The Blog

We asked alumni for their best interview advice and stories

There is a lot of interview advice out there, so we thought who better to ask than your fellow successful alumni who have experienced both sides of the interview process – as interviewers and interviewees.

Learn from their triumphs and their mistakes. After all, passing on knowledge to your fellow former students of Lewisham Southwark College is what the Alumni Association is all about.

Dress to impress

We asked one high-flying alumnus who regularly interviews candidates what he expects them to wear for their interviews. “One candidate called me to ask what they should wear,” they said. “As a member of the panel I had to be fair to all so I said, ‘read the job spec and think what you would consider appropriate for an interview for the role.’ In this case they did fine. But it does remind candidates to consider carefully what they wear. Too smart in some ways can be as bad as too scruffy. Sometimes if you have been advised of the person or people interviewing you can research what they wear as a guide.”

“As an interviewee, it pays to consider what the panel may consider when they look at the overall person,” said another alumnus. “Consider the role, the seniority and what you want to get across unconsciously. If you’re required to be creative then a plain outfit may not fit, if you’re applying to be a senior manager then a t-shirt and jeans won’t unless all the other senior team appear in t-shirts on their profiles. Often candidates want to stand out, which is good, one person’s standing out can be another’s far too over the top.”

Be yourself

“Don’t let ‘interview nerves’ make it seem like you are a nervous or shy person when you’re not,” advised another alumni member, who is a Managing Director. “In almost all jobs, your interviewer will be considering how you fit in to the existing team – so be yourself. There’s nothing to be nervous about, only good things can come from an interview. Really, what’s the worst that can happen? If they don’t like you, fine, you move on and never see them again.”

Don’t be scared to say no

The interview process is also for you as a candidate to decide whether you want to work for the company or if the job is suitable for you. It’s a two-way street.

“I had one interview where I became concerned about the direction of the questioning,” said one alumnus. “It seemed to centre around how I would review department costs and responsibilities. I came away with an uneasy feeling and although I was flattered to be offered the role I decided to turn it down. It wasn’t for that reason alone but a few of them. In the end it turned out the successful candidate had to review the department and make redundancies within a year of taking up the post, something which wasn’t mentioned in the job description or advert at all. The moral for me was, the line of questioning often indicates the real nature of the job so use it as a guide if you get there.”

Ask questions

An important way to gauge whether you want to work for the company is to ask questions, as one alumni member found.

“Make a mental note of things to ask during the interview,” he recommended. “But don’t just go with your pre-planned question – this shows you’re listening.”

Many interviewers will also ask you if you have any questions at the end, so it will help to be prepared for this scenario. Read our complete guide to answering the ‘have you got any questions’ question, here.

Do your homework

“Have your ‘story so far’ ready to go,” said another alumnus. “When they inevitably say ‘tell me a bit about yourself,’ you will have a consistent and planned approach to this. You can then stop at any point to provide more details.”

“Practise! Speak out loud, answer the type of questions they are likely to ask you,” said one member. “Video yourself if necessary. It’s worth the time investment.”

There you have it. If you’d like to have your opinions and advice included in a future alumni article, please look out for our discussion posts in your Alumni LinkedIn group.

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