General Hints and Guidelines
Think about yourself – It is important before an interview to think about all the reasons why you are attending it and what you have to offer the organization. Be ready to discuss both short and long term career goals in general terms.
Gaps in CV – You will also need to explain gaps in employment. If you worked in a temporary capacity but didn’t put it on your CV, know the details of which companies you worked with, what you did for them and the length of the assignments. If you did not work but did search for a job give some examples of the research you did regarding job opportunities and the process you went through to find the position.
Reasons for leaving – Prepare to discuss the reasons you left your previous jobs. If it was for a better opportunity, explain how it was an opportunity. If you left involuntarily, present the reason in the most positive light you can. Make sure your responses are honest and be positive.
Research the job – Before attending any interview it is a good idea to research the organization and familiarize yourself with the following:
Size of organization, number of employees.
History, how long have they been operating – do they have any affiliated organizations or belong to an umbrella group?
General information about their services/products/aims etc.
Major competitors or other organizations operating in the same field.
Job description – understand the skills required for the position.
Relationship between the open position and other members of staff – have a sense for the department.
Have some well thought-out questions that would help further your understanding of the organization e.g. How will the organization be affected by the new legislation on xyz… or How do you see the organization developing over the next year/three years?
Feedback to your consultant how you thought the interview went and tell us whether you would be interested in the job if it were to be offered to you.
What is the employer looking for?
Employers use interviews to confirm that an applicant has the required knowledge, skills and willingness to contribute and fit into the organization’s culture. They also want to see if your career goals are in line with opportunities available with their organization. They are looking for the potential in prospective employees to become valued, trusted, productive team members of their organization.
You must try to consider how you can display your skills and experience in a good and honest light and provide employers with the evidence that you are the right person for the job. Here are some brief points to consider:
Are you a self-starter, able to work without constant supervision?
Can you be depended upon in critical situations and follow work through to completion?
Are you enthusiastic and easy to work with?
Can you work under pressure?
Recruiters need to know what drives you to want the job and why you want to work for the organization in particular.
Can you manage your time effectively?
How do you structure your day’s work?
How do you plan your day and week?
How did you handle sudden unplanned work or crisis?
Can you handle constructive criticism in a productive manner?
Are you objective in evaluating yourself and others? Recruiters look for an objective analysis of your abilities. For strengths, recruiters want to know why you think it is strength and where it has been demonstrated. For weaknesses they want to know what steps you could take to improve.
You will rarely be working alone so being able to work as part of a team is valuable. Co-operation and ability to work well in a team environment are some the most valued skills in employees.
Can you work well with a variety of people?
What would you do to help a team of people work together better?
Points to consider throughout the interview
Be prepared with answers to the traditional interview questions. Rehearse your answers with a friend who will give you honest feedback about the content of your answer and body language.
Aim for clarity, brevity and above all, honesty. Give honest answers with a positive tone.
Concentrate on the employer’s needs, not yours.
Emphasize how you can help the organization achieve its goals.
Describe your past responsibilities and accomplishments.
Explain why you approached projects in a certain ways.
Explain how the skills you bring will benefit the organization.
Don’t downplay your accomplishments or attribute them to luck.
Be specific in your answers. Avoid rambling or getting off on a tangent.
Ask for clarification if you are unsure of the question.
Ask the employer if they think it would be helpful to add information about skills or experiences that you believe are relevant but which have not been covered during the interview. Take responsibility for communicating your strengths. Don’t rely on the interviewer to pull it out of you.
Consider the types of skills and characteristics you think the employer needs in the applicant to be successful in the job for which you are attending an interview, e.g. attention to detail, diplomacy, leadership, persistence, problem solving and planning, stress management, team building, technical.
Once you have determined what you think the employer will be looking for, write out examples of situations that showed your skills in those areas. Explain your past successes, the more you can clearly describe the experience, the people involved, the challenge and the solutions, the more you’ll stand out in the interviewer’s mind.
Types of interview
There are several different types or styles of interview that you may come across amongst our clients. It is important that to remember that no two interviews are the same and that you can always improve you interview style and preparation. There follows some general hints and tips on the most common / frequently used interview techniques that you are likely to encounter through our agency.
The traditional interview – sample questions sometimes interviews follow a more traditional format (quite common with people who are not used to interviewing). The following is a list of typical interview questions which may arise in one form or another. It is a good idea to reflect on the sort of answer you might give before an interview but it is unwise to learn answers off pat as you risk coming across as unnatural and not genuine. It is a good idea to back your answers up with examples taken from your own work experience.
