Employers use interviews to assess how well you match the requirements of the job, the company and existing employees. The interview also allows you to ensure that the organisation is a good fit for you and what you want.
They’ll already have an indication of your qualities, current skills and knowledge from your application, but you must confirm in person that you’ve the skills and experience to successfully perform in the role on offer. This makes preparing for the interview and being ready for some common interview questions in advance, especially important.
- Research the Organisation
This will help you answer questions the employer will ask and will make you stand out against other applicants who may not have taken the time to research.
You can visit the company website, use search engines and look at company leaflets/brochures to find out what you can. Have a look at their mission statement and values, look at the clients they have, examine whether they do business locally, nationally or worldwide. See if there are any recent press releases that will give you an idea of how they are performing, what the future looks like or any new products/contracts.
You could ask questions about the role you are going for, based on your research
- Compare your skills, knowledge and qualifications to the job requirements
Look at the job description. What skills, knowledge and abilities are required and do you already have some of those?Look at how the position you are going for actually fits into the organisation, what is the structure, how are you managed, how does that fit into the overall structure and how would you work with other departments or members of staff?
- Prepare responses
Most companies will have already got your CV or application form. They will use them as a base and ask you to expand on some or all of the qualifications and experience you have. Think about how you can do this and practice your response a few times.
- Plan what to wear
You will be one of a number of people interviewed. You need to make a good impression. Make sure your overall appearance is good and that you are tidy, clean and look the part.
Make sure your clothes are ironed and look good. No creases or wrinkles if they are not manufactured to look that way.
Generally you will need to look business-like. Wear neutral colours and ensure you wear smart shoes, not trainers. If the interview dress code is smart/casual then you will need to use your judgment; this is a career you are looking for, not a night out.
- Plan how to get there
You should aim to be at least 15 minutes early for interview. Time keeping is a very important part of employment. Plan your journey – who is taking you or do you have to catch a bus, train or taxi?
Make sure you know what time to set off and what time the transport will arrive.
Do a practice run beforehand making sure you go as near to the time you will have to go on interview day. Traffic is lighter or heavier at different times and different days.
If you are going to be late, make sure you phone the company or the person interviewing and explain why and what time you are likely to get there. Ask them if it is still ok to attend and don’t forget to apologise!
- Plan what to take
Always be prepared. Take a couple of copies of your CV. Ensure they are printed on good quality paper; not the cheapest or thinnest.
You may want something to write on or put things in so take a notepad or maybe a good quality binder. Make sure you have a pen or something you are comfortable writing with.
Take samples of your work with you to demonstrate what you are capable of. Ideally the example work should show that you have some of the specific skills that they have highlighted in the job description.
Take with you some identification or anything you think they might want to see, for example names of people for references.
- Concentrate on your non-verbal actions during interview
Yes, they will listen to what you say and how you answer their questions, but they will also be looking at you and evaluating you as an individual.
You will arrive at the company and be greeted, probably by someone on reception. They will form an impression of you by how you present yourself and what you do while you are waiting. Be mindful that the people who are carrying out the interview may well ask others that came into contact with you, what they felt and what was their impression.
You may be nervous but smile, look people in the eye and try to remember to give a firm handshake. A firm handshake shows confidence, so even if you are nervous, it’s a good start.
Don’t sit down till you are asked or told. Sit up straight and make sure you are comfortable. Try not to slide lower as the interview goes on. Try not to tap your feet, twiddle your thumbs or put your hands in your pockets and so on. A lot to remember, but it could be the difference between you getting the job and someone else.
If you want to put anything down, ask if it is ok to put it where you are wanting to. If you are given a drink, ask if it is ok to put it on the table or desk, don’t just assume.
So all the above makes a difference, but so does your face. We have said smile but also be aware of how you are answering questions. Sometimes, without thinking, your face will show a reaction to something. Try to manage those reactions and think about it.
At the Interview
We have already said that your CV or application form will form a base for the people interviewing to ask questions. But what might they ask? Below are some common questions which you might want to think about.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself?
This is the one they will probably start with and tops the list of most interview sessions. It is very important as this is your chance to give an excellent first impression. Preparing for questions is just as important as all the other areas we have already covered. Having said that, it’s also important your answers don’t sound like you have practiced them time and time again. This doesn’t show the true you.
