Interview Preparation

by Donna Lund

How do you demonstrate that you are the best person for the job?

Interview preparation is vital

Being well prepared will give you a degree of confidence going in to the interview and is a critical factor in you being successful. Try to find out as much about the interview process as you can. 

Knowing what to expect in an interview will ensure you are better equipped to perform well. Try to find out:

- Who will be interviewing you, how long the interview is likely to be and how many other candidates are being interviewed

- If you will be expected to do a presentation/ role play or psychometric test

- As much information as you can about the company and what the role you are applying for will involve.

Consider not only the products and the company’s history but also find out what there values are and if they have a mission statement. Contact people you may know at the organisation to find out about it’s culture and if you think you will be a good ‘fit’. Do employees already in the same or similar position within the company have the same skills and values as you? If you can find out who will be interviewing you it is worthwhile researching them too – their background, current role within the company and any interests. This level of research will demonstrate your enthusiasm for the position and the company.

Be clear about what it is you like about the role, why you want it and what skills and experience you have that make you a great candidate. You’re guaranteed to be asked this!

It’s a cliche, but first impressions really do count. Make sure you are immaculately presented, know where you are going, leave plenty of time to get there and know who to ask for when you arrive.

The interview itself

Try to make the interview as enjoyable as possible, remember that it is a two-way process and the interviewer wants to get the best from you and to see you do well, so try not to be too nervous.

In today’s competitive job market, it is more important than ever to differentiate yourself from the other candidates applying for the role. Think about what skills and experience, personal attributes and strengths would make you the ideal person for the position and how you can convey these clearly to the interviewer.

If you are expected to do a presentation make sure that you invest plenty of time and effort preparing it. Don’t forget your presentation will showcase the research you’ve carried out as well as how you plan and organise yourself. Practice running through your presentation to hone it and make sure it is clear, concise and meets the brief.

The five key points to remember are:

1.  Structure your presentation well so that the content flows. It should have a clear introduction, main body and conclusion.

2.  Keep your presentation within the specific guidelines given – e.g. 10 minutes in length

3.  Check your spelling and grammar if you will be giving the interviewer a copy as a hand-out or showing it on a screen. Spelling mistakes are completely avoidable and will give the impression that you do not have attention to detail.

4.  Practice reading through your presentation several times so that you are familiar with the content and can talk freely about it. Try to use your presentation as a prompt rather than reading from it word for word. Be articulate and speak clearly so that you can be easily understood.

5.  Talk directly to the interviewer and maintain eye contact, this shows confidence. Even if you’re nervous don’t bury your head in your presentation!

Questions to expect

Although you cannot know in advance the questions you will be asked, you can certainly identify some topics to research and show your knowledge of these. Think about current affairs – how current news and trends impact upon the sector in which the organisation operates and what developments are likely to impact on the organisation’s future. This allows you to demonstrate your commercial awareness.

Generally interview questions fall within the following categories:

- Competency based questions

Used to find out what general skills you have and how they relate to the tasks you will be expected to perform. You will be required to give examples of how you have used your skills to approach a variety of challenges in the past. Broadly speaking the interviewer will be looking for you to show:

- How you approach tasks

“Tell me about a time when you were faced with conflicting priorities and how you overcame them.”

- How you communicate with others to get the task done

“Give me an example where you have had to modify your communication to ensure it was understood.”

- What your thought process is to overcome problems

“Tell me about a situation when you needed to change someone’s mind about something important in order to get the job done.”

If you have received a job specification, it is worthwhile reviewing the key competencies required and preparing specific examples of these in advance.

Challenging questions

These are designed to make you think on your feet and you can trip up if you don’t know what to expect. Take a moment to think about the question before giving your answer. Giving careful consideration to what the interviewer is asking and why will allow you to formulate a thoughtful response.

You can prepare by putting yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, what do you want to know about the interviewee?

“Tell me about yourself”

Often an ice breaker, but a good way to let your personality shine and create a great first impression.

“What is your reason for wanting to move jobs?”

Respond in a positive way – don’t quote all the negative reasons behind why you want to leave your current employer! Think carefully about selling the positives about the role you have applied for and why perhaps it is more appealing than the position you currently hold.

“What are your weaknesses?”

Don’t view this as a negative question, but use it as a way to identify areas you are keen to develop. For example, I know my presentation skills are not as good as I’d like, but I’m keen to improve this by requesting additional coaching from my line manager and volunteering to do a presentation in my next team meeting to ensure I get more practice.

Personal questions

“Why do you want this job? If you have applied for this position, have you also applied for others? How does this position rate compared to the others?”

The interviewer will want to know that if you were offered the job you would take it.

“Why do you want to work for this company?”

Give the interviewer confidence that you are not just applying for any job, but demonstrate why it is this role in this company in particular that is so appealing.

“What is your biggest achievement/ career highlight?”

Be prepared to give detail and examples as to what makes it a highlight and how you achieved it.

“Why should we employ you?”

A classic interview question and a chance to really sell yourself.

Your own questions

Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer(s) – this demonstrates your interest in the company and the role you are applying for, and any research you have conducted. Steer clear of asking about salary, holidays and overall package, this is better discussed after a job offer has been made. Instead consider asking questions such as:

“I’m really interested in this role and feel I have the skills, attitude and experience to do a great job, do you think I am a good fit for the role?”

“I’m very ambitious and keen to keep learning new skills; will there be on-going training and development available to me to help with career progression?”

“I have been really impressed with what I have learnt about the company and think this would be a great career move for me. When can I expect to hear back from you?”

Closing the interview is crucial, and is an area where many candidates let themselves down. Although you may not always get a ‘yes or no’ answer, it will allow you to leave the interview with an indication of whether or not you will be successful. The interviewer(s) will also see that you are keen on the role.

Plus, the interviewer(s) may make you aware of concerns they have, allowing you to overcome these at the time, rather than have them come back to haunt you!

Once you have covered off any reservations, end the interview courteously and positively by thanking the interview for their time and reaffirming your interest in the position.

Above all, try to enjoy it!

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