You only get one chance to make a first impression
You have passed the first hurdle now it is time to sell yourself in person to the prospective employer.
Your knowledge and skills are the foundation for a successful interview and you need to build on that foundation with preparation, research and communication. This guide helps you to ensure you are well prepared and show yourself in the best possible light.
Gone are the days when interviews were a one-way process for the employer to ascertain your suitability for them, it is for you to decide if they are right for you too. Preparing what you want to learn from them is key to the process. Your aim is to walk out of the interview knowing whether you want the job, rather than having questions.
The standard interview format is usually face to face however more and more employers are doing telephone or Skype interviews as an initial stage, and carrying out assessment centres to assess multiple candidates.
Often a telephone interview will be an initial tool to ascertain interest and suitability on both parts. They can take the form of a short information gathering interview where the interviewer does a basic CV walk through discussing your experience and the role with you. Alternatively it can be a technical interview to ensure that you have the key skills required to take the process further.
Skype interviews are a convenient way for employers to see and speak to you to ascertain your suitability for a role. The benefits for you include flexibility in terms of location, time-saving and no travel costs.
During a face to face interview it is much easier for the employer to gauge how you deal with particular situations and how you would fit in their team as they can interact directly with you. There may be a tour involved, which gives you the opportunity to see the work environment and gives them the chance to interact with you in a less formal setting.
Assessment centres will often last for a half day or a whole day and so can be quite intense and potentially tiring, so be prepared. This format usually includes one-to-one interviews, group tasks or activities, testing, assessment exercises and often presentations. Each candidate is assessed on their performance in each part of the assessment, including their individual contribution during the group tasks and how they interact as part of a group. You only get one chance to make a first impression and they really do count, so make it a good one!
Ensure that you have researched the company well and understand fully who they are and what they do. Look through their website in detail to get a clear picture of their business, markets, customers, products and technology etc.
Prepare a high-level overview of the company that you can deliver when asked what you know about them. Always avoid quoting verbatim from their website, this sounds unnatural and they will pick up on it.
If they have a News or Publications section on their website, read through it as this will give you information about recent wins, projects, acquisitions or appointments and potential discussion points during the interview. It looks very good if you can talk about a recent project or client win of theirs during the interview.
Ensure you know who you will be meeting at the interview and do some research on them as well. Go on Linkedin to look at their profile, sometimes this can create talking points during the interview for example if you went to the same university, worked at the same company, similar route of progression etc. This can help build rapport.
Go through the job spec and on your CV, identify where your skills match their requirements so that you can highlight this during the interview. Perhaps even prepare some examples of projects or responsibilities that are most relevant to them.
Prepare for all of the standard interview questions shown below and wherever possible try to give an example as part of your answer. So if you are asked “how do you deal with conflict?” give an example of a time that you have had to do this including the situation, the action you took and what the positive outcome was. This allows you to demonstrate that not only can you do what they’ve asked but that you have done so successfully in the past.
Ensure that you also prepare a list of questions to ask them, as you will usually be invited to do so at the end of the interview. These questions should be intelligent and show you are engaged in the process, making you stand out from the other candidates. Therefore it is best to avoid asking about work hours, holidays and benefits and focus on career opportunities and company strategy instead.
At the close of the interview it is a good idea to ask the interviewer if they have any concerns about your suitability for the role. This gives them the opportunity to tell you if they see a potential area of weakness and gives you the chance to cover this and hopefully overcome the concern. If this is too direct for you, an alternative is to ask them if they need any further information from you to establish your suitability.