You will have a good chance of securing an attractive job offer if you are the best prepared candidate being interviewed. We hope this guide will help you in your preparation. A key part of the role of your consultant is to ensure that you enter the interview room feeling confident, so make sure you get all the information and help you need from us.
Studying the company's website is just the start. Spend time researching articles and information about the company across the internet. Perhaps call the company and ask them to send brochures or product information. Speak to anyone you can find who works for the company or has done so in the past. Speak to suppliers and customers for their opinion. Your consultant should be able to give you some hard and soft information on the company.
Many roles do not come with job specs, even job specs that are produced can often miss out key elements. Ensure that you get as full a picture of the role as you can from your consultant.
Who will you meet?
Find out what you can about all the people you will meet. Their job title, role, age, tenure with the company, interview style, even their interests outside work.
Interview format can vary from a chat over a pint, to a four-on-one panel, to presentations and case studies. Ensure you know exactly what to expect.
Many companies now use competency based interview techniques. (Also known as behavioural or situational interviews.) The focus of questioning here is on specific examples of past work experience. Be prepared to provide specific instances that demonstrate your skills and be prepared to talk about them in more depth.
Even if you are attending a second interview and you know that the organisation has an informal dress policy, err on the side of formality.
These come in two forms:- personality profiling and aptitude tests.
There is limited preparation you can do for a personality test, although your understanding of the role and company may have some impact on the way you answer questions.
However, if you have not successfully completed an aptitude test within the last 3 months it is vital that you do 8-10 hours practice. We have had candidates with first class degrees in Maths fail numerical aptitude tests for mid-level roles. Get hold of some books and develop your technique so that you can perform at your full potential. We can also give you details of aptitude test tutors.
To practice real psychometric and aptitude tests for free visit:www.assessmentday.co.uk
Getting to the venue
Eliminate the risk of arriving at the venue flustered by carefully planning your journey and leaving plenty of time. If there is any danger of late arrival, inform your consultant immediately so that the client is forewarned.
If you are running late call your consultant who will let the interviewer know.
The start of the interview
If people are in the interview that you were not expecting take the time to ask about them, their job title and role. It will show you knew who you were expecting and will help you understand their involvement in the process.
If there are people in the interview who appear junior or do not ask any questions, ignore them at your peril! They will be asked their opinion regardless of whether they spoke. Make frequent eye contact and seek an opportunity to bring them into the conversation where you can.
If you are asked whether you would like a drink avoid a fussy dialogue with clear: "Yes please. Milk but no sugar." (Only say "No thanks" if you are nervous about your hands shaking.)
The end of the interview
You will have asked your key questions during the main interview but always keep some good questions in reserve for the end. If all your prepared questions have been covered you will have to think of some new ones quickly. You may find some ideas along these lines:
- What is logical progression within the position, where can I expect to be if my performance is good?
- What are the future plans for the company and department?
- What, in your opinion, are the major reasons why someone should join this company?
- Do you have any reservations about my skills / ability? Can I clarify or explain anything in more detail?
At the end of the interview show a business-like approach by asking about next steps and timescales.
The interview itself
You should not allow the interviewer-question/interviewee-answer pattern to develop as though you were in an examination room. If you do your homework you will have all the factual data you need at your finger tips and you will be free to concentrate on answering the real questions; "What response would register most favourably with me if I were sitting in that chair?"; "What does he/she really want to be assured about?"; "What will he/she see as a benefit to the company?" It is important that you ask questions also, such as: Who, What, Where, When, types of questions (open-ended) to spark the type of dialogue that wins interviews.
However, you still have to deal with questions asked, whether or not you think them relevant and to feel confident that you can deal with them, here is a list of typical questions with some ideas on how you might respond.
- 1. What are your strong points?
- A common question. Think before you go to the interview and make sure they are relevant to the job. Back up anything you say with evidence.
- 2. ...and your weak ones?
- Play down the weak points. Instead say something he/she may see as a virtue...."I‘m sometimes a bit of a workaholic"....used to be a bit hard on my staff, but lately I‘ve been better at getting results without the direct pressures......"
- 3. Do you mind travelling?
