Sometimes the best candidate in terms of qualifications and skills will be rejected unless they come across well at an interview. Being turned down for a few jobs can soon start to erode confidence, therefore it is important to prepare well for any interviews you are due to attend. It doesn't matter if you arrive for an interview armed with every qualification known to man, if you don’t project yourself as enthusiastic and hard working then your chances of getting the job will be diminished. The ideal candidate for almost any job – along with the relevant qualifications and skill sets of course - is someone who is friendly, confident (without being arrogant), well dressed and articulate.
Here are some tips to help be successful at interviews:
1. Be Prepared
This is your chance to excel, if your CV is out of date and poorly presented, or irrelevant to the position for which you are applying, you’re unlikely to get an interview. The perception is that your CV is the one document you're likely to spend a lot of time on - and if you can't get that right, then what does that tell your potential employer about the quality of any other work you might do? Similarly, if you don't prepare for an interview, what does that say about how you are likely to prepare for presentations, reports, or whatever it is that the job entails. There are added advantages to preparing. It calms nerves and gives you confidence.
Important details to remember:
- Know exactly where you are going
- Plan how you are getting there
- Find out how long it will take you
- Decide what time you will need to leave in order to arrive 10 minutes early
- Find out what you need to take with you and what will be expected of you
- Ask what resources you will have at your disposal
- Read up to date news stories, so you know what the main issues in the outside world are, and those that may be pertinent to the company or the industry you expect to join
2. Research the company
Prior to your interview do as much research as you can. Study the company website, make notes on their products, services, location(s), management structure, mission statement, in fact anything you can find. Read it through again and again so that when you attend the interview, you’ll know about the company, and be able to present back exactly what you know. The interviewer will be more than impressed if you have done your homework and if you arrive on the day not knowing a thing, the perception will be that you have not made much of an effort. On the other hand, if you arrive and have researched well, you will be able to speak about the company and the role, which shows you are serious about the application and it creates a positive feeling towards your application.
3. Dress to Impress!
Whether you are attending a formal interview or if you are signing up with a recruitment agency (they will interview you as professionally as anyone else - due to legislation and their own credibility in the industry), wear a suit or smart business clothes. Make sure you look and feel great. You may sound like an ideal candidate on the telephone, but turning up in jeans or trainers will create a poor first impression and looks as though you haven’t made an effort to look well presented.
4. Body Language
Just before you begin your interview it is important that you try and settle your nerves. Breathing correctly will help you do this - take a deep breath, and breathe out slowly through your diaphragm, for as long as you can. Repeat this as you wait until you feel yourself calm down. This will also regulate the pitch and tone of your voice. Nervousness can make your breathing erratic and make the sound of your voice high pitched, ensure you breathe correctly so that when you start talking, your voice is at the perfect pitch and tone.
The first time you meet your interviewer it is vital that you create a great first impression. The easiest way to do this is to smile a genuine open smile. This will break the ice, they will smile back and you’re off on the right foot! The handshake is also very important. You must give a firm handshake with palms touching, not so hard that you crush your interviewers hand, but not too soft that you give an impression of weakness. As you meet your interviewer ensure you make and maintain eye contact. If you don’t, again this could be a sign that you are not confident about the interview. Continue to make eye contact throughout the interview at the appropriate times. You cannot stare at your interviewer for every second of the interview, but you must use an appropriate amount of eye contact, at the right times. Focus on the eye/nose section, (also known as the rapport building zone).
Maintain an open posture. If you’re sitting with your arms folded or your shoulders dipped, you could be showing signs of discomfort. Sit with your shoulders and back straight, arms by your sides or resting on your knees, and make sure you are facing your interviewer. If they see you having open body language, they will adopt a similar posture and feel comfortable around you, creating a positive start to the interview.
5. Self Confidence
Even if you have great experience in the role that you’re applying for, you could deliver a poor interview on the day, because of low self confidence. Confidence really is the key to your success. If you are confident, your interviewer will see this, and they will begin to have confidence in you also. They want to hear what you can do, not what you can’t do, or your fears or worries. You must maintain a positive approach to your interview and take this job application seriously. You must tell yourself that you are the best candidate for the role, but above all, you must believe it! During your interview you are only talking about yourself, and who knows you better than you? That’s right, nobody! So believe in yourself and portray a confident image.
6. Being a good listener
You’re interviewer is the person controlling the interview and they will have a structure to follow in order to extract as much information about you as they can. They will give you plenty of opportunities to speak so use those opportunities wisely. When asked a question, answer in around 4 or 5 concise sentences. Don’t go on for 10 or 11 sentences. Just stick to the facts, again highlighting the positives, then stop. If the interviewer is talking, let them talk, and you listen. Really listen, don’t just hear, you must digest what is actually being said so that if they fire a question at you, you are ready to give an intelligent, positive answer.
