Quickfire Interviews Hints and Tips


Quickfire hints and tips for interviewing

Hints, Tips and Ideas about how to get interviews right or get interviews ‘left’ depending on an MP’s political persuasion (see I can make political jokes).

I was going to label this section “Sucking eggs and other things Joseph Henry lectures Grannies about.”. However, my editor advised that this kind of humour is best kept for those who read the copy and do not skip through the book. 

Turn up on time: For heaven's sake, people, turn up on time. I cannot count the times on my fingers when people interviewing have been late. It does not give a good impression. Think about when you are late you are saying “my time is more important than yours” to the interviewer even if it could not be helped. Turning up late might not be a deal killer. However, it does mean the interview starts on the wrong foot. 

Make sure you are balanced: This does not mean being balanced vis-a-vis BBC balance during a general election, this is about balancing out your interactions when you are dealing with multiple interviewers in one session. This can be something that is easier said than done. However, the main thing to do when you are being interviewed by numerous people is to focus on ensuring that you are balancing the questions and answers across the panel.

Build rapport: Building rapport is an integral part of any interview process. Something that is not talked about enough is how much the human factor comes into the interview process on a daily basis. People talk about interviews, education, skills, etc...

However, the brutal fact of the matter is that people hire people they like. It is one of those universal factors. So building rapport is essential as it helps to make sure that people are able to get along with you.

Take, for example, two interviewed candidates. If both have equal qualifications, skills, experience and all the other factors in play, the candidate who built up the most rapport with the candidates, who had the best affinity with the hiring manager, is likely to get the job.

Generally, these decisions are made at a gut level by people who then use answers from the interview, qualifications etc. to justify this decision.

Send a thank-you note: Your parents always told you to say thank you. Now show the world you have been brought up well. You can send a thank you note in two ways, via email or via letter. Both are equally valid, and both are helpful. When you submit a thank-you note, the main messages to communicate are your thanks for the chance to interview. 

Also note that you enjoyed the experience and then note that you are open to answering any further questions that are required. Ensure you put your telephone and email address at the bottom.

Ask questions: All people like to talk about themselves. From the fishwife from Aberdeen to the Shepherd on the dales of Yorkshire to the writer putting together a book about how to get a political career, who is overfond of geographical cliches. 

We all like talking about ourselves and MP’s are no different. So make sure you ask questions about them, about their role, about their views and especially views on any “hobby policies” that they have.

Practice, Practice, Practice: Practice makes perfect. It really does make perfect. Indeed, constant, perfect practice makes practice perfectly helpful. So get proactive. Go to interviews for jobs you have no care about taking, register with dozens of temporary recruitment agencies to get better at sitting/standing in front of a person. 

The more you become comfortable in an interview situation, the better performance that you will put on when you are “up against it” during the times when you are going for a job that you really want.

Think body language: Body language, according to some studies, makes up over 70 per cent of all communication. It is undoubtedly a significant part of any connection we make with people, especially at an interview. Thinking about how your body language can look is a hard thing to figure out. So you are going to have to do one of two things. 

1) You can ask friends and family to talk about your body language.


2) You could do a mock interview with a friend and then film it and review the footage a couple of days later and review the body language pointers that are detracting from your message. 

These can be a whole range of things from ticks that you never knew you had, through to things as simple as slouching when you are talking or looking bored when people are talking.

It can be an awful thing to look at, however, it might bring up and prevent things that could stop you in your tracks as you aim for that job in politics.

Handshakes do matter: Handshakes still matter, sadly, as people do draw and infer a lot from handshakes. A good handshake is part of the “making a good first impression” school of conducting an interview. Practice on keeping it firm but fair, don't crush hands but don't be weak and limp in a handshake.

Back up your responses: Wherever you are responding to question in an interview, make sure that you are backing up each and every part of the interview process. So if you are asked about what are your best qualities and you mention being a great team worker (the good stuff) make sure that you back it up in a manner that gives credibility and shows you in a good light.

Stand up when waiting: When you are waiting in a reception area, it is always best to stand whilst waiting. Why is this? It puts you on an even keel when the person who is interviewing comes out to greet you. This is a simple psychological trick that does not put you at a height disadvantage when first meeting. This may be slightly unconventional, but it will make you look like you are ready for action.

You are also interviewing them: An interview is a two-way process, you are interviewing for a job, and conversely, you are assessing them as a place to lend your career for a while. So this is a significant and essential issue that you need to think about with yourself. When you are interviewing, you are undergoing a process to see if this would be a place for you to work for the next few years, possibly longer. That is not something undertaken lightly. 

Seeing any interview as a two-way collaborative process will change your whole approach to interviews.

Ask questions at the interview: This is something I bang on about time-and-time again to anyone who will listen and sometimes to people who are not listening. Which, after half an hour,  are the same people. Anyway, there is no reason for me to lecture Below are a few great questions that you can ask to help:

Can you tell me more about the team that I will be working in?

What parts of the job do you enjoy?

Can you tell me about the working culture of the office?

What would you like me to achieve in this role in the first 30/60/90 days?

What opportunities are there for training and development?

What accomplishments would impress you once I start?

Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of the job?

As you can see, these questions are focused on the role and the team; they are not focused on yourself. It is about asking questions that allow you to understand the purpose, give a good impression and additionally help you to make a decision about whether this is the role for you.

Please remember that this was a guide to sucking eggs for grannies. If everything I have said has been patronising, please do ignore me and my ways. Hopefully from this chapter you have gained some insight. In the Appendix, we have included a list of common political questions. I hope you find it useful.


Thank you for reading this article. This is an extract from the book Political Careers: The secret and confidential guide to finding, applying and getting a job in British politics. The book is available on Amazon in Ebook and Paperback formats.

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