Ultimate interview tipsWho better to ask for interview advice than people who might employ you? Here, sevenuber-bosses share their tips for impressing any prospective employer, including how tocope with tricky questions, big-up your achievements and show why you’re the idealcandidate. Bring on the ammunition you need to get that dream job.Meet the bosses who could make or break your careerSam Baker, 39, editor of Cosmopolitan. She chooses the team that writes, designs, stylesand edits your favourite magazine.Vickie Chamerlain, 30, graduate recruitment manager at law firm Simmons &Simmons. She hunts down the solicitors of the future.Francesca Dow, 42 MD of book publishing company Puffin. She finds people tocommission, produce and sell books.Lee Grace, 29, is menswear buyer at Urban Outfitters. He recruits staff to spot fashiontrends and bring them to the shop floor.Jon Lewis, 29, training and recruitment manager for Pitcher & Piano. He recruits barmanagers for the nationwide pub chain.Kathleen Saxon, 34, director of strategy and planning at Virgin Radio. Her staff plancommercial decisions and new launches.Alex Snelling, 29, recruitment director at L’Oreal. He hires people to develop and marketproducts, as well as finance and logistics staff.Interview Insider #1How should I prepare?Hole up in the library: “Do all the research you can,” says Snelling. “Go on Google, readthe trade press, check out competitors and visit the company’s website.”Play detective: “Find out what customers think and draw a profile of the company fromthat,” urges Grace. “Online chatrooms are a great way to tap into customers. I expectanyone applying to Urban Outfitters to get feel for our shops and see what people arebuying.”Interview Insider #2What should I wear?Go as yourself: “Don’t channel Kate Moss,” says Baker. “A friend of mine once appliedfor an editorial assistant job on a glossy magazine and bought a trendy outfit. After 10minutes, the interviewer said, I’m sorry, I can tell from the way you’re dressed thatyou’re not going to fit in.’ If she’d gone as herself she’d probably have got the job.”SUPER-SMART-ME “Even if you’re going for a position that doesn’t involve wearinga suit, dress up for your interview,” advises Lewis. “If you dress sloppily, people mightassume you’re slack in your work, too.”Interview Insider #3How can I show I’m the best person for the job?Match their requirements: “Show your achievements and experience match the advertisedjob,” says Saxon. “If they want a self-starter, talk about a project you set up and say howit benefited your employer.”
Know what you’re getting into: “It’s commendable to want to help people and achieveworld peace, but that’s not what most jobs are about,” explains Chamberlain. “As a citylawyer, for example, it’s about helping companies do business better. Your interviewerwants you to share that goal.”Say what you’ll bring to the role: “Explain how you’d work with the team and how you’dgenerate new business,” says Dow. “Thinking this through in advance is proof you wantthis job, not any old job.”Interview Insider #4What should I avoid saying?‘I’m black belt in Karate’ “Lies in an interview will haunt you later in your career,” saysChamberlain. “Don’t even feign an interest in a hobby. If you can’t back up your passionfor tightrope-walking or helping the homeless, people will see through you.”‘What’s the salary?’ “It’s a massive turn-off when this is someone’s first thought,”admits Baker. “It’s fine to ask at the end of the interview – we’ve all got to pay the rent –but journalism is the kind of job you do for love, not loot.”‘My last boss was a mentalist’ “Even if your boss ought to be locked up, never be rudeabout a current or previous employer,” warns Saxon. “Instead of saying what a terribletime you had, always be positive by saying what you learnt there.”Interview Insider #5How honest should I be about my past mistakes?It depends what they are… “If you have a history of problems with timekeeping andmotivation, your potential new boss doesn’t want to know,” says Lewis. “See this job as afresh start and put those mistakes behind you once and for all.”Be upfront about your weaknesses: “Everyone has them,” confirms Dow. “If you knowthem, you can overcome them. It’s truly off-putting when people show zero awareness oftheir flaws.”Own up to mistakes: “Plenty of candidates rush application forms and make mistakes,”says Snelling. “Read through your application before your interview so if your boss-to-bebrings up as error you can apologise instead of looking caught out.”Interview Insider #6What’s the best way to talk about my achievements?Act your script, don’t just read: “I can tell when someone is just telling me what theythink I want to hear,” says Lewis. “Putting personality into your list of achievementsmakes your presentation flow. Smile as you talk so you sound keen and proud of whatyou’ve done.”Begging is banned: “Enthusiasm is great but don’t say, ‘I desperately want this job,’because it devalues you,” warns Grace.Interview Insider #7Help! What if I can’t answer the question?Take your time: “Don’t lie, don’t panic, don’t waffle,” advises Baker. “Think about thequestion carefully and if you still don’t know the answer, say so. Then rescue thesituation by saying how you’d find out.”
Improvise: “One dirty interviewing tactic is flipping subjects randomly,” says Lewis. “Imight go from talking about the business to asking, ‘If you were a fruit, what would yoube?’ If you have a blank, go with the first answer that pops in your head. Once you’ve saiit, explaining your answer is easier.”Interview Insider #8What’s the most difficult question I could be asked?‘If I rang your colleagues, what would they say about you?’: “Your reaction to this onesays it all,” warns Saxon. “It’s possible your interviewer has researched you like this,though it’s unlikely. They want you to smile and look confident, not worry about theskeletons in your cupboard.”“Give me three ideas about…’: “This one’s for journalists, though any boss could ask fornew ideas for their company,” says Baker. “I pick a subject and ask them to come up withthree Cosmo features around that topic. There’s no right answer, it’s about thinking onyour feet. It should be easy but it really shakes some candidates.”Interview Insider #9After the interview, should I follow up?Only if it went well…: “If there’s a key comment you wished you’d made, send a noteafterwards ,” suggests Dow. “Admittedly, the tactic only works if your interviewer likesyou, but it’s worth taking the gamble.”Yes, but don’t nag – “If you haven’t heard for a week or so it’s OK to send a chasingemail, just resting our interest, but not after two days!” says Baker.