How do I Prepare for an Interview
Congratulations – you have an interview for a potential role. The interview is your chance to impress and first impressions count. Here are some pointers that can help you to secure that all important position. Interviewing can be a pretty daunting experience, but with some good preparation you can make things an awful lot easier for yourself. The following tips may seem obvious but it is always worthwhile checking them off in advance.
Know the company. Look into the organisation’s performance, study their website, blogs, social media sites and research relevant articles on their recent activity. Have they won awards recently? Have they made any significant new hires?
Check if they have a careers section or video content which may give you information about their values and culture. It will certainly tell you how they want to be seen by prospective employees.
Do you know where you are going? Check the address and save it in your phone. If you don’t know the area and can’t find it on Google maps, call your consultant for directions. Give yourself lots of time and aim to arrive 10 minutes early particularly if you relying on public transport.
Call your recruitment consultant at least the day before, and get a briefing on the job including who you are seeing, and go through any job description. They should also be able to help you with the type of interview, the personality of the interviewer or with any other information that you may need.
Make sure you know what is in your CV. Think about why you have moved in the past, why you have made certain career decisions, what you enjoyed about certain jobs and companies. Think clearly about what you are looking to do now and what sort of culture you thrive in.
Always approach each interview with the view that you want the job. You can always turn down a 2nd interview or offer but you can’t wind back the clock and wish you had been more positive. Attitude and passion are every bit as important as skills and experience.
Make sure you know what information you want to get out of the interview and have a good list of questions to ask. It doesn’t do any harm to write them down; it shows you have prepared and you are much more likely to remember them.
What form can I expect the interview to take?
Generally, interviews will take the form of one of the following formats:
The CV-based Interview
What it means
This interview style follows the more traditional question and answer format.
How it works
This will normally entail a chronological run through of your background and experience. Typical questions might include ‘How would you describe yourself ’ or ‘Why did you leave X organisation for Y’ or ‘What do you not like about your current role’ or ‘What are your career objectives’.
How you can prepare
It is important to know the content of your answers to the standard interview questions, particularly if there are obvious issues in your CV – such as a period of unemployment or a quick move from job to job. However, try not to over rehearse and appear formulaic or not genuine in your answers. No one wants to employ a robot!
The Behavioural or Competency Interview
What it means
The thinking behind behavioural interviewing is that it provides the most accurate prediction of future performance through analysis of past performance in similar types of situations. In simple terms, how you did it then shows how you might do it in the future. The company has already identified job-related experiences, behaviours, knowledge, skills and abilities (competencies) that they feel are desirable in the position and these are sometimes hinted at in the job description.
How it works
The employer will ask very specific questions to determine if you possess the desired characteristics. Candidates who tell the interviewer about specific situations will be far more effective and successful than those who respond in general terms.
How you can prepare
Read the job description in detail and then think about 6-12 past situations in which you have exhibited strong job-related behaviours. Additionally, look at the careers section of the company and see whether they have any reference to behaviours or competencies that they look for when hiring.
The team interview
What it means
In an effort to get a well-rounded perspective on candidates, many companies ask more than one team member to take part in the interview and selection process. Using pre-agreed criteria, job descriptions and personal impressions, they assess the feedback following the individual sessions and discuss their reaction.
How it works
Generally they are either an interview conducted by more than one interviewer at the same time, or a series of one-on-one interviews with a number of different team members.
How you can prepare
You will need to be able to interact with different people from different backgrounds. Where there is more then one interviewer at a time, be sure to direct your responses to both/all of them. Be prepared to cover the same ground with a number of different interviewers because they may want to see if your answers change; however, at all times remain patient and composed.
The goal of the technical interview is to get to understand your technical skill set. By sharing the thought processes with your interviewer you demonstrate your communication skills and analytical ability. Interviewers are looking to assess not only your technical ability but also your ability to think critically, to solve problems.
You are not going to be expected to know everything so, if you are asked a question you just don’t know the answer to, then don’t try to talk your way around it. This can also be a good opportunity to tell the interviewer how you would research that particular question. It’s not about knowing everything, it’s about being able to find out anything.
Because there are an infinite number of technical interview questions that interviewers can throw at you, and many may consist of hypothetical scenarios with no single correct answer, there is not a perfect way to prepare. That is precisely what technical interviews are all about. Just make sure that you are comfortable talking through the technical areas on your CV and you are not thrown by the obvious simple questions.
What are the typical interview questions to expect?
The potential employer wants to get to know you and will often ask general questions about you and your previous roles. Your job in this interview is to give them enough information without swamping them – be concise and ensure you answer the question. Some examples can be seen below:
• Tell me about yourself
• Tell me about your current role. What did you like or dislike about it?
