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Interview Advice

Interviews are a two-way process: they allow the interviewer to establish if you would be suitable for the role and allow you to establish if the role is something that you are looking for.

Before the interview:

Preparation is key to an interview. You must think about your skills and experiences, be sure you can talk about them confidently, and provide examples of where you have excelled or demonstrated these skills. Have a look at your CV to refresh your memory on duties etc so you can confidently go through it.

Research the organisation. Research before an interview is the most crucial thing you can do. Companies are very proud of their achievements, and demonstrating you’re aware of them will impress anyone interviewing you. Visit a website where possible, establish what they do, what services and products they offer, how many employees they have, are they based in more than one location. Have they recently won any new business/contracts or business awards?

Prepare some questions to ask at the interview; limit these to questions about the position and organisation, questions about holiday and sick pay are better left until an offer is made. Areas to ask questions on include:

  • Detailed information about the role, e.g. key challenges, and the reason the position is available.
  • Induction and training programs
  • Potential career development and opportunities
  • Company and departmental growth plans.

By asking intelligent, well-researched questions you will also be able to really identify the interviewer’s needs and be able to offer yourself as a solution, rather than launching into an unfocussed sales pitch about how generally great you are at everything and anything. Take notes with you if you prefer to prompt you to remember your pre-thought about questions, the interviewer won’t mind.

Anticipate the questions you are likely to be asked at the interview, if a job description and/or person specification is given to you in advance this helps you to gauge the skills/experiences that are important for the role.

General interview questions could include:

  • What is it about our company/this role that attracted you to apply?
  • What can you bring to our company/to this role?
  • Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
  • What do you enjoy most about your current/most recent position?
  • What do you dislike about your current/most recent position?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Why should we employ you?
  • What will your boss say when you hand your notice in?

If you are asked a question that you hadn’t thought of take your time before replying. A thoughtful and considered reply will impress your interviewer much more than a quick, garbled response which you then find hard to back up. If you do need time to think tell the interviewer ‘That is an interesting question, let me take a moment to think how best to respond.” If you are no clearer about what is being asked of you, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, it is better to ask and give an appropriate reply than to muddle through and find you haven’t really addressed the question.

Dress code. Ensure you are wearing smart business attire, with clean shoes, and tidy hair, and keep the jewellery, perfume/aftershave to a minimum.

Travel. Plan your journey beforehand, ensure you arrive early, allow for delays and take your contacts’ telephone number in case you get lost or suspect you will be late.

During the interview:

There are many different forms of interview including panel, one-to-ones, group, etc and could include some form of testing. Ask your consultant what form of interview it will be and what format this will include.

First Impressions: First impressions are very important so make sure you smile, offer the interviewer a good firm handshake, and introduce yourself.

Communication: The interview is your opportunity to show the organisation the benefits of employing you. It is important that you sell yourself by providing information on your relevant skills and experience, always back up your statements and give examples. However, be careful not to interrupt the interviewer.

Types of Questions:

Competency Questions; if an employer tells you the interview will be competency based they will want you to answer questions in a certain way, an example is:

“Can you tell me about a time when you have had to deal with a difficult customer?”

The interviewer is seeking an example of a time where this could have occurred such as: “well when I worked at X I took a call from a customer who was unhappy as a delivery arrived and it was damaged. I took details from the customer and told them I would call back at an agreed time and looked into this for them, I then contacted them to give them an update”

The interviewer is looking for your understanding of the situation and also how you would handle that. You can prepare for these types of questions to make sure you have a great ‘bank’ of possible answers.

Next Step: At the end of the interview thank your interviewer for their time and agree on what the next stage will be, such as who will be contacting you and by when. You should also find out if the next stage will be a decision, a second interview, or other steps. At the end of the interview, if you are interested in the role make sure you let the interviewer know this, it’s always good to leave on a positive note. Again, shake the hand of the interviewer and thank them for the opportunity for the interview and their time.

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