Giving a well-structured and effective interview is the key to influencing the decision making process. As you are probably aware though, an interview can be a nerve-wracking experience and the only way to try and suppress some of those nerves is to ensure that you are well prepared in advance. Make sure you research the role you are applying for in depth to make sure that it is something that you definitely want to do. Ask yourself questions about the role and experiment with different answers looking for the most effective. Make sure you also establish how your skills and knowledge make you a likely candidate for the role. There are many other things you can do to prepare yourself for an interview; have a look at the following points to help you prepare and hopefully land that job you really want.
What’s your USP? (Unique Selling Point)
You may think you don’t have one however; everyone has something about them that is unique and sells them. It is important to know what your strengths and development areas are and highlight these in the interview. Be honest with the interviewer as imagine how you would feel if you had been dishonest about your skill level and were put in a position to demonstrate this! Ask yourself what you can offer them that no-one else can. What makes you different from the rest?
Some employers will allow you to view the list of competencies you will be interviewed against prior to the interview if necessary. This is an excellent insight into what competencies you will be asked to draw examples from and it will also help you prepare any answers for potential questions in advance.
As mentioned, if you know the competencies you will be interviewed against, prepare as many possible answers around these areas. This will give you a wide range of answers to choose from allowing you to pick the most applicable. Always ensure that you back up any answers with a strong example. This will demonstrate to the interviewer that you have understood the question and that you can relate it back to past experience and tell them more about you and how you like to work.
The question areas are likely to be around the following criteria:
Skills and abilities
Ability to work with others
Future goals and aspirations
Past experience, extra curricular and work (including results and achievements)
These areas are not set in stone so it is a good idea to ask the interviewer what the competencies are so you can tailor your answers to suit.
It is also important to prepare answers for any potential problem areas such as gaps in your CV or a change in career direction. Therefore when preparing for an interview, remember the 5 P’s:
Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance
It is natural to feel nervous before an interview so don’t be afraid to acknowledge this. Once you have acknowledged why you feel nervous, those butterflies that feel like they are playing a game of football in your stomach will soon start to subside. Remember that they have asked you for an interview so the fact that you have passed the CV sifts suggest that you are a potential candidate for the role. The recruiting manager will have looked at the skills and experience on your CV, covering letter and application form, and will have decided that you might just be the person for that job. Keep hold of that thought and let it motivate you and inspire you with confidence.
Killer questions – Be prepared
During an interview, you want to demonstrate that you can listen as well as you can speak. Be careful not to stray off the point and ensure you stick to offering relevant and positive information. This can sometimes be difficult because as the nerves kick in, there is sometimes a tendency to waffle – don’t! Recruiters and potential employers want the question asked answered and to hear how the answer is applicable to the role they are being interviewed for. Giving a clear and concise answer is a lot more effective than a long winded one which steers off the point. You should be prepared to answer questions such as the following:
Why did you apply for this particular role?
What interests you about our department?
What does ‘teamwork’ mean to you?
What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
Which did you enjoy most and why?
What would your colleagues say about you?
Tell me about yourself?
What are your strengths and development areas?
Why do you want to leave your current job?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
You will more than likely be asked to provide an example for some of the above if you are asked them during an interview. For example: Give me an example on when you have worked well as part of a team.
A good idea is to write down some potential interview questions down and practise your answers to these. It is also a great idea to practise them with a friend in an interview role-play situation. You may be good at thinking on your feet but it’s best to save that for any unexpected questions that may arise.
Tips for the interview
Following these few tips below will help you feel fully prepared for an interview.
Make sure you get a good nights’ sleep the night before
If you are carrying a mobile with you on the day of the interview then make sure you switch it off before the interview.
Stay focused on what you want to achieve
Relax and enjoy the opportunity to develop your interview experience and go with the flow
Be yourself. You are the person they want to meet so be that person.
If you have the opportunity to shake hands with the person or persons doing the interview, then give them a firm solid handshake and maintain eye contact.
Points to remember during the interview
Establish rapport with the interviewers, remember, they are often nervous too! Smile confidently as appropriate.
If you have misheard or don’t understand a question, then don’t be afraid to ask them to repeat it or clarify what they mean. It is better to know what you are answering so that you can choose the best possible answer and example for that question.
Take your time and think about your answers.
Interviewers will not mind if you take time to think about your answer to the question. It is better to have a well prepared and thought out answer rather than a rushed and unstructured one.
Make eye contact with the person who is interviewing you.
Use positive language as much as possible. If you sound positive, the likelihood is that this will have a positive effect on the person/s interviewing you.
Be enthusiastic and speak clearly; the interviewer needs to understand what you are saying and how effectively you communicate.
Look out for opportunities to sell yourself by drawing on past experiences.
Remember that the quality of what you say is more important than the quantity so cut out the waffle!
Finally, remember to smile!
Most importantly don’t forget that you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
What not to do in an interview
Remember that during an interview you are there to impress the employer and hopefully get the job you have applied for. Therefore make sure you never do any of the following during an interview:
Be negative about former employees or colleagues (if you are negative about these it could suggest to the interviewer that you may do the same in this company)
Bite your fingernails
After the interview
Make a note of the questions you were asked and a note of the answers you gave, it is amazing how quickly these will fall out of your head. Ask yourself if you could have answered better; if so what better examples could you offer next time.
Review your performance during the interview. Did you fidget, smile, speak well? Did you establish rapport with the interviewers?
If you don’t get the job don’t be disheartened by this. Look at it as experience and always ask for feedback so that you can develop any areas of improvement for the next interview you have.
Finally, good luck and don’t give up!