Interview tips and advice, Outplaement, Career Counselling, Recruitment, Executive Search
Interview tips and advice, Outplaement, Career Counselling, Recruitment, Executive Search

Interview Tips and Advice

Overview of the interview: It is important to understand the objective of the interview. There are several strands to this, but the overriding objective is to generate sufficient information for the correct decision to be made by both parties. Of course, within the boundary of this, you can shoot yourself in the foot or come across as the ideal candidate. The key to presenting yourself well at interview is preparation. You would not expect to sit an exam and pass it without revising, the same is true of an interview. It is also important to understand that once you are at interview, you have already passed the first major sift and are normally competing against a small number of other contenders. If you have not done sufficient preparation, but one of your competitors has, it is likely that they will perform better and be far more likely to be offered the position than you. The key to maximising your chances of success is preparation, preparation and preparation.

You need to demonstrate the right experience, personality, attitude and cultural fit, and answer that key question in the mind of the interviewer: 'Why should I hire you?'

STAR: A well-proven approach clearly explaining your value-add is the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym standing for Situation, Task, Action and Result. Whilst in some cases these categories may merge, it provides a framework for a good example explanation. e.g. If the question was 'tell me about a difficult task that you resolved….'. Your answer could be framed by using the STAR approach quite simply by saying 'The situation was…., The task or objective that I had to achieve was…., The approach and actions that I took to achieve this were…, and this resulted in…...' It is also helpful to add if possible the benefits to the company were…. With practice you should be able to relate these examples to the skills, attributes and experience that the potential employer is looking for. You must practice articulating these before the interview.


Know your subject matter: (you and your experience) and be able to articulate it well with real examples that demonstrate your value-add to your previous employers. Real examples highlight your attributes and substantiate your claims that you may have made on your CV. Most people have a good selection of these but are not good at telling the history in a clear, succinct and meaningful way that clearly highlights the skills, experience or expertise that the prospective employer is looking for.

Read your CV or Application form: It my sound unnecessary - but consider that your CV managed to get you to interview and it is generally all that the interviewer has to work on before you get there. A good interviewer should have reviewed this carefully and want to explore some parts of it in depth. Be able to expand on parts of it and relate the relevant parts and demonstrate your value add to your previous employers. In particular, consider your previous experience against the requirements of the new role. Consider carefully the areas that match and fall short of the job description and be prepared to answer all aspects of this. Use the STAR technique. Take a copy of your CV with you. Remember that this is the document that the interviewer is likely to base the starting questions around.

Timing: Arrive in good time. Prepare for delays in traffic etc. Nothing is worse that arriving late for an interview.

Look the part: Dress, and the way you act is important and will influence people. If possible, check your appearance in a mirror before you go into the interview. First impressions are quickly made in the first few minutes. People can also form an opinion from viewing someone approaching a building.

Listen: Do listen to the question carefully. If you are not sure that you fully understand it - ask for clarification.

Be positive: Your attitude and general outlook will be noticed and will influence the decision.

Research: Research the company and people you will be meeting. It is obvious when candidates have not researched the position, company or industry prior to the interview. Visit the library or use the Internet to research the company, and talk with friends, peers and other professionals about the opportunity before each meeting. The more you can find out before the interview the better you will be able to make the right impression. Research will also enable you to ask some intelligent questions about their current business issues. Learn pertinent facts about the company such as turnover, principal lines of business and locations, share price and general history. Be prepared to tell the interviewer why their company is attractive to you.

Smile: Smile and Shake hands firmly. Show that you are genuinely glad to meet the interviewer.

Eye contact: Always look people in the eye. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of nonverbal communication and can make a significant difference in how you are perceived. If you look away when speaking to someone, you may be viewed as lacking confidence or interest or worse still a little shifty.

Be Polite to everyone: Many companies take inputs from all their staff including the receptionist and secretaries. Make sure you are courteous to all. You should consider yourself to be on 'interview' from the moment you enter the car park.

Be Honest: If you do not know the answer to something - don't pretend you do. However it is normally quite possible to still give a positive answer, either by explaining how you would approach a given problem or relating to something similar in your past. But make sure that the interviewer understands what you are saying and does not think you are just giving an inappropriate answer. You may also be able to give an example of your ability to pick up new issues quickly.

