Interview tips for Candidates
Interviews are two way meetings. Not only are they an opportunity for the interviewer to find out about you and if you are a suitable candidate for the position but they are also an opportunity for you to find out about the organisation and if the position will provide you with the challenge and job satisfaction you are looking for.
Think about your skills, qualifications and experience and ensure that you can talk confidently about what is written on your CV. Particularly ensure that you can talk about those skills that are relevant and valuable to the position you are going for.
Prepare some questions to ask at the interview. At the first interview it would be wise to restrict your questions to the details of the job and the organisation. Salary and benefit discussions are best left until a second interview or a job offer is made.
Do your homework
Find out as much as possible about the company prior to the interview. A good starting point is to look up their website and find out about the products and services they offer, the location of the office/s, and the number of employees. Ask the consultancy if they have any extra information on them. You could also phone the company and ask them to send you an annual report.
Dress code and appearance
Ask your consultancy what the client’s dress code is. For office work, smart business dress is a must.
Ensure you are well groomed with tidy hair, clean shoes and clothing. Do not wear too much perfume or aftershave and keep make-up, jewellery and nail polish simple.
Travel and timing
Plan your journey beforehand to ensure you arrive a few minutes early. Allow for possible travel delays. Just in case of a major hold up, make sure you have your contact’s telephone number so that you can call if you suspect you will be late.
What to expect
Interviews come in many forms – panel interviews, one to one interviews, group interviews etc. Ask your consultancy what form of interview it will be beforehand. You may be asked to take a test before the interview, depending on the type of organisation. These might consist of psychometric or aptitude tests.
There are many different interview styles and each interviewer will have their own style. Some interviewers will fire questions at you while others will start off with an open question such as “tell me about yourself” leaving you to do most of the talking. The majority of interviews will be somewhere between the two. Be prepared for any style of interview.
- Make sure the employer knows the benefits of employing you. It is most important to sell yourself by telling the employer details of your relevant skills and experience that you have to contribute to the organisation.
- Try not to monopolise the meeting – let your interview talk.
- Find out what the key parts of the candidate specification are so you can show how you meet them.
- Ask how the job contributes to the success, efficiency and profitability of the organisation.
- Show that you have done some research.
- Don’t give negative information or bad news if you are not asked for it and don’t criticise previous employers or jobs. The key is to turn negative information into positive information.
The next steps
Agree exactly what the next steps will be, such as who will contact you to let you know if you have been successful and by when. You should also find out whether there will be second interviews and who will conduct them. If you are really interested in the position make sure you tell the interviewer.
After the Interview
Tell the consultancy how the interview went and get feedback from them.
Everything is negotiable. If the final offer is not what you had hoped for, ask the consultancy to talk to the client. Say that you like the job but the package is not up to your expectations and ask if the company can be flexible.
You can’t prepare for every question that will come up at the interview, but you can anticipate most of them. Here are some of the deadliest questions, and ways of handling them.
- “Tell us about yourself”. Prepare for the worst – a classic opener that can really throw you. Plan ahead by having presentation statement to cover this.
- “Where do you see yourself in 5 years ‘time?” – if your answer doesn’t ring true for you, it won’t for anyone else. Talk about career plans, and what you want to learn and achieve in the future.
- “Why do you want this job?” Have a clear answer to this (even if, privately, you’re not sure – you only have to decide when the job offer is in your hand).
- “What kind of person are you?”. Handle questions about personality carefully. Rather than say “I’m an ideas person”, talk about a time when you changed things with a good idea.
- “Why did you leave …….?” Employers will probe for reasons for job change. If you are currently out of work, they will probe this, too. Rehearse short, simple, positive “stories” to cover these points. This is not telling lies, just a simple, positive summary.
- “How will you cope in a crisis?” Have a couple of good examples of past triumphs up your sleeve.
- “How will you…” questions are beginning to crate a future which includes you – so welcome them. Describe what you would do within the organisation as if you are already there. Create the right picture, and the employer won’t be able to imagine a future without you …
- “What would you do if….?” Some interviewers ask fantasy questions not related to reality, but watch out for questions that are like verbal in-tray exercises. You might be asked to “sell me this pencil sharpener/paper clip/biro” – prepare to think on your feet.
- “What do you need to earn?” Wrong question. Focus on the value you can add to the employer, not your basic needs. Find out what the company is willing to pay, or work out what similar employers pay for good people. Always throw pay questions back to the other side of the net.
- “What are your weaknesses?” Remember that the recruiter give far more weight to negative information. Talk about weaknesses that are also strengths, e.g. being demanding of your team, being a perfectionist, pushing hard to get things done …
10 USEFUL TIPS
- Plan carefully. Do you know where you are going and how to get there? Who are you seeing?
- Make sure you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you. Practice saying them if they are difficult to pronounce.
- There’s no such thing as enough preparation for an interview. Find out everything you can about the company and what it makes or does. Look for current news – show you are up to date.
- Why does this job exist? What problems will it solve? What are the Key Result Areas?
- Remember: employers buy experience. Think about what evidence of achievement you can talk about at the interview; rehearse your success stories.
- Work out what is appropriate in terms of everything you present, including yourself. Look the part, and you will feel it. Dress as if you are already doing the job.
- Second guess the employer’s “shopping list” from the job details – what skills/qualities/experience do you have to match?
- Be your own worst interview nightmare. What is the most difficult question you might have to face? Practice the answer. Practice again.
- Be upbeat. Employers latch on to negative messages, so don’t give them any.
- Prepare for rejection. On balance you will be rejected more times than accepted. Even if you don’t get the job, you can learn a huge amount about your perceived market value. Remember – there’s a job out there for you somewhere – more people are working in the UK than ever before.