In essence, interviews are very similar to negotiations. It is important to be clear in your own mind what you are prepared to say yes or no to (refer to your job specification).
The interview is the opportunity to present and sell your skills and abilities describing how you went about delivering your achievements.
Preparation for the Interview
- Know the exact place and time of the interview and who you will be meeting.
- Find out specific facts about the company – where its plants, offices or stores are located; what its products and services are what its growth has been; and what its growth potential is for the future.
- Refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your present/former employer. You will be expected to know the basics of your past companies, e.g. turnover, no of employees, ownership etc.
- Dress in a professional manner (better to be overdressed than underdressed)
- Be positive and feel confident.
Prepare your answers
- Prepare a detailed description of how you delivered at least 2-3 of your major achievements.
- Review your previous performance assessments before interview so you can talk about your strengths and be aware of where you can improve.
Preparing your questions
Draw up a list of questions you wish to ask the interviewer. Some will flow naturally from points which arise during the interview, but beware of overloading the interviewer with questions;
- Is it a new position?
- What are the main challenges or results to be delivered
- To whom will you report?
- Remember you are selling yourself and your ability to handle the job successfully.
- Recognise the questions which offer you the opportunity to sell your strengths. Just as importantly, be ready for those questions which highlight your weaknesses.
- Convey energy and enthusiasm
- Provide experience relevant to the position under discussion and your knowledge of the company to whom you are applying.
Examples of questions which may be asked by the interviewer :
- Why did you choose this position?
- Tell me about yourself.
- Why would you like to work for our company?
- What do you know about us?
- Where do you see yourself three years from now and five years from now?
- What size was your last salary increase?
- How do you set priorities?
- Are you able to work individually?
- Are you a team player?
- What entrepreneurial activities have you undertaken?
- Are you willing to relocate?
Questions designed to highlight weaknesses:
- Why do you want to leave your present job?
- You seem to have done a lot of job-hopping. Why?
- Aren’t you over qualified for this job?
- Why did you leave your last position?
- What do you consider to be your strengths?
- What is your weakness?
Always give positive reasons – Avoid negative reasons.
The interviewer will be looking for the candidate who most impresses them on three counts: –
- Contribution – you will be able to contribute to the efficient running, productivity and profitability of the organisation.
- Motivation – you will really want to work hard for this organisation.
- Attitude and Acceptability – you will fit the company structure and work happily with other members of the team.
Prospective employers will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes. Watch out for those which most often lead to rejection:
- Poor personal appearance.
- Limp, damp handshake.
- Not prepared for the interview – failure to get information about the company.
- Failure to ask questions about the position.
- Inability to communicate clearly.
- Lack of objectives or goals.
- Lack of confidence.
- No interest or enthusiasm.
- Over-bearing, over-aggressive or conceited.
- Too much emphasis on salary and fringe benefits.
- Self-centred attitude.
Interviewers will often use an interview technique referred to as the STAR Method, or STAR Technique.
When preparing examples of where you have demonstrated competencies (listed in the posting or job description), the STAR technique works well to develop your competency examples.
It provides a framework for talking about an experience which illustrates the competency being assessed by a particular behavioural question (note – the terms are not used in the response).
STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result.
A behavioural or competency question typically asks for ONE example of a time when you demonstrated a particular skill or competency.
The example needs to be described in detail. You need to use a real-life example to explain how you have actually demonstrated the skill. The employer wants to know what you have done in the past, not what you think you would do in the future.
Keep the responses recent and relevant – ideally use examples within the past 1-2 years.
If you are answering a number of behavioural questions, try to use a range of examples. While the story in itself is important, it is critical to show you understand the processes involved (for example – in effective teamwork) so the employer knows that you would bring that understanding and apply it to similar situations in their workplace.
This is about setting the scene, giving a context and background to the situation. So if you’re asked a question about time management, your reply would need to include the details of the project you were working on, who you were working with, when it happened and where you were.
This is more specific to your exact role in the situation. You need to make sure that the interviewer knows what you were tasked with, rather than the rest of the team.
This is the most important part of the STAR technique, because it allows you to highlight what your response was. Remember, you need to talk about what you specifically did, so using ‘I’ rather than team actions – otherwise you won’t be showing off the necessary skills the employer is looking for.
Be sure to share a lot of detail, the interviewer will not be familiar with your history, although remember to avoid any acronyms and institutional language.
What you’re trying to get across here is how you assessed and decided what was the appropriate response to the situation, and how you got the other team members involved – which in turn is a great way to demonstrate your communication skills.
For example if you are asked about dealing with a difficult personality on your team you would talk about how you decided to take a certain course of action to avoid making the situation worse or upsetting the individual.
The result should be a positive one, and ideally one that can be quantified. Examples include repeat business, an increase in sales by 15% or saving the team 5 hours a week. The interviewer will also want to know what you learnt from that situation, and if there was anything you would do differently the next time you were faced with that situation.
As well as evaluating your skills, qualities and aptitudes, the interviewer will also be searching for your strengths and weaknesses. In preparing for the interview examine the list of DO’s and DONT’s.
- Arrive on time. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.
- Shake hands firmly.
- Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting down.
- Be alert and look interested. Be a good listener as well as a good talker.
- Look directly at a prospective employer.
- Follow the interviewer’s leads.
- Get them to describe the position and duties to you as soon as possible in the interview so you can relate your background and skills to the position.
- Sell yourself in a factual, sincere manner. Make them realise the need for you in their organisation.
- Be prepared to answer those “typical questions” outlined above.
- Conduct yourself in a manner that says you are determined to get the job.
- Answer questions with a simple yes or no. Give an explanation.
- Lie! Answer as truthfully and as frankly as possible.
- Make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.
- Talk too much. Answer briefly, but with enough detail to make the point.
- Enquire about salary and benefits, etc. Leave detailed questions until you are sure the employer is interested in recruiting you.
Closing the Interview
- Find out where you stand, but do not push hard in case it becomes counterproductive. Remember the interviewer may not have seen all the candidates yet. If you have been interviewed by more than one person, they will want to consult with each other after the interview.
- Don’t be discouraged by an aggressive interviewer or if you feel you have already been rejected. Occasionally you will come across an interviewer who will conduct stress interviews to test your reaction.
- Finally, thank the interviewer for their time and for considering you. Leave on a positive note.
After the Interview
Contact the Consultant who referred you to the position and explain what happened. Your feelings and perceptions of the client will help to progress your interest in the job.