Interview PreparationAn invitation for an interview shows that, on paper, you are the right person required by the organisation for the vacant position. In fact, it is estimated that 80% of candidates are rejected at the application stage so you are really more than three quarters of the way towards getting the job!
Larger organisations will have interviewers who are often personnel professionals, or who are trained and experienced interviewers, so expect the interview to be very structured to obtain the maximum from you. In smaller firms you are more likely to be interviewed by a partner who may not be a trained interviewer. If you are confronted by a 'bad' interviewer you will have to work hard to use the questions as a means of conveying the points you wish to make. It can be a good idea to try to steer the conversation towards the topics you have particular strengths in, highlighting your good points.
There are several different types of interview/questioning techniques: -
- The straightforward chronological interview, where you are asked questions around your CV / Application form
- Criterion referenced interviews, where you will be asked to give examples of how you meet their criteria e.g., examples of teamwork, negotiating, leadership
- The off-the-wall questions where you might be asked some bizarre questions. This is to see if you can think on the spot and how creative/logical you are.
- The pressurised interview where your views will be challenged (or even ridiculed) and you might feel like you are being goaded into an argument. If this happens to you do not lose your cool, it is to test how you react under extreme pressure and to see if you can hold your own without starting a fight or being reduced to tears.
Stage 1 - Preparation
- Re-read your resume.
- Prepare questions to ask and to be asked
- Work out clothes to wear
- Rehearse interview
- Anticipate the obvious questions during the interview
- Work out a strategy for dealing with stress
- Read vacancy details, employer's literature - what they are and what they want
- Know where the interview will take place
- Arrive in good time
- Make a good entrance
- Body language - handshake, posture, eye contact
- Be yourself
- Be honest
- Be prepared to talk - but not too much
- Don't be afraid to ask for clarification
- Illustrate your answers with examples
- Be ready to sell yourself
- Be interesting
- Know when the interview is over - read employer's body language
- Thank him/her for his/her time
- Learn from the experience - ask for feedback if necessary
- Major current projects
- Future developments
- What you would be doing
- How long for
- Typical projects/timescales
- Variety of work
- Training offered/possible
- Help with professional qualifications
- Who would you work with?
- Where would you be based?
- How much travel/mobility
- Likely progression
- Where are previous graduates
- Accommodation, amenities, limits on free time etc
- Tell us about yourself
- Why did you choose your degree and what have you gained from it?
- What has been your most important achievement in life so far? Why?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Why have you applied for this job?
- What do you have to offer us?
- What are the current issues in this sector of work?
- What experience do you have of working in a team and what role did you play in that team?
- Describe a project you have successfully completed.
- How would your friends describe you?
- Describe a situation you have found difficult. How did you overcome it?
- What questions would you like to ask us?
There are some interview questions that you will be asked during just about every job interview.
In addition to the more specific job-related interview questions that focus on the skill sets that you have to do the job, there are general interview questions about your employment history, strengths and weaknesses, achievements and goals that you'll be asked.
Here's a list of the most frequently asked interview questions, as well as examples of answers you can use to get ideas for your own responses.
Also, here are the top 50 interview questions most frequently asked by hiring managers, as well as sample answers for each question on the list. Review the list, then take the time to tailor your responses so you are well prepared to pitch your qualifications to the interviewer.
10 most frequently asked interview questionsInterview questions may vary but in essence they are all trying to establish the following:
1. Your skills and experience to do the job
2. Your enthusiasm and interest for the job
3. Whether you will fit in
If you can answer these questions, using real-life examples to illustrate your points, then you should be able to answer most of the questions that arise including the following frequently asked questions.
Tell me about yourself?
This question or something similar usually starts every interview. Your answer should be well-rehearsed, confidently delivered and last between 3-5 minutes. It should also:
Focus on the areas of most relevance to the job in question
Include some impressive achievements e.g. improvements made
Convey your enthusiasm for the job
Avoid personal or irrelevant information e.g. your children, un-related jobs
What are your key skills/strengths?
Focus on what you know they are looking for, even if it has been a smaller part of what you have been doing to date. The job advert or person specification form will give you the information you need about their requirements.
What are your weaknesses?
Choose a weakness that: Doesn't matter for the job e.g. languages for a UK firm. Is a positive e.g. "I like to make things happen and get frustrated if too long is spent sitting around discussing it without action"
Used to be a weakness but which you have improved upon e.g. presentations
Why did you leave your last job?
Your answer should be positive and upbeat even if the circumstances were difficult. If you were made redundant, depersonalise it by talking about company restructuring rather than your individual circumstance. Never criticise a previous employer no matter how tempting.
Why do you want this job?
Your answer should reinforce why you are such a good fit for the job and then convey your enthusiasm for the role e.g.
- Good match between your skills and their requirements
- Interested in the product/market/sector
- Company's excellent reputation, exciting challenge etc.
- Do not say (even if it's true) that you just need a job, or you want it because it's local.
They are testing how you cope under pressure as well as your problem-solving and communication skills. Good examples are where you:
- Helped resolve or improve a difficult situation
- Were resilient in adverse conditions
- Showed emotional intelligence and cool-headedness
- Avoid any examples which still feel sensitive, because in a high-pressure interview situation, old emotions can easily resurface and throw you off balance.
Choose work-related examples that shows a tangible benefit to the business. Personal achievements should only be included if they are very impressive or prestigous. More experienced candidates looking for a specific roles eg Sales Director Jobs should focus on closely related areas eg driving an increase in sales or building a successful sales team
What are your career goals?
They are checking if you are likely to stay and if so, for how long. Reassure the employer that the role you are applying for fits your career plan and your longer term commitment to the company.
What are your salary expectations?
