5 Tips for Surviving a Tough Interview


Every interview is a nerve-wracking experience, but some can be especially difficult. In this guest post, Chris Stappard, Managing Director of Edward Reed Recruitment, shares his top tips for tackling the toughest tête-à-têtes.

When it comes down to it, most employers would probably choose someone with less experience if they interviewed better than a more qualified candidate. While that might sound scary, especially if you have a difficult interview in the near future, it actually means that you have more power to achieve your dream career as long as you learn to handle the interview process.

You only have a certain amount of time to impress your employer, which means limited chances to communicate your capability to them. That’s why things like your body language, your outfit, and the way you conduct yourself can have just as much of an impact on their opinion of you as the answers you give them. So, below are Chris’ top 5 tips for keeping on top of your interview technique.

1. How to beat nerves

The best way to beat nerves is to prepare. Take your nervous energy and channel it into something practical and useful by looking up common interview questions, researching the company and its core values, and seeing what it’s staff have been up to recently on social media. Not only will this give you an insight into the kind of place you’re interviewing for, but you’ll be able to tell what kind of interview to expect. You can also talk to a Career Coach to help you prepare for your interview.

In the run up to the big day, you can prepare yourself by staying calm with activities you enjoy. Whether you prefer exercising, relaxing, or treating yourself to a pampering session, self-care can help make sure you’re rested and in the best state of mind to impress.

2. Dressing for success

When doing your company research, you may have gotten an insight into the style of dress the office prefers, so you’ll have a decent idea of how formal to go for your interview. Suits are becoming less common in a workplace environment, but in an interview, you should still make the effort to look your best. Always dress smarter than you think you need to — it’s better than looking sloppy.

Fit is probably the most overlooked part of dressing for success, but it’s also one of the most impactful on your professional appearance. If your chosen outfit is too baggy or too tight it can send out all the wrong signals to your employer, and they might not want to take you on no matter how qualified you are for the position.

3. The use of positive body language

Most body language happens subconsciously, but that doesn’t mean we have no control over it. The best thing to remember is to keep a straight spine yet relax your shoulders. Doing so strikes the perfect balance between alert and comfortable, which shows you’re not intimidated by stressful situations yet ready to take on a challenge.

Responding physically when someone else is talking is also crucial to indicate you’re respectful and a good listener, both desirable qualities in any candidate. Turn your head and lean slightly towards whoever is speaking to show you are receptive and engaged. Similarly, remember to maintain eye contact — even when it’s your turn to talk! Remember, you can ask a career consultant for a mock interview if you want to practice this.

4. Answering challenging questions

Challenging questions aren’t only supposed to test your knowledge. Often, an interviewer will include a question they know might catch you off guard just to see how you deal with stress or unexpected situations. The important thing to remember is that it’s okay not to know the answer to every query, and that it’s just another opportunity to show them what you can do.

If they ask you about something you have no experience in, tell them how you would go about finding the answer to that question in particular, or try relating it to a similar situation you’ve handled. This shows you are adaptable and willing to give things a go despite your lack of knowledge or experience.

5. Taming a tough interviewer

Sometimes, a difficult interviewer can seem like a brick wall and you might find it difficult to build any rapport at all. This is where that normally baffling question at the end of the interview comes in handy: “is there anything you’d like to ask us?” This is your chance to change the conversation and steer it towards information you’ve prepared but not had chance to share yet.

Plus, asking your interviewer a question requires them to think on their feet and they might let their guard down a bit more, especially if you ask them about themselves rather than the company. For example, you could ask them how long they’ve been at the company and what their job title was when they started. Or, you could ask them what their favourite part about working there is.

These tips can help you prepare for your next interview with confidence, knowing that a difficult interview is just a challenge and a chance to demonstrate your skills and experiences.

Alice Stapleton

About Alice

Alice coaches those who want to change career but don’t know what they want to do instead. She offers Career Coaching designed to help graduates, early to mid-level career-changers, and parents returning to work gain a clear vision of what career is right for them, and how to achieve it. She is also an accredited Coach Supervisor, and host of The Career Change Diaries podcast.