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Interview Support

Interview Support from Invite to Job Offer

Everything you need to know is here…

Firstly, if you are reading this then I guess you have been offered an interview and want to update yourself on best practice, if this is the case then congratulations on being invited to an interview, everything you need to know is here from preparing for your interview, researching the company, making those all-important outfit decisions and closing the interview with the odds in your favour!  Interviews don’t always run to a tried and tested programme, so this guide will help you deal with the unexpected and handle the curve balls…

Preparing for your interview

Regardless if this is your first interview, or your 10th, always treat each interview the same; prepare, research, plan every time and you have a greater chance of success, never ever leave anything to chance!  Firstly, book the interview in your calendar so you don’t double book with anything else, secondly plan your preparation…

You will generally have time to prepare, so book time into your schedule to research the company and job role, check out reviews, if you know anyone already working there then talk to them, find out what types of questions they typically ask (online forums are great, try www.glassdoor.com).

Write down the essentials – company name, date and time of interview, location; plan your journey and think about how you will get there, car or train/bus, is there parking, how close to the train station is the building etc…  plan your outfit and think of what you would like to know, what do you want to get out of this interview yourself.

Have a timeline for your interview preparation:

On the day you find out you have an interview

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Ensure that you have all the interview details recorded somewhere safe.

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Do your research on the company straight away – read the job description, look up the company, check reviews, know which type of interview you are attending, look up your interviewer on the company site or LinkedIn.

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Put your outfit/suit into the dry cleaners and wash/iron your shirt/top.

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Write down 6 questions you have for the interviewer; break them down into what you want to know about the company, the role, the people you will be working with, future prospects of the company and your role etc…

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Put your CV and notes in a safe place – with the interview details is a good idea; take enough copies of your CV for the number of interviewers and add 2 more for ‘just in case’, notebook and pen for taking notes, portfolio of your work/references if applicable and your all important questions (aim to write down 6 – if they are all answered throughout the interview then you can show them what you had and why you have nothing else to ask!

A few days before the interview

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Check that all your paperwork is in order

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Plan your route to the interview; do you know how you will get there, is there a charge for a toll/parking (make sure you have enough change), where is the car park – look for at least 2 you can use, how to get from the car park to the interview building what time do the buses/train run

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Check that your outfit is picked up from the dry cleaners and is sitting with your shirt/top ready to wear

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Plan your time of departure from home; give plenty of time for traffic, buses/trains being late, if the car park is full have time to get to the alternative car park

Day of the interview

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Allow enough time to get ready and to leave on time

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Make sure that you pick up your paperwork to take with you (interview details, CV, notes and questions)

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Don’t get rushed as this will add to any nerves you may be feeling

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Arrive 10-minutes before your interview time and take a few deep breaths before entering as this helps to calm your nerves

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Introduce yourself to the receptionist with a smile; advise your name, that you are there for an interview with <name> at <time>

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Allow the interviewer the take the lead with the interview

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Make sure that you listen and answer once the interviewer has stopped talking – do not over talk whilst they are speaking or interrupt

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Shake your interviewer’s hand when they introduce themselves to you and smile

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Speak clearly and confidently and always look at your interviewer

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Make sure that you ask your questions when asked to do so

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Don’t ignore a question if you don’t understand it – let the interviewer know that you are not sure what they are asking, and can they elaborate; it’s not a crime to ask to have a question repeated as you need to make sure you are giving the right answer

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Make sure you are enthusiastic about the company and the role and to let the interviewer know that you are very keen in the position

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Always be polite, friendly, smile, speak confidently and at the same pace as the interviewer and be concise with your answers; this is your one and only chance to impress the interviewer and win your dream job!

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Ask what the next step in the process is so you know what you can expect and when

If you plan everything above, then nothing is left to chance, and you are giving yourself a greater chance of success – your preparation will show, and this will not only impress the interviewer but will help you stand out of the others…

What type of interview have you been invited to, and what are the different types of interviews will you be expected to attend throughout the recruitment process?

