“You only get one chance to make a first impression”
First impressions do count, and research has shown that the average person can make up their minds about somebody within the first 30 seconds! A job interview is no different. Preparation, presentation and attitude are the key ingredients to be successful.
What to Expect?
From the employer’s perspective, the purpose of the interview is to evaluate you and your capabilities, to assess your ability to contribute to the organisation and to see how well you might fit into the organisation.
The Stages of an Interview
There are 4 stages in a typical job interview:
• Breaking the ice – introductions and ‘chitchat’ designed to help you relax and feel comfortable.
• Exchanging information – questions that focus on the organisation, the job and your interest in both.
• Expanding the focus – specific questions about you and how well you will be able to do the job.
• Wrapping up – time for clarifying, asking questions and final comments.
Preparing yourself properly for an interview will help you relax and give you the confidence to answer tough questions. Thorough preparation will dramatically improve your chances of getting the job.
Research the Company & the Role
Firstly make sure you read through the job description carefully. If you are dealing with a recruitment consultant they should also be able to tell you about the company you are going to see, and about the person who is interviewing you.
You should also conduct your own background research on the firm and the individuals you are meeting. You will then be able to make a much better impression at the interview.
What to research?
Go to the company’s website and research:
• What products/services do they offer?
• Who are their major competitors?
• Where is the company’s headquarters located?
• Have they been in the media or received any awards recently?
• Use LinkedIn and Google to find out more about the company, and the people you are meeting.
• Try to identify someone you know who works in that company and ask them to tell you what they can about the company.
Review and know your CV
Thoroughly familiarise yourself with your CV. Pay particular attention to things that you may have listed as accomplishments or achievements and be prepared to discuss these.
Before going for an interview make sure that your interview attire is appropriate. Don’t dress casually even if the employees of the company are wearing casual clothes. If in doubt, dress formally.
Research has shown that only 7% of the message we send out is based on the actual words we use. The rest is down to body language and tone of voice.
• Stand tall and confident, nerves make you slouch.
• Smile and make good eye contact.
• Avoid negative body language such as shuffling, scratching, looking around, folding your arms, etc.
• Speak with energy and enthusiasm.
Competency Based Interviews
Companies are increasingly using a competency based interview model to screen job candidates. This involves asking job applicants to give specific examples where they have displayed certain competencies, or skills, and to describe the result of their actions.
Sample Competency Based Interview Questions:
Give an example of a time when you have been asked to work in a group to complete a project. How did the group organise priorities and the delegation of tasks? What was the overall outcome of the project?
Describe a situation when a project or piece of work was going to miss a set deadline, how did you prioritise which parts of the work to complete first and how did you go about completing the existing work?
Describe a significant problem that you have encountered recently. How did you approach this problem? Who was involved and how did you go about resolving it?
Personal & Career Objectives
What are your short, medium and long term goals, how have you gone about identifying and developing these goals and how do you intend to achieve them?
Can you tell me about a time when you have performed over and above the expectations of your role? Communication
Give an example of a time when you have had to communicate with individuals and groups. What methods of communication did you use and what problems did you face?
The Star Technique
This technique is particularly useful when answering competency based questions but can be applied to almost any interview question.
Structuring your interview answers using the STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) interview technique will give you confidence and clarity when answering your interview questions. Following its form will result in your answers being high quality, comprehensive and detailed. This technique will also help you avoid deviating from the question and keep your answers structured and to the point. We would strongly advise you to use the STAR technique.
Describe the background of a particular situation when you used the key competency. For example if the competency is budgetary control:
“In my last job I was appointed to lead a project involving a £600,000 engineering factory shutdown lasting 2 weeks. I had overall responsibility for the budget for this project. I did face some challenges on this project which required careful management to keep to budget.”