7. Ask intelligent questions
Prior to the interview, prepare around 4-5 intelligent questions. Ask some during the interview, but always have at least 3 for the end of the interview.
Intelligent questions are not - “What time is my break?” or “How many days holiday do I get a year? Intelligent questions are ones asking about the role, the company, the training, the infrastructure etc. You need to be genuinely interested in how you are going to fit into the culture of the company. It needs to be right for you personally, as well as for the company.
When your interview is complete, give a firm handshake again and maintain eye contact. Thank your interviewer for their time, and tell them you look forward to seeing them again soon. Leave with your head held high knowing you have done everything you could, to land that job!
Types of Interview and how to Prepare
1. Telephone Interview
Telephone interviews are often used as the first stage in a selection process. Due to the volume of candidates some jobs attract, the telephone interview works like a filter, finding the best candidates. So the good news is that your application was good enough to get you an interview and this is the next stage. How to excel:
1. Interviewers want to hear about specific challenges you faced in the workplace, the specific actions you took and the measurable results you achieved
2. Don’t speak too quickly, use jargon, interrupt or talk over the interviewer. Avoid using ’umm’ and ’err’ too much! Your voice is the only sales tool you have!
3. Use the interviewer’s name regularly throughout the conversation and also use the company name a few times as it will help build rapport.
4. Be succinct. For most questions a 2-4 minute answer is a good target. Time is an issue with telephone interviews and you're wasting your own time if you stray off the subject
5. Try smiling while you are talking as you can ‘hear’ a smile in your voice, and studies have shown that this has a positive effect on the person who is listening. It is also a good idea to stand during a telephone interview as this makes you sound more confident and helps project a positive and professional image.
2. Competency Based Interview
When you are asked competency based interview questions, the interviewer is looking for specific examples of how you have handled situations or resolved problems in the workplace. The thinking is that if you have specific examples of what you have done for previous employers, you will be able to replicate your behaviour in a new job. How to excel:
1. Say 'I' a lot when describing your experience. Talk about what you did, not ‘the team’ or ‘they’. Interviewers want to know what your specific role was in achieving results
2. Read the job description and look for the competencies in the person specification. Ensure you have prepared an example for each competency and responsibility
3. Describe the results you achieved; e.g., additional sales gained; money saved, process improved, customer pleased and be specific.
4. Keep your answers succinct, to-the-point and don't ramble. The best way to do this is to prepare and practice your interview answers beforehand
5. Be prepared to answer the negative question. If you made a mistake in the past, what did you do to correct it and what did you learn from it?
3. Group Interview
A group interview allows many individuals to be interviewed at once, and efficiently provides the employer with multiple opinions about you. Your best strategy here is to rehearse your answers and physical presentation beforehand, concentrating on concise, meaningful responses that speak to the multiple decision makers. How to excel:
1. Find out who is on the panel and their job titles in advance. Complete a profile search on them on their corporate website to try to get a sense of what exactly they do.
2. Greet each interviewer individually, shaking hands with each one. Repeat their names as you are introduced; it will help you to remember them.
3. Focus your attention on the interviewer asking the question and glance at the other panel members to include them when you answer.
4. 4. Cross reference your answer to a question with one that has been previously asked by a different panel member to reinforce your strengths e.g. “to expand on my answer to the MD, my experience also includes….”
5. Bring a list of prepared questions to the panel interview. There should be questions that you can address to members of the panel relevant to their different roles
4. Second Interview Questions
The second interview determines if you are the best candidate for the position and a good fit for the company. You may have to complete a psychometric test and complete an office tour where you’ll get to talk to potential colleagues. If the interviewer has any doubts about you from the initial interview they will ask for more examples of when you’ve demonstrated these skills. How to excel:
1. Take notes during the interview. It shows the interviewer you are serious about the company. You will be given a run-down on the company culture, as well as more specific information about the job responsibilities
2. Try to talk to someone currently employed by the company and ask about office culture and the management style
3. Refresh your memory. Remember what you said at the first interview so you are not contradicting yourself. Do not be afraid of repeating yourself since what you said and did in the first interview has brought you this far.
Finally, a reminder...
Try the STAR
method: S – SITUATION.
Put the situation in context for the interviewer T – TELL.
Provide more detail about exactly what you did A – ACTION.
Describe the steps you took to resolve the situation or move forward R – RESULTS.
Show the positive impact of the steps you took