Interview Success Tips

An interview is the first step you will take to meeting and making first contact with your potential employer. This is the most important stage in terms of making the right impression and leaving the interviewer no choice but to take you on. There are too many people who fall at this crucial hurdle, they see interviews at first glance as a daunting and very uncomfortable process in which they need to struggle their way through. With these simple tips which are built for success you will be able to conquer the nerves and make interviews a far less fearsome proposition.

1) To do’s

  • Arrive with plenty of time to think – Not only make sure you know the route to your interview meeting, but also plan your journey to avoid traffic jams and consider congestion times just to leave yourself comfortable in knowing you won’t be late.
  • If you are late – if you do end up rushing or potentially running late, ensure you keep a smile on your face and a calm relaxed manner when you enter the interviewing room, a calm and composed image reflects confidence, the ability to handle pressure and a general friendly approach.
  • General manners – Being polite and friendly can go a long way when trying to cast a good first impression. Ensure you have a smile, and a good courtesy about yourself, as you will need to extend this impression to everyone you may meet in the company.
  • Practice a strong and positive handshake – Sloppy wet and weak hands will only send out messages of being a weak, nervous, and easily buckles under pressure. However, people are just as put off by a handshake they consider aggressive or arrogant, try to give off a strong firm impression, while ensuring you aren’t going to rip their arm off.
  • Eye contact – Maintaining a good level of eye contact can show not only you have an interest in what is being said but you are thinking about what is being discussed. Nodding, listening and smiling will give off a good non-verbal communication nature in which reflects your understanding. Crossing your arms, slouching or fidgeting will only reflect badly on your personality.

2) To avoid

  • Entering with a coat – When entering the interviewing room, the first 5 seconds will determine what first impression you give off, therefore not texting, not taking a phone call and ensuring you are dressed appropriately will go a long way.
  • Distractions – Try to keep your mind focused and avoid anything catching your eye away from the interviewer, turn your phone off to avoid anything that could also cause a distraction.
  • Rudeness – It may be tempting but being rude or very personal about working relationships with previous employers doesn’t cast a great light over what type of person you are, reveal only information that needs to be known.

3) Dress to impress

When entering, an interview being dressed appropriately is vital to your first impression. When meeting for the first time with an employer it will last in their memory and recent surveys suggest that most employers will decide on whether the candidate will be hired within the first 5 minutes.

What should I wear? (Men)

  • Suits – Wearing a suit is a must in terms of appearance, certain colours such as black, dark grey or a dark blue are acceptable. You don’t require a 3-piece suit but it should be in good condition and clean.
  • Shirt and tie – Ties aren’t as common these days but can be vital to appearing at your best. A tie is a must for interviews.
  • Shoes – Smart, clean and appealing shoes can be regarded as something not considered necessary, but if any glances are taken at your shoes, and they appear scruffy of unclean, it can reflect on your personality. Do not wear trainers not matter the interview setting.
  • Image – Try to present yourself as smart as possible. Ensuring you are clean with a look of good presentation, can give an impression of being a neat and tidy personality.
  • Novelty – Ties should be a matching suit colour or defiantly something standard, novelty ties will only give off a casual impression.
  • Socks – Try to never wear white socks as the practically clash with every suit colour, unless you’re going to the gym or tennis before/after.
  • Short sleeved – Don’t wear a short-sleeved shirt, try to stick to long sleeved and avoid that burning desire in hot weather to roll the sleeves up as it only brings a casual look about you.
  • Documents – Try to carry any/all relevant documents with you. Any additional information carried in a shoulder bag or document wallet can aide you with documents of relevance.
  • Coats – Avoid wearing you coat into an interview as you will conceal the smart suit look you have dressed for.

What should I wear? (Women)

  • Dress – Try to appear as smart as possible, a trouser and jacket or skirt combination is always ideal.
  • Shoes – Wear your best pair of shoes. But don’t ignore practicality; being able to walk is also essential.
  • Make up – Try to avoid large amount of makeup, blusher, foundation or eye make-up should be kept to a minimal in order to not give an inappropriate for work and essentially an interview look.
  • Jewellery – Try to keep Jewellery to a minimum, anything more may be considered unprofessional.

4) How to prepare for a competency based interview

Competency based interviews are generally known as skills based tests or behavioural/structured interviews. These types of interviews take experience and predict what future performance is possible using said experience. The manager/interviewer involved within managing the process will be seeking examples of past behaviour and skills used, that can provide a full evaluation and conclusion to what potential future performance may be possible.

4.1 What happens in a competency interview?

The interview will begin with a series of questions along the lines of: "Describe a situation when...Give an example of when you have...". Once answered, you will then generally be prompted for further information. Once exhausted, the interviewer will move onto the next subject and try to avoid any discussion. When all possible topics have been evaluated then you may have to chance to ask your own questions. Although this may feel like an unnatural type of interview technique, it is a rigid and fair way of processing an interview due to all candidates being asked the same questions.

