You’re almost there! Believe it or not, when called for interview an employer wants to give YOU the job. They have a position to fill and finding the right candidate will solve their problem. Its up to you to show them that you are the right person for the job. How do you do this? One word....Prepare!
Research the Employer
- Have a thorough look at the employer’s website.
- Find out about any recent developments with the company or in their industry in general.
- Google them, Like them on facebook and follow them on twitter.
- Network- if you know anyone or know of anyone in the company contact them and get their advice.
Know what you have to offer
- Have you clearly identified your skills, abilities, experience and qualifications and how they match what the employer is looking for.
- It is not enough to tell and employer that you possess certain skills you must be able to give examples (sometimes more that one) of where you developed/used the skill.
- Your CV or application form got you here – they are likely to ask you about it (this is why you kept a copy of it!).
- Read through the CV or Form and imagine you are the interviewer – what questions would you ask?
- Practice answering questions out loud – an answer can seem clear in your head but saying it aloud is another matter!
- Read through the job description and identify the key skills, abilities and experience desired. Prepare answers giving evidence of when you used these skills. See Interview Questions.
- Be ready for the common questions
- “Tell me about yourself?”, make sure the answer is relevant to the job. Four or five sentences maximum is all that interviewers expect here.
- “Why do you want to work for_________?” Know why the company appeals to you and also what you will bring to the job and the company.
- Getting there
- Bring any correspondence from company – it will have address and phone number in case you get lost.
- Make sure you know the name of the person you’ll be meeting (if given).
- Leave plenty of time and aim to arrive 15 minutes early.
- Ideally do a trial run before the big day.
- Bring a bottle of water.
Dress to impress
- Dress appropriately – you can’t go wrong wearing a suit.
- Avoid bright colours.
- Clean nails and hair.
- Not strong smells perfume / aftershave / cigarettes
- Minimal make-up and jewellery.
- This is not the day to break in new shoes!
- Phone – silent is not enough!!
At the interview
- It is normal to be nervous and employers expect this, but being well prepared will remove some of the “fear of the unknown”.
- Shake hands – a firm handshake is a must – practise if you need to!!
- Smile! Show that you are enthusiastic and happy to be there.
- The interview starts the moment you are at risk of meeting anyone from the company – be friendly and polite to everyone you meet there.
Know you Skills
Have examples of where you have demonstrated the skills they desire.
- You can use examples from university, experience, voluntary work, hobbies etc
- Don’t lie – you can easily get caught out.
- See Types of Interviews below for more information on Competency Based Questions.
- Speak positively about past negative events – show what you learned from the experience.
- Don’t talk negatively about a previous employer or a job you disliked.
- Don’t ask about your planned holiday at the interview.
- Don't ask about salary in a first round interview, it is better to wait until you have an offer to discuss terms and conditions etc.
Remember – its not an interrogation!
- Take you time before answering, don’t just say the first thing that comes into your head.
- If you don’t understand a question ask them to clarify what they’re asking.
- Sometimes you may get asked challenging or probing questions, don’t panic this could be their way of seeing how you react under pressure. Take a deep breath and answer.
- If you don’t know the answer just say so – Waffle is much worse and won’t fool anyone!
- Having researched the company you will have an idea of things to ask e.g.
- What is the next step in the process?
- Training opportunities within the company?
- Recent developments in the company?
- And in the end
- You might be asked if you have anything to add – this in your chance to re-affirm you interest in the company and the job, maybe give one or two clear reasons why you’re the person for the job –be confident but not cocky!
- Be prepared to shake hands again (if appropriate) at the end.
- Thank them for their time – refer to them by name if possible. Smile!
After the Interview
- Make a list of the questions you were asked, noting any questions that you found difficult.
- This will allow you work on these and improve you performance for next time.
- Also note what you think went well and why - again this will help next time!
A competency interview is designed to find out whether you have the skills for the job. Instead of asking general questions about your CV or application form, the interviewer will ask for examples highlighting how you used the skills they require.
Preparing for this type of interview means identifying
1.What the employer is looking for
2. Where you have used these skills in the past
Competency based questions aim to find out your personal skills for the job. They will ask for a example (or two!)of when you used a specific skill e.g. leadership, team-working, organisation etc.
- Use STAR acronym to help you answer these and briefly describe the:
- Situation/Task - relevant context and task/problem to be solved (Set the Scene)
- Action - you took/obstacle you helped overcome (What you did)
- Result achieved (The Outcome - What happened in the end)
Tips for competency-based interviews
- Work out in advance the skills and competencies they are looking.
- Think of examples that prove you have these qualities: this could be from your studies, work experience or extra-curricular activities.
- Try to think of more than one example that you can use to illustrate each competence.
- See Interview Questions for examples of common questions.
- A technical interview is designed to test your specialist knowledge. If you are applying for a technical job, an interviewer might show you a line of computer code or a device and ask you to comment on it what it is/what it means etc. If they don't have props they will still expect detailed answers to technical questions.
- Tips for technical interviews
- Be clear on what you have studied in each year of your course
- Be prepared to talk about any projects or assignments you have done during your course.
