Roy Duncan

12th September 2016

How to make sure you win at the interview

For many people in business the possibility of being called to interview for a new post is the ‘’elephant in the room”. That is to say, they know it may be a daunting experience, yet they seek to reassure themselves that they know how to handle it and so will win out on the day. I’m afraid it doesn’t always work out like that. So here are some tips on how to ensure that you actually do win at the interview.

For many years I was an actor on stage and screen and I learned very early on in my career that two things were of paramount importance if I was to succeed in my chosen career. Those two things were:

Preparation and Performance.

When called to interview for a position that you very much want, the same applies. Your performance on the day depends very largely on the quality of your preparation.  As it’s vital that your preparation enables you to perform on the day in a manner that places your likely success far and above that of other candidates.

You may not be an actor but I would ask you to consider that, throughout your day you are likely to play any number of roles, and play them without being conscious of doing so. One role may involve embracing the members of your family as you leave for work in the morning. Another may be greeting the receptionist in your office building with a cheery “Good Morning”. Let’s face it, we are all performers, and what influences our performance is the outcome we desire from this particular ‘performance’. So let’s now consider the preparation for your interview.

How you look.

As an actor in numerous TV series, like Dr Who, I was constantly called to an interview with the director of the programme. The trick that I learned very early on was to make sure that I knew everything I possible could about the part I was up for, as well as the production and the director. Thus, when I walked through the door for the all-important interview, there was every chance that the way I was dressed and the way I spoke closely corresponded to the character that was being cast. Often this actually got me the part. Not because I was a better actor than the competition but simply because I’d done better preparation.

And so it is with an interview situation. What exactly is the organisation you’re hoping to join? Does everyone there wear an obligatory dark suit and white shirt or blouse? Do the men wear ties or open necked shirts? Is it a digital marketing or software development company? In which case, smart casual clothes are the order of the day.

How you sound.

When you walk into a room to be greeted by a person or persons you’ve never met, they will instinctively form an impression of you. We are all judgemental creatures. That’s how we are able to form opinions and make decisions. Automatically you will be scanned in the fraction of a second. Hence the importance of wearing the clothes (costume) that fit the position (role) you are being interviewed for. However, when you open your mouth, that’s when you will really be judged. If you speak too fast or speak too quietly, this may give an impression of nervousness. Whatever position you are interviewing for, I’m quite sure that they’d rather have a George Clooney than a Woody Allan.  Before you enter the interview room, take a few seconds to relax your body and breathe deeply. If you are likely to be escorted to the interview by an assistant, try to do this surreptitiously.

Developing a confident and persuasive voice.

Your interviewer(s) will need to feel reassured that you are a person well equipped to lead others, to handle difficult situations and deliver under pressure. A high pitched voice does not convey this. A lower and more resonant voice engenders confidence in you from the listener. So, speak slower, speak lower and get plenty of breath in, so that you can effortlessly push your words forth on a cushion of air. If you lack air to support your voice, you may drop off at the end of your sentences; another sign of nervousness.

How you think

Before you walk into the room for your interview, remind yourself of the role you are playing, the role that will get you the job (the part). You are going to walk into that room as the Head of Finance   of a company; CFO, Finance director or financial controller. Not as a middle ranking management accountant. You’re going into this interview see if you actually want these people to work for YOU. After all, you’re the finance director  of a company. This may sound rather silly to you but, rest assured, it’s a technique that’s helped enumerable people to score in an interview situation. Earlier I explained how we play many roles throughout our day without realising that we do so. Well, this is just one more role, but this time it’s a role that you have knowingly chosen and rehearsed to yourself until it fits like a glove.

The best friend technique

Let us assume for the moment that the interview is being conducted by more than one person.  Perhaps this particular organisation, or at least their HR department, likes to play the Good Cop/Bad Cop scenario, whereby one interviewer is outgoing and easy to get on with, while another is withdrawn, charmless and monosyllabic.  Now, here’s the trick. Tell yourself that they are your BEST FRIEND. Visualise them as people you have known as close friends for many years. Be careful to respect their position but also respect yours – you are the Head of finance of a company. What this technique does is to level the playing field and ensure that you are interfacing as an equal.

Your CV

This is what gets you the interview. It’s not what gets you the position you want. It’s the interview that gets you where you want to be. Hopefully your CV has been carefully put together to show this organisation that you are, at least on paper, an ideal candidate. Then, when you walk into the interview room, the way you look, move and speak will match your CV and convince those that you face that you are the perfect choice. You are perfect çasting’!


This is a guest blog  prepared by Valentine Palmer, The Academy of Communication

Valentine is an international voice and presentation coach with clients in some ten different countries. For many years an actor in some of Britain’s best loves series like Dr Who, he has also been a producer of commercials and corporate video for organisations like BP and IBM.  or

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Roy Duncan  is the founding director of RGDuncan , an independent boutique recruitment consultancy specialising in sourcing high calibre senior finance and accounting staff for permanent and interim roles in London and the South East.

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