Our blogger pal Penny Golightly has learned many a useful tip while living well for less. Today she wants to share some advice on how to handle the dreaded job interview. Over to you, Penny!
If you have money worries, getting a new job can be a great help.
But how do you smarten up for that all-important interview if you’re on a very tight budget?
In addition to looking at how to get some dapper threads on the cheap, we’ll look at some interview hacks that cost nothing but can prove priceless when landing you that job!
1. Do your homework
Let’s be honest, even if this is your dream role, a big factor of why you applied is probably so you can pay the bills and have some extra spending money every month. Your employer knows this too – after all, they’re humans with needs just like you (we assume, unless the robots have taken over already…!).
One of the most dreaded questions that can arise in a job interview is “why do you want to work here?”. It might seem like a simple enough question, but can be a bit more loaded than you may think. Taking a look from the employer’s perspective, though. They want to ensure that whoever they hire is truly aware of what joining the team entails, and that their work ethic aligns with the ethos of the organisation.
Think about it like being asked out on a date – you’d like to think the person is asking you for who you are, not just because they’re lonely, right? The same goes for jobs. Employers want to know that out of all the potential employers out there, it was something special about them that caught your eye.
For this reason, it always pays to actually research into the company you’re hoping to land a job with. Going the extra mile and showing genuine insight into what they’re about is sure to set you apart from the competition.
Head to the company’s ‘About’ page on their website. Here they’re likely to have a mission statement, some bullet-points of their achievements and other details you can casually mention during your interview. Knowing where the original 18th century founder was born or how many bricks it took to build head office isn’t important. Showing that you actually care about the company, the role, and what you intend to “bring to the table” is.
2. Location, location, location
If you’re going to blow their minds at this interview, you need to be prepared. If you’re not sure where the place is, go track it down beforehand if possible. Find out the best way to get there (bus, train, car?). Find out where to park cheaply if you’re coming by car. Knowing these extra details means less things for you to stress over.
Once you’ve tracked the place down, go and explore the immediate surroundings. Is there a park or somewhere quiet nearby where you can sit and go over any notes you’ve prepared before the interview? Is there a pharmacy or department store you can nip into quickly and spritz some perfume or aftershave in an emergency? Is there toilet access close by, just in case you need some relief before heading into the fray? These might all seem like silly incidentals, but just making yourself aware of what’s available to you should help you find that inner zen on interview day.
When you get to the employer’s premises on the day of the interview, see if there’s a water cooler nearby and take a little plastic cup of water into the interview with you. Pausing to take a sip when asked a question will not only steady your nerves, it will give you a precious few more seconds to answer properly.
3. Dress like you already work there
I’ve known this to be a useful tip for interview success, and it can save you from making expensive mistakes if you’re shopping for outfits. Head back to the company website and look to see whether it contains pictures of real members of staff. This is so you can get a better idea of what most employees wear. Alternatively, call up the Human Resources department and ask them what they expect candidates to wear to an interview.
4. If in doubt, go smart and simple
For most interviews it’s a good idea to wear a suit jacket and a plain shirt. The default interview outfit for most men is a suit, collared shirt and tie. If you don’t have a suit, try to wear a smart jacket and smart trousers. For women, the standard outfit is a suit and smart top, or a smart jacket worn over a plain dress, skirt or trousers.
It’s usually best to pick work jackets, trousers or skirts in sober colours such as navy, grey or black. Bright colours and strong patterns can be distracting and it’s usually best to avoid them. It’s best not to wear jeans, leggings or trainers either. For jobs in the creative and entertainment industries, you can show a bit more personality, depending on the employer.
5. No expense needed
If you have a friend who’s the same size as you, they might be kind and let you borrow some interview clothes. Otherwise, you can find cheap office wear in high street sales, in supermarket clothes sections, and at discount fashion retailers. You might find something second hand on eBay or in a charity shop too.
There are also charities who provide free clothes to women who are struggling to afford interview outfits. Smartworks has centres in London and Edinburgh, and Dress For Success has offices in Bristol, London, Leeds, Manchester and Strathclyde.
6. Don’t forget what’s on your feet
Shoes tend to say a lot about a person – a nice, polished pair of office shoes means that you take that extra pride in your appearance. A good wipe with a slightly damp cloth is a quick, cheap way to smarten up leather or synthetic shoes in a hurry. Most pound shops sell affordable shoe cleaning kits too, and while the contents may vary, they usually contain some black and brown shoe polish.
7. Be wise when you accessorise
All accessories should be fairly plain and kept to a minimum, and it’s best to avoid scuffed briefcases or brightly-coloured bags. Many employers dislike dangly jewellery and facial piercings, so keep these simple if you’re going wear them, and the same goes for nail polish and nail art. If you’re wearing a skirt, some cheap plain tights from a budget retailer or high street chemist will create a better impression than bare legs.
8. Keep it neat and clean
It goes without saying that your interview clothes should be clean and fresh. Make sure they’re smartly pressed too. If you don’t have an iron, try hanging clean clothes up in the bathroom when you’re having a shower or bath so the steam can help creases to drop out. Check for loose threads and buttons, and sew these back in if you find any.
Tidy, well-groomed hair is a must. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a haircut, ask around high street salons to see whether they need hair models, or find your local hairdressing academy or beauty school in local business directories or Gumtree and see what’s available for free.
There’s no denying that job interviews can be incredibly nerve-wracking, especially when you want to shine. Up to a certain point however, the outcome is really out of your hands. So long as you’ve done all your preparation, and made every effort to look the part, you can be confident that you’ll at least leave a good impression.
On the evening before your interview, maybe after you’ve gone through your interview prep and ironed your smart clothes, do your very best to unwind and get some rest. Lay off the caffeine, have a nice bath, watch a film, do whatever it takes to put yourself in a peaceful frame of mind.
Finally, make an effort to get to bed early, so you wake feeling refreshed and ready to take on the world – who wouldn’t want to hire someone like you? 🙂
Do you have any interview tips? Please share in the comments!