Interviewers will all have their own personal preference to how they run the interview process. An experienced interviewer will expect you to be a little nervous and will give you a few minutes to settle down, often asking if you would like a drink or how you travelled to the site, but don't rely on this.
There are a number of popular styles of interview that include specific prepared questions and answers, but more and more interviews are what is described as competency based. The principle is that past performance is the most accurate way of predicted future performance, so interviewers seek to gather evidence that you have the ability, skills and motivation to match their pre-outlined competencies developed from job and person specifications.
Rather than describing your responsibilities and experience, you will be asked to give specific examples of what you have done to demonstrate your ability to fulfil each of the competencies. To perform at your best, it is imperative that you have done adequate prior research and preparation. Although there will be specific competencies for each job, certain areas are often common. These include:
Planning and organising
Whilst your skills and experiences are important, your personality and attitude will weigh heavily in achieving success. Be positive and honest without being overly self-critical or enthusiastic. Do not be drawn into intimate personal discussions regarding your previous employers and their shortcomings or your domestic circumstances.
- Know who you are meeting (Google them).
- Establish where the building is.
- See if you can park and sort out your travel arrangements. It's never a good idea to arrive either late or flustered. Nor do you want to be early and hanging about in their reception an hour before your appointment.
- Take a spare CV and have a pen, a notepad and any promotional material from your previous roles (though you may not wish to leave these).
- Interviews usually last less than an hour, although they can be shorter and in rare circumstances can go on for hours.
Researching before the interview
- Research the organisation carefully. Google company website, press reports, companies house.
- Try and draw out an organisation structure, who is who, and Google each of the key players to identify their backgrounds. Under each of the sections try to identify current objectives, challenges and customers.
- Establishing a substantial picture will enable you to answer questions more thoroughly and to match your previous experience to the needs of the role. Having done all this research, be careful not to bombard your interviewers with information they already know just to demonstrate the depth of your research.
Creating First Impressions
- Wear smart, appropriate clothing. You are making an impression from the moment you enter reception.
- Ensure your clothes aren't travel creased and dishevelled.
- Your hands say a lot about you, so make sure the remnants of decorating, gardening and maintaining your car are no longer visible.
- Treat everyone with courtesy, from the gatekeeper and receptionist to the Managing Director; you might be surprised who is involved in the selection process.
- When entering the room, look at all interviewers, greet them and smile at them all. Do not make an assumption as to who is the most senior and address all your attention to one person.
Questions and Answers
Try and create empathy with your interviewers. They are looking for you to be a success not a failure. Take time to listen carefully to their questions and don't be afraid to ask them to elaborate. When answering, take time to present a carefully thought out answer instead of the first thought that comes to mind. If you are answering and it becomes clear you are not answering the question the interviewer thinks they asked, go back and check your understanding and correct your reply if necessary.
- Tell us a little about yourself?
- When did you leave your last job and why?
- Why are you interested in this position?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What motivates you?
- Describe a difficult situation?
- What's your management style?
- What were the key performance indicators in your last job?
- Describe a difficult customer and how you handled them?
- How do you handle conflict with either your boss or your team?
- What's the biggest mistake you've ever made?
- What's your greatest achievement?
- What do you think you could bring to this position?
- Make your answers relevant.
- Don't waffle.
- Watch your interviewers and take note when they are losing interest.
- Give them a chance to terminate your reply or offer to expand rather than delivering a 10 minute irrelevant monologue.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Don't bluff or lie. If you don't know, say you don't know.
- Take your time
- Take notes if you think this will help you, but don't appear to be recording evidence.
It sometimes helps to ask the interviewer to draw out the organisation chart and to explain the relationship between the role applied for and others within the organisation. This can clarify the role responsibilities and interactions. Ask what the key indicators of success for the role are likely to be and what does the interviewer perceive as the difficulties that need to be overcome to achieve these objectives. It's not a good idea to try to thrash out salary packages or career progression before you have been offered the job.
- Ask about the next stages.
- Thank the interviewer for seeing you.
- On leaving, note down anything that you need to research further while it is still fresh in your mind.
- Don't be afraid to send an email thanking the interviewer for seeing you.
- Remember two weeks in your calendar is probably two hours in their busy diaries.
- If you haven't heard anything after two weeks, send another email saying you are still interested but not hassling the selection process.
- If you get turned down you can ask for feedback, although this will not always be provided.
- Remember it's a competitive world, so don't fall in love with a job before you get it. Don't assume that you're not good enough; there are many reasons acceptable candidates get turned down.