Interview Advice

Interview AdviceDuring the interview, interviewers are trying to picture you fitting into their existing team in a particular role and they normally have a list of requirements or competencies in order to trying to measure candidate against, and to see if candidate is the right person for the role. 

Interview AdviceMeanwhile, interviewees are trying to persuade them that they are equipped and motivated to step into the team and the role. If you have not had a lot of experience with attending interviews then you will not be aware of the different ways that employers are able to conduct interviews and the way that they are held.

Aside from a traditional interview, for example one candidate and one interviewer, there are three different types of interviews and dependent upon the position involved will depend upon the type of interview you may have.

Telephone Interview

This involves an interviewer calling you up and having a chat with you over the phone to judge your telephone skills. This method is also used if the interviewer is trying to shortlist a group of candidates in a quick manner and is often carried out by an external recruiter such as an agency. You may or may not be told that you will be having a telephone interview. It depends on the employer. If you have applied for a job where heavy telephone use is likely to be a major part of the job, then this may be the option chosen. The interview should be treated as any other and it's a good idea to make notes as you go along if you can. If you are successful it may be that you will be asked there and then to attend a face to face interview, so make sure you have a pen and paper to hand.

Panel Interview

These are a bit more stressful than a one to one interview. A panel interview will usually have anything from three to six interviewers sitting in on the meeting. Basically this is a way of cutting down on time where the decision for the applicant needs to be discussed by several different members of the business. It could be that you are applying for a sales post and the interview needs the Sales Manager, HR Manager, Head of Department and, if the role involves some form of IT work, one of the IT Managers. It's always difficult attending these interviews as it can feel like you are one against many but it's not set up like this for any nasty reason. It is just easier for the company. If you are faced with a Panel Interview always try and answer each question posed by each member of the panel back to the individual who has posed the question, whilst casually glancing at the other people present. Also when you enter the room you will obviously shake hands with the head of the panel or the person who has taken you in but whether you decide to shake all of the panel's hands is a decision you will need to make at the time. If they all stand and offer their hands your decision will be made easier.

Sequential Interview

You will be interviewed by a series of different people. It might be that the HR Manager interviews you first, then the Sales Manager and then the Local Director. The chances are that each member of staff will have different questions but there may be some overlap so you might find yourself answering the same questions twice!

Unfortunately, many interviews are decided within the first few moments by extraneous factors beyond the interviewees control: his or her appearance, accent, a chance remark, how many people the interviewers have already seen, whether they have already seen the person they want, and so on. The upside is that if you do not get the job, do not blame yourself or your interview skills: it was probably nothing you could have foreseen.

Polished interview skills can help you avoid some simple errors and tilt the balance your way. The following are some helpful hints.

Interview Preparation

Preparing for the interview is one of the most important parts of the interview process as many interviews are decided within the first few moments by factors beyond the interviewee's control: his or her appearance, accent, a chance remark, how many people the interviewers have already seen, whether they have already seen the person they want, and so on. That said, by effectively preparing for the interview you can help avoid some simple errors and tilt the balance your way.

Remember that an interview is a two - way process: it is an opportunity for the employer to get to know more about you and your achievements and is an excellent chance for you to find out more about them and their culture. Make the most of the experience by ensuring you are fully prepared. Effort put into preparing for an interview will increase your confidence and your ability to deal effectively with the questions asked.

The job interview really is the make or break point and excellent interview skills are what stand between you and success. If you have done your preparation you will be feeling confident and ready put your interview skills into practice. You will have thought about the likely questions and the best answers and spent time ensuring that you give the right first impression. Interview skills are not an exact science.

There is no one "best" way to prepare for an interview. Rather, there are specific and important strategies to enhance one's chances for interview success. Every interview is a learning experience, so learning that takes place during the preparation and actual interview process is useful for future interviews. Initial preparation requires recent assessment of skills, interests, values, and accomplishments; a re-assessment and updating of one's resume; and research on the targeted company/organization and position.

Preparation also includes actual practice of typical and targeted interview question. Final preparation includes details of dress and appearance, knowledge of the location of the interview, what to expect, and protocols for follow-up.

Just as you had to prepare to make a good application, now you need to prepare for the interview. You can structure your preparation and concentrate on key areas:

You - Think back to all the events in your life, and all parts of your life, that equip you with the skills and competencies you have Think about their requirements and make sure you have good examples to demonstrate those skills. Think also about the boundaries - how will you make a difference in the company, how will what they do affect you?

Company/Organisation - Recruiters want to see clear motivation towards the company and the role you are applying for. Think sideways when researching the company/organisation - check out the stock market for a share price, search the news. You need to be aware of what you are letting yourself in for - will you have to train, if so what/when/how long for; what responsibilities will you have? You should be able to demonstrate that you understand the company culture and ethos, and demonstrate that you can think like they do - this helps interviewer build a picture of you in the role

Sector - You should demonstrate at least a basic knowledge of the sector company belong to. Who are its competitors; what are its biggest strengths / weaknesses / opportunities / threats? What's happening in the sector at the moment? Read the papers and keep-up with current events; you may be asked questions to see how interested you are.

Current Affairs - You should be able to comfortably talk about current affairs if asked on a interview. You should prepare yourself to talk about what is happening in your country economy at the moment? What is happening in the world just now?

Ask your recruitment agency

If you are working with a recruitment agency ask consultant for the information! The recruitment consultant should be able to give you all the information you need, ensuring you go into the interview prepared. If there is anything you are not sure about - ask.

Find out about the interview process, company culture, team size, current management, working conditions, and the challenges faced by the manager, team or business for example. The better prepared you are, the better your chances of impressing the interviewer.

Confirm interview arrangements

It is always a good idea (and I think a courteous one which shows manners and initiative) to confirm with your prospective interviewer the interview arrangements by letter once you have been invited to attend the interview. This does not need to be a long winded letter. It can just be brief, confirming the time and place of the interview. It also gives you the opportunity to send in any documents that the interviewer may wish to see in advance or anything you may have omitted to send when you originally enclosed your CV and job application form.

First Impression

First few seconds are fairly vital when you walk into that interview room or when you are greeted by your employer. We all give out different signals and these can be influenced by the way you dress, to your body language.

Whether we like it not, judgments are made about us by the way we look, our clothes, hair, facial expressions, and our posture. These decisions will usually be made within the first few seconds of meeting with you. Even before you speak, your interviewer will be absorbing non-verbal clues about you. You will be judged by how you stand, how you walk, how you shake hands, how you smile, and how you sit.

Body language is an area that many interviewers will take seriously. What we do and how we do it can show underlying areas that can be picked up upon. Body language is an area that has been analysed for many, many years by professionals and interviewers alike. If you ask a person a question and their eyes gaze up thoughtfully to the left hand side of their eyeball you know that the chances of their answer being true are high. If on the other hand they look up to the right of their eyeball the chances are they are searching for a made up answer to your question. There are certain exceptions to the rule but the theory is based upon the fact that the left side of your brain is where you retrieve data from and the right is the fictional side of your brain.

Other areas that give off body language signals, without you knowing about them, are as follows:

1. Cross Your Arms: It makes you look defensive.
2. Sit on the edge of your seat.
3. Mess with your face or play with your jewellery or hair.
4. Rock on the seat.
5. Interrupt when being asked a question.
6. Give one word answers (unless the answer dictates a one word answer).

Try instead:

1. Smile as frequently as possible.
2. Keep your hands in your lap. Try not to make exaggerated gestures
3. Keep eye contact at all times. If there is more than one interviewer, flick from person to person.
4. Be articulate and listen carefully to each question before giving your answer.
5. Keep calm.

Other helpful interview tips:

Develop rapport

Rapport is the connection between two people; the spoken and unspoken words that say 'we are on the same page'. It is the art of making someone feel comfortable and accepted. To create rapport, we need to know how to connect with others regardless of their age, gender, ethnic background, mood, or the situation. This skill is never more important than in an interview, where someone's immediate impression of you is critical. Creating a connection with your interviewer is likely to have a large impact on whether or not they wish to do business with you – so learning the skill of creating good rapport should be one of your priorities as an interviewee. We tend to be attracted to people that we consider similar to ourselves. When rapport is good, similarities are emphasized and differences are minimized. Rapport is an essential basis for successful communication – where there is no rapport there is no (real) communication.

Make sure you know the names of the people who will be interviewing you. Practice saying them if they are difficult to pronounce. Be courteous to everyone from the moment you walk through the front door: treat everyone you meet as if they have the power to employ you. As you walk from reception to the interviewer's office, begin with some light chat to help yourself relax. Talk about their offices, pass a favourable comment on the facilities, decor or a local place of interest. Whatever you discuss, be upbeat and confident from the outset. When you sit be comfortable, but assume a forward leaning posture. This conveys that you are interested – but do not lean too far forward, you may appear to be pushing the interviewer into a corner. Certainly, do not lean back and adopt a casual stance - interviewers perceive this as informality or arrogance. Ask if you can take brief notes, and jot down any items you may want to refer to later. Be aware of any fidgeting tendencies you have and find something else to do with your hands - folded in your lap is fairly safe or clasping pen and paper is acceptable.

Take a genuine interest

Focus on the interviewer as a person and your overall attitude is likely to become more genuine. When you first meet a prospective employer, visualize that person as an important guest in your home. Naturally then, you will be glad to see them, and you want to make them feel welcome and at ease. Your overall goal should be to understand them rather than expecting them to understand you.

However, do not be too friendly too quickly, or you may appear false. Instead, hold yourself back, and increase your level of curiosity. Remember to:

• Smile when you first see your interviewer
• Establish and maintain eye contact
• Be the first to say hello and extend your hand
• Deliver a sincere greeting
• Use the person's name
• Do more listening than talking.

Match and mirror

Matching and mirroring is when you deliberately take on someone else's style of behaviour in order to create rapport – a way of becoming highly tuned to another person. If done well, this can be a very powerful technique for building rapport in an interview. To do this, you will need to match:

• Voice tone (how you sound), speed and volume
• Breathing rates
• Speech patterns – pick up the key words or phrases your interviewer uses and build these subtly into your conversation. Notice how the interviewer handles information. Do they like detail, or talk about the bigger picture? Feed back information in a similar way
• Rhythm of body movement and energy levels
• Body postures and gestures (do not use this one too often as it can be obvious and may be perceived as mimicking).

Matching and mirroring must be carried out in a subtle way. If the process intrudes into the other person's conscious awareness they may become uncomfortable and non-verbal. You do not have to mirror the other person for longer then a few moments. Once they become comfortable with you, you can actually start leading the nonverbal communication, and then they'll start following you.

Be organised

Remember that this is your opportunity to find out if this is the sort of environment in which you would be happy to work. Have your own agenda of what you want to cover. