Preparing your CV is a step towards one of the key challenges in the job search, what you hope to achieve from a strong CV, is the opportunity to meet the employer face to face in an interview situation. This is where more preparation and readiness will help you push yourself to be a short-listed candidate and ultimately, secure your new role.
What is the employer looking for in an interview?
Based on the job description what can you identify as being the key skills required for the job? Is there anyone in your network that can give you additional insights and what research can you do on the internet to find out as much as you can about what the employer wants in prospective employee? Understanding what the employer wants is a key success factor.
What do you have to offer?
The best chance of success is to tell the employer that you have the skills they
want and your research into what they want is the first part. For example, you may be great at working on your own initiative but if you identify team work as a valuable skill then
clearly you will need to highlight teamwork in your application. This does not mean that there are ‘good’ or ‘bad’ skills but there are skills that are more relevant than others to an
employer, so in this example highlighting the opposite of what they want is
setting you apart rather than matching you to the job.
The interview is arguably the most important part of the recruitment process. Obviously, they’re an opportunity for the prospective employer to find out about you, but don’t forget, an interview is a two-way process, so it is also useful for you to learn about them.
What Interview format will be used?
Interviews can take many different forms, if you’re unsure about what you will be walking in to, contact the employer and ask. This will not look, rather it will show initiative and readiness, qualities that will be recognised even before you meet them.
Here are selection of the more commonly utilised formats for interviews.
Competency/criteria based interviews
This format is proving to be popular, it looks at how you would deal with the challenges the job is likely to present. As the interview will focus on the competencies and qualities required in the role, you can determine and prepare for the type of questions you will be asked.
The key to answering a competency-based question is structure. Your interviewer will be looking for a very specific response. The STAR technique is well known to be a great aid when considering your answers.
S – Situation – Put the example in context, think about a previous real-world example/experience you have had that would relate to the new working environment
T – Task – Explain the problem or situation that you faced
A – Action – Explain what did you do to resolve or address the situation
R – Result – What was the end result and how did this impact others or the organisation?
If you have applied for a position that requires technical knowledge, it is likely that you will be asked technical questions or have a separate technical interview. Questions may focus on your previous experience or hypothetical technical problems. Do not worry if you do not know the exact answer as the interviewer will be interested in your methodology and process approach.
The interviewer has a set list of questions, each candidate will have the same questions.
Some interviews may be very formal, while others will feel more like an informal chat about you and your interests. Be aware that you are still being assessed, however informal the discussion may seem.
Scenario/case study interviews
These range from straightforward scenario questions (e.g. ‘What would you do in a situation where…?’) to the detailed analysis of a hypothetical business problem. You will be evaluated on your analysis of the problem, how you identify the key issues, how you pursue a particular line of thinking and whether you can develop and present an appropriate framework for organising your thoughts.
This is an approach you will usually find in the public sector. Most panels will consist of four or five people and as such, they are a good opportunity for you to find out more about the people you could be working with. Questions will come more rapidly than in one-to-one interviews, and you may be asked to deliver a presentation. It’s worth remembering that, although one person in the panel is likely to be asking most of the questions, all members will have a say in the eventual decision. So ensure you treat them all with the same level of importance. Acknowledge the whole panel when answering, but try to finish each answer looking at the person who asked the question.
This type of interview is more common for roles where a good telephone manner is required or it is preferable due to location distances. They are sometimes used for a first interview situation, where a face to face meeting would follow on successful completion of the call. If you are offered a telephone interview, the most important fact to remember is that the employer wants to find out the same information as they would face-to-face, so your preparation needs to be just as thorough.
Several candidates are present and will be asked questions in turn. A group discussion may be encouraged and you may be invited to put questions to the other candidates.
How to behave in the Interview
Once you have done your preparation, you have researched the new employer, you have a good idea of what the interview format will be, you now need to consider how to come across on the day;
- If you haven’t had much recent experience of being interviewed, then you may feel nervous. Don’t worry, it’s unlikely to show anything like as much as you think. The other candidates are probably nervous too. So the field is level. And the more you prepare, the less anxious you will be
- Even if you are told “it’s just an informal chat” – it never is. It might be an informal interview but it is still an interview. Approach every meeting with that mind set. You are being assessed
- First impressions are formed very quickly, be in interview mode before you walk through the front door of the employer
- Check your appearance is appropriate, the way you stand, walk and act, needs to reflect confidence, energy, enthusiasm, be friendly to everyone you meet
- Research has shown that 55% of influence comes from non-verbal signals and 38% from tone of voice and manner of delivery, it’s by no means just what you say, it’s how you say it
- Listen and discuss, it should be a dialogue, not just a monologue from you, show an interest in their role and issues by questioning. You can occasionally add questions to your answer, for example….I have quite a bit of experience in XXX, how important is that to this role?
- Maintain good eye contact, when speaking, this is about 70% of the time, but be attentive, it should be a higher5 when you are listening
- Listen, listen, listen…..you will get valuable clues about what the interviewer is interested in, and it will be noticed. Listening is not the same as waiting until it’s your turn to speak again. You show listening skills by attentive behaviour, referring back to what the other person said earlier, building on their remarks, and being able to question in a way that refers to what they have said
- Building rapport is very important, generally, people hire people they like, not just people who can do the job
- It helps rapport if you “mirror” the other person’s way of speaking, gestures and so on. This does not mean giving a poor impersonation, it means, if they are quite concise or fast paced, so should you be….if they appear relaxed or conversely, animated, follow suit
- Make sure you have questions to ask, you are still being judged, so the questions need to be well-considered. Usually questions about key priorities and early deliverables will get the interviewer talking and will display the required interest in the job. Leave questions about pay and conditions as late in the process as possible, maybe even after the interview, when you get the call from HR to offer you the job. It’s at this point that you can confirm salary expectations and negotiate as required
- Finally, make a good departing impression as people tend to remember beginnings and ends. Finish with a short but strong statement of confidence and enthusiasm. Use your own words but make sure the message you give includes comments such as “thanks for the meeting which I have enjoyed; I’m very interested and keen about the opportunities provided by the role; I believe I have a lot to contribute to continue the success of the organisation.”