An invitation to interview often evokes a wide range of emotions; from exhilaration at having overcome the first hurdle in the job application process, to panic regarding how to behave and what to say during that all important forty-five minutes or so. With so much at stake, it makes sense to ensure that you’ve prepared thoroughly and have all the information needed to be remembered by interviewers for all the right reasons. To help, we’ve collated this straight-forward guide which contains top interview tips to maximise your chances of obtaining the result you want.
Do your preparation
It’s important to arrive on time, so make sure you plan your journey in advance, check parking availability if travelling by car and allow a little extra time in case of delays. Make sure that you’ve read up on the organisation you’re applying to, as this will help you to shape appropriate responses to the job interview questions you’ll be asked. Obviously you’ll need to think through suitable answers for common questions, some of which are discussed later on. Before you go, think of one or two questions that you would like to ask about the role or the company in general; showing an interest is always appealing to employers.
Despite contemporary dress codes being less formal than they were a decade or so ago, if in any doubt about the best outfit to wear, it’s best to opt for a suit or (as a minimum), smart casual dress. Hair should be styled conservatively as far as possible and tattoos, piercings or other body jewellery should be hidden or discreet. Although it may feel like an infringement on your individual style to conceal personal adornment, employers are usually looking for individuals that can convey an appropriate corporate image, rather than those with a striking fashion sense or unique appearance.
Common interview questions
The aim of the interview is to find out more about you and why you might be the best person for the job. Interviewers don’t want to catch you out or put you in a vulnerable position; they simply want you to tell them why you’re the one they want. Obviously interview questions vary depending on the post, but most will relate to proving that you’ve got the knowledge, skills and aptitudes detailed in the job specification. Detailed below are typical interview queries you’re likely to encounter:
- Why are you the best person for this job?
- Describe any previous experience you have had which would be useful in this role
- What do you feel are your strongest points?
- How would you approach this issue? The interviewer will then outline a typical work-based scenario for you to comment on.
- What has been your biggest achievement?
- What do you think you will be doing in five years’ time?
- What makes for successful team working?
- What role do you think you would play within a team?
- Describe a time when you worked in a team
- Have you got any questions?
Prepare the answers to these questions in advance, using information from your application form as well as any information on requirements given in the job specification. It’s important to think of experiences you’ve had which illustrate your claims, rather than just stating you possess ability without being able to back it up. For example, if you state that you’re a team player, be prepared to back it up with an anecdote which shows your team working strengths to advantage.
When the interview panel hand over to you to ask if you’ve got any questions (and they almost invariably will), make sure you’ve got a couple prepared. If you don’t have any burning queries, good questions to ask in an interview include:
- What opportunities are there for training and personal development?
- What will your organisation’s interest be in [insert topic of relevance]?
- How do you see the organisation progressing over the next few years?
- What travel requirements are there?
- What opportunities are there for career progression and lateral moves?
The time allowed for interview questions & answers is typically thirty to forty-five minutes, so try and be concise in your responses. If you can condense answers to common queries to four or five bullet points beforehand, each backed up with an appropriate anecdote, you should be able to put across the information you need to without rambling.
Job Interview Tips
DO shake hands, smile, make eye contact and try not to show any anxiety you might have. Taking a deep breath before replying to a question, speaking slowly and taking a sip of water before responding are all good tactics to increase your thinking time, so that you’re able to respond coherently to a question. An interview is a conversation, not an interrogation, so act accordingly.
DO tell the truth. It can be tempting to embellish your previous work history or achievements, but this is seldom a good idea. Not only do you run the risk of being quizzed during interview about your claims, but if you do get the job and it becomes apparent you can’t do what you claimed, you’ll get in all sorts of trouble.
DO be enthusiastic. Employers need workers who want to be part of their organisation and who are genuinely keen. Don’t expect to be successful if you present in a lacklustre fashion.
Generally interviews will only include you and the interview panel, although occasionally you will be invited to a group interview. Normally, if a group interview is planned you will be told in advance. If your interview does include a group element, try and act naturally, be positive and don’t undermine others in the group. Although an interview can feel overwhelming, it’s critical to approach it as you would any other piece of work. Forward planning and preparation should result in a polished performance that puts you in a strong position to gain the role you crave. Good luck!