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Interview Tips

Do your homework

Before applying for any role you need to understand whether the role and organisation are a fit for you. Once you've applied and been accepted for an interview this research will stand you in good stead to demonstrate that your are motivated and knowledgeable about the organisation. Information is available in many forms whether it is googling to understand company size, structure, products, competitors; reading financial results; talking to employees about its culture and reputation or gathering information on the role in form of position descriptions.

And remember, just as you can find a wealth of information about a company on-line, so can they find out information about you. It's important you manage your personal online brand carefully and anticipate any questions they may have off the back of their research.

Get Ready to Sell yourself

An interview is a competitive process, usually with only one 'winner' and you need to sell yourself. To do this you need to identify what your key strengths and achievements are and be able to demonstrate how these can 'fit' into the role or the organisation you are applying for. Your research will have helped to identify requirements of the job. List these out and then match your experience to the appropriate requirements.

A good technique is to develop an elevator speech which you can rehearse and practice until it becomes natural. An Elevator speech is a 30 second summary which answers the question "tell me about yourself". Your response should emphasize your skills experience and personal characteristics that make you a fit for the particular role or organisation you're looking for. This is also a great tool for introducing yourself in networking situations.

When you go into an interview be clear about what key points you want to get across about who you are and what makes you the next candidate. Before you finish the interview consider whether you have really presented this story to the interviewer.

What's in it for "them"

An interview is a two way conversation and provides an opportunity for both parties to determine 'fit' for the role and organisation. You should take the opportunity to learn more about the organisation and the team you will be joining, so go prepared with some questions to ask. It does no harm to take a pen and paper in with pre-prepared questions.

However, whilst you want to ask question to ascertain whether the role is going to be a fit, now is not the time to focus on 'what's in it for me'? Whilst remuneration is usually a key consideration in any recruitment process, the time to enter into negotiations about salaries and benefits is when you've got an offer in your hand. At that point your leverage is also at it's peak as you're the identified best candidate. Focussing on these details at initial interview stages will lead to questions about your motivation

Anticipate the questions - and rehearse!

There are numerous forms of interview styles, but predominantly organisations increasingly use behavioural interviewing techniques. The basis of this is that 'behaviour breeds behaviour" therefore how you've previously reacted to a certain situation is a good predictor of how you're likely to react again given the same situation. Behavioural Interview questions seek specific examples where the interviewer will want to know:

  • What was the situation
  • What was your role/task in this
  • What did you do to solve the situation
  • What was the result
  • What did you learn and/or what would you do differently next time.

These questions are likely to start with "Tell me about a time when...", "give me an example of when you..." and they require specific answers. Generic responses about what you "would do" do not demonstrate that you have had any experience.

Begin to think about your successes, the challenges you have overcome, difficult people you have learned to deal with, teams you've been involved in (and your role within them) and examples of your leadership skills. Identify 4 or 5 of your key achievements/strengths and construct compelling, achievement oriented and succinct examples to demonstrate these.

You will also likely be asked a variety of more traditional interview questions which allows the interviewer to find out more about you and your motivations. Questions might include:

  • Tell me about your career to date?
  • Where do you want to be in 5 years?
  • Why have you applied for this position?
  • What are your key strengths and weaknesses?
  • Why do you feel you are the best candidate for this job?

Interviewers will want to get a sense of why you have made certain career steps, and the reason you have left other roles. Any significant time gaps in your CV will also be queried so prepare to answer those questions.

Be Yourself

Try to relax and be yourself. Being nervous is normal and acknowledging this is you are is unlikely to harm your chances. However, excessive nervousness can work against you as it can result in people being unfocussed or overly talkative in their responses. It also could demonstrate that you are not as prepared as other candidates.

It's important to answer questions honestly. Skilled interviewers will be able to drill into your experience, qualifications and abilities and any 'creative licence' you've used will be seen through and your credibility questioned. If you do not have experience, or are light in a certain area there is no harm in being honest about that. A high level of self awareness, particularly combined with a motivation to learn and develop are strong attitudinal attributes that employers will look at.

First impressions count

First impressions are always the strongest and most enduring. Be friendly, but professional. Offer a firm handshake and make direct eye contact and try to establish rapport. Relax and smile! Also:

  • Be on time. Research the route to your interview and be there with time to spare.
  • Dress appropriately and professionally. Even if casual attire is the norm dressing professionally provides and favourable first impression and is a display of respect and courtesy.
  • Focus on the positives. Negative comments about past managers or employers are usually warning signs to prospective employers.
  • Use appropriate language. Don't use slang or swear words.
  • Take copies of your CV.
  • Be a good listener. Don't interrupt and try to answer the questions asked honestly and concisely.

After the interview

Before leaving ensure you understand next steps and don't be afraid to mention that you are very interested in the position. After the interview it is always good to demonstrate your keenness with a follow up note or email thanking the interviewer for their time and again registering your keenness for the role. This also provides an opportunity to ask any further questions or to provide supporting information that you feel you didn't clearly answer in the interview.

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