- "No," is a conversation stopper. "I rather enjoy it" suggests you like escaping. Consider something along the lines of ..."It is part of the job and I‘m used to it. I find I can get work done on trains and driving gives me a chance to think about current problems."
- 4. What are you looking for from this job?
- If this comes late in the interview, you‘ll know enough about this job to answer. If it comes early, don‘t fall into tired cliches about ‘challenge‘ etc. Never try to answer this generally. A swift, "something I can get my teeth into.." followed by a question on what he/she sees as the most important factors.
- 5. What appeals to you about this job?
- The company......it‘s reputation.......fine products, etc. Flattery is acceptable spread much more generously than you might think.
- 6. Why do you think you‘re the right person for this job?
- If you don‘t feel you know enough about the job to say at this point, or to answer with conviction and justification then ask more questions until you do.
- 7. You seem to have moved about a lot; how do you account for it? Or; you seem to have stayed put for a long time; is this now a handicap to you?
- Heads I win; tails you lose. Let's make you feel guilty either way. Don't put up with it. If (a) the moves shown on your career history are totally justified by your having got the job done effectively before you went on to something more demanding and rewarding. If (b) the job changed and grew; it was simply within the one company.
- 8. What salary are you seeking?
- You should have an indication of the range being offered from your consultant, but always avoid getting into detailed discussions about salary and benefits at an early stage of the interview process. Explain that you would need to think about it and to understand more about the role etc.
- 9. Where do you hope to be in three years‘ time?
- A common question. There will be a sensible answer in the context of the job you are discussing.
- 10. Why should we choose you in preference to the other candidates?
- Never "I think I am the best person for the job" etc, You don't know the other candidates or have any idea of their experience or qualifications. Counter-question: "Would you agree that your main problems in this area are..........?"
- 11. Were you happy in your last job?
- Of course. Paint a happy picture, never bore other people with your problems.
- 12. Would you prefer to be a small fish in a big pond or a big fish in a little pond?
- For some reason, a favourite question with many interviewers. If you are not surprised to hear it you will not be tempted to look inside yourself for the answer! ... but your own thoughts are irrelevant, choose what matches the job situation.
- 13. Now then Mr. Williams would you like to tell me about yourself?
- Handle this as a general question, you can't sell your services until you know what they are looking for; recount your successes.
- 14. How much do you know about us?
- From your research you can discuss with confidence their products, activities and competitors. If you've not bothered to research, they'll quickly pick this up ...
- 15. Good afternoon, Mr Williams, you didn‘t have any trouble finding us?
- You never had any trouble, even if you have spent the last half-hour in a flat spin wondering if you ever would find them. "Your secretary's directions were very clear," might be appropriate.
- 16. Do you have any particular expertise outside your business life?
- Watch it. "I used to be something of an authority on...., but I‘ve rather lost touch", is OK. Anything that suggests that your interest might lie there rather than in your work is obviously a mistake. On the other hand, a person‘s personal interests could be of benefit to the company.
- 17. What are your long-term career plans?
- You worked these out before you came to this particular interview. They clearly match the future of the job you are discussing
- 18. What were the major problems in your last job?
- The problems you will think of first are the ones which did not go away and were not satisfactorily resolved. Most interviewees will start to talk about these. You will not. You will only talk about the problems you were able to solve. You will see this as a splendid opportunity to discuss your successes.
- 19. You don't have much experience in......How do you think you‘ll be able to cope?
- Do not allow yourself to feel vulnerable. You are not a ‘con-man‘ - you wouldn‘t be there if you thought yourself incapable of doing the job. "I think you will agree it is more a matter of ability than specific experience. Initially, of course, I need to do some hard work; familiarising myself with the details, but after that it‘s a help not to have solved the same problem the same way so often, it doesn‘t get re-thought, don't you find?" Don‘t say "no problem." To the interviewer it is, and they may think you too thick or arrogant to see it.
- 20. Do you ever have doubts as to your ability to do a job?
- You have had, yes; you are not an idiot. Use this as an opportunity to relate a success story of overcoming initial concern about how to deal with a difficulty.
- 21. Are you a good manager?
- A bad question (Are you expected to say "No?") but quite common. Help your interviewer out. Tell them about your style of management and how well it has worked after you took over a demoralised or unruly team etc.