Congratulations! Your CV has made you stand out from the crowd and you have impressed the employer enough to be invited to interview. Here are a few hints to help you prepare well and do the best you can. Remember a lot of us find it really awkward talking about ourselves, but interview skills can be learnt!
Research the company before your interviewThis is really important and will help you demonstrate that you are excited about working for them. You may well be asked what you know about the company during the interview. This may also help you come up with some questions to ask if invited.
- Read the company’s website and make sure you are aware of:
- what they do (and can explain this if asked)
- which countries they are present in
- where their headquarters is
- who their clients are
- what their company history and values are
- Be aware of their main competitors and what differentiates this company
- If you know the name of your interviewer, look them up on LinkedIn and find out a little about them
- Check the company’s presence on social media and in the news to see what they have been doing recently, charities they follow, recent trends in the sector etc
Make sure you know about the role you have applied for
Have the job description readily available to take into the interview with you along with several copies of your CV, and ensure you are familiar with both. Map out how your skills and experience match the job description requirements and think of examples from your CV of when you have demonstrated the skills necessary for each aspect of the job.
Think of a couple of questions to ask
Ideally these will make you stand out and will show off your enthusiasm and industry knowledge. Don’t ask about pay and holidays in the first interview!
Plan the journey carefully
Make sure you know where you are going and the route you will take. Familiarise yourself with the building on Google Streetview. Do a trial run beforehand if you have time, and always allow plenty of time so you don’t arrive flustered or late. If you are running late for the interview, always let us know.
Always dress smartly
Even if the dress code of the company is relaxed, you should always be well groomed and smartly dressed.
Create a great first impression!
- Be polite and friendly with everyone you meet in the company
- Make eye contact, shake hands firmly, smile and wait to be invited to sit down
- Be prepared to make a little small talk – try to engage with a subject that the interviewer is interested in, in order to create some rapport and show good interpersonal skills
- Take a notepad and pen to make notes
Prepare for common questions
There are some interview questions that you can almost guarantee will come up, in one form or another. Make sure you’ve got some good answers at the ready that you have practiced out loud. Listen carefully to each question so that you answer it appropriately.
‘Tell me about yourself’: This is often the first question and your chance to talk about your skills and experience, summarising the main jobs on your CV with enthusiasm and energy. Show your flexibility and how your skillset would match the new role. If you have a really interesting fact about yourself or a hobby to share too, this is the moment. Avoid rambling about your personal life!
‘Why do you want to work for us?’: This is a chance to show off your research into the company and then demonstrate how your values/strengths could be a great match with the company’s.
‘Tell us about your strengths’: Include personal qualities like determination as well as hard skills such as experience in credit control. Choose strengths that are appropriate to the role.
‘Tell us about a weakness of yours’: This is always a tricky one. Try and choose one that isn’t critical to the role and once you’ve described it, explain what you are doing to improve yourself.
‘Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?’: The employer wants you for this specific role so don’t give the impression that you want to move on within a year! It’s great to be ambitious, but you need to show that your goals line up with the company’s.
‘Why are you leaving your current job’: Always remain professional and diplomatic and never be overly negative about a previous employer. Try to turn negative situations into positive statements, for example if you left a job because you were bored, say that you were looking for a new challenge. Avoid lying!
This is the part of the interview where you’ll be asked to give actual examples of past work situations to illustrate your specific strengths or skills. For example, “Tell me about a time when you had to say no to a client.” “Tell us about a time when you had to convince your manager about trying out a new idea.”
Make sure you choose examples with a happy ending – a satisfied client, improved process or happier team. Describe some of the challenges along the way and how you overcame them.
By looking at the job description, you should be able to guess what some of the competency-based questions might be and therefore prepare for them by reminding yourself of some scenarios in your career so far. If you are new to the workplace, it’s fine to use examples from studying, volunteering or other activities.
It can be helpful to use the STAR system to answer a question fully: SITUATION: Where were you working? TASK: What was the challenge that you needed to address? ACTION: What steps did you decide to take, and why? RESULT: What was the outcome of your actions? What difference did you make? What did you learn?
Remain polite and professional right to the end: Whether you felt the interview went well or not, remember that you want to leave a great impression.