Interview success: with a cherry on top

To get your dream job, you'll need more than the icing on the cake. Katie Morley shows you how to go above and beyond

To get your dream job, you'll need more than the icing on the cake. Katie Morley shows you how to go beyond being a good candidate to being the one they want to hire.

If you've landed an interview at a top City firm, it means that your application must have impressed someone. But here's the thing - they're pretty impressed with a bunch of other people's too. And this bunch of people is too big, and too bright, for you to get complacent. Competition is fierce, and you need to know how to get from the shortlist to offer letter. Interviews are your chance to go far beyond your CV and really show your future employees who you are, and why they'd be mad not to hire you. That's why we sat down for a chat with the Human Resources departments of several leading City employers to bring you their first-hand advice for interview success.

What the City employers are saying

Caroline Lindner

Graduate Recruitment Manager, Allen & Overy LPP

Use interesting examples

"A good candidate will recognise that team work is important, but an excellent candidate will think very broadly about their answer, and use an interesting example to demonstrate their abilities. Sometimes the best experiences are not necessarily those that you may have had in university sports clubs and societies. Don't underestimate the value of non-law related work experience - situations such as dealing with challenging customers and having to motivate yourself to do a task are similar to problems you'll face every day in a graduate job."

Enjoy it

"The best interviewees I've ever seen are those who aren't afraid to let their true personalities show, and those who look like they're enjoying the interview. Just be yourself, smile, and remember that your interviewers are only human beings!"

Amy Thomas

Campus Relationship Manager, Citi

Personal connections

"If you want to be remembered, you need to make a personal connection with the interviewer, and demonstrate your personality and what you're like outside the office. To really shine in an interview, you have to give good answers to questions across the board, but the real clincher could be whether the interviewer feels like they'd enjoy working with you."

Body language

"Body language is also something that you need to get right if you want to stand out. Slouching will make you look uninterested, so sit up straight and make eye contact. If you can't make eye contact, you can come across as untrustworthy. If you're interviewing for a client facing role where you need to create good impressions on a daily basis, recruiters will be evaluating your appearance and body language very carefully, so it's very important to get it right."

Jessica Booker

Trainee Recruitment Manager, Freshfields

Facts aren't enough

"I don't like the term commercial awareness. I prefer to call what we're looking for 'commercial intrigue'. Lots of people come into an interview and state basic facts about the company, but superficial knowledge won't help you answer more challenging questions. You don't need a thorough knowledge of what the price of gold is, or what the share price index is that day. We're more concerned about a natural interest in business issues."

Think ahead

"Take the time to read through your application form before the interview. Look at your cover letter and CV, and think about what you might ask you, if you were the interviewer. For example, if you've got a couple of bad module results, be prepared for your interviewers to flag them up."

Interview nightmares: getting it wrong so you don't have to

HR at a consultancy firm

I once asked a candidate who they admired. They replied: "Britney Spears".

Anonymous University of London graduate

My first interview I got after graduating was at a respected finance company in the City. I was rather nervous so decided to take a bottle of water into the interview room with me. As I sat down at the interview table, I put it on the floor next to my feet.

Time passed...Nerves fizzed...My anticipation grew to such a climax that at the point when the CEO of the company entered the room to greet me, I leapt up from my chair, and volleyed the bottle of water directly into his shin.

"Oh no", I thought. Not a good first impression. Matters were made worse when the CEO fell to his knees, drenched in Volvic, shouting "Quick, call someone in - I may have broken something". Although I wanted to try and help in any way I could, I felt that offering the gentleman a glass of water would only make matters worse.

Needless to say, I didn't get the job.

Graduate now working in securities

I applied for a job at a leading financial news and data company for a job in securities, and was delighted when I was invited to do a telephone interview. It seemed to be going really well until about ten minutes in, when the interviewer said "That's all very interesting, but you do realise you'll mainly be looking after the building?" I'd applied for a job as a security guard.