I have been to many job interviews in the United Kingdom, though they were all in London. From a 10-minute meeting were we both realised the recruiter didn’t do a very good job of explaining anything, to a full-day of interviews with five different people in the company – I’ve been there! Let me give you the benefit of my experience and give you a few hints about what not to say or do in a job interview in the UK.
Our top tips for your job interview in the UK – don’t say these things!
‘You’re all quite fancy here’
Like job interviews anywhere, you need to be dressed neatly and professionally. A good tip a recruiter told me is to aim a bit more formal than you expect the office atmosphere to be like. The only exception to this would be creative roles – if you look too corporate and stuffy, that can count against you. I do a bit of social media sleuthing and see if I can find any casual photos of the office on Instagram or even LinkedIn to give me a hint of what everyone is like on a regular day. But don’t drive yourself mad over this, just do your best to look professional and tidy, and don’t mention anything about it in your interview! Most likely your interviewer hasn’t even noticed anything amiss.
‘I am the best programmer you will meet today’
This is particularly for North Americans interviewing for jobs in the United Kingdom. American-style bombast and confidence does not often go over well, and really does not have the same impact you might expect it to. It’s a cultural difference that can be difficult to navigate at first, but pay attention to your interviewer’s facial expressions and adjust your hyperbole accordingly. You definitely don’t have to hide your accomplishments, but state them in a matter-of-fact tone, and try avoid absolutes like ‘the best’ unless you can really back it up with something specific.
‘My old boss was a bit of a jerk, between you and me’
This is a big no-no, in the UK and I would expect pretty much anywhere. Do not say negative things about your previous workplaces or managers, even if they were terrible. Find other ways of saying it, like: ‘I’m looking to learn more about this other programming language, which we don’t use where I am currently working,’ or ‘I feel I’m ready to move forward’. Most interviewers will understand that to mean ‘I’m not challenged anymore at work’ or ‘There’s nowhere for me to progress at my current job’.
‘I don’t know, I don’t think I have anything to ask’
When you get to the end of your interview and they ask if you have any questions, don’t look unprepared. Obviously there are times where you don’t have questions because you’ve gone through everything in the interview, and in that situation I make that clear by saying, ‘Actually no, my questions were about progression and training, and we covered those off earlier’. But preparing a few questions about holiday time, leave, training, and even why the previous person left the position are all reasonable and relevant.
Just sitting there waiting for questions is also not the way to go. British people value wittiness and friendliness, so work on your small talk game. Comment on the weather, the neighbourhood the office is in, or even say something nice about the office in general – anything to come across as a friendly person to work with. Be authentic here, don’t force it, because that’s really obvious! Honestly, even some comments about the weather like ‘Oh my goodness I thought it was going to absolutely pour down before I got here! Whew!’, or ‘It is such a beautiful day for September, isn’t it?’ will break the tension as you walk into an interview.