Interview Tips – How to succeed at an interview.
Fail to prepare; prepare to fail. Remember that f irst impressions count.
- Research the firm ? look at the company’s web site, check up-to-date company literature, read the press and talk to people you know who work or who have worked there
- Know your CV inside out ? the interviewer will expect you to be able to answer questions about anything (and potentially everything) that is written on your CV.
- Check out the interview process; how many stages will there be, is there going to be a written technical test, who will you be meeting (get their full name and job title)
- Review the job description ? think of how your experience would benefit the company
- Remember the interview is a two-way process ? it offers you the opportunity to get all the information you need on the company / team in order to be able to decide if you want the role.
On the day.
- Make sure you know the location of the interview (e.g. if the employer has more than one office in London)
- If you’re going to be late, let the company know
- It’s a good idea to arrive 10 minutes early for the interview to give yourself time to gather your thoughts and to be calm before meeting the interviewer.
Some top tips.
- Smile and maintain good eye contact throughout
- Dress conservatively / appropriately for the interview
- Prepare a list of questions to ask
- Answer questions with more than just a “yes” or “no” – always try to back up answers with examples which illustrate your skills and how you could contribute to the company
- Let the interviewer bring up the subject of salary
- Don’t criticise your current/previous employer
- The way in which you present yourself will tell the interviewer much more about you than your CV ever could so be aware of any bad habits you are prone to such as fidgeting or gesticulating
- Keep your handshake firm, but not too forceful
- Aim to maintain good posture throughout the meeting ? try not to slouch
- Listen – acknowledge the interviewer’s comments with nods and if you are being interviewed by more than one person, engage the whole panel when answering their questions
- Maintain good eye contact throughout the interview
Controlling Jitters Before Your Interview.
The prospect of sitting alone in a room with a stranger and talking about yourself can be terrifying. You certainly don’t want the stress to overwhelm you. If an interviewer’s strongest impression of you at the end of the interview is the sweat on your brow, quiver in your voice, and the twitches in your limbs, you’re in trouble. Here’s how to put things in perspective.
- Someone at the organisation likes you and thinks you have a chance to contribute. You’ve haven’t been called in to be tortured – you have a real shot at getting hired.
- If this interview doesn’t work out, you will have another one. There are a lot of jobs out there.
- Every interviewing experience you have will prepare you to do better in the next one.
- The person sitting across from you was once sitting on the hot seat just like you, and they survived and got the job even though their voice trembled a bit and their knees knocked a little. Everyone’s been through the situation and knows what it’s like.
- Just like everyone else, this person interviewing you has friends and casual acquaintances with whom they hang out. They aren’t always so formal. Try to connect with your interviewer on a human level, without being too goofy and informal.
Dealing with anxiety.
It would be a shame to let something as insignificant and short-lived as an attack of nerves conceal your winning attributes. Here are some tips to prevent nervous tics and other imperfections from interfering with your best interview ever.
If you’re concerned with a piece of clothing in your interview ensemble, change it. In addition to favourably impressing your interviewer, your clothes should do nothing but support and feed the confidence and comfort of the intelligent, sensitive creature wearing them.
During the interview you’ll want to look neat, clean, and well composed. You should always wear a suit. Even if the workplace where you’re applying is business casual (or has no dress code whatsoever.) Even if the interviewer tells you that you don’t need to wear a suit. It’s always better to overdress than under-dress. Stick to conservative navy, grey or black, wear tights and closed-toe shoes.
If a deficiency on your CV worries you, don’t obsess on it and let it sink your spirits. Think about this deficiency and how you will explain it before you go in for the interview. It’s there, so deal with it and move on. Remember, they’ve agreed to interview despite this flaw, so it can’t be a show stopper. If there is any way of putting a positive spin on it without making it a feature of the interview, plan a short but sweet response.
On the day of the interview, breathing exercises can help you relax and focus your energy. Closing your eyes, imagine a peaceful place. Or, visualise yourself acing the interview. Here’s another one: place your tongue at the roof of your mouth just behind the teeth and then breath quickly and forcefully through your nose for as long as you can. If you push yourself at this, when you then inhale deeply through your mouth again, you should feel energised.
Commonly Asked Interview Questions.
This is a range of questions that are frequently asked at interview:
- Tell me about yourself.
- How would you colleagues / manager / team describe you?
- Describe your management style.
- How do you handle working under pressure?
- Why do you want to work here?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why are you interested in a career in this industry?
- What are you looking for in a company?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- What do you dislike about your present job?
- What do you look for in a job? What do you want from your next role?
- Where would you like to be in two to five years?
- What are your key strengths and weaknesses?