Every company is different, and so will their interview process be too – if you do not know what type of interview you are attending, it is worth doing a little research or gauge this from your invitation; any good invite will let you know the basics, like date/time/location, but also who you will be seeing and how long you can expect to be there; one person, for an hour would probably mean a 1-2-1 interview, whereas 4 names plus preparation for a presentation on a ‘subject’ and lasting in the region of 3 hours will mean you are expected to plan and deliver a presentation to a panel of 4 with questions/answers and feedback… however, some may just give you the very basics and you think you are seeing one person when in fact there are 3 sitting in the room waiting for you – be prepared for anything and nothing will faze you!

The Telephone Interview

This is generally the first process a recruiter will use, this is a pre-interview screener and is used to shortlist candidates prior to a face-to-face interview – think of it as a run through of your experience, skills and knowledge in relation to the role, it will most commonly be based around your CV but also takes into consideration how you communicate, how confident you are in this type of discussion and to see if you are a good fit with the company.

Typical questions will be based on your CV, to check your experience and understand what you are looking for, they may well want to know why you are interested in the position, why are you leaving your current role or left your previous, what do you consider to be your skill set and why, what do you consider to be the biggest achievement in your career to date, they may also ask what your salary expectations are.

Expect to be on the call from 20-30 minutes, and make sure you are prepared and have everything to hand.  Although you are on the telephone beware of how you portray yourself as your voice will indicate a lot about who you are.

Dress as you normally would do for an interview, this may sound bizarre, but if you dress professionally then you will come across professional – it will automatically put you into work mode as opposed to a jeans and t-shirt day!  Also, remember to smile when you talk, and if needs be stand up and walk around the room whilst speaking – being upright changes your tone of voice and will stop you from slouching in a chair!

Ensure that you have a paper copy of your CV, letter, job description, interview details and any other information you have been given along with all your research and interview questions.  Finally make sure that you are in a closed room with no risk of interruption (turn off phone alarms, TV, put a note on the door DO NO ENTER) and breathe deeply 5-6 times prior to the call/interview itself to help calm any nerves.

Answer politely and don’t assume it is the person you have been informed who will be calling you, i.e. don’t answer ‘Hello Anne’ as it may be a colleague who starts the call. Let the interviewer take the lead and answer them at their speed, don’t speak too fast or too slow and remember that the interviewer cannot see you and any pauses may seem a lot longer at the other end of the phone – if you are pausing to think about an answer then let them know that you are ‘just thinking about that’.

Make sure your answers are succinct, to the point and include a beginning, middle and end – answers are mini stories – at the end of the interview advise that you appreciate their time and always let them know that you are very keen to proceed to the next stage.

The Video Interview

This is potentially only used with remote working candidates or can be used as a pre-screening interview replacing or incorporated alongside the telephone interview; it works pretty much the same as a face-to-face interview and can be recorded or live, dependent on the company requirements.  Be prepared for this type of interview as they are becoming more popular, most use conference video links so you will need a laptop/PC with camera.  Also, be prepared that the employer may ask your permission to record your interview, this is just so that they can compare and revisit your answers to decide.

Prepare for this interview exactly the same way you would for a face-to-face interview, additionally though you will need to organise your environment as you will probably be video linking from your home (clear clutter, choose your location carefully and ensure you take into consideration what your interviewer will see around you).  Test your equipment first, you do not want any technical hitches so check your volume, camera placement etc…

Expect to be on the video link anything from 30 – 90 minutes, and make sure you are prepared and have everything to hand.  Again, dress as you normally would do for an interview, so you look and ‘sound’ professional.

Ensure that you have a paper copy of your CV, letter, job description, interview details and any other information you have been given along with all your research and interview questions.  Finally make sure that you are in a closed room with no risk of interruption (turn off phone alarms, TV, put a note on the door DO NO ENTER) and breathe deeply 5-6 times prior to the interview itself to help calm any nerves.

The Face-to-Face Interview

A Face-to-Face interview can be one on one or it can be a panel, normally anywhere between 2 to 4 interviews present – always expect the unexpected, do not be fazed if you are met with a panel of interviewers!  These type of interviews focus on your capabilities, experience and competencies, behaviours at work and how you suit the role – they use questioning techniques to get to the nitty gritty of your experience and may also include tests, presentations, group exercises possibly…  Be prepared for open questions leading you to give full example answers, competency-based questioning.