Do you prefer to work in a small, medium or large organization?
Why do you want this job?
What qualities do you think this job requires?
Why do you want to work for this organization?
What have you got to contribute?
What can we offer you that your previous organization cannot offer?
How long have you been looking for a new job?
What do you know about this organization?
What interests you about this organization?
What are you looking for in a new job?
What would be your ideal job?
What sorts of jobs are you considering at the moment?
What did you do on a day to day basis?
What do you not like about the job?
How did you make a difference to your last organization?
How successful are you?
What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it?
What has been your biggest failure?
How could you improve yourself?
How did you progress in your last job?
How do you handle criticism?
How do you work with others?
Do you need other people around to stimulate you?
Are you accepted into a team quickly?
Give me an example of when you took initiative to solve a problem?
What motivates you?
Are you competitive?
What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
Do you feel you are ready to take on greater responsibilities?
What are you like under pressure?
How many hours are you prepared to work?
What are your career goals?
How did you get on with your last manager/colleagues?
The team interview – how to cope with them In an effort to get a well-rounded perspective on job candidates, many companies ask numerous people to participate in the selection process. Depending on the level of job you are seeking, you may interview with an HR specialist, the hiring manager, the hiring manager’s boss and even staff members who would be your peers. In small companies you may have to sell yourself to the entire staff.
This team approach means that many different people interview you and then get together to debate whether they like you well enough to hire you. Sometimes, each person on the interview asks a different lot of questions. Other times, they all ask the same thing. This can happen by design, if the organization wants to see whether you change your answers along the way.
You will need to be sure to connect with each person. Be sure to have eye contact with the person asking the questions and to glance at the other team members while answering the question to be sure that you are connecting with each individual.
Be sensitive to the dynamics in the team. If they seem to want to control the interview, relax and flow with it, on the other hand be sure to offer information and ask questions.
Take responsibility for ensuring that the group understands what you have to offer. The best approach is to be sensitive and adapt your approach to the group. Don’t be overly aggressive and take over, yet do interact and show your enthusiasm.
Each person’s opinion can be weighted equally; in some cases, just one team member’s opposition can disqualify a candidate. Sometimes it is unclear what role or position the person holds therefore you need to be respectful of everyone you meet.
The behavioral interview – some tips
The interviewer asks specific questions seeking information about a candidate’s skills, character and preferences based on examples of past behavior. During the Behavioral interview, questions are directed toward specific experiences. Some examples follow:
“Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult person at a work.”
“What proactive steps have you taken to make your workplace more efficient and productive? Specifically describe a policy, project or system you created or initiated.”
“Describe a high pressure situation you had to handle at work. Tell me what happened, who was involved and what you did in terms of problem solving.”
“Some situations require us to express ideas or opinions in a very tactful and careful way. Tell me about a time when you were successful in this type of situation.”
The key in behavioral interviewing is to paint a picture of the reasons and thinking about the decision or behavior without bringing in unessential details. It is expected that forming an answer will take time. Think your examples through.
Be aware of the tendency to become too relaxed and reveal information that you didn’t intend to share. You need to do your part to foster the conversational tone, but don’t become so relaxed that you start straying from the point. Be friendly, stay professional.
Try to think of some questions to ask at interview. If you have researched the company well, you will be able to come up with questions concerning the organization. You may also like to find out more about your responsibilities in the role, the organization’s long and short term aims, training opportunities, overall organizational structure and what they would hope you achieve in the first six months.
Other things to remember:
1. Find out what happens next with the interview process and express your interest (if it is genuine!)
2. You may consider writing a letter to thank the interviewer for their time and to express your interest again.
3. Let your consultant know your feedback as soon as possible. It is important for us to know what you thought of the organization, the role, the people who interviewed you and your impression of how you performed in the interview. Please also let us know if you are interested in taking the job if it were to be offered to you.
A word about Equal Opportunities
Discrimination on the basis of race, marital status, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability is not legal. Although very rare, it is possible that you may be faced with a question which is discriminatory particularly from inexperienced interviewers. In these situations the best thing to do is to address the bias behind the question without confronting the interviewer, for example:
Are you planning to start a family?
Are you asking if I am able to work overtime? Are you asking if I would have commitment to this position?
How old are you?
Are you asking how many years of experience I have?
Are you married?
Are you asking if I am able to work overtime?
If you are concerned that the interview you attended was discriminatory, please do not hesitate to contact your consultant and be prepared to discuss your thoughts and experiences.