- What are you really good at?
- What can you offer our company / would you do for us?
- Why should we hire you? or Why should I give this job to you?
- What is your greatest achievement to date? What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career?
- What are the biggest decisions you have made in the last year?
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group? Why?
- What is your ideal working environment?
- What kind of people do you like working with?
- Are you a self-starter? (Back up an answer with examples)
- What are you interests outside of work?
- What do you do in your spare time?
Questions to ask the interviewer:
- How has the position become vacant?
- Where does the role sit within the team / department / organisation?
- How will my performance be assessed?
- What are the longer-term opportunities involved in this role?
- What are the key challenges involved in this role?
- Describe the company / team culture
- Tell me about the company’s training programme / employee career development programme
- What could I expect from the first 6 to 12 months in the role?
- What skills and attributes are most needed to progress within the team / company?
Interview Question Corner – How You Think.
Your interviewer will want to measure how well you think on your feet, on your seat – how you think, period. How does that brain of yours channel and process information – rationally, creatively, periodically? Companies prize the ability to think analytically. Many of the most successful people in business attribute their success to the fact that they surrounded themselves early on with intelligent people.
A number of questions in the interview will give you an opportunity to demonstrate how your mind gathers, sorts, files and discards information. Sometimes the best thing to do when faced with a difficult question is to take a deep breath or to ask for a minute to consider it, instead of launching into a hurried, muddled answer. The interviewer will respect your decision to think your answer over carefully.
In addition to being a necessary attribute on the job, possession of a rational thought process can be a tremendous asset in terms of getting a job. If you can offer an impeccably reasoned, airtight case for why you should get the job, the interviewer, having difficulty refuting it, may simply surrender and hire you.
- Describe the most creative things you’ve done in past jobs. In your personal life.
- If you were hiring someone, what attributes would you define as being the most desirable and why?
- What criteria did you use to determine your career path?
- If we could form a perfect job for you within this organisation, what would be some of the primary characteristics of this job?
- What are the criteria you would use to determine success? How should a company determine success?
- Describe your most rigorous intellectual challenge to date.
Points to consider – what interviewers are looking for at interview.
- Your academic and personal achievements as well as distinctions / success at work
- Your business training, aptitudes, positions of responsibility
- Your career motivations and ambition
- Quickness of mind, initiative, judgement and flexibility
- Your general appearance and suitability of dress, speech and self confidence
- Your work ethic ? are you receptive, persistent and adaptable to change?
- How you project yourself in terms of assurance, communication style, manners, leadership qualities
- They will want to know if you can do the job
- They want to know if you WILL do the job ? i.e. are you motivated?
- They will want to see if you fit in with the organisation’s culture
What’s your greatest weakness? Answering The Weaknesses Question.
This query has been an enduring weapon in the hiring manager’s arsenal, but most people still have trouble with the dilemma it poses: answer too frankly, and you’ll torpedo your prospects. Give a canned answer and you’ll seem fake, or worse, evasive (“My greatest weakness is that I’m a perfectionist and work too hard.”). In search of a better way, Vault asked several HR managers and career experts for answers to this interview toughie.
“It’s a tricky question,” admits Andrea Kay, a syndicated career advice columnist and author of Interview Strategies That Will Get You the Job You Want. “I would suggest, number one, that you be ready for it, anticipate it, because it is still a question that gets asked over and over again.”
Some HR managers suggested the old approach of naming a fault that’s not really a fault. “I am impatient, and I like to get things done and done quickly and get frustrated when politics and red tape slow down projects,” was how a recruiting and staffing manager for a trucking company answered.
A related strategy: name a “weakness,” but link it to more egregious faults demonstrated by others. “When I was asked that question, I responded that ‘My weakness was getting frustrated when “leadership” fails to make decisions or lead,'” said the director of human resources at a manufacturing company. “I’ve also answered the question with ‘I get impatient when organisations or groups say they want something, don’t take the initiative, or make the decision to make it happen, pass it off to someone else, and then criticise how it’s done.'”
Jerry Houser, the director of the Career Development Centre of Technology, says students should consider a skill, mention the down side of this skill, describe how they keep that weakness in line, and then give an example.
“This can be done with each skill anyone has,” Houser said. “A weakness is just the flip side of a strength taken too far. Great customer service may mean being too talkative. Ability to concentrate for long periods may result in seeming unfriendly. Being realistic can become uncreative. Juggling many projects may mean lost details or follow-up. Strengths and weakness are situational. You have to know how to read your environment and use or moderate your skills in context.”