Describe what your particular task was in relation to this, i.e. “My responsibility was to ensure that the project came in on time and on budget, which required close liaison with the department heads, maintenance managers, and cost and planning team. Any overspend, delay or conflict had to be resolved immediately to keep the project on budget. One week into the project we were faced with unexpected delays due to the unavailability of essential maintenance equipment which threatened the completion of the project on time and would ultimately have prevented the plant from becoming operational again on time. This would have obviously created a loss in production and revenue.”
“I worked long hours with the buying and contracts manager, sourcing alternative suppliers and negotiating price, to keep to the original estimates. I worked closely with the planning team to reschedule some of the other work to ensure no time was lost. It was key that I kept in close contact with the whole team throughout, as any delay would affect the budget. I examined all aspects of the project to ensure that there were no wasted costs and that despite the tight budget safety standards were never compromised.”
“I am pleased to say that through perseverance and my determination to deliver on time, and on budget, the long hours paid off and a new supplier was found who have since proved to be a more effective supplier. The project was completed on time and came in a little under budget, and the whole project was carried out without accident or injury.”
N.B. You might also add your observations about what you learnt from the experience.
Answering The Difficult Questions
Tell me about yourself?
Try to be yourself. Prepare your response
Experience – choose relevant examples
Skills – make sure they are relevant e.g. attention to detail or strong communication.
Education – this is important for less experienced candidates. Be prepared to demonstrate the relevancy of your
educational background to the role.
Ambition – be clear about your future career ambitions and aspirations.
What is your biggest weakness?
Don’t be afraid to mention your weaknesses. Discuss what you have done to overcome it. Turn your weakness into a strength.
Weaknesses should be:
• Relatively harmless
Example: “Sometimes, I focus too much on the details of a project. So now, when I’m working on a project, I make sure at the end of the day to sit back and take a few minutes to think about the general scope of my work. This forces me to keep priorities straight and helps me keep the right mind-set.”
Practicing Interview Skills
An excellent way to prepare for an interview is to do a mock interview. Prepare sample answers and get a friend or someone in your family to ask you a few questions before the interview. If you’ve practiced recently with a few questions, it will feel more familiar and you won’t be so nervous on the day.
Ask them to observe your body language. They will hopefully be able to pick up on any obvious problems with your answers or on any nervous habits you might have.
– Why do you want to work for us?
– How would your boss describe you?
– How would your colleagues describe you?
– What do you look for in a job?
– What qualities/skills do you have that would make you good at this job?
– What do you do to relax?
– Why should we hire you?
– What are your strengths?
– What is your biggest weakness?
– What qualities will be needed for this job?
– How would you describe your personality?
– How do you react to pressure and working to deadlines?
– Tell me about your previous job
– Why are you leaving your present job?
– What is your biggest achievement to date?
– Tell me about a difficult situation you faced. How did you overcome it?
– Describe a recent project that you were involved in, and its outcome.
– How might you contribute to our company?
– What important trends do you see in our industry?
– Have you any concerns about this role?
Asking The Right Questions
At the end of an interview you are usually given the opportunity to ask them a question. The question should show an interest in the role and how to do well in the job. It should not be about what you can get from it. Here are a few examples:
– I see from your website that you have recently opened a branch in London, do you have any plans to expand in other overseas locations?
– What challenges could I expect to face in the first 6 months?
– How would you describe the culture of the company?
On the Day – 10 Things to Remember
– Punctuality is crucial, double check the location of the interview and plan how you will get there.
– Make sure you greet the interviewer with a firm handshake.
– Stay calm; it is natural that you will feel nervous; the key thing is to control it.
– Listen to the questions asked and take your time answering.
– Answer the questions as fully as possible without getting carried away.
– Don’t be afraid to ask for a question to be repeated or explained.
– Give responses that are clear, relevant and provide adequate information.
– Highlight your skills and experiences in a positive way in your answers.
– Don’t panic if you are asked a question you haven’t prepared for.
– Thank the interviewer for the opportunity and add how much you would like to work for the company.
Further interview advice can be found on the Collins McNicholas website here.
Collins McNicholas Recruitment & HR Services Group