Interviews are obviously the key point in the recruitment process. It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, if you don’t interview well it will limit your career choices. It’s crucial that you prepare well for your interview. We hope this short guide can help you. Before you even start the interview process you have to make sure that you:
• Know your CV inside out
• Know where you want to go to next in your career
• Know all about your potential employer
• Know the facts and figures about your previous employers
• Prepare the questions that you are going to ask about the potential employer
• Know what sort of interview styles you might be faced with
• Know how to manage those styles to ensure that you are offered the job.
• Brush up on the do’s and don’ts.
Some of our younger candidates may have had a lot of practice at interviews whereas if you are a more experienced candidate you might not have been for an interview for 7 or 8 years.
Either way, spending a short time reading this guide and preparing for your interview will definitely bring you benefits.
Know Your CV inside out
No matter which interview technique your potential employer uses, s/he will want you to prove that you can actually do the job. Don’t forget that the interviewer doesn’t know a lot about you except for what is in your CV and that they will use the CV as a prompt to find out more about you and your abilities.
A winning technique is to be able to tell a story about every point you make on your CV. It’s called the SOAR technique and is great for dealing with what’s known as behavioural and competency-based interviews. (See information on SOAR technique)
Know where you want to go to next in your career
Employers are interested in focused, driven, career-minded people. If you don’t know where you want to go in your career, or even what career you want to follow, the interviewer will not be impressed. Think this through before the interview and ensure that what you want fits in with what’s on offer with the employer. For instance, there is no point in saying that you want to be a Regional Manager if you are going for a job at a single-branch organisation.
Know Your Potential Employer
You’ve got to show respect for the organisation that’s interviewing you and the best way to do this is to know a lot about them. Fortunately, the internet now makes this easy.
Check out their website and look to see how long they’ve been in business, what they specialise in, where their branches are located, who the main players are in the organisation, who their clients are and what their turnover and profits are.
Know the Interview Style
There are a number of different interview styles.
• Behavioural or competency-based
• Ad hoc
Manage the styles and get the offer
Putting a little bit of work in prior to the interview really will bring you the benefit of many more job offers.
Concentrate on getting the job first and then consider if you really want it later. Unless you definitely do NOT want the job, tell the interviewer how keen you are on the position.
Ask if there is any reason why you would not be offered the position / the next interview. If the interviewer says that they need to think it over, ask them what it is that they need to think over, address those points again and try to secure the job offer.
If you think you are being too pushy, don’t. The interviewer will think that if you are keen to sell yourself you will be keen to sell their company.
The SOAR Interview Technique
This is particularly useful in behavioural, situational or competency-based interviews. You can spot these interviews easily because the interviewer will usually ask something like “Tell me about a situation where you were....”
You should answer these questions with a little 2 minute (not 10 minute!) story following the SOAR technique.
S stands for Scenario. Begin your story with a brief description of the scenario you were in. Don’t bore them to death with it. It needs to be brief and clear. You just need to give them the big picture.
O stands for Ownership. This is where you explain very clearly, that it was your responsibility to get things resolved.
A is for Action. Tell them what action you took, but don’t go into too much detail.
R stands for Results. Tell them what your action actually achieved.
Interview styles and how to deal with them
Behavioural or Competency-Based:
The basis of behavioural interviewing otherwise known as “targeted recruitment” is “past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour”. Questions asked of you will relate specifically to your experience. Expect questions like:
“Tell me about an account that you developed from beginning to end.”
“Describe a problem you have solved. What was your approach and what was the outcome?”
When confronted with a behavioural interview, you will be glad you practiced your SOAR stories.
If, during a behavioural interview, you find yourself beginning answers with, “Well, what I would do...”, stop!!!!
Think about a specific example and begin an answer with, “Well, what I did was...”.
If you have detailed information about the role you are being interviewed for, you can do some very specific preparation by aligning your experiences with the job’s key competencies.
(The preference-based interview is usually the preference-based “part” of an interview.)
This method is used to find out what individuals really want out of a career. It is based on a theory, for example, a Recruiter could be interviewing an Accountant who would love to be a HR Manager.
If you don’t convince the interviewer that you really know what you want out of life and out of a job, you will probably fail the interview, so brush up and have your answers ready!
If a Line Manager in an organisation is interviewing you, or the interview is a one or two stage process, there is a good chance that no pre-ordained method will be followed.
It is still really important in this situation to know your CV and the organisation. You will need to develop answers so that you are prepared for the following questions:
• Why did you choose this particular role?
• Why would you like to work for our organisation?
• What do you want to be doing in your career, five years from now?
• What was your last salary and bonus?
• What style of management gets the best from you?
• Can you get references from your previous employers? What would they say about you?
• What have you learnt from some of the jobs you have had? Which did you most enjoy?
• What have you done that’s shown initiative?
• What is your major weakness? What are you doing about it?
• What do you think determines a person’s progress in a good company?
• How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
• What does teamwork mean to you?
• What are your strengths?
• What can you bring to this role?
