Interview Tips from Amanda Newell
Employers need to confirm that you have the required knowledge, skills and willingness to contribute and fit into their organisation. They are also interested to see if your career expectations are in line with the opportunities available and whether you’ll be a valued, trusted and a productive team member. Below are guidelines which we hope will maximise your success through the interview process. Obviously they may not be applicable to all but hopefully will be of some help.
It is often the simple and most obvious things which can make the difference between securing or losing your ideal job offer. Before the interview there are several things that you can do to give you the leading edge over other candidates and remember, a positive attitude is essential to convince the employer to offer you that lucrative position.
Your Consultant will be able to give you an overview of the working conditions, company culture and their expectations but you must carry out your own research. This involves researching the company, the industry, the job description and the LinkedIn profiles of the people you’ll be meeting. This is just a start: knowing yourself, your resume and work history inside out, your strengths and weaknesses (more on S&Ws later) and preparing to ask and answer questions is the hard part.
First impressions really count. A company is more likely to hire a person who is well presented as they will be future representatives of their company. Ensure that you look smart (or dress in line with their industry), act in a professional manner throughout the interview and while it may sound obvious it is still worth mentioning the ‘No No’s’!
- Too much makeup – keep it natural
- Way out hairstyles and unnatural colours
- Loud jewellery such as large hoop earrings, chunky necklaces, lots of rings, etc. No bling!
- We recommend that non-standard piercings are removed before the interview and ideally tattoos are not visible
- Attending an interview with shopping bags
- If you are a smoker it is best not to have one before going into the interview as the smell lingers
Ensure that you know the exact time and location of the interview and how to get there. Your Consultant will provide you with all of the details you need and it is highly advisable that you allow plenty of time in case of travel delays. Arrive slightly earlier if possible and if you are delayed, apologise and give a reason why. Don’t dwell on your lateness. Employers are realistic and just want to get on with the interview.
- Turn off your mobile phone PRIOR to arriving at the interview
- Meet your interviewer standing and maintain strong eye contact. Give a firm handshake and warm smile
- Remember this is two-way communication and should be an exchange of information.
- Be prepared that the initial phase of the interview may touch on general information as an ice-breaker and that more specific questions are likely to appear in the latter phase of the interview.
- Make sure you know your CV inside out and can answer questions without having to refer to it. Interviewers expect you to know your work history completely including companies, dates, job titles, roles, responsibilities and key accomplishments. To help recall these important facts, write them down on cards before the interview as a prompt to yourself.
- Stop using generalities such as ‘I’m a problem solver’ and ‘I’m a real team player’. When interviewers evaluate your replies they recall the examples and stories used to prove a point. From these examples they conclude to what degree you possess the strength or attribute.
- Give positive examples of your work and avoid waffling giving concise, well rounded responses. The best answers are 1-2 minutes long. If your answers are too short you’re assumed to lack ability, insight or interest and those that talk too much are perceived to be unfocused, self-absorbed and boring! (that’s what our research tells us!)
- Ask questions that demonstrate that you have understood the role and what is expected.
- Draw parallels from your experience in relation to the job on offer and show how this can benefit the company.
- Demonstrate a willingness to learn and progress.
- Do not discuss salary at first interview unless the client raises it. Achieving a second interview/job offer is the main priority and salary negotiations will follow. Your Consultant can help with this.
- Even if you have reservations about the role, be positive. You never know when another more suitable position may arise with the same company!
- If their interview style is ‘competency-based’ questions, ask for a copy of our advice document.
Questions to ask at the interview (if applicable)
- Can you tell me more about the company culture/work environment?
- Could you explain the company’s organisational structure?
- How does the department fit into the bigger picture of the company?
- What problems (if any) is the department/company facing right now?
- Can you tell me about my day-to-day responsibilities?
- May I ask why the last person left?
- What have you liked most about working here? (a possible question to ask the previous job holder)
- What are some of the skills and abilities you see as essential for this role?
- Can you tell me a little bit about the people I will be working closely with?
- Will there be scope in the future for me to take on more responsibility?
- Are there any opportunities for training?
- How soon are you looking for someone to start?
Prove strengths and neutralize weaknesses
What one company would view as a weakness could be viewed as a strength by another. When asked about your S&Ws they aren’t trying to catch you out, it’s their attempt to determine your character, honesty and self-awareness. Saying you don’t haven’t any weaknesses implies you’ve stopped growing, can’t learn anything new and can’t be coached. Openly stating a weakness and describing how you’ve learned from it indicates self awareness and a willingness to improve.
Tip: Write down all of your strengths and weaknesses. For each strength come up with 1 or 2 actual accomplishments you can use as examples to prove the strength. To neutralize a weakness, describe how you converted it into a learning experience or how you managed to deal with it.
Closing the Interview
Towards the end of the interview, ask where you stand and find out the next steps. If the interviewer is vague or non-committal it’s probably unlikely you will be called back. In this case, ask if there is something missing in your background or skill set that the job requires. Once you know this, you might be able to minimize the concern by describing some comparable accomplishment that was previously not considered.
Interviewers value feedback so if you like the sound of the role, express your interest and let them know you are really keen to take it to the next stage. Your enthusiasm will be appreciated and win you brownie points.
Do not be disappointed if no definite job offer is made at the second interview stage. The interviewer will, in most cases, need to consult colleagues first or perhaps interview other candidates. Sometimes you may feel that the interview is not going well. Do not be discouraged. This can be part of an interviewer’s technique to see how you perform under pressure and may have no bearing on whether you will/will not get the job. Display a positive attitude at all times and ensure that you thank the interviewer for their time.
If you are lucky enough to be offered the job on the spot and you want to accept then do so. However, if you require further time to think it over or perhaps have other interviews to attend, express your thanks and enthusiasm for the role and try to provide a definite date by which you can give them an answer, giving a reason for the delay.
Finally, be sure to call us with your feedback after the interview ASAP. We can pass on your positive comments which reinforce your interest in the company and keep you on the short list. If you suddenly remember a question you didn’t ask or an example you felt you didn’t get across as well as you would have liked, we can cover this on your behalf. Alternatively, if the role is not for you, we can diplomatically handle this too.
Wishing you lots of luck from Amanda.