Salary negotiations are best handled at the job offer stage so try to avoid this at interview if you can. If forced to name a price, give a realistic but wide salary range and say that you feel that salary won't be an issue if you decide to work together.
What do you know about our organisation?
You need to know the following:
- Company structure, finances, products and services, key staff
- Customers and competitors
- Market trends and challenges
How to Present a Positive Image in a Job Interview
If you've ever lost out on a great job to someone who was less qualified, you know how frustrating it can be. Many dream jobs are won and lost based on the power of a positive first impression. Making a great first impression is all about dressing for the part, positive body language and researching the job and the industry beforehand. An interview is a stressful event for anyone. Be sure to relax and let your personality shine through.
Projecting The Right Image during an interview - What does your body language tell the employer?
During The Interview – Projecting the Right image
So, I have explained the ins and outs of preparing for your new job interview and dealing with the stress element leading up to this; and then entering into the interview environment. You are now well dressed; have greeted your interviewer (s) correctly; created your comfortable sitting posture and are now ready to convince your interviewer that you are the man or woman that they have been searching for to fill that job opening. To some the actual performance comes easily. For others they have to work at it. Some people are natural born sales people and know how to sell themselves others are not so lucky. Generally speaking if you already work in a sales role, as I do, what I will explain next is really second nature and it is unlikely that I will be offering you anything that you don’t already know. Sales people are natural born performers whether it is due to their personality or due to the nature of the work they have previously carried out. The term “life is a stage and you’re on it” has never spoken truer than at a job interview. I have been on hundreds of sales courses and read many sales books over the course of my career such as “how to win friends and influence people” but it all comes down to one thing and that is getting a stranger to believe in you and, or, your product. At an interview you are the one that needs to put on a good performance. There are many different qualities the interviewer is going to be looking for in their potential candidate. These will encompass qualifications, experience, you as a person and the way that you integrate with others. Also they will consider your previous employment history, your enthusiasm towards your career, along with many other factors. So here are a few areas to think about. They are all really interlinked and if you can employ all of them at interview stage you are well on your way to getting that new job.
Show Your Interviewer That You Are Enthusiastic:
So what exactly is an employer looking for? Well firstly I would say enthusiasm. If someone asks you a question and you give a one word answer it doesn’t really look very enthusiastic. So the way to deal with this is to answer the question as deeply as you can. For example; Interviewer “Your background is in commercial liability underwriting but I see you are now involved in commercial property underwriting”. Don’t simply answer with a Yes or No answer, expand on it. You could answer along the lines of “Yes I was originally trained in liability underwriting, an area I spent several years working in which I thoroughly enjoyed. However I had the opportunity to expand my overall underwriting skills to encompass property underwriting so I jumped at the chance as I felt it would enhance my experience overall within my team”. Obviously you can tailor this to your own circumstances but you see what I am getting at. Be enthusiastic. Don’t just give one word answers. Make your interviewer interested in you and what you have done. Show him that you really are passionate about everything you do. To the interviewer this shows that you will have enthusiasm and dedication to your new job should they decide to employ you.
Show Your Interviewer You Are A Confident Candidate And That You Know Your Stuff:
Another area where all sales people are naturals is confidence! I know it’s not always easy when you are under pressure and nervous to ooze confidence, but this is a really important area. The more confident you are the more chance you will have of bagging the job. Try and expand on your answers again in this area. If you are asked a negative question try and respond with a positive confident answer. For example: Interviewer “You don’t appear to have done much cold calling for a while and this job will involve quite a large amount of self lead generation how do you feel about that?” You could answer along the lines of “Yes I haven’t been involved in cold calling for 6 months which has been quite disappointing to me as I thoroughly enjoyed it and felt that it was one of my strong areas. I really have missed this element of my work because I got the opportunity of speaking to new people each day. I really got a buzz when I finally closed a deal that I knew I had generated from start to finish. Cold calling is an area I am keen to get back into and it’s a talent that I feel comes naturally to me”.
Show Your Interviewer That You Are Positive:
It’s easy to become negative about anything in life, but in work life and a career environment, a positive person in the workplace can be a real asset to an employer. Positive people give off positive vibes and those good vibrations nearly always rub off on other employees. The end result creates a happy, proactive, enthusiastic work force which ultimately creates a better working environment and more efficient team. If you can demonstrate this quality to your interviewer at interview stage you will definitely impress them.
Watch Your Body Language:
Body language is an area that many interviewers will take seriously. What we do and how we do it can show underlying areas that can be picked up upon. Body language is an area that has been analysed for many, many years by professionals and interviewers alike. It really is amazing what you can learn from someone just by their mannerisms. As I have stated before I am no expert, but to give you an example, if you ask a person a question and their eyes gaze up thoughtfully to the left hand side of their eyeball you know that the chances of their answer being true are high. If on the other hand they look up to the right of their eyeball the chances are they are searching for a made up answer to your question. There are certain exceptions to the rule but the theory is based upon the fact that the left side of your brain is where you retrieve data from and the right is the fictional side of your brain! Interesting isn’t it and one to be aware of. Other areas that give off body language signals, without you knowing about them, are as follows:
1. Cross Your Arms: It makes you look defensive.
2. Sit on the edge of your seat.
3. Mess with your face or play with your jewellery or hair.
4. Rock on the seat.
5. Interrupt when being asked a question.
6. Give one word answers (unless the answer dictates a one word answer).
1. Smile as frequently as possible (especially when you are asked a question and respond to the person who has asked the question) but don’t overdo it!
2. Keep your hands in your lap; don’t wave them around all over the place.
3. Keep eye contact at all times (I don’t mean stare out your interviewer). If there is more than one interviewer, flick from person to person.
4. Be articulate and listen carefully to each question before giving your answer.5. Keep calm and don’t panic!