I tried one of those £200 an hour grad job interview workshops

Just don’t imagine your interviewers naked

In a windowless room, your knees are shaking and palms sweaty – all the while trying not to look petrified at your first grad job interview.

Between palpitations and pondering on your biggest weakness, there has to be an easier way to land some work.

Now desperate students are coughing up £200 for private interview practise. So you’re not only up against the usual rabid tooth and nail competition, but grads forking out cold hard cash for exclusive training.

So I met up with one of these expert tutors to find out how to ace an interview and had my own haphazard technique utterly grilled.

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Ajeet Minhas from Tavistock tutors shows me how to do a serious handshake

Senior Tutor at Tavistock Ajeet Minhas turned up to put me to the test and guide me through several shades of interview hell.

Straight to the point, Ajeet insists “they’re like a beauty pageant to showcase who you are and what you can offer – a chance to sell yourself”.

“I’ve looked at your LinkedIn and it’s quite out of date” he adds, before I quickly apologise for not updating it in quite some time – nearly a year to be exact.

Entering the room

We create an imaginary scenario. I enter a made up room with a made up door and awkwardly say hello.

Immediately Ajeet told me off for not closing our pretend door.

“Don’t turn your back on the interviewer, do a half turn gently. Even try to keep hold of the doorknob as you enter so it’s easier to close.

“Always wait until you’re asked to sit down” he warns.

“You wouldn’t go into someone’s house and sit down without being asked.”

Small talk

Petty conversation makes up the very backbone of British society, and naturally an interview situation is no different.

Ajeet says: “Small talk is a way to get acquainted and touch base, they will try to make you feel at ease.”

Typically we talk about the weather, so it might be a good idea to check the forecast before you go in.

“They will give you a background summary of the company and a rundown of what they’re looking for, then the interview will properly begin”

The questioning

When asked to think on your feet, it can be tempting to rush straight into a badly planned out answer where you constantly contradict yourself – which is exactly what I did.

Wise Ajeet has a much better plan.

“Pause for thought. It’s perfectly ok and looks like you’re reflecting.

“Somebody who deliberates is a sign of a good character – basically they’re sizing you up.

“Prepare for questions but try to avoid preparing in writing. Practice and remember your answers.”

Ajeet then warns how he’ll be asking me to describe myself, a 20 second brief all about me in a nutshell.

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It might look like I’m interviewing Ajeet, but he was definitely in control

“I’m going to be looking at your facial expressions and body language.”

Rambling on for a few seconds about my work with arms flailing everywhere, my answer crucially misses out my personality and hobbies – which Ajeet says are vital for employers to grasp the real you.

“They want to know about you as a person and will want you to fit in.

“Make a point then pause. Regroup and breath. You may need to backtrack and that’s fine if you don’t do it too much.”

Ajeet asks for my biggest weakness and I mumble some nonsense about sometimes struggling to let stories go.

He traps me with constant questioning until I wish I’d come up with something more concrete – like being a perfectionist.

“Show what you can offer that other candidates cannot.

Ajeet is also a fan of the more out of the box questioning.

“They might ask you what animal you would be or what dinosaur you would choose. Everybody always says a lion or a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

“I’d be a Stegosaurus. They’re docile and get on with what needs to be done.”

Get ready for the crucial questions – “Why should we hire you?”

Adieu’s says you should prepare your unique selling point, something which makes you stand out from the other horde of applicants.

Body language

This is where everybody gets it wrong apparently.

“Avoid crossing your arms” Ajeet commands.

“Place yours hands palm down on the table. Tap your fingers once per point, to make it clear you’ve made a point.”

“It’s very important to show hands, it proves you’ve got nothing to hide.

“Make eye contact but don’t stare the girl or guy out. If you find it hard to look right at their eyes, focus on an eyebrow instead.”

I was told even the way I smile is all wrong.

“Smile with both lips up and don’t do a Gordon Brown-esque smirk.

“Lean is as much as possible to hear what they have to say.”

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Handy tip: Keep your palms on the table

Questions

Eventually the tide will turn and you’ll get the chance to unleash some questions on the interviewer.

“Always ask questions, but try to limit it to three or four – don’t make the interview overrun.

“You could ask about any future product lines, any possible travel opportunities or even expectations of you in the first five months.

“This makes them aware you’re very serious about reaching targets.”

What to wear

It might be obvious not to turn up to an interview in jeans, but Ajeet wanted to make the guidelines clear.

“The default position on dress is businesslike. Don’t have buttons open.

“Make sure your hair is slick, boots polished but avoid excessive jewellery. Men should avoid it altogether.

“Cover all tattoos with long sleeve shifts.”

Apparently even what goes over your toes in an important part of how you look.

“I was helping a guy prepare right before his interview, and I could see his Family Guy socks. I asked if they were his lucky songs, and made him change them quickly.

“If you want to show your personality then verbalise it.

Ajeet’s overall tips

Prepare yourself

“Have a commercial awareness and show you understand the commercial world. If it’s for a finance job, make sure you read the Financial Times.

“Find out who will be interviewing you. Phone up in advance and ask if you have to. This allows you to prepare and also shows initiative.

“Be at one with your CV. You are a talent and should know your unique selling point.

“Even take care of your physical sleep. Exercise and get some air the night before.

“Nerves are natural and you’re not alone.”

Asked on whether you should imagine your interviewers naked to relax your nerves, Ajeet is not so keen.

“It could work, but there are other ways to manipulate your mind and come across well.

“Becoming more excited by everything is one good method.”

Create or clean-up your online shop front

linkedin

My very out of date LinkedIn. I’ve had loads of jobs since this, honest.

“This is your LinkedIn in and social media. Clear up your Facebook privacy settings.

“I’d seriously recommend keeping LinkedIn up to date. You wouldn’t want to present yourself offline as tacky, and online is exactly the same.

“This is your window display. Windows displays are made to look appealing and the same should apply to you.”

Remember that the interview is as much for the employer as for you

“You’re there by lateral arrangement. It’s equal – they work hard and invest to get the best talent,

It’s a very big deal you’re there because they see something in you.”

Be professional, positive and honest

“This is how you conduct yourself from speaking to the cleaner to the receptionist.

“If the interviewer swears, do not swear back.

“Finish each answer with a positive statement. If you left a job or were sacked, put a positive spin on it.”

“Don’t cover it with a lie or half truth – they’ll spot a fibber.”

“They need people they can trust, not someone who will cover their own back.”

Follow up after the interview itself

“You have to demonstrate initiative. Thank them for their time by email, NOT by phone.

“End the email with something positive that you gained. A good example would be something you learned from asking questions.

“Do not contact the company after the interview – it’s annoying.

“If the timeframe in which they agreed to get back to you has expired, it’s reasonable to get in contact.”

As we part ways, shaking hands, Ajeets quietly reminds me one last piece of advice: “That handshake was uninspired. Go right in and give a little squeeze.”

You can book your own personalised interview advice with Ajeet or Tavistock tutors here.

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