- If you have any project work or even anything hobby related (maybe a robot you build in your spare time), bring details of it to the interview.
- The tips and guidelines from a standard interview still apply - the interviewer will be looking at more that just your technical skills.
- In a panel interview, there will be two or more people asking the questions: this can be a mixture of HR specialist, technical specialists and/or managers. Generally each panel member will ask you questions based on their area of expertise.
Tips for panel interviews
- If possible find who is on the panel. If you know a bit about them e.g. their area of interest/specialism you may be able to anticipate some of their questions.
- When answering a question, give most of the answer to the person who asked the question while glancing at the other panel members from time to time.
- Some recruiters ask questions based on your application form or CV, but interviews are increasingly structured to look for particular competencies based on the selection criteria for a specific job.
What are they?
They are REAL interviews held over the phone rather than face-to-face. You will usually be interviewed by a member of the graduate recruitment or HR team. A telephone interview will usually be given to candidates who have passed the online application form and/or psychometric test stage of the graduate recruitment process and is used as a means of identifying applicants to be invited to a face-to-face interview or assessment centre.
Who uses telephone interviews?
You are more likely to have a telephone interview with one of the large corporate recruiters than with a small or medium sized company. Telephone interviews are used by all kinds of employers –accountancy and law firms, banks, retailers, manufacturing companies etc. Employers based abroad also you telephone interviews - in which case calls may come in at all hours of the day or night! Employers use telephone interviews because they are time and cost-effective - most last about 20-25 minutes (although they can last up to one hour) and they test your verbal communication skills and telephone technique – both important skills in a work environment.
Advantages of telephone interviews:
- You can refer (quickly!) to your application form or take notes.
- You don't need to spend time travelling to interview or wonder if the employer will pay your expenses.
- You may be more relaxed as you can take the call in a familiar setting.
Challenges of telephone interviews
- You can't see the interviewer to gauge their response.
- They can seem to go very quickly, without giving you much time to think about your answers - so be well prepared!
- The employer may phone you unexpectedly in response to your CV/application form but more commonly you will be advised when the telephone call will be made. Either way - Be prepared!
- Keep your mobile with you, charged, topped up and switched on at the appropriate time!
- Make sure that the reception is OK.
- It is probably best to give your mobile number if you share a house with a number of others or live in your family home but if you do give a landline number remember to prepare other people in the house for these calls so that they don’t give a negative impression to an employer when they answer the phone.
- Take the call in as quiet and private a location as possible.
- If the call does come unexpectedly and you are not prepared say "Thank you for calling, do you mind waiting for a minute while I close the door/turn off the radio/take the phone to a quieter room?". This will give you a little time to compose yourself. If it really is a bad time, offer to call back, fix a time and stick to it.
- Check your voicemail message: is it one that you would want a prospective employer to hear? Does it give a professional impression? If not, change it! Jobs offers have been lost when employers have heard inappropriate voicemails!
- Keep a copy of your application and information on the company handy, plus a pen and notepad to take notes.
- Before the call, make a list of your unique selling points: the things that make you stand out – the reasons why an employer should hire you
- Don't read out your notes as this will sound artificial.
- It’s useful to have a glass of water to hand during a phone interview - you will be doing a lot of talking and you don’t want your mouth to dry up at a crucial moment!
- Smile - it really does make a difference to your tone of voice and creates a positive impression
- Although the interviewer can’t see you, you may find it easier to come over in a “professional” manner if you are sitting at a desk or even standing up!It may help you sound more confident!
- Listen very carefully to the interviewer and try to answer with a lively tone of voice.
- Speak clearly and not too fast.
- In a face to face interview, you show that you are listening by through your non-verbal communication for example, nodding your head. Over the phone you have to show this by the occasional "OK", "I see", "I understand", "yes" etc.
- Immediately after the interview, write down the questions you were asked and any ways in which you could have improved your responses or anything else you feel you could improve for next time. Also make a note of anything you feel you did particularly well, so that you remember to do it again!
What questions will I be asked?
These will be identical to those asked in a face-to-face interview!
- How you choose your university degree?
- Why do you want to work for our organisation?
- Why do you want to work in the job you have applied for?
- What qualities are important to work in the role you are applying for?
- What evidence can you give to show you possess these qualities?
- What does this company/organisation do?Are you willing to be mobile on the job?
- Tell me a time you have demonstrated teamwork/communication.
- Tell me about a time when you have had to cope with pressure
- Tell me about a challenge you have faced. How did you conduct the challenge? What were the advantages and disadvantages of your method? The steps you took? The results?
- Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult customer?When have you used your initiative to achieve a goal?
- Can you mention a time when you have used your leadership skills?
- When have you set yourself a goal? What challenges did you face?
- Describe a time when you have exceeded a customer's expectations
- Describe when you had to motivate others?
- What do you think is important when communicating with people?
- What skills do you have to offer to a team?What is your greatest strength?
- Why shouldn't we hire you?
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
- What do you think your job would involve doing?
- Commercial awareness – what has been in news recently that would affect our organisation?
- Do you have any questions for us?