Interviews are your chance to make a good first impression on a new employer – and obviously hold the key to your next job! If you make the effort at this stage, you are more likely to be the kind of forward-thinking, hard-working, committed employee the employer is looking for.
You need to prepare – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
Who are you?
Think about your skills, experience and qualifications – all the things you can bring to this role. Talk to other people about what they think are your strengths and weaknesses. All this will help you prepare for interviews.
You only get one chance to make a first impression. Regardless of the job you are going for (and to a certain extent, regardless of the company’s dress code) you should wear appropriate interview dress. In most cases, this will be a conservative suit (black, grey, navy) with a plain shirt/blouse and smart shoes.
Grooming is also important – take a hairbrush/comb and perhaps deodorant as well for last minute preparation. You would spend time on your appearance if preparing for a date because it gives you confidence if you feel you look good, and this confidence applies equally to interviews – if you feel you look smart and professional, it will give you more confidence. (Unlike dates, however, you should keep jewellery and make-up neutral and unobtrusive!)
If you smoke, try not to smoke just before you go in to your interview. If you do, consider taking something to freshen your breath and/or your clothes.
Be nice and polite to everyone you meet – but refrain from being “over familiar” – quite often the person who meets and greets might say to the interviewer “who was that you saw this morning? – they were very nice”, and all positive comments can count in your favour.
A firm handshake, eye contact and a smile are considered traditional business etiquette. If for any reason you are not comfortable with these formalities (for example, for religious reasons), please let your consultant know at registration so that you are not placed in an uncomfortable situation.
If you are offered a drink, it is a good idea to accept. You may get a dry mouth in the interview due to nerves, but taking a sip of drink is also a good way to buy a bit of time to think about the answer to a tricky question.
What do you need to know before the interview?
- Date and time – make sure you know when your interview is (it sounds basic, but you’d be amazed at how many people miss interviews because they hadn’t written down the date and time!)
- Location – where is the interview, and how long will it take you to get there?
- Accessibility – if you are mobility, visually or hearing impaired, have you let your consultant know what you need so that reasonable adjustments may be made?
- Who is interviewing you? – is it one person, or a panel? What are these people’s roles within the company?
- What format will the interview take? – it is unlikely that you can do any preparation for assessments such as psychometrics, however if you know what to expect you will be more confident and can also allow sufficient time for your interview (especially if you are taking time off from another job to attend)
- What is the interview for? – you should receive an interview confirmation from your consultant, and should be fully briefed so that you are sure you are interested in the role. If there is anything about the role you are not sure about, it is best to try to sort that out before the interview, otherwise you might end up wasting time in an interview for a job you wouldn’t take if offered
What is the Employer looking for?
Where possible, read the full job description before the interview, and find out about the company itself (these days most companies have a website you can look at to get an idea of what is important to them). Nine times out of ten, one of the first questions you will be asked will be what you know about their company. Talk to your consultant to ensure you have a good understanding of what the client is looking for. Then think about yourself and how you meet those requirements. You can prepare examples that demonstrate why you are suitable for the position. Remember that the employer is also looking for someone who will fit into their company culture – someone who will be a willing and productive member of the team.
During the interview
- Listen to the questions carefully – if you are not sure what the interviewer means by their question, ask for clarification
- Don’t talk too much – the employer wants to hear relevant answers to their questions, not your entire life story!
- Don’t talk too little – the employer needs to hear enough evidence that you are suitable for the position
- Be honest in your answers – if you don’t know the answer to a specific question, it is better to admit it than to get it wrong
- Be positive – it is not considered professional to be negative about previous employers, so rather than saying “I’m leaving my current company because they’re old fashioned and their IT is in the dark ages”, try turning it round to say “I’m looking to work for a forward thinking company who embrace new technology”
- Think about your body language – don’t fiddle with your hair, fidget, or look at your watch; sit forward in your chair and look interested
End on a high note
The final impression is important. Don’t rush out of the room like the interview was some ordeal that you are grateful has ended! Thank the interviewer for their time. If you are interested in the job – make sure they know this. There is nothing wrong with saying “Thank you for seeing me today. From everything we’ve discussed so far I have to say I am really keen. I look forward to hearing from my consultant how you wish to progress”.
YOU CAN DO IT! You wouldn’t have got an interview if you weren’t potentially suitable for the role. Be confident, and think positive.
Sample Interview Questions
This is not an exhaustive list of interview questions, however it should help you to think about what you need to prepare.
- Tell me about yourself
- What is your understanding of the job you are applying for?
- Why do you want this job, and what qualities do you think you have that make you suitable for it?
- What have been your main achievements to date?
- What is the most difficult situation you have had to face, and how did you handle it?
- What do you like about your present job?
- What do you dislike about your present job?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
- What motivates you?
- Why do you want to leave your current employer?
- Give an example of how you cope under pressure
- Give me an example of when your work was criticised
- What five words best describe you?
Questions for you to ask
- How does this role fit into the department/organisation?
- What are you looking for in the first 6 months from this appointment?
- What learning and development opportunities does this company offer?
- What do you think are the best things about working for this company?
- Who are your customers?
- How many people are you seeing for this role?
- What is the next stage in the recruitment process, and when can I expect to hear?