 Ensure you have any paperwork with you, have your own questions written down and that you have fully researched the company and role – choose your outfit carefully, always be smart and professional.   If you are going for a position that requires you to wear a uniform or colour then try to match this as closely as you can for your interview – for instance, if the role means you will be wearing a navy colour suit and neck scarf then wear a suitable navy suit, and a smart scarf, this can place you into the role/company in the interviewers mind!

 Most interviews of this nature last for an hour, if it is more a group/panel assessment setting then expect to be there up to 4-hours!

The Group/Assessment Centre Interview

With Group Interviews/Assessment Centres then you will be mixing with your competition for the role – good preparation is key to performing well during demanding assessment-based interviews. They are designed to assess your suitability for a job, and you’ll be tested carefully throughout.

This type of interview is based on a series of tasks and activities that are structured around a one-, two- or three-day period to assess your suitability for a job.  Group/Assessment Centre’s typically comprise of interviews, in-tray exercises, presentations, tests, group exercises, social events such as dinner or lunch with prospective colleagues, case studies and role-plays.  You will be assessed on your performance in a range of situations and are generally used as the second or final stage of the selection process after preliminary interviews have taken place.

Likely to be designed around assessing you against the job competencies, assessment centre’s offer the advantage of allowing you to compensate for an activity not going well by excelling in another; the disadvantage is that you are under scrutiny for a lengthy period of time and this can be demanding.  Activities are usually timed, which means you are being assessed in your capacity to work under pressure.

As for interviews, good preparation is key and it’s important to ensure you have all documentation, notes and resources you might need with you, think about the job competencies required and consider what the assessors might be looking for, match your own knowledge, skills, interests and experiences to the job competencies and identify your strengths and weaknesses in relation to the job, try not to worry about the other candidates, focus on putting your key qualities and attributes forward, maintain a friendly manner and remember you are being assessed even in ‘informal’ situations.

Again, with all types of interview, make sure you dress smartly and professionally, suited to the environment you are attending and that you feel comfortable.  Be yourself, be calm and remember to smile!

Interview Questions

The most common starter questions in an interview are the ones that tell the recruiter about who you are;

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Tell me about yourself, why have you applied for this role?

This question begs the answer about how you have reached the point in your career to apply for this position – how long you have worked in the industry, why you have applied, what has attracted you to the post and outline a brief history of your career history and experience in relation to the role.  This question is not aimed at who you are outside of work, a common misconception at interviews.

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What do you know about our company?

Your research will come into its own on this question – make sure you advise what you know and what you have learned through research.  Products, organisation size, structure, reputation, market holding, history and values etc…

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Why do you want to work for us?

This question is about what you can do for the company and not the other way around – talk about what you know of their success and progression plans and let them know how you can aid their success in this to meet their goals and challenges.

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Why should we hire you?

Tell them about your strengths, experience, skills and ability in relation to the needs of the role and their organisation.

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What environment do you thrive in?

Think about the organisation and the role, is it a fast-paced industry that requires energy and motivation – if so, and that is who you are, then say this now!  Look at where you have worked and explain this to the interviewer.

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What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Pick out 3 of your key strengths and outline these to the interviewer – think about what strengths you would need in the role you are being interviewed for and let this be your guide.

Weakness; include only 1 and advise that although you recognise this as a weakness you have turned it into strength – always turn negatives into positives.

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Why have you left your job?

Never criticise your job, employer or colleagues – as discussed it is ok to state that you have enjoyed every moment in your role but, having thought for a while that you would like to move on and you feel the time is now right to make that move – explain your ethics and acknowledgment of the time you want to use to attract the right role and organisation.

Competency/Behavioural Based Questioning

This is now the most popular form of questioning at an interview and shows the interviewer how competent you are, not just at interviews, but also how you will be within the role, how you will react to colleagues and management and above all, what you will bring to the organisation.

 There is no complete list of questions, and answers will be specific to your own background and experience but below is an outline with suggested scenarios at the end to memorise before the interview – try to highlight 5-6 specific achievements and think of them as a mini story with a beginning, middle and end (always remember to close your answer!).  It is always good to bear in mind what the interviewer wants to hear from you, what the meaning is behind the question:

Question

Competency

Which change of job was the hardest to make?

Adaptability

Tell us about a time when your communication has made a difference?

Communication

Describe a situation when you had to deal with an angry customer?

Lisening

Tell us about a time when your communication has made a difference?

Communication

What is the decision that you have put of the longest and why?

