruitment needs.

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