4.2 How can I prepare for a competency based interview?

The first thing to recommend would be to take an A4 pad of paper. A pen may also be needed but these 2 things will form a basis for the interview. You will need to the take this to the interview and use it to increase your chances of being offered the vacant role by up to 40% due to information you will be able to take down on your pad and use. Once at the interview proceed with these steps:

Step 1: Read the brochure provided by the employer and take down job description skills with you may need to produce in the interview. Then proceed to try and jot down any times you may have used these competencies and skills, any examples can be used whether from current/previous employment, voluntary work, holidays, travel or even personal and fimly experiences.

Step 2: Try to write at least a paragraph on each individual situation and outline what happened, how you used them competencies to your advantage and why you chose that time as appropriate to use them skills in that situation. Try to use the STAR format:

  1. Situation: What was the situation?
  2. Task: what specific task?
  3. Action: What action were you required to take and why?
  4. Result: what was the outcome of the action you took

The main focus of the paragraphs should be yourself and your part in the situation, even if you were in a group you are the focus of the task and you only are being evaluated. It is vital that you speak to your contact in order to gain any other information that you may be able to utilise to prepare.

Step 3: Once you have gained all the relevant information you may need, you can then proceed to make a few lists of the examples you feel can best illustrate the required competence. These may even be the first things you answer in the interview so make sure your list is well written and easily able to use points of importance.

  • What if I can’t think of a relevant example?

When you are trying to jot down some examples of situations, they don’t particularly need to be high level examples involving complex cases, they just need to be relevant. If there only seems to be one isolated area then you may not be at a complete loss, providing the areas you are strong within counter balance your lack of experience and skills within the area in question.

4.3 Good questions to ask the Interviewer

Asking questions is a must, even if they have vaguely been covered during the interview. Asking questions can let the interviewer see you are enthusiastic and prepared to only gain your own views on the job role in question, but have an interest in your own development and what may be required in the future/ during the period of employment. Try to prepare at least 6 different types of questions, usually in different areas or sectors of the job role/ company/ Qualifications etc. Doing so will enable you to cover the 3 different scenarios which can occur, and not leave you frustrated after the interview that you haven’t found out certain information.

Company questions

  • What makes people want to stay within this company?
  • Where does the company stand within the market?
  • What does the company plan on doing with the near and distant future?
  • Is there one or multiple offices?

Departmental questions

  • What does the department do within the company?
  • Is the department planning on expanding?
  • How close is the department to other areas of the company?
  • What is the department size compared to other areas?

Questions about the job

  • What is the typical day for someone working in this job role?
  • What type of person would suit the role you are hiring for?
  • What set of competencies/ skills/ experiences would you like in the new person?
  • How long has the manager I will be reporting to been working at this company?

Training and appraisals

  • What training is available to staff members?
  • Is the training internal or external?
  • What is the approach to further studying?
  • Who will review my progress and how often will this happen?

Prospects and opportunities

  • Are there any plans for career development?
  • Are there any promotional prospects? Are there any progression prospects?
  • How are members of staff encouraged to progress within the company?
  • How do you view the role developing?

These questions are the basis for questions you will want to ask in the interview. You will need to amend the questions and make them relevant to your interview and role. Preparing properly can avoid getting stuck with asking a question just for the sake of it. Therefore, be careful when asking a question as you may have already been given this information pre-interview, and make sure you want to know the answer to your question.

4.4 When in the interview

Once you have properly prepared yourself for eventualities and every possible situation, it is time to get in that interview and show them what you have done. Make sure you take your notes with you and have it in easy reading distance on a surface or on your lap. Always ask if you can take notes, and the answer will always be yes, it always shows you are keep to not only know the role, but you are enthusiastic about your own development and career, a trait generally shown in peoples careers when displayed in their personal life. If possible try to take notes very obviously, this can show the interviewer you are interested in their responses. Note down important facts as well as answers to your own questions. You can then use your pad to ask at least 2 of your questions. If you are interested in the role, try to say during the interview. Don’t be shy or laid back, if you are interested make sure the employers knows your passionate about taking the job, as this will leave a lasting impression.

5) Why do I need to use all these preparations?

These preparations before the interview can improve your chances of landing the job by up to 40%, facts and figures may not convince some people, but the fact you have now prepared for every possibility will leave you feeling comfortable when a situation arises as you have a plan, in the interview, in your pad, with you! The nerves will brush aside and the natural, confidence will start to flow out into your interview style, making you more marketable and presentable candidates for the role you are applying for. If you still aren’t convinced, then consider the following:

  • Proper and well-rehearsed preparation will allow you to perform confidently within your interview, confidence is the major defining factor between a good and bad interview. Confidence allows you to get your questions answered, and your interests across.
  • This will allow you to impress them more with other sections of the interview. If there are 20 people to interview then going through the basics time and time again will only leave the interviewer feeling the process is tedious and time consuming, being prepared can avoid this and leave a good impression on the employer as he won’t need to spend more time teaching and running through information which was already given pre-interview.
  • Researching the company and role before the interview will allow you to gauge whether this is the role you want to be involved in. Remember that interviews aren’t just for interviewers to see if you are good for them, but also to see if the company is moving in the right direction for you.
  • Competency based interviews are becoming more common with employers as they are seen to test several interviewees fairly, with getting the same questions and situations. Finally remember to enjoy the interview process.

Good luck !

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