Of course, you can always chose not to answer the question at all or ask the interviewer to rephrase the question, in hopes of drawing out the real concerns about your qualifications and temperament. “I always tell clients, if they’re comfortable enough in their own skin while they’re being interviewed, to respond with either of these,” said Ruth Luban, a careers advisor and author of Are You a Corporate Refugee? “‘My CV, and our discussion thus far, are about my strengths and what I can bring to this position. I’d prefer to focus on what you’re looking for, rather than respond to a negative question,’ or ‘What would my weakness have to do with this job?'”
But be warned: each of these strategies can have drawbacks. The first can seem too pat. The second might be seen as condescending. The third might be regarded as evasive, even dishonest.
If you’re not comfortable with any of these strategies, try mentioning real weaknesses, but only those that have nothing to do with the job they’re applying for. “I would say, if they asked me what my weakness was, that I’m not good at math, because I’m not, and it has nothing to do with anything I will ever do,” Kay said.
Or name a real weakness, but one you’re taking steps to improve. “Pick something you’ve decided you need to get better at, like, ‘I need to know more languages. All I speak English, so I’m going to make it goal to learn Spanish and French,'” Kay said. “It’s saying I’m really aware of what it is that I need to be doing, and I take action on it.”
Again, try to name only weaknesses that have little to do with your prospective job. “Not everybody’s great at everything,” Kay said. “But you don’t want to say “I don’t get along well with people. You don’t want to open up a can of worms, or go down a path that gets you in trouble. Don’t talk about people issues.”
So why do HR people continue to ask this question, with all its attendant perils? Is it fair?
“Absolutely!” said the HR director. “It’s thought-provoking and if posed correctly is one of those questions that can open the door for further discussion.” He adds, “It’s especially useful for further probing of a very strong, decisive, dominant type personality, then I use it to see if they are as in tune with their weaknesses as they are with their strengths.”
But other HR people had differing opinions.
“The only thing it could possibly measure in a positive light is the candidate’s diplomacy quotient,” says one HR staffer. “I stopped asking the question long ago.”
After the interview.
If you have arranged the interview through a recruitment consultant, call them immediately after the meeting with your feedback. They will want to talk to you before the interviewer calls them. If you are interested in progressing, it will assist if your feelings towards the role are known together with what you think the interviewer’s perception of you might be.
If you are not successful at interview, make sure you get feedback from the recruitment consultancy as this will enable you to amend your interview style / responses for the next interview.
Following Up After the Interview.
When you leave an interview, you should leave the building as gracefully as you entered it. Make sure you’re as cordial to people on the way out as you were coming in. Then, as you decompress, take some time to review the interview while it’s still fresh in your mind. Because interviewing is a beneficial skill, use the experience to help you in the future.
Ask yourself: how could you have better answered the questions? Where did you succeed? Where did you fail? What will you do differently next time?
In assessing the interview, don’t let the fact that you didn’t feel a connection with the interviewer frighten you away from a great job. And lastly, consider what you’ve learned about the company and whether or not, all things considered, it would be a good place for you to be.
A thank-you note is essential. Get it in the post the day after the interview. If competition between you and another candidate is intense, the thank-you note just might be the extra burst of effort that propels you to victory. Avoid hyperbole and excessive enthusiasm. Keep your note cordial, brief, and let the tone bespeak its having been written from a cool remove. Thank the interviewer for inviting you to the interview. Say that it was a pleasure to meet him or her. And then mention something you learned during the interview and assure them of your continued interest in the position – provided you are still at all interested.
Follow-up calls can also provide that extra thrust over the job wall in some cases. But it’s a good idea to assess the situation before you call. Calling can make you look overeager and can, if overdone, turn off prospective employers. After interviewing with a large and busy company along with several other candidates, it’s probably better to just send a note and wait for the response. And until prospective employers make their decisions, everything you say to them can be used against you at decision time.
For this reason, both calls and letters should be viewed as extensions of the interview. The last thing you want is for a clumsy follow-up call to dash a favourable impression of you. To wit: ONE call, e-mail or letter to follow up is just fine. If it’s been two weeks, follow up again. That’s it. Pestering your interviewer can earn you a hasty journey into the rubbish bin or trash file.
On the other hand, a well-placed follow-up call or letter can give you an opportunity to state an idea you failed to mention in the interview, to position your name in their memories, to demonstrate perseverance, and to separate yourself from the majority of candidates who don’t follow up.
Here’s one warning. As tempting as it may be, don’t call to check up on a CV you’ve sent – and then start quizzing the person on the other end of the phone (or e-mail) about the position and necessary qualifications. Eager is fine, but desperate is a turn-off.
This article is excerpted from .com
Reprinted with permission