I have spent the majority of June and July, working with local schools in the preparation of their pupils for prefect, university/college and apprenticeship interviews. In my previous career as an Army officer, I thoroughly enjoyed assisting my soldiers in their preparation for Sandhurst interviews, and now I get that same feeling as I develop pupils for their interviews.

In my group and individual sessions, much time is spent examining an individual’s strengths and weaknesses, thinking about which questions are likely and how to respond and deciding the most useful experiences to talk about. However an area that is sometimes forgotten within schools is that of personal image and how to build rapport with the interviewer. There’s a lot of truth in the saying that the first few seconds, decide the outcome. A great first impression counts, it gives someone a head start; a negative one is hard to reverse.


An old friend told me about his recent interview. The role would be as a management consultant, with a salary close to six figures. He felt that the interview hadn’t gone well at all and several days later, the phone call came with the decision. The interviewer said, ‘John, we both know that the interview didn’t go well. But I want to tell you that the panel very much liked you and we would like to offer you the job!’ John was stunned, however it just goes to show that we all prefer to work with people we like and engage well with.


In all interviews, it is important for candidates to present their best self and think about the following:



  • Consider the dress code carefully
  • Attention to detail – no lose threads, polished shoes, tidy nails, clothes ironed, neat hair, appropriate make-up
  • For ladies, consider the length of your skirt – when sitting down, is your skirt an appropriate length?


Body Language

  • Ensure your handshake is firm and steady
  • Sit confidently in your chair
  • Ensure good eye contact with your interviewer
  • Consider your overall body language – are you looking positive and confident or worried and negative? (View Amy Cuddy TED talk)
  • Smile – people like people who smile



  • Avoid using fillers such as ‘um’, ‘you know’, ‘actually’
  • Think about the power of pause – don’t rush into answers, pause
  • If you aren’t clear about the question, simply ask the interviewer to repeat the question
  • Think about your voice – the rhythm, tone and volume
  • Use positive language where possible
Your image at interview