Getting through an Interview one step at a time

Like it or not to get a new job there has to be an interview. Most people dread the process which can turn perfectly rational people into a gibbering mess.

Interviews really are not all that bad.  Ideally information is shared between the job applicant and the employer so both parties can decide if the role and the applicant are an ideal fit.

Preparation in advance of the interview is key if you want to make a good impression. Here are some tips to help you to be prepared:

  • Step One - Get organised – Ensure you understand the job spec and how your skills relate to the role. Research the company thoroughly, don’t just look at their website. Do searches to see recent news items about the company and look at their social media profiles, as these should give you a well-rounded view of their culture and working ethos.

  • Step Two - Prepare your outfit – Smart and professional and you won’t go far wrong. Even if the culture of the company is causal, you are looking to make a good first impression.  If the interviewer is in jeans, that’s fine; you can enquire about the company dress code at the end of the interview.

  • Step Three - Plan your route – Add extra time for transport or traffic delays, being 30 minutes early at the destination is better than being 1 minute late.

  • Step Four - Be prepared - Prepare some relevant questions in advance. From the job spec and your research you will have questions you would like to explore, but steer clear of the pay or holiday entitlement.

  • Step Five - Meeting the interviewer/s – Shake hands, smile and thank the interviewer for agreeing to meet you. They will know you are nervous, so to try and relax you they may engage in small talk. Keep your answers light, friendly and positive, this is your chance to make a good first impression.  

Once you get into your stride the preparation you conducted prior to the interview will make a big difference. 

Keep your interview answers relevant, don’t go off on a tangent, and remember to give evidence from your previous skills and experience to strengthen your response.

If you don’t know the answer to a question, be honest and say you don’t know.  Sometimes saying “oh I don’t know I’ll have to think about that” often gives you enough time to come up with a good response.

You will probably be confronted with some questions that pop up time and again in the interview process.  Here are some tips on how to answer the 10 trickiest interview questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself?
    They are not looking for your life story. Give a short statement about your skills and experiences, and how they fit with the job description. Describe what you can bring to the company and the benefit you will add to the team.

  2. Why are you interested in this role?
    Remember companies don’t want people who just want A job, they want to know that you want THEIR job.  Focus on how the role would fit your career path and what you can deliver specifically for that company.

  3. Why do you want to work here?
    Perfect opportunity to show that you have done your research. Talk about what you know about the company and why you think it will fit with your career aspirations.

  4. Why did you leave your last position?
    Don’t lie, but try not to be negative; saying that your former boss was an idiot will not go down well. Talk about how you wanted a change of career or a better work/life balance.

  5. Why have you had so many jobs?
    This is a difficult one to answer unless you have a good reason for the job changes, such as redundancies.  Rather than trying to avoid the question by leaving roles off of your CV, turn numerous jobs in to a positive by saying that you wanted to experience lots of different roles to add to your skill set before settling into a long term career and this role/company is the kind of place you would want to work for long term.

  6. Can you explain the employment gaps in your CV?
    It’s better to explain the gaps on your CV by adding short statements where you have had gaps of employment. Remember traveling and gap years add to life experience which in turn add to your skills set, and are viewed by many employers a positive attribute of a candidate.

  7. Where do you want to be in five years’ time?
    Please don’t say in your job! Make sure you have a clear idea of where you want to be in the future and relate this to the role.

  8. Why should we choose you for the job?
    This is a perfect opportunity to reiterate your skills and experience, highlighting why you are the best person for the position. Think of a part of your experience that is unique and that other candidates may not possess.

  9. What is your biggest weakness?
    Think of something about your personality or a skills shortage that you recognised in yourself and overcame. Don’t fall in to the trap of using a strength, but calling it a weakness – for example, I work too hard.

  10. Do you have any questions?
    Of course you do, as you prepared them in advance. Ask about important aspects of the job or specifics of the role, or one of my favourites, “Why do you like working for this company?”

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