Focus on what you know. You know what skills you have, you know what you are good at and where you have been successful, you know what character you are. Use these to show them how strong you are in terms of fitting the job specification. It is sometimes difficult to talk but if you do find yourself on a role, try and limit the answer and take no more than five minutes, which is actually a long time when you are talking.
Try to tell them about the qualifications you have achieved. What are you most proud of? Describe your work experience and try and give specific examples of when you have used the skills that they are looking for. If you have no work experience, talk about your qualifications or courses you are following. How do these relate to the role you are applying for?
Why do you want to work here?
Another question that often comes up. Here you can show them that you have researched the company and maybe the role you are applying for. You can talk about the skills and work the company does that particularly interests you. Tell them what you enjoy and about any activities and hobbies that relate to the role, to show you are interested in that area, outside the company and school. Tell them what part of the job advert/description actually made you think you would like to work there.
The employer may also throw in questions like ‘what do you know about the company’ and ‘What motivates you’? Again fairly common questions but you will have researched the company and be able to answer. It doesn’t matter if you can’t tell them everything, they are looking that you have taken the time to look and research them
What are your strengths?
Look for three or four but don’t be worried if you can only think of two. Read the job description and see if any of your strengths are what the employer has put down as a desired attribute. You might have initiative, be able to work as a team member, you might like to lead and be captain of a team which shows leadership skills. Whatever you pick, make sure you can evidence them as they might ask you to expand on your answer! Other ways of asking this question would be to say ‘How would your friends describe you’?
What are your weaknesses?
Another common question and one that you may feel unsure about the best way to answer. Don’t be frightened to be truthful, within reason. You need to make sure that whatever you say has a positive as well. So, for example, you may say I didn’t use to be very self-confident and know how to handle criticism. However, I am now able to listen to what people say and take it as constructive criticism and this allows me to improve, rather than react.
Have you ever been in a difficult situation and how did you cope with that?
A very common question for giving an insight to how you cope and act under pressure. If you have had a difficult situation, tell them about it, if you haven’t, tell them you haven’t really had any up to this point, but be honest. They are looking for how you coped with something that you didn’t expect, how you recognised it and managed your time, how you dealt with it, were you calm, did you involve others, did you discuss it, did you come up with a plan of how to overcome the situation or work round it.
What is your greatest achievement?
This could be an award, you might have organised an event, helped someone, overcame a fear, passed an exam and so on. Think about a few examples before you go and pick one that you are confident you can talk about. Again, they may ask you to expand.
What are your goals in life?
Be truthful but show the interviewer you are ambitious. Don’t say what you think they want to hear, say what you want to do, it may well be different to what they want to do or any of the other people being interviewed, but it is your goal. You might want to break it down into steps or they might ask you how you are going to achieve that. Again your chance to show you can plan and are logical. They may ask you where do you see yourself in five and ten years’ time? It’s the same question.
Why should I employ you?
A bit of a stinker of a question but your chance to tell the interviewer how your strengths, skills, interests and possibly experience and ambition match the job description. Go over things you have already spoken about and refer back to earlier in the interview to emphasise your good points. They may ask what you could bring to the company, the team or something else, but do not boast. Don’t be arrogant.
Do you have any questions?
The final part of the interview. You know its nearly over but don’t miss your chance, once you leave, it is difficult to go back with questions before they make their decision. Make sure you have a prepared list and say ‘As part of my preparation for the interview, I prepared a list of questions. Do you mind if I look at them to make sure we have covered everything?’ This shows you have prepared and are keen. They will generally say they don’t mind and you can look down the list. If nervous, say ‘No, we seemed to have covered everything, thank you’.
If you want to ask, then do so. You may have your own questions but make sure they are relative to the company and particularly the role you are going for. You can also ask questions during the interview but don’t just butt in, ask if you can ask a question.
Some questions you may want to ask:
- What training and development is available within the organisation?
- What is the typical career path within this role and your company?
- Are there any career progression routes within the company for me?
- What are the next steps following this interview?
- When are you looking to start the successful person?
Hopefully the above document helps you into employment or to advance your career.
Please don’t be afraid to ask us for any clarification on the above or anything that is missing and you want to discuss before interview.