Interviews are a necessary part of the process when it comes to securing a new role. No matter how well qualified you are for a position, your personality and personal presentation will still count when your prospective employer assesses your suitability.
In order to prepare for an interview, you should try to anticipate the questions you might be asked so that you can prepare your answers.
Know who it is you're meeting, where and how to get there.
- Take contact details, spare CV, pen and notepad.
- Go in armed with information to impress the interviewer with your research.
- Before you go, read company information, visit competitors' websites and read trade magazines for the latest industry developments.
- Study the job specification again and match it to your CV so that you can provide evidence that you meet the job requirement.
- Wear a smart but comfortable outfit - a good first impression is a must.
- If the company is listed, check the stock market to see how the company’s share price has been performing.
- If you’re interviewing in the investment industry, make sure that you know roughly the level of the FTSE 100 on the day of your interview.
- Bring examples of previous work.
The Interview Itself
When you walk through the front door, remember you're already making an impression on your prospective employers.
Anyone from the receptionist to the managing director may directly or indirectly influence the final selection of candidates.
Inside the interview room, you'll be introduced to the other interviewers if there are any - look at them when greeting them, smile and carefully remember their names so you can address them throughout the interview.
Listen - sometimes, people get so caught up in their feelings they forget to actually listen to the questions; slowing the pace will help you hear the questions and answer them correctly.
Before you respond to more difficult questions, think about your answer and how you want to express them - this will help you speak more confidently.
Body language demonstrates how comfortable you are with your subject matter - if you're enthusiastic about what you're saying, smile and let your hands do the talking (but don't overdo it).
Look at who you are talking to - but don't exclude other interviewers present.
If you said something you didn't mean, and are worried it could damage your chances, simply rectify it by restating what you really wanted to express - don't hold back; it could be your only chance to get that point across.
Thank your interviewer for his or her time, shake hands.
Remember to say a personal goodbye to each person you talked with.
Don't forget to acknowledge the receptionist as you leave, particularly if you have been looked after while waiting, such has having been given tea or coffee or if your coat and bag or briefcase have been taken care of.
Expect difficult questions about gaps in your career or education, interviewers want to catch you off guard to get an unrehearsed answer.
Skills you should attempt to display in your answers include: good communication skills, good analytical skills, decisiveness, independence, flexibility and good teamwork skills. It would be useful to prepare examples which demonstrate these.
When describing a scenario, first give a brief outline of the situation, then describe the problem, the action you took to resolve this and the end result.
Behavioural interview questions are looking for examples of your actions in difficult situations. It has been suggested that these behaviours rarely change over time and so you will be able to apply the same skills on your new position.
If you are asked something you aren’t prepared for, stay calm and think for a few moments before answering. This shows you are calm under pressure and can think on your feet. If you have no experience of the situation you are asked about, be honest and admit this.
Make sure that you ask for clarification if you don’t understand the phrasing of a question, or even repeat the question back to the interviewer just to make sure you know what they are asking.
A common question asked at interviews is where do you see yourself in 5 years? Having a career plan will help you to answer this question. The plan should list what you expect from your career and the amount of time you think it will realistically take you to achieve these goals.
Apart from your own qualifications, personality traits and intelligence there are a number of attributes that employers will look for when recruiting.
- The ability to work well within a team.
- The ability to work well alone and use your own initiative.
- Examples of any ideas that have enhanced company productivity within a previous company.
- The added value that you will immediately bring to a company.
- A degree of knowledge of the industry you are choosing to work in.
- A level of intelligence, common sense, and the basic skills needed for the job.
- Analytical and problem solving skills.
- Personality traits that will enhance a team that you will be placed with.
- A good level of communication with colleagues and clients.
Questions to Ask the Interviewer
This is a chance to show your enthusiasm and at the same time to highlight the research you have done on the company. It is crucial to have several questions prepared in advance - these could include:
- What do you see as the key challenges facing the business at the moment?
- How has the business changed since you have been here?
- What plans does the company have for expansion?
- More generic questions could include:
- What sort of one-off projects might I be given?
- What interaction would I have with other departments within the company/with clients/with suppliers?
- What scope is there for taking on extra work or being involved in any other aspects of the company?
- Where are the opportunities to progress within the company?
- How much input will I be allowed with regards to enhancing company productivity?
- Is there any travel required in order to carry out the role?
Do not at any point ask about salary or benefits, these are best left for your recruiter to negotiate on your behalf.
There may be an explanation during the interview of how the process will continue - if not then it is perfectly acceptable to ask. However, some employers will not want to commit themselves to timescales until they have had time to consider all the candidates.
After the Interview
When you get out of the interview, give your recruitment consultant at CMC Consulting a call and let him or her know how it went. Your consultant is employed by the company to liaise with you, and can handle any queries you may have. If there are any points of the interview that you don't feel went as well as they could have or if there are any examples you wish you had given, go through these with your recruitment consultant so that they can discuss these with the interviewer on your behalf.
If you receive an offer and the salary is a little below what you were looking for, think about what sort of compromise you would be happy with, there are other factors to consider such as pension schemes, bonuses, holidays, other benefits etc.