Answers to some of these questions will call on self-knowledge from two sources: the assessment of your ideal next career move and your CV. Whenever possible, use SOAR to demonstrate your achievements in answers to these questions.
It is important in an ad hoc interview to be prepared to answer questions about weaknesses or areas of development. Ensure your weaknesses are acknowledged but it is paramount that you state your intent to do something about these, for example:
Q: What are your weaknesses?
A: I’ve got loads of energy and enthusiasm. I really enjoy meeting people and I’m very pro-active. However, I don’t always follow-up paperwork so that’s really something I should be looking to improve on.
Two commonly asked questions at the start and end of interviews provide you with the opportunity to give an impression summary to the interviewer:
• “Why are you here?” and later, maybe last, in the interview:
• “Do you have any questions for me?”
Don’t leave these to chance. Have your answers prepared beforehand and know them off by heart. Don’t forget, first impressions and last impressions count for a lot. Make sure you make the most of these opportunities to sell yourself.
Do’s and Don’ts of Interviews
• DO know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name, its correct pronunciation, and his/her title.
• DO arrive a few minutes early, but not too early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable. You can easily get directions from www.mapquest.com or http://maps.google.com by simply entering the postcode of the potential employer. If you need car parking, ask Firstaff the best one to use.
• DO dress conservatively, preferably in darker colours. Men should wear a dark suit, matching shirt and tie and have clean shoes. Leave earrings at home. Women should wear a business suit. Everyone should pay attention to all facets of their dress and grooming.
• DO greet the interviewer by their surname, shake hands firmly and SMILE. It takes three times as many muscles to frown as it does to smile, so take the easy way out.
• DO wait until you are offered a chair before sitting down.
• DO get the interviewer to describe the position and the duties to you early in the interview so that you can relate your background and skills to the position. Ask what the qualities are of the people who are already achieving in the company and relate your qualities to them. Smile.
• DO find out about the company. Check out their website and look to see how long they’ve been in business, what they specialise in, where their branches are located, who the main players are in the organisation, who their clients are and what their turnover and profits are.
• DO refresh your memory on the facts and figures of your present employer and former employers.
• DO be prepared to answer typical questions such as:
What are your strengths?
What are you really good at?
What are your weaknesses?
What are you doing about addressing them?
What do you know about our company?
Why did you choose your particular career?
What are your qualifications?
• DO make sure that your good points get across to the interviewer in a factual, sincere manner. Keep in mind that you alone can sell yourself to an interviewer. Make them realise the need for you in their organisation. Smile.
• DO prepare the questions YOU want answered. This is your opportunity to find out if the company will give you the opportunity for the growth and development that you want. Some questions you might ask are:
Do you have a detailed description of the position?
What is the reason the position is available?
What is the culture of the company?
Is there an anticipated induction and training programme?
Are there advanced training programmes available for those who demonstrate outstanding ability?
What are the company growth plans?
What are the most successful sectors / disciplines?
The next step
• DON’T answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Elaborate whenever possible. Tell them those things about yourself that relate to the position. Smile.
• DON’T slouch – it looks like you’re not interested. Look alert and interested at all times. Look the interviewer in the eye when s/he talks. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. Smile.
• DON’T “over-answer” questions. You can talk yourself out of a job this way!
• DON’T lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as much to the point as possible.
• DON’T ask questions about salary, bonuses, holidays, office Christmas parties etc. on your first interview unless you are positive that the employer is interested in hiring you and raises the issue first. Wait until the second interview or ask Firstaff to find these details out for you. However, you should know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.
Negative Factors To Watch For
During the course of an interview, the employer will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes.
Listed below are negative factors to watch out for:
• Poor personal appearance
• Inability to express thoughts clearly; poor diction or grammar
• Being “woolly” when responding to questions
• Lack of planning for career - no purpose or goals
• Lack of interest and enthusiasm - passive and indifferent
• Lack of confidence – nervousness
• Over-emphasis on money - interested only in remuneration
• Evasive - makes excuses for previous unfavourable actions
• Lack of tact/maturity/courtesy
• Speaking ill of past employers or colleagues
• Failure to look interviewer in the eye
• Limp handshake
• Lack of appreciation of the value of experience
• Failure to ask good questions about the job and company (this is most important!)
• Lack of preparation for interview - failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions
Conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on an opportunity. It is better to be in the position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.
“Close off” the interview - If you are interested in the position, ask for it. Ask for the next interview, if the situation so demands. If the interviewer offers the position to you, and you are interested, accept on the spot. If you need some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date when you can provide an answer.
Don’t be too discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with their office first or interview more applicants before making a decision.
If you get the impression that the interview is not going well or that you have already been rejected, don’t let your disappointment show. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction.
Thank the interviewer for their time and consideration of you. You have done all you can if you have answered the two questions uppermost in his/her mind:
1. Why are you interested in the job and the company?
2. What can you offer and can you do the job?
Call Firstaff immediately after the interview and explain what happened. We need to talk with you before the interviewer calls us back. If you are interested in progressing further it is really important that we tell the employer that you are keen and quickly arrange the next step.