Sell yourself: Most people are not practiced at selling themselves and this is a common reason why they can come as second choice and not be offered the post. You must give the interviewer sufficient reason to want to 'buy' you for the role above the other contenders. Whatever question the interviewer asks, the underlying question is 'Why should I hire you?' Couch your answers to sell yourself and answer this key question. Practice explaining your achievements so that you clearly demonstrate your personal contribution. The product you are selling is you. Give them reasons to buy. Tell them what you can do for them with examples from your past. Emphasize what you can bring to the company. Convince them that your product is better than the other candidates. Use the STAR technique.

Anticipate questions: Think about the questions that are likely to arise. Work against the job description and person specification, plus any other material that will help you understand the buying need of the company. Consider your experience and ability against those criteria and in particular, areas of good and poor match. Be prepared to answer questions covering all aspects. Consider what else you might ask if you were the interviewer.

Your questions: Have a list of good business questions to ask. Some of these may have come from the research that you will have conducted on the company. Examples of these include: What are you most hoping to find in the person you hire? What are the greatest challenges in this position? What would be my first priorities on the job? Is there anything more I could tell you about my background that would help you understand my suitability for this role? or, Do you have any concerns about my ability to do the job? Remember a lack of questions may be interpreted as a lack of interest.

Applications forms: If you are asked to apply with an application form, fill it out neatly and completely. Recruiters and HR people will not take kindly to applicants who do not following their process. Do not write on an application form 'see CV'. Always take a copy of what you have submitted.

Enthusiasm: Do show enthusiasm. If you are interested in the opportunity, enthusiastic feedback can enhance your chances of being considered further. If you are not interested, your responsiveness will still demonstrate your professionalism for other opportunities that you may not even know about within the company. There is no better sales pitch than enthusiasm. Show enthusiasm for the role, the company and the challenges. If you are one of two possibilities, it can tip the balance.

Be prepared: Prepare answers for open-ended questions like, "Tell me about yourself," by making a list of your skills, traits and experience that match the employer's requirements. This type of question often floors people if they have not prepared, but is a gift to sell yourself if you have prepared. The closer you can demonstrate your skills and traits match the job and person specification, the better chance you have of being offered the role. Use the STAR technique to explain your answers. You should leave the interviewer with a clear picture of what you have to offer.

References: You should have at least three referees and their contact information. Make sure that you get their permission first, as well as their preferred method of contact. You should also send them a copy of your CV so they will know what you have claimed about yourself.

Say Thank You: Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration. If you have fully answered the two questions 'Why are you interested in this position and company' and 'What can you offer', you cannot do much more, except for the follow up letter.

Follow up letter: Follow up the interview with an effective 'thank you' letter. This is another opportunity to sell yourself. You will stand out from the other candidates with a thoughtfully constructed letter. If you are enthusiastic about the position - say so.



Don't answer with a simple 'yes' or 'no.' Whenever with possible explain with examples that demonstrate your claims. Keep your answers relevant to the key issues of the role. Use questions as an opportunity to sell yourself.

Don't lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and succinctly.

Don't make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers. If there were issues, limit your comments to those necessary to adequately communicate your rationale of moving etc.

Don't inquire about salary, vacations, bonuses, benefits etc. on the first interview unless the interviewer raises the issue. If the interviewer asks what salary you want, indicate what you have been earning but emphasis that you are more interested in the right opportunity than in a specific salary level. If you are working with a headhunter or agency, let them handle the salary issue for you, as they are more likely to get a better deal than you.

Don't Waffle: Keep to the point and be succinct. It is good to provide real examples, but do not get into very complicated answers that water down the key issues and lose the impact.

Common interview questions to be prepared for:

Tell me about yourself ?
What are your greatest weaknesses?
What are your greatest strengths?
How can you contribute to this company?
Why do you want to work for our company?
Where do you hope to be in five years?
What interests you most about this position?
How long do you plan to be with this company?
Why have you moved quickly in the past?
What are your career goals?
What are you doing to achieve your goals?
Why did you leave, or why are you considering leaving your previous employer?
What did you like most/least about your previous job?
Why are you looking for another job?
What do you think your employer's obligations are to you?
Are you applying for any other jobs?
What kind of decisions are most difficult for you?
What are your greatest accomplishments?
How do you feel about a younger male/female boss?
What do you do in your spare time?
Tell me about your background
What interests you about our company?
How do you stay up to date professionally?
Why are you unemployed or why were you unemployed between....?

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