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Interview tips

November 3, 2017

Your interviews are the gateway to the next stage of your career, so if you want to succeed you’ll need to take preparation seriously. Interview technique is something you can work on and improve. The key is therefore practice, practice and more practice!

In this guide will go through three sections: initial preparation, interview answers, and on the day

Initial preparation

Main points

  • Get a sound knowledge of the company
  • Understand the role
  • Get comfortable with interview format

Understanding the company

How well do you know the company that you’re interviewing for? Check their website, financial sources, annual reports, news and media for information on their culture and current events. If possible, visit the company stores or offices. Take note of the language used in the job description or on the company’s website. This could be useful in understanding the culture, and later in preparing your answers.

Understanding the role

Collect all of the information you have on the job so far. What it involves, what the salary is (or what you’re looking for), who you might be working with. If there was a personal contact on the job advert, see if they have a profile on the company website. Every piece of information could help strengthen your answers during the interview.

Interview format

Most interviews you attend will follow a similar format. In general, there are two types of question you’ll be asked:

What you know: these questions will draw on your knowledge and experience. They could include work experience, education, training, goals, character, personal qualities, the job that you’re seeking, the company, and the knowledge required to perform the job.

Problem and solution: this is where you’ll have to think on your feet. Given a scenario, you will identify what you would do. The question may focus on how you would handle a hypothetical situation or a situation that you’ve handled in the past.

We’ll talk about how best to answer these in the next section. But understanding the two types of question might make your preparation easier.

Interview answers

People prepare for job interview questions in different ways. They may write specific answers to as many specific questions as possible and memorise the answers. However, we recommend you think about broad categories of questions, and look to adjust you answer based on the situation.

For example, you could categorise questions into ‘general experience’. This will involve your current and past jobs, your responsibilities, and the skills you demonstrated. By reviewing all of this, you will be prepared for a number of distinctively phrased questions. For example, ‘what are your daily duties?’ and also, ‘how does your experience qualify you for the job?’.

Another category could be ‘personal profile’, where you assess your own skills, your strengths and your weaknesses. Or perhaps ‘motivation and future goals’. For each category, think about evidence you could bring up to justify your answers. If the interviewer springs a question like ‘Give an example of when have you dealt with a difficult customer’, you won’t be tripped up.

Tips to success

Be as specific as possible. Use evidence like: ‘I’m excellent in dealing with difficult customers, which was shown when I stepped in to resolve an issue with another colleague.’
Use wording from the job description. So if the job requires someone to supervise, use the word ‘supervise’ and not ‘manage’ when talking about your experience.

Prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer. This is a trap for the unwary who haven’t thought about intelligent questions to ask.

Avoid limiting words such as ‘only’ or ‘just’. For example, I ‘only’ supervise five employees.

Use verbs to you advantage. I ‘accomplished’, ‘achieved’, ‘organised’, ‘resolved’ etc.
Interview questions

Here is a list of potential interview questions. Which category would you put them in? Can you think of evidence to justify your answers?

  • Tell me about yourself?
  • Talk me through your CV
  • What are your daily duties?
  • What are your strengths? Give examples
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Give me an example of where you have influenced a customer
  • Give me an example of working to targets
  • How do you feel about working in a targeted role?
  • Give me an example of when have you dealt with a difficult customer
  • Give me an example of when you have delivered excellent customer service
  • What do you like and dislike about your present and previous roles?
  • Why are you looking for a new job?
  • Do you feel you work better in a small or large team and why?
  • When have you had to handle a demanding workload?
  • Give me an example where you have influenced people concerning the sale of goods?
  • How do you organise and prioritise your workload?
  • Would you describe yourself as ambitious and why?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • Why should I offer you this position?

On the day

Hopefully by now you should be ready for the day of the interview. Don’t forget the following checklist of things to do:

  • Dress professionally. Don’t dress informally because you have seen the company’s employees in casual attire
  • Plan to arrive at least 10 minutes beforehand. Take into account traffic and parking
  • Don’t smoke, chew gum, tobacco etc.
  • Speak clearly and avoid ‘uhs’, ‘you knows’, and slang
  • Give a firm handshake and address the interviewer by name
  • Maintain eye contact throughout
  • Sit comfortably. Sit straight, but don’t sit stiffly or sprawl over the chair
  • Maintain awareness of your voice, posture, energy level, and enthusiasm
  • Smile confidently. Smiling will help you relax and establish a rapport with the interviewer
  • Listen to each question carefully and don’t interrupt. If you aren’t sure of what is being asked, politely request that the question is repeated
  • Close the interview with a strong statement of your qualifications for the job
  • Thank the interviewer. Shake their hand and thank them by name

Addendum – “I’m failing all my interviews”

If you keep getting to the interview stage but not making the cut for the job, you may start wondering if you’re doing something wrong.

If that is the case, we advise you start reviewing your interviews and look for areas to improve. When you get back from an interview, consider doing the following:

 

Write down the questions you were asked.

  • Review your responses. What would you have worded or answered differently? Why would you have answered differently? What would be a more appropriate answer?
  • Review your own behaviour during the interview. Did you fidget? Use any “uhs” or “you knows”? Did you smile? Did you use hand gestures to emphasise important points?
  • Did you relate to the interviewers? How did they react when you answered?
  • Did you carry out the ‘interview game plan’?

If after several interviews you identify consistent negative comments, then you’ll have a better idea of what you’re doing wrong and can work on improving on these.

You should also consider increasing the number of practice interviews you do. If you have somebody to help you, we advise you have at least three practice interviews. You’ll be able to use feedback to correct mistakes, strengthen weaknesses, and build upon strengths.

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