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Interview Tips

Interview Tips and Pointers

Firstly, congratulations on securing your interview! Now is your opportunity to meet with a potential employer, showcase your skills and experience, and hopefully secure an excellent job role.

Preparation is extremely important. Below we have outlined some tips and pointers to enable you to get ready to interview, from making an excellent first impression to answering questions in the best manner. We also offer guidance to ensure you are suitably informed about the company, the role and the format of the interview.

First Impressions Count!

Regardless of the company’s dress code, it is advisable to dress smartly for an interview. No matter how experienced you are, or how prepared you are for the interview; an interviewer will make an assessment on your keenness for the role, and your approach to work, based on how you present yourself at interview.

For men, a suit is generally advisable; ensure your shirt is clean and ironed, your suit is clean, and your shoes are polished. No garish ties or socks – you can reveal your personality through the interview process, rather than in your choice of accessories!

For women, again smart is always best. Smart trousers/skirt, along with a smart shirt or blouse, is generally failsafe. Keep your look conservative, and, as above, keep the colour scheme fairly neutral.

Remember to turn off your phone – Show you are fully engaged and that you value your interviewer’s time – don’t let a silly interruption make you appear blasé or unprofessional.

Social media - Clients are increasingly reviewing social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.) before interviewing applicants. Ensure your online presence represents who you are as an employee. On LinkedIn, do not elaborate on your experience and don’t change job titles/dates of employment. On Facebook, ensure your profile is set to private; be aware of any images or posts you may not want a potential employer seeing e.g. political rants or negative commentary about your current employer.

Key pointers:

  • Keep accessories neutral and to a minimum
  • Keep perfume/aftershave to a  minimum – your signature fragrance may not be to your interviewer’s taste, so try not to overwhelm them by being too liberal with your scent
  • If you are a smoker, avoid smoking in the hour before your interview. You don’t want to be remembered for smelling of cigarettes
  • Keep your attire fairly conservative – as mentioned you can showcase your personality during the interview process, and while there can establish what the dress code is, if and when you accept the role 
  • Excessive makeup, visible tattoos and piercings, unkempt hair , should not be why you don’t get a call back, so try to keep your overall look smart and conservative where possible

The Applicant

Why are you searching for a new job?

Remind yourself of this in the process.

People seek new roles for a variety of reasons. It could be that you are fresh out of education and this is your first interview, you could’ve been made redundant and not attended an interview for a few years, or you could have reached a point where your current employer can no longer offer you what you desire (whether that is because of salary, progression or company stability).

It is fairly certain you will be asked why you applying to this client’s role so keep your answers positive – do not say anything derogatory about your current employer. Talk about what you are looking for and how their position will facilitate this. Try not to discuss remuneration, the increase in salary may appeal to you, but your current employer wants to know you are engaged with the business and the role, not just your pay slip.

Ensure you are familiar with your CV

Talk through your experience chronologically if asked, and know your dates of employment. Be ready to explain reasons for leaving not just your current or most recent role, but roles before that. Be ready to explain any gaps in employment.  Talk in positive terms about how your roles developed; highlight any promotions or key achievements. Talking through your experience gives you the chance to align your experience to what the client is looking for in their job description, and really ‘sell yourself’.

Key pointers:

  • Know your CV and talk about your past employment in a positive manner
  • Highlight any key achievements – Did you change any processes? Did you save your employer money? Did you make your employer money? Did you train or manage any staff members? 
  • Talk about how your experience going to enable you to perform well in this role

Researching the company

Please ensure you research the business; this is for your benefit.

How do you know you want to work for a company if you do not know the basics about them?  
We have included a link to the company’s website in your confirmation email – utilise this resource, in particular review the ‘about us’ section. You should have an idea of the size of the business, what they do, how long they have been established and what markets they operate in. If they have a ‘careers’ section on their web page, they may talk about their values, which will enable you to see what the company culture is like.

For further information, please approach your Consultant - it is our job to help. We should be able to give you an overview of the team, what software packages they use, what the culture is like… If we can’t answer specific questions, we can endeavour to find out for you!

The Interview

Your consultant is on hand to advise what the format of the interview will be.

Who will you be interviewing with – is it your line manager, or the CEO?

How many people will be interviewing you - will it be one-to-one, or will you be met with a panel?

Can your consultant tell you anything about the interviewer(s)?

Some interviews will be fairly standard, with stock questions such as:

  • Why do you want to work for this company? Remember to be positive and show you have done your research.
  • What can you contribute to the role? Talk about your experiences/achievements – don’t be shy!
  • Why are you looking to leave your current employer? Keep it short and positive.

Other clients will have a more formal approach to interviewing – using competency based questions, assessment centres, asking you to complete psychometric/skills-based assessments, or asking you to put together a presentation. Where there is a more formal/structured approach – feel free to speak with your consultant who can talk you through what the interview process will be and offer support with how to prepare.

Increasingly, clients are using competency based interviewing to ensure they get the right person for the job. Competency based interviewing assesses behaviours that the business have established will be key to performing the role well. The interviewer will use a scoring system to measure your suitability against other applicants. You will need to adapt your interview style to perform well in this form of interview – we recommend using the STAR technique.

You should structure your answer according to STAR:

Situation – Set the scene
Task – the specifics – When was this? Where was this? Who was involved?
Action – What did you do? What skills were you required to use?
Result – What was the outcome?

Example: “Describe a time where you have had to lead a team. Did you face any challenges?”

S - When I worked for X company, I was employed as team leader and had a team of 6 staff working for me.

T – I inherited the team, and hadn’t established any relationships with my employees. In my first week, my manager asked me to put together a presentation for a big customer with my new team.

A – I sat individually with each member of the team and asked them to tell me what areas they particularly enjoyed in their roles and got to know their motivations. Then I assigned tasks to each individual ensuring their contributions would use their skills and keep them motivated.  Bob enjoyed research so he researched the customer, Carol enjoyed working with figures so she analysed the business’s spend, and Mark liked talking to customers so he delivered the presentation.

R – The result was that no one felt their experience was overlooked, and so they all contributed well delivering a presentation that won us that client’s business. I got to know my team well during that exercise and got to see where their passion and skills lay, which gained me their respect and enabled me to lead them well in future projects.

This is an example of a client looking for a candidate looking to demonstrate good leadership skills; the applicant talked through the scenario well, and showed the client that they are a good leader, who forges good working relationships.

On the day

Give yourself plenty of time to get ready and arrive for your interview. If you don’t know where the company is, if time permits, do a ‘dummy run’ and drive to see where they are and where you will park on the day.

Re-read the job description, your notes on the company and your CV– make sure you don’t forget anything!

Remember the interview is a ‘two way’ process, so ensure you gain as much knowledge of the business and the role from your preparation and the interview itself asking any questions where appropriate.

When leaving the interview, ensure you thank the interviewer for their time and have asked any questions you feel will impact on your decision whether to accept the role if offered. Ask what the next step in the process will be – this will give you an idea of when you should hear the outcome and they will see you are engaged and keen to be considered for that step.

If you have followed the guidance above, you will have given yourself the best opportunity to secure the job role and can walk away knowing you made the best impression you could. 

We can’t guarantee success based on these tips, but they will enable you to present yourself in the best way and ensure the role is right for you so it is worth an hour of two of preparation.

Wishing you the very best of luck!