Decisiveness

How do you cope going away from the office for long periods of time (holiday)?

Delegation

Describe a time when you had to drive a change within the team?

Leadership

How do you cope with stress?

Resilience & Tenacity

What risks do you see in moving to this new post?

Risk Taking

The above is, as stated previously, non-exhaustive and the recruiter can ask any question based on any competence but the basis of using a mini story to answer remains the same for all.

Question

Competency

Which change of job was the hardest to make?Adaptability
Tell us about a time when your communication has made a difference?Communication
Describe a situation when you had to deal with an angry customer?Lisening
Tell us about a time when your communication has made a difference?Communication
What is the decision that you have put of the longest and why?Decisiveness
How do you cope going away from the office for long periods of time (holiday)?Delegation
Describe a time when you had to drive a change within the team?Leadership
How do you cope with stress?Resilience & Tenacity
What risks do you see in moving to this new post?Risk Taking

The above is, as stated previously, non-exhaustive and the recruiter can ask any question based on any competence but the basis of using a mini story to answer remains the same for all.

Character Based Questions

The interviewer will want to find out about the real you, your morals, values and ethics and show your passions and positivity and they will be quite direct questions, for example ‘what do you consider to be your own core values’, ‘how do you rate this in comparison wit the company core values’, ‘who have you admired the most in your career’, ‘who do you aspire to be’…

Curveball Questions

Every interview will have one, my favourite is ‘what is your favourite cake’ – we like cake in our office!  But seriously, expect to be asked something that has, in the surface, nothing to do with your job – these are thrown in to try and throw you off guard, and to see how you retain your composure, and make sure you do!  I have heard as well that a regular curveball is to ask ‘every CV has at least one lie in it, what is it in yours’…

Always be truthful, if you like cake then great, but if not then state that you actually prefer fruit as it gives your more clarity in your work!  If your CV is totally honest then say so, and in reality, it should be!

You may also be asked to sell something, a highlighter, or a mug or a coffee machine – if you are going for a job in sales then expect to be asked to sell to the interviewer (role play at its best).

Salary Negotiations

It’s always best to avoid this question if you can, unless you already know the salary banding for the role – it’s very unusual for this to arise before the interview, but at some point, in the process it will be raised, and you must be prepared, and confident, in your reply!

If you are simply not sure then the best way to answer is to say ‘As this role is different to your present position you would like to find out more with regards to the role and responsibilities to ascertain a fair salary band between you, that suits both yourself and the company, is it ok to defer the answer to this question until I have some more information’

They may try and push you to make the first move with a salary negotiation but ideally you need them to give you an idea of what they have budgeted – always defer if you can but if you can’t then, at a push, say that ‘Well, my current salary is £XXXXX and I would be keen to negotiate an improvement on this level in conjunction with the role and company expectations’. 

It’s always a risk that you will either price yourself too high or too low when asked this question, try though to ensure that you find out the banding so you can position your between middle and top end, never go straight to the top end as they will always look for an increase within 3-6 months and expect this to take you to the higher end once you have been carrying out the role.

After the Interview (all types)

Always ask the timescale that you will hear regarding next steps, if you haven’t heard in this time then always contact your interviewer and ask for feedback.  They will, normally, give you some pointers on what was good and what could be improved with your interview technique and you can then take this forward with you – remember to always thank them again for their time.  In addition, by calling and asking for feedback you are reminding them of you, there may have been another position come up which you would be perfect for, the person they have offered a next step/job to may have declined and you are then showing a very keen interest so may well get through.

Next Steps

If you get through to the next stage, then prepare all over again – you will be meeting with an important employee in your journey, it could well be the hiring manager, your potential line manager or senior; be well prepared!  By now you will know more with regards to the role and expectations – work on these points and re-evaluate your experience in line with the potential questions you could be asked.  Always re-write your questions, even if some stay the same!

Make sure that your CV and all related paperwork are together somewhere you can get them easily and panic free –check for routes to the interview site, fare/parking money etc…  Allow yourself plenty of time to reach your destination so as not to be late…

Remain calm, confident and breathe!!!

We can help with any of the following…

CV Writing / Cover Letters / Application Forms
LinkedIn Profiles / Professional Bios / Curriculum Vitae
Interview Techniques / Career Counselling

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