Interviews: what you need to know that no-one tells you

Our columnist Matthew Reeves on what he's learnt about interviews from his own somewhat unusual experiences

A quick Google for interview tips mostly turns up utterly useless clickbait on "secret tips to cheat the system", the writing of all of which has probably been outsourced to an offshore writer, so they should be immediately discarded.

If you do take a look, however, you'll probably find these "secret tips" fall into two categories.

The first set are all about maximising how "powerful" you look, with tips like "Sit in a power pose" or "Wear a red tie - it's a power colour!". Now I'm not exactly saying doing so is a bad idea, but note that most employers are not in a constant quest to find the graduates with the highest wattage.

The second set are usually focused on how you, the interviewee, can stop feeling nervous, which is a bit more useful. But they usually come up with pithy advice like "Don't worry" and "Breath", which can only really be considered a secret tip if until now you've rocked up to all your interviews unconscious.

The problem with most advice is that it fails to understand what's in the interview for the interviewer.

Most students and graduates assume that the interviewer is looking for the best possible candidates to fill those coveted 100 internships, but really it's more of a game of eliminating the freaks.

I've been an interviewer a few times now, and we've had a good few freaks. Here are my top two.

The man who spoke so loudly we worried that if he had to use the phone (he would have to) he'd break EU Noise at Work regulations. His fate was sealed when somebody asked me later, "Why was that guy shouting at you?" Rejected.

The man who said, "I'm driven to get the best for the company" had a good start. But then he continued, "For example, I've used a spy pen to record meetings secretly so I can use what was said as evidence if needed in future". Rejected.

So don't be a freak, and here's what else the interviewer is looking for.

You're worthless as a graduate (sorry). You need training and exams passes and experience. Most graduates get these and then, after about three years, move on, more employable, more experienced, and after racking up a nice bit of debt for the company. Employers don't want you to do this.

A firm wants you to stick around for three years, and then ten more, as that's when they start making real money out of you. So what interviews are for is to judge your sticking power and how expensive you're likely to be.

They want someone who doesn't need a lot of encouragement or managing, and who'll do any task, even if it's boring. They want people who are happy to train other people (ideally other graduates), and all for not too much money. But there's more than all this. You've got to be the kind of person they want to work with... for thirteen years.

So regardless of what they ask, whether about it's a time you improved efficiency or a time when you worked with others and solved a problem, remember that all they really want to hear is that you did it for the team, for a long time, with little or no reward.

And don't stress about your power tie and try to just have a normal conversation, like you would with someone you've known for ages... for thirteen years, ideally.

But that's just my secret advice - outsourced from an offshore writer by the way...

Image: Garry Knight (