Before the interview
Research: ‘So, what do you know about us?’ is a common question and there’s no excuse for a lack of research. Enter the interview with something of interest to say about their company, or a question to ask. Look on their website, but also look at their social media including LinkedIn and Twitter, or try using the FT or BBC’s companies sections.
Timing: There’s nothing worse than turning up to an interview late. It not only gives a disorganised impression, it can also make you feel stressed and contribute to poor interview performance. Check transport routes and re-confirm the time of your interview, plan to arrive a good 20-25 minutes early… however don’t enter reception until about 10 minutes before the scheduled time.
Location: Useful sites to plan your journey include National Rail and in London TfL’s Journey Planner and the live bus planner. Useful map websites include Google maps. Walkit.com is useful if you need to walk part of the way.
Personal appearance: First impressions are lasting impressions, so ensure that you arrive in appropriate business attire for your interview. Ensure your clothes are ironed and your shoes are polished. Avoid smoking before the interview and if you’ve been chewing gum or eating, ensure that you’re not when you walk in the door. You’ll be judged from the moment you enter the building, so walk in smiling and be polite to all you meet.
During the Interview
Body Language: Maintain appropriate eye contact throughout the interview. If there is more than one interviewer don’t forget to look at all of them, even if one remains quiet. Try to sit upright and still during the interview – the more you fidget the more nervous you’ll appear. If you slouch it can be perceived as lazy or shy, so try for a good neutral posture.
Interaction:Listen to the questions being asked and answer directly. Find the balance between a one-word answer and going off on a tangent or providing superfluous information.
Competency Based Questions:these are often used to score candidates on a scale so that direct comparisons can be made between interviewees. For example: ‘Have you been in a situation where…?’ ‘Yes, I used it on a project recently where we did x, y, z…’ Give confirmation and a succinct answer. If the interviewer wants to know more they’ll ask, and this will make the interview more conversational and comfortable. You can research these and prepare answers in advance – they can be tricky to think of on the spot sometimes.
Tell me about yourself: The interviewer is as interested in you as a person as much as your skill level and they’ll be looking to see if you fit their company’s culture and will get along with other members of the team. It’s a good idea to prepare a 20 second ‘marketing statement’ detailing some personal and professional attributes.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?Use your CV to pull out your star attributes and have 2 or 3 of each and reasons why. Don’t forget to turn the negative to a positive.
Tell me about a recent problem and how you solved it: Be specific and describe what YOUR actions were and how they influenced the outcome.
What do you know about our company? Ensure that you’ve done your research so you can give them some background, industry awareness, current news, or other insight.
How long have you been looking for a new job?This can be tricky if you’ve been looking for a new opportunity for some time but be honest. If you have been away on a extended holiday or done some voluntary work, you could mention this.
Why should we employ you? The answer to this question should be based on your previous experience and achievements that relate to their company and the role. At the end you might want to add that you think there is a good fit between you and the job.
What can you contribute?This is your chance to shine. Tell them about your achievements in your previous position(s), which are relevant to the new position you are applying for.
Why do you want this job?What can we offer that your current role doesn’t? Stress the positive points that attracted you to the role. Do not dwell on the negative aspects of your current job. Stress specific opportunities for personal growth, new challenges, what you’ll bring to the role... etc.
What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it? Pick an achievement that is related to their needs and describe your personal involvement.