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
...' 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 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
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.
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.
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
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
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.