In the previous posts, I discussed interview questions, how to prepare your answers to those questions, and what to expect from interview tests. In this post, I want to deal with everything else – what to take with you to interview, what to wear, how to get to the interview venue, and what to do when you arrive there.
What to take with you
Remember that it is completely fine to take notes in with you to an interview. Get these out at the start and have them in front of you for ease of reference. It might also be worthwhile to have a copy of your CV or resume to hand. Have a pen out too – it can help to give your nervous hands something to do! It is likely that you will have been asked to bring your passport and/ or birth certificate to interview too – so try not to forget either of those.
It would also be sensible to take a print-out of your invite and a map of the venue and surrounding area. Do not just rely on your phone – it can both run out of juice and not be able to find any connectivity. Obviously, do bring your phone as well.
Cash is always useful – especially if you are travelling to a rural area, where taxis, buses and some pubs and cafes will be unable to accept card payments.
Remember your medication if you are on any, and there can also be a few useful medicines to have on you. Nervous diarrhoea is a real thing and can happen to any of us – with fairly dire consequences in some cases – but fortunately anti-diarrhoea capsules can work rather quickly. Less catastrophic but still very annoying could be a sneezing fit. If you are at all susceptible to hay fever, then a precautionary anti-histamine might not be a bad thing. Also tissues, and lots of them. And plasters for any new-shoes woes.
Remember an umbrella too.
What to wear
You will not be formally assessed on your attire, of course – but it can help to influence the panel in case of a dead heat. So here goes (and sorry for focusing on gentlemen’s fashion, but I’ve never dressed as a lady at interview before):
Aim for the smarter side, but a full suit may not be necessary. I tend to go for a jacket and tie. A light grey tweed jacket is my choice. My only suit is a dinner suit (or tuxedo in American), which would be far too formal. Better to scrimp on the formality than to go for a horrible suit – which will only make you look like a footballer at a wedding or a defendant at court.
Shoes should be clean and polished. If any of the panel even have a smidgeon of a military background, you will be completely and utterly screwed if your shoes are not at their best.
Save your best, comfiest and roomiest underwear for the big day. That can pay dividends. Sure, your lucky pants may have helped you to score during your younger years, but can you really maintain focus with that seam cutting into your intimate regions?
Finally, headwear. Are you a stupid hipster who wears stupid hipster hats? Don’t.
Do not be late. It reflects very badly. You should aim to report for interview at least ten minutes before the time stated on your invite. If you at all can, have a dry run to the venue from your home. Reconnaissance of possible obstacles and likely delays can be invaluable. To be forewarned is to be forearmed – it’s all just a microcosm of the route planning techniques we use in collections management. If you are travelling by train, make sure there are no rail strikes planned for the day in question. If you are travelling by car, make sure your vehicle is in good condition and that you have enough fuel. In both cases, have a plan B.
Arrive at the general vicinity of your interview as early as you can. Factor in a margin of error in case of delay – at least an hour for all but the shortest of journeys. Scout around for the exact place you need to report to, and then kill some time.
The last thing you want is to be rushing around right before your interview. This will make you feel stressed and nervous. If, like me, you are on the slightly larger size, it can also produce some fairly prodigious amounts of sweat in the summer months. Not ideal. You want to stroll – slowly and elegantly with a cool grace – up to the venue, not run.
Before you go in
What you do next is entirely up to you. You could wander round the museum or heritage site (which could be useful), or you could go for a walk or head to a café. Whatever works for you. Listening to empowering music may be your thing, or it could be sitting down with deep breathing and a herbal tea. Maybe even some power poses in front of a mirror.
There are, however, some things which you should definitely not do before going into an interview. We may all of us be at our absolute best after one-and-a-bit pints, but even the smallest amount of alcohol can be smelt on your breath, and that would make for a very bad impression indeed. Very bad.
If you are a smoker, you may feel a particular urge for a fag just before the interview. Please try to hold off though. The smell will linger for far longer than your smoker’s nose can possibly detect, and chewing a load of mints right before you go in will simply make you smell like someone who’s chewed a load of mints in order to cover up the smell of cigarettes.
When you go in
Greet the panel. Handshakes should be firm, but not crushing. Repeat the person’s name back to them as they introduce themselves – it will help you to remember it. Get your notes out and ready on the table. Ask if you can take your jacket off, and sit down. Make yourself comfortable. Do not use weird body language, and decline a hot drink if offered – what do you think this is? Maintain eye contact with the panel, smile, and answer their questions.
Good luck! In the next section, I will talk about what to do when you inevitably fail (which you will, sorry).