How to survive in London (3) – Tips for job interviews

job interview
photo: Gvahim/flickr

Finally! The long-awaited moment has come: you have received a call for a job interview. It’s tomorrow at ten o’clock in the company headquarters, near a tube station in Zone 3.

After a few minutes, after the excitement has worn off, you start to have many questions. How should I dress? Should I bring my CV? What if I don’t understand what they ask me? What if I don’t get the job? Don’t panic: below you will find five keys to help you get through your job interview. I can’t guarantee your success, but it is likely that your chances to get the job will increase considerably if you pay attention.

How to dress

If they want you to wear a particular type of clothing, they’ll let you know. If not, wear your most formal outfit, even if you bought it at Primark (at the end of the day, you don’t want to spend a fortune on a suit if you’re only going to wear it once or twice). But sometimes you’ll have to do a training session (for example, on how to prepare sandwiches). In this case, very formal clothing may not be comfortable. Just see if they mention anything about the dress code in the email they send you with the details (if they send one), but if not, it’s better to dress too formally than too casually.

Things to bring

They may ask you bring something specific, like your passport or a copy of it, just to make sure that you have permission to work in the UK (which you automatically do if you come from the EU, so don’t worry), or maybe a transcript or proof of your degree. Make sure you bring good quality copies, and, if you can, bring two instead of one in case they need more than one. As for the CV, you probably already sent it to them when you applied for the job, but it’s not a bad idea to bring one just in case. Remember that in the UK you shouldn’t add pictures (unless you’re applying to a job where physical appearance matters, such as modelling or acting) or your date of birth.

Be there on time

Leave with time to spare, because London transport may not be on your side on this important day. Closed lines, buses that change route and delays are all very common, so add fifteen minutes to whatever time Google Maps or Transport for London is telling you it’ll take to get there.

In the interview

Introduce yourself and say why are you there, and they will tell you what to do next. If you don’t understand something, don’t make a guess about what they’ve asked you. Instead, say “Sorry, could you repeat that please?” or simply “sorry?”. It’s better to ask this question more than once than doing something like accidentally saying that you have a driver’s license when you don’t have it, after pretending to understand everything perfectly so they would give you the job. If you don’t feel confident about your English level and you don’t have much time, watch interviews on YouTube or google typical interview questions in your sector. Many of them will be the same as back home, but it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the exact structure and vocabulary that the interviewer may use.

If you want to score points, here are some additional tips:

Do your homework: look for information about the company, since in many cases they will ask you “what do you know about [company name]?” It’s better to say “I know that it was founded in Wisconsin in 1992 and has branches all over Europe” that “I don’t know, I’m just looking for a job”.

Try to be decisive: if they ask you what your favourite shift would be and you have one, just say it. If you don’t care, don’t say it like that, say “I would prefer to work the morning shift, but honestly, whatever works best for the company is fine”, for example.

Ask questions: Things like “Can you tell me a bit about the team I’ll be working with?” or even “Do you see any gaps in my skills or qualifications that I need to fill” if you get the impression that they think you might be missing something. These questions may not seem very appropriate for some interviews, but showing this type of interest before starting the job will often make you look good, especially in small companies: the first question shows that you want to know your potential colleagues and the answer can give you an idea of ​​how the department works; and with the second question, you demonstrate initiative and motivation to improve. In the worst case, if you are told that you’re missing something, it will be useful for future reference. If, for example, they say that the problem is your English, or if the interview is to work in IT support but they also want you to know Java to make some changes to their website, you know what you need to work on. Avoid asking about salary (but you may be asked what salary you expect).

After the interview

Once you’ve walked out the door (if you haven’t been told whether they’re going to hire you or not, as sometimes you might be told that same day), relax and go get a snack or do something to unwind. Try not to obsess about the interview. But don’t completely cut yourself off: make sure your phone is on sound and charged in case they call you. Some places will let you know if you aren’t hired, but many of them won’t say anything. Just in case, it’s not a bad idea to write them a message like:

Dear [name of the interviewer],
Thank you very much for the interview [on Wednesday/last Friday/…]. I just wanted you to know that I am very interested in this opportunity with [name of the company].
Thank you again for your time, and please do let me know if there is any other information I can provide you with.
Kind regards,
[Your name]

If they say no, it’s not the end of the world: keep trying. If they say why, that’s great (your English, your availability, a specific skill you don’t have, etc.), so you know if it’s something you can improve (note that if they say it’s because you don’t have a NIN yet, that’s not a valid reason, because you can start working without it). By doing more interviews, you will also get used to them and you’ll be able to optimize your questions and answers, and become an expert on interview protocol. Do not get discouraged and keep sending off your CV and cover letter.

Post written by Roser Aguirre

Roser runs, where she offers information about living in London and learning English for Spanish speakers. If you want more information about living in London, download her free guide “Cómo triunfar en Londres” (Spanish).

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