Written By Stephen Joseph

When I was asked to write about interviewing for a recruitment role, I thought to myself how do I tackle this subject in 1500 words or less?! After all, to secure a recruitment role could be as simple as a face-to-face interview with the CEO or MD, or as complicated as a multistage process that involves role plays, presentations, and psychometric assessments!

How could I possibly cover that in one short post? Well, I thought the best way to help increase your chances in being successful in your interview, is to share my top 12 tips on how not to blow it!

After all, by the time you have secured your interview slot you’re already nearly there. In my main role I interview around 2-8 people a week, and I usually find I have arrived near my decision within the first few minutes of the meeting, I spend the rest of the interview confirming or disputing my first impression.

So, with that in mind, here are my top 12 tips on how not to blow your interview!


Make sure the CV you are applying with is the most accurate and up to date. Countless times I hear some one in interview say, “I didn’t put that on my CV” or “this is not my most recent”. Now I don’t need to know what % you got in your GCSE Art course work, but if it’s relevant enough for me to ask about it, then it needs to be on your CV.

Not presenting an up to date CV can give the interviewer the feeling that you are trying to hide something.

This includes addressing any gaps in your CV and the reasons for any short assignments. If applicable, feel free to highlight any redundancy or temp assignments. If these things are not addressed either on the CV or in the interview, the interviewer could form doubts that you can hold a job down or stick at something.


Let’s be honest, most of us at the start of our recruitment career just applied for any, and every trainee role we could find and then worked out what stuck. This is so common now that it’s no longer even frowned upon. What will trip you up though, is not knowing what you applied for. So, my advice on this is simple, keep an application diary of the date and time you applied for each role, along with the company name and a brief description of the job.

In the same way that you would want each customer to feel like they are your only customer, and not just a number, you should aim to make your prospective employer feel like this is the only role you applied for, or at the very least your favourite role.

If you can do this you will turn your first encounter into a positive one.

 And on that note…


Often people think that the first call is to invite you in for an interview, and it sometimes is. However, more often than not it’s to see if you are worthy of an interview. So, once you start applying keep that book handy, answer your phone professionally, and always expect it to be an interview.


It sounds obvious, but I still get a couple of interviewees arrive late per month, for me personally, this is a huge deal and it’s likely to be the end of the road right there and then, so it’s just not worth it.

Things can happen, we all know that; trains are often delayed, traffic can be heavy and it’s easy to miss a connection if you’re travelling to a new location. I can accept all of that, what I don’t accept is your lack of planning about it.

My advice here, is the same advice that I always follow personally. Plan your travel so that you expect to arrive around 1 hour before your interview time, then physically go and find the building, once you know the location you can grab a coffee and read through your notes. This way, instead of rushing and arriving hot, flustered and dripping in sweat, you will be cool, calm and focused on what’s coming.

Oh, and while we are on the subject, arriving super early is also a no. It’s rude and it’s disrespectful of time.


I recently wrote that a scientific study has proven that humans make a judgment within a ¼ of a second of seeing someone, so you need to be on point! A good proportion of recruitment firms will be based in serviced offices, if this is the case, you are likely to be parked at reception while they ring up to confirm you are here. It’s important that you are ready from this point. I have seen the lift doors open to be greeted by someone on their mobile, people slouched in their chairs and one guy had his headphones on listening to music blasting out, it just creates the wrong impression!

The headphones guy even kept them on all the way into the office!

Whist we’re talking about reception, just in case you are not naturally nice to everyone, make sure you are when you arrive at the building. At best, the interviewer might ask the receptionist how you treated them, or for their opinion of you, at worst you might upset someone senior in the firm you are interviewing for, or worse still someone on the interview panel. So, smile, and be friendly.


Unless there are cultural reasons why you wouldn’t, you are going to need to deliver a handshake at the start and end of the interview, it’s yet another measure a lot of interviewers use as a benchmark of confidence. The rule of thumb here is a solid, firm handshake, applying around the same pressure you are offered, whist looking them in the eyes with a warm smile. NB, if you meet a hand crusher, then don’t try to out do them, simply meet their pressure and then drop away, letting them know that they ‘won’ but you were not intimidated by them. It’s almost as if to say, “you won but I was a worthy adversary”.


Everyone knows you need to be well presented at an interview, but what to wear? This is a question that everyone is likely to have an opinion on, but the rule of thumb for me is, it’s better to be overdressed than under. Ask yourself this, have you ever heard of anyone screwing up the first interview by being overdressed? No, I bet you have heard, or seen plenty blow it by being underdressed or scruffy.

If you have an Internal Recruiter or a Rec2Rec this is something you can ask their advice on, but if in doubt, your first interview should be more formal than less, and If you go on to further interviews you can adjust your dress code inline with the norm for the office, but until you know, play safe, go smart!


Like anything you want to execute well, you are going to need to do some research. Now how much is required will depend on the role, the company and the seniority of the position you are applying for, but in any case you are going to need to do some; a) so that you perform well in the interview, b) so you can ask intelligent questions and c) so you can decide if it’s somewhere you want to work.

Researching companies is easy these days, check out their website, their LinkedIn, social media accounts, Google reviews, and especially

If you’re lucky, sometimes Glassdoor even lists some of their frequent interview questions and suggested answers.

Once you have a good understanding of the company you are interviewing at, it’s important to make some notes. What they do, when they were formed, any key individuals, ethos, awards, charity links, culture etc.

It’s very common for a “what do you know about us” or a “why did you choose to apply here” style question to arise, and it’s very easy to pass or fail this question with a short bit of prep.

My final piece of advice on research is, if the company sends you any information to read prior to the interview, READ IT! And I don’t mean skim over it on the train, I mean have a good read. If they have taken the time to prepare something for you, then it’s important that you show them the respect of reading it, it’s likely to contain information that is useful to you, and you might be asked about it.


If you have any billings to speak of them make sure you get them right. If you are coming at a premium because you have a lot to offer, then the interviewer will need to believe what you are saying. If it’s possible, bring supporting documents, if it’s not then at the very least know your numbers correctly. How many times have you seen the dragons lose faith in an investment in the den because they didn’t believe the numbers?

Make sure you know how much you billed, your average GP, and the number of contractors you run etc, or whatever the key numbers are in your industry. It’s not uncommon for a skilled interviewer to ask about the GP you billed last month, how your commission works, and then ask what you got in commission. They will then do some quick maths and if the numbers are not in the right region you will lose credibility.


If you have been in a previous role, then you will have a restrictive covenants agreement in place. This, in short means that you can’t do any business with any client or candidate that you found at your previous employer for a period, usually 6 months.

Now if you have a large black book of key names and numbers, it might be temping for you to ignore this or worse still, for a smaller agency to try to buy you for this. It is my strong advice that you walk away from these firms. Aside of it being illegal, it’s immoral and not a good way to start a business relationship. If the only thing the new agency wants you for is your connections, then you will serve of little value after they have them. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with going back for any business you can after your covenant is up, that’s fair game and you should try, but before that, it’s a no, no for me. So, if the conversation of restrictive covenants comes up, I would make your restrictions and intentions clear from the outset.


A quick note on video / telephone interviews. Make sure you are on a good line, ideally a land line and not on speaker, make sure that the room is quiet from traffic, pets and children. If you’re on a video interview then make sure you are dressed appropriately and you have a suitable background. (if you’re preaching excellent organisational skills and efficiency and you have a messy desk with paperwork everywhere, it might not work in your favour).


It’s old school I know, and it’s not necessary but it’s always well received. Once you have concluded your interview, a few hours later it’s often nice to pop a simple thank you email across to the interviewer (remember to grab a business card). The email should be short and shouldn’t come across ‘beggy’, it should simply thank them for their time, give them some positive feedback about the interview / opportunity, and let them know that you are looking forward to hearing the outcome.

So, there you have it, my top 12 tips on how not to blow your recruitment interview! And if you’re currently booked in to see me this week, then I expect a clean sweep and a pass on all!

On a serious note though, if you would like any interview, sales or recruitment advice you’re always welcome to drop me a message.



Five Reasons Why Recruiter Monogamy Is A Good Thing

Five Reasons Why Recruiter Monogamy Is A Good Thing

How To Interview For A Job In Recruitment

How To Interview For A Job In Recruitment