What interview advice would you give to your 16-year-old self?

A couple of months ago I volunteered to speak at my son’s school to help give a bunch of year 11 students advice on how to increase their chances in a job interview.  Whilst I have a fair few good, bad and ugly examples from my own to draw on, I also turned to the LinkedIn community for some help.

This is a summary of everyone’s pearls of wisdom so if you, your son or daughter is about to launch themselves onto the job market then hopefully this might be of help.

Don’t be beaten on the basics

Turn up early (i.e. at least 15 min) so you are not flustered or stressed and look keen.  Dress appropriately – think ‘would my mum approve’ rather than ‘would my friends think this looks good’.  Unless you are going for a job in fashion, this is more likely to help you get closer to the sartorial mark.

Clean up your social media profile

Yes – even old people use social media these days and you can bet your bottom dollar they will be looking you up before you go for your interview.  So, take a long hard, objective look at your online public profile.  If you have one too many pouty selfies and are wearing swimwear in your profile pictures (that includes you boys), then maybe it’s time for a bit of social media housekeeping.

Be yourself and don’t forget to smile

There is no point getting a job that is not right for you and if you pretend to be someone you are not then it is going to be very hard to keep the act up.  Aside from this, make sure you remember to smile and always refer to your interviewer’s name at some point in the meeting. This shows you are paying attention and adds a nice personal touch.

Practice makes perfect 

You may feel a bit daft but practising doing a job interview is a very good idea and helps you prepare for all eventualities.  It will also help expose any gaps in your knowledge and research. I used to get my house mates to grill me – role playing all aspects of the interview until I could fluently and confidently answer their questions.  Alternatively, ask someone who is used to interviewing and isn’t afraid to ask some curve ball questions.

Back up what you say with evidence and examples 

It’s not enough to just say you are a team player or that you are calm in stressful situations, anyone can do this but not everyone can follow these statements up with examples.  Pull on all your experience – from your home, school or social life to demonstrate any points you want to make.  This makes you more credible and more interesting.

Use varied life experiences to your advantage

Don’t hide your life experiences, any challenges that you have dealt with in your life may help you demonstrate skills and maturity beyond your years.  Be proud of what you have achieved.  Interviewers are not looking for perfection (which can actually be a bit vanilla) but someone that demonstrates they are keen, hardworking, resilient and fun to work with.

If I can give one final word of advice it would be to never give up. Don’t get dejected by all the rejections (there may be many), don’t sell yourself short and learn from every mistake you make.  They will only make you better and wiser for next time!