Interviews are a necessary evil; they are a bit like exams. Some people enjoy the challenge but most dread them. For shy, introvert people it can feel like an uphill struggle. Subsequently, interview preparation is absolutely vital, the more you prepare, the more confident you will feel and the more you will succeed.
The most important thing to remember is that while it is a test, the interviewer does not want you to fail. Quite the opposite, they are investing a lot of time and effort in this process so they would love you to succeed. Try and think of it like any other business meeting and just be yourself, then you’re halfway to being hired!
Before the Interview
• Get to know the company
One would assume you’ve done some research on the company already, otherwise, why would you be applying for the job? A lot of interviewers, though not all, will ask what you know about the company. It’s their way of examining how much interest you have in working for their company. This is one area where the internet has become a godsend. Most large companies will have a detailed section on their website about the company, comprising of various subjects – history, size, locations, structure, culture and share price, (if they are a limited company). You won’t need to be able to recite it all, just show an understanding. However, what will really impress is if you can talk about company information you have found away from their website, like news, recent events, marketing or charitable/volunteer work for example.
• Get to know your CV
This may sound obvious but you’ll be surprised how many people in an interview can’t remember how long they spent in a particular company or the details of their career history. This is the document that got you this far and it’s what the interviewer wants to know more about. If you have the ability to remember everything on your CV, fantastic, otherwise, take a highlighter to mark your key achievements, important dates and figures and any other points, relevant to the particular vacancy.. Ensure your LinkedIn profile matches your CV especially dates, key skills and experience.
• Anticipate questions
Interviews can take varying styles; some can seem like informal chats, while others are more structured. You need to be prepared for both. By preparing answers for questions beforehand, you’ll be on the front foot and it will give you an opportunity to examine your CV the way that the interviewer will. Hays consultants will help prepare you for interview questions and answers ensures you can show your skills and expertise in the best light. Ensure you prepare answers for the "What is your biggest weakness?" question. Be honest and look at your "weakness" as a challenge. Talk about the steps you've taken to overcome your weakness, this shows you are proactive and resourceful enough to overcome them. Avoid weaknesses that may stop you getting the job, for example, if you are applying for a HR job don't highlight a weakness as "not a people person".
• General Background
Often the first question is a request for a summary of your background. People applying for their first job should focus on extracurricular activities, education and qualifications. It is quite acceptable to repeat major points you have outlined in your CV or cover letter. It’s important to show your personality at this point as employers are examining your skills along with how they feel you will fit into their team culture. If you are involved in volunteer work mention the areas you’ve contributed to.
A specific question often asked is "Why do you think you are qualified for this position?". Qualifications, in this context, relates to all qualifications which could make you suitable for the position including educational, employment-related and personal. In most cases, this may be the question that will win or lose you the job, so your answer needs to be clear and memorable. Review people on LinkedIn in the team you are applying for, review their experience and expertise and the terms they use to describe their responsibilities and achievements.
Here is where your research pays off. Discuss your past experience in a way that is relevant to your potential employer, include details of your education, charity and community work. • Reasons for applying If you are applying for your first, or one of your first jobs, your answer should describe what you find appealing about the position, how you prepared yourself for a career in the organization and how you believe your present job equips you for the position in question.
• Career Objectives
Be ready to discuss your long-term aspirations. Your best approach is one that indicates you have thought about your career in these terms and have taken some action towards realizing your ambitions.
• Crisis Management
In some organizations, the interviewers ask candidates questions designed to test their reactions to certain crisis situations. You should try to find out the most common type of dilemma for employees in the job you are seeking and formulate an intelligent response.
Behavioral or competency based interviews are used to show how you would demonstrate certain behaviors/skills in the workplace. You will be asked to give an example of a situation or task that led you to take a certain course of action. Probing questions will then be used to determine the course of action you took and how these actions affected others around you. When answering, remember that the interviewer wants to know what you as an individual delivered and achieved so avoid over-using examples of ‘we’.
Questions to ask the interviewer(s)
You must have questions prepared; otherwise it can imply a lack of interest in the job. Here are some suggestions:
- What would my core responsibilities be?
- What training or induction is given?
- How much interaction would I have with other departments, or with clients and suppliers?
- What scope is there for taking on extra work, or being involved in any other aspects of the company?
- What plans do you have for expansion - how would these impact on my role?
- Where are the opportunities to progress within the company?
- Why is the position available?
Practice out loud
Try answering some the typical interview questions out loud or ask your friend to pretend to be your interviewer. You ’ll be surprised how different something may sound when said out loud and this will allow you to adjust your answer.
Preparations away from the CV
Now you’ve got your game plan sorted all you need to do is arrive 10 minutes early for your interview.
- Have you thought about how you are going to do that?
- Where is the interview taking place?
- Will you be taking a car or public transport?
- What time of day is the interview: will traffic be lighter or heavier?
- If you can, make the journey to the company beforehand, unless you know the journey intimately already. Doing this will ease your anxiety on the day.
Dress to impress.
- Decide what you are going to wear well in advance of the interview, then make sure the items of clothing are washed/ dry cleaned and ironed the day before.
- Wear your smartest outfit, as long as it is comfortable.
- If you think any of your clothing looks shabby buy a replacement, it could be a huge investment.
- An interview is never just about what you say, it is also about non-verbal communication. Positive body language makes those around you feel comfortable and at ease.
- Remember to have positive and open body language using hand gestures and eye contact while avoiding distracting habits like touching your face or tapping your foot.
On the day
- Bring your documentation, a copy of your CV, directions and the address of the company and your interviewer’s name (in case you forget it).
- To be fully prepared use a mobile map app (Google Maps).
- As mentioned above, arrive at reception ten minutes before the interview.
- If you misjudged the traffic and arrive 30 minutes early, take a walk in the locality. If you show up too early it can cause a poor first impression.
- If you feel nervous while you wait to meet your interviewer, breathe in through your nose so that your stomach expands, hold for at least 5 seconds and then breathe out. That will relax you.
- Ensure your mobile phone is turned off so it doesn't ring or vibrate during the interview. Your phone interrupting your interview will distract you and is seen as completely unacceptable.
- When the interviewer approaches you, greet them with a firm handshake, look them in the eye and smile. There’s a good chance you will engage in small talk on the way to the interview room. This can lead to a temptation to be funny. It’s best not to attempt this as you do not know what their reaction will be. Safe small talk about the weather, the journey or the office will suffice.
The interview itself
- All your hard work and preparation has led to this - your moment of truth.
- Be confident, be friendly but most importantly, be yourself.
- Sometimes it can be easy to miss the questions being asked by the interviewer due to nerves, so try and concentrate on the question and feel free to take a few moments to prepare what you are going to say.
- Avoid verbal signs of nervousness for example saying "like", "ummm" or “you know”.
- Look the interviewer in the eye.
- Remember to give immediate feedback to your recruitment consultant after the interview. This needs to include any areas you felt you may have fallen down on - perhaps you have a nagging doubt about a specific answer you gave or forgot to highlight a certain valuable skill or experience. Your consultant can cover this for you in his or her call to the employer.
- If you were interviewed directly, send a thank you email, expressing enthusiasm and keenness to join the company. Sent in the evening or the next day, this email can be an important factor in employer’s decision-making process.
- There is a possibility you will be offered the job on the spot, at the end of the interview - if you are, and are unsure, be confident enough to ask for time to think about it.