• Why do you want to leave your current firm?
• Reasons could be due to merger, change of responsibilities/ management or lack of career progression
• What interests you about this role and/or company? (Hint – do not say “money”)
• What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Examples of strengths:
Relationship skills, in-depth knowledge of the market, time management, working well under pressure, fluency in more than one language.
It does help to have some but to show you are overcoming them e.g. I used to be easily distracted but I now write lists out of what I need to do and work through them in order.
• What has been your best piece of work to date?
Do your best to ensure all answers are relevant to the role that you are applying for and demonstrate that you have the skills and experience to do the role.
We suggest you have 3-4 points prepared before hand; any more and you risk waffling.
When answering these questions you should not be negative or make any disparaging comments about your previous employers – it makes you look petty and will only portray you in a poor light.
Increasingly clients want to ask you about mistakes you have made. The critical point here is to be prepared to disclose an understandable mistake but essentially articulate what you learned from it and how your behaviour and or/thinking has since changed.
Competency based interviews
The interviewer will look to your past activity and actions to be an indicator of future behaviour and how you might act in a similar situation. You may be asked similar role playing questions in a future format, asking you what you think you might do in a certain situation. These often involve conflict, communications, leadership and overcoming obstacles.
When answering this type of question, be sure to think CAR or STAR:
• C: Context – describe the situation
• A: Action – describe how you reacted in the situation or how you might go about working in the given situation
• R: Result – describe the end result of your action and the resolution of the situation
• S: Situation – describe it
• T: Task – what needed to be done
• A: Action – what you did
• R: Result – end result of your actions
They want to hear about YOUR successes so use “I” and not “We” unless specifically asked about team actions. However pay credit to colleagues where it is due in order to demonstrate good team play.Some examples:
Tell me about a time when you… or describe a situation where you…
• Launched a new product
• Identified a new product opportunity
• Identified an opportunity to utilise a new channel of communication
• Delegated a project or job effectively
• Had to make an unpopular decision and communicated it out
• Handled a difficult situation with a co- worker or senior stakeholder
• Made a bad decision and how you rectified it
• Motivated your team.
How can I prepare for a competency based interview?
Before attending the interview:
Think about what kinds of behaviours may be important to perform well in the job
Think about times in the past when you have demonstrated your abilities
e.g.successful projects, interactions with other people, convincing a difficult audience, analysing a large amount of information
Think through exactly what you did in these scenarios and separate your own actions from those of any team you were a part of
Don’t be restricted to purely job related examples; you may also have good examples from school/university or hobbies.
During the interview:
• Listen carefully to the question and make sure you provide an example of what is being asked, not just telling the interviewer what you want them to know
• Talk about a specific example, not about how you generally act
• Talk about what you did e.g. “I spoke to lots of different individuals” not “We spoke to lots of different individuals”.
Competency based interviews
What are some good questions to ask?
Remember this is a two way interview. In order for you to determine if this is the right company for you, have some questions prepared that the employer will be willing to answer. Here are some examples of good questions to ask:
• What are the company’s long term goals?
• Can you give me an insight into the day to day responsibilities?
• What attracted you to the firm?
• What was your background before joining?
• How would you describe the company culture?
• Are there mid to long-term prospects in this role?
• What do you see as the major challenges in this role?
And finally when wrapping up:
• Is there anything you would like more detail on regarding my application?
• If you are interested in the role then tell them you are very keen to take things further
At the end of the interview and if you are interested do ask about what the next stages would be. Do not press the interviewer as this can look too pushy. Thank them for their time and even if the role is not 100% perfect they should be left with a positive impression of you. You never know when you might run into them again.
Call your recruitment consultant at the earliest opportunity. Role profiles are only to be used as guides and so after coming out of an interview your perception of the role may have changed. Roles you might have only been half interested in become perfect matches and roles that were perfect matches suddenly become of no interest. Your consultant needs to know your thoughts before talking to the client so it is essential we speak to you before we speak to the client.
Job searching is more an art than a science and the more information we have from you will help you to find the perfect match.
First impressions count
• Ensure that you are dressed smartly, even if a casual dress code is permitted. Dress more conservatively at the start and if the company is more informal you can adapt once you are there
• Avoid eating strong smelling foods before the interview
• Be polite to everyone from the moment you arrive at the building – including the receptionist and any secretaries or PA’s
• Stand up when people enter the room, make eye contact and give a firm handshake. Get the balance right when shaking hands – not too weak but no bone crushers either
• Turn your phone off – you do not want it vibrating or ringing during the interview
• Look interested, engaged and energised
Best of luck with your interview! Search for jobs.