Interviews do not have to be feared if you prepare well, keep focused and follow the advice on this page.
Successful interviewing is a technique that can be mastered but will ultimately be the key to unlocking a world of opportunities that will put your career decisions in your hands.
After sending your CV and Covering to a number of different companies and for job positions, you have now received an invitation to interview for a new job, congratulations!
It is now essential that you prepare thoroughly. Here we provide suggestions on how to prepare, some pointers about how to behave and react in the interview and what you might expect at an interview.
The most important thing to remember about any interview is that it is a two-way process. It is as much about you finding out whether you want to work for the company as them finding out whether they want you. This means it is important to present yourself as you really are, not pretend to be something you’re not.
Preparing for the Interview
Research the Organisation
Find out as much as you can about the company. Look at their website, website site and social media sites and any information that they have sent you. It is worthwhile knowing their mission, objectives, any value statements. It’s helpful to be familiar with the organisation’s guiding principles. Try to find out how the job that you have applied for fits into the organisation.
You need to sit down with the person specification and your application, and develop some new examples of how you meet at least a few of the requirements. It is fine to talk about the examples on your application form or CV/covering letter, but it’s useful to have a few new ones too. Describe the situation in one sentence or less, and focus on your actions, the results that you achieved, and how you knew you were successful.
It’s also helpful to prepare answers for some of the standard icebreakers, such as ‘Tell me a bit about your current job’, or ‘Tell me why you’ve applied for this job’. Your answers should focus on your skills, and how you can use them in the new job, again based around the person specification. Don’t learn them off by heart, but have a good idea of what you want to say.
Dress appropriately, a majority of the time, smart office-wear is advised which minimal make-up and jewellery. The interviewer will form an opinion on you on the first few minutes of the interview, the majority of the time depending on what you wear and how you talk.
Tests and Presentations
Some interviews require you to make a short presentation, or to take a test. The details will always be included in the letter inviting you to interview, so you’ll have time to prepare. If you’ve been asked to make a presentation, don’t assume that there will be PowerPoint, or that you’ll be standing in front of a group.
You may be invited to bring a handout. It’s worth spending a bit of time making a one-page handout that fully summarises your presentation
Attending the Interview and what to Expect
How Many Interviewers?
The letter inviting you to interview will probably state who will be interviewing you. It’s often three to five people, because that removes any individual bias, so don’t be surprised to walk in and find a roomful of people. One will probably take the lead, and explain who will be asking questions as well as the role of the others. Others may not advise you how many there is more than one person.
When you’re asked a question, reply to the person who asked the question. The others may intervene, either during or after your answer, in which case you’ll also need to reply to the intervention. Again, reply to that person and not to the group generally.
If you’ve been invited to give a presentation, you will probably be asked to give it immediately after introductions. If there’s a time limit for your presentation, then keep to it. If you can’t see the clock in the room, then put your watch on the table in front of you, to make sure that you’re keeping to time. If you’re running short, cut your presentation and move to the conclusion.
Types of Questions
Interviewers often like to start with an easy ‘ice-breaker’ question, such as ‘What do you do in your current job?” or “Tell us why you applied for this job?” If you’ve done your preparation, you’ll be ready for this.
Modern interviews tend to be ‘competence-based’, which means that they focus on your skills, and how you can demonstrate them.
So, questions will often be in the form of:
- Tell us about the time when you…
- Can you give us an example of a time when you…
- From your previous experience, how would you deal with a situation like …
If you don’t have much work experience, don’t worry. Be prepared to say “Well, I haven’t actually had to do that yet, but this is what I would do in the situation”.
If you’re being interviewed for a job where you don’t have much experience in the field, the interviewers will usually try to help by giving you hypothetical questions and asking you how you would approach a problem. They know you don’t have much experience, but they’re trying to give you a chance to show that you can do the job.
The interviewers are not trying to trip you up as a general rule so, if you get a question that There are still interviewers around who believe in the benefits of asking ‘off the wall’ questions like ‘If you were a car, what type would you be?’ and ‘What are your best and worst traits?’
Other questions which could be asked are:
Tell me about yourself
What are your strengths/weaknesses
Why do you think you would be suitable for this job?
Why should we hire you over other candidates?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Why do you want to work for us in particular?
What accomplishments do you have from previous work?
At the End
At the end of the interview, you will probably be asked if you have any questions. It is usually a good idea to ask a few questions about the organisation or role at this point. However, if you really don’t have any questions, perhaps because you spoke to someone from the organisation before the interview and they have answered all your questions, then it’s fine to say so. Do explain that it’s because you spoke to [name] and they were able to answer all your questions ahead of time.
It’s also acceptable to ask when the organisation will expect to let people know the outcome of their application.
It may also be worth asking if there is anything that they feel that you didn’t address as well as you could have done, or that wasn’t entirely clear. It gives you a second chance if you were a bit nervous and didn’t answer as well as you could have done early on.