6 ways to be a ‘can-do’ interview candidate

Crossing your fingers in one option, but there are more reliable approaches to increasing your chances of success at interview. Photo: Siphotography / Getty.

Positive mental attitude is right up there with skills and experience when it comes to persuading employers to take you on. It’s the unsung asset every interviewee needs, but one that some of us famously self-deprecating Brits can find it hard to get across. Here are six ways to foster a can-do attitude that gets employers' attention. 

  1. Be positive!

Yes, that’s right – just be positive. “If only it were that simple,” we hear you cry! But it is. People often mistake the confidence to say “yes I can do that” with promising more than you can deliver, if not outright lying. All too often, we hedge our bets with “I’ll do my best” or worse, “I’m not sure”. But it’s a mistake to see it that way.

The point is, if a question arises about how you would cope in a hypothetical situation, the honest answer is you just don’t know until you try. Life and work are full of unknown situations. So you may as well present the best-case scenario. While it may be a fib to claim you achieved great things in previous jobs that never happened, or lay claim to skills magicked out of thin air (and we would never recommend doing either of those things, by the way), asserting I can absolutely deal with a project or situation in the future is no more or less true than saying I can’t.

And whether you go on to fail dismally or dazzle yourself with your own brilliance, right now that doesn't matter. You are already showing your interviewers you have the self-belief to give it 100%, the ability to adapt and learn, and the willingness to step out of your comfort zone. This puts you head and shoulders above more timid rivals, straight off the bat!

  1. Give off positive body language.

That means a firm but not bone-breaking handshake, eye contact, a confident, friendly smile and listening to your interviewers with your full attention.

  1. Believe in your abilities.

You’ve no doubt worked hard to gain the skills and qualities that have got you as far as this interview, so don’t undersell them now. Be proud of your achievements. You’ve earned the right to be here and they wouldn’t have shortlisted you if they hadn’t been attracted to what you have to offer.

That said, don’t rehearse your spiel so tightly that you go on autopilot. As well as the umpteen reasons they should hire you, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through – after all, they’re going to have to get on with you day in day out and will want to know that you are a pleasant person to be around.  

4.Have a sense of humour

Say something witty; respond in kind to an amusing comment they make; who knows, maybe even crack a joke of your own! Anything you can do to lighten the mood will help everyone in the room relax and warm to you.  

  1. Don’t say anything negative.

If you have issues with previous or current colleagues, bosses or employers, keep it to yourself. No one wants to hear others blamed and begrudged. It’s a surefire way to kill the buzz in any interview room – and your prospects of a job offer.

  1. Focus on what you can agree about.  

Your interviewer may say things you vehemently disagree with. Whether this is a deliberate tactic to see how you respond to provocative statements, or a genuine difference of opinion, try to find any elements of what they say that you can agree with and start from there. If you disagree unequivocally, find a way to tactfully and gently suggest a different way of seeing the situation.

See workSMART’s Job Interviews section for more advice and information.