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How to succeed at interviews: Mairéad Mulligan, HR Manager, Insurance Institute of Ireland

How to succeed at interviews: Mairéad Mulligan, HR Manager, Insurance Institute of Ireland

How important is interview preparation?

My motto is "Prepare, prepare, prepare!" You can't be too prepared. The same questions won't come up at every interview, but if you have thought about it in advance, have thought about some of the usual questions that may come up, you're going to be less tongue-tied and better able to give a really good account of yourself.

Why should interviewees do their research?

There are two reasons why you need to do research. The first one is that you want to know what kind of a company you're going into. The second is that an interviewer is very impressed if someone has done their research. You can check out the company website, but what's more impressive is if you know somebody in the company and you've asked them about the company, or if there's a front office or call centre that you can actually call into. You can say you did this and it will really impress the employer.

How can an interviewee make a good first impression?

A firm handshake is always a good first impression, but also smiling and greeting someone with your eyes – that's what comes across as being open and friendly and ready and up for this.

How should an interviewee dress?

Dress is one of the things that create a first impression so if you're unsure, always overdress rather than underdress – you can never go wrong that way.

How can interview nerves be handled?

The first thing to realise is that being nervous is okay. It gives you a bit of a bite, and the sharper you are going into an interview, the better. My advice is to be very well prepared, leave nothing to chance in terms of the logistics of getting there. Do whatever you normally do to relax, maybe take a deep breath. That will help you going into interview.

How important is it to listen to the question?

When you're asked a question, stop and pause for a moment and think about what the interviewer is exactly looking for here. There's a very limited timeframe to put across your points and you want to put yourself across well to get this job. If you've done your preparation that will come back to you, it will be on the tip of your tongue. Be natural, as interviewers don't want to feel like you have everything scripted to the last degree. If you need a moment to think, say "Let me think about that," or take a glass of water.

How to respond when you don't know the answer?

It's important not to lie about your knowledge. Come clean and say it's beyond your experience at the moment but that you would be happy to learn when you get the role.

How important is it to show enthusiasm?

Displaying that you're interested in the company and are a good fit for the role is very important. Show genuine interest, not just with your words but in your non-verbal language. Calling on the research you've done will come across as enthusiastic too.

Any tips if you forget someone's name?

Whenever you're introduced to somebody, always look them square in the eye and repeat their name after. That helps to cement their name and you can recall it better later.