Follow these tips for success
For most people, the thought of a job interview is a daunting and nerve-wracking prospective. However, the good news is that with careful planning and preparation you can greatly improve your chances of acing the interview stage and getting your dream job. Below are some tips on how to enhance your performance when it comes to selling yourself at interview.
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Do your research prior to the interview
Find out as much as you can about the job, company, interview format
- Analyse and dissect the job description, identify what skills and competencies are being sought and then match that to your own strengths and skills.
- Research the company, products, staff, culture, clients and competitors. Make sure you thoroughly research the information available on the company’s website and on online articles and other websites. If you know someone working there, ask them about the recruitment process as well as about the company values, mission statement and culture.
- Your consultant at CMSE Recruitment will be able to assist you with information on the interview panel and interview format. Be sure that you know who you are meeting (names and job title) and what style of interview to expect (e.g. competency-based, task-oriented, group, etc.).
Plan your route
- Allow plenty of time to get to the interview venue – ideally you should aim to get there about 10 minutes early to have time to relax and gather your thoughts. This will also give you time to peruse the walls of the waiting area where you might pick up valuable information on recent accreditations achieved, new products launched, mission statement, etc.
- 55% of a person’s first impression of someone is determined by physical appearance so choosing your wardrobe for the interview is an important task.
- Make sure that you look smart and professional – smart polished shoes, clean tidy hair – tied back is a good option if it’s long – discreet jewellery, clean nails and not too much perfume or aftershave.
- Wear something that is appropriate to the company you are going to see and, if a site tour is involved, adhere to any guidelines prescribed (e.g. flat shoes). Always ensure that you have your Personal Protective Equipment with you should the opportunity for an impromptu site visit arise (if appropriate to your role).
- For a site-based role, err on the side of formal wear for the interview.
Quid Pro Quo
- Bear in mind that the interview is a two-way street – the employer has the vacancy but you hold the skills and experience necessary to fulfil that role. The interview is as much an opportunity for you to find out about the role and the organisation as the other way round.
- Take your cue from the job description – break it down point by point and try to anticipate questions that may arise in relation to each of the points. Jot down your experience in relation to each of the points. This will build your confidence as you will have bridged the gap between their requirements and your ability to meet those requirements.
- If there are any areas where you don’t have specific experience, do some research on courses that you could do to remedy this shortfall. Consider also transferable skills from other areas of your life (hobbies, etc.) which may demonstrate your competency albeit in a different but complimentary way.
- Make a note of any questions to ask on the day or any points you would like to cover at the interview. Choose your questions carefully – always keep questions related to the role such as the key performance indicators, current and future projects and how the role is likely to develop over the next 3-5 years, etc. Avoid questions on salary, holidays, benefits, etc. This conveys that you are only interested in the monetary rewards of the role.
Handling difficult questions
Nowadays employers often ask questions designed to discover how you would deal with certain situations and how you would behave. Companies want to know about your abilities and track record, not just your knowledge and experience. For instance ‘describe a situation where you have shown yourself to be flexible’ or ‘describe how you dealt with an unexpected situation’ are both ways of trying to find out more about the way you operate as a person and your competencies. Producing answers isn’t as difficult as it may first appear, particularly if you have given some thought to these type of questions coming up. You can draw on your past experience and you don’t necessarily have to restrict yourself to the workplace.
Some companies use telephone interviews to draw up their shortlist so it is worth giving some thought to how you would cope with this technique. In many ways you need to be prepared for a phone interview in the same way as you would for a face-to-face interview. In this instance it is particularly important to think of some questions that you want to ask the interviewer. You should also try and ensure that you have some privacy – so try and find a quiet phone that you can use and where you won’t be disturbed and then you need to get yourself into interview ‘mode’.
The most common mistake for telephone interviewees is answering questions too quickly. Although silences on the telephone feel much longer than they really are, it is so important to consider your answers. Try and imagine you are sitting in front of the interviewer and use facial expressions as you would in a one to one interview because your attitude and frame of mind are always reflected in your voice – so don’t forget to smile and be positive.
Think of the obvious questions such as those listed below and work out honest and persuasive answers.
- Why do you want to join us?
- What can you bring to the job/company?
- Tell me about your last/present job?
- Why did you leave your last job?
- Why are you leaving your present job?
- How would you set about tackling this job if you are successful?
- What do you think the main differences will be between your last/present job and this one?
- Do you have any questions you want to ask?
On the day
Give yourself plenty of time – don’t put yourself under extra pressure by having to rush. Always take an up-to-date copy of your CV that is clean and crisp, together with a notebook and pen. When you meet the interviewer look directly at the person, smile, and give a firm handshake – this shows confidence.
- Be positive
- Watch your body language – e.g. don’t cross your arms (it gives the impression of putting up a barrier between you and the interviewer); make frequent eye contact; good posture is important
- Listen and ask for clarification if unsure of what is being asked
- Reply to any questions clearly and concisely
- Make a note of points to return to
- Be courteous to everyone you meet
- Be honest
What not to do:
- Let your mind wander
- Be afraid to sell yourseIf
- Just answer with a yes or no – expand
- Be negative about previous/current employer
Remember to thank the interviewer for seeing you and again shake their hand firmly and confirm that you are very interested in the role and keen to hear back from them.
- An important step is to debrief as soon after the interview event as possible – essentially this is writing down all the questions that were asked and the answers you gave.
- This acts as a way of tutoring yourself for a subsequent interview in the same process or for future interviews as, with the benefit of hindsight, you can decide whether you would answer the question in the same way or adapt it. Furthermore, by committing everything to paper, you don’t have the pressure of trying to recall information at a later point.
Ask about the follow-up procedure, information on further stages and when you can expect to hear the outcome. If you feel you didn’t answer one of the questions well or that you failed to get across one of your major achievements you can always quickly follow up with a letter which thanks the interviewer for their time and restates why you think you are the right person for the job.
If you are unsuccessful it’s still worth going back to the company to get their feedback on how they felt the interview went as you can often pick up very helpful tips on how to improve your performance.
Remember that if you want to succeed at your interview you must be confident and be prepared! Every interview is a learning experience and each one teaches you a little bit more about what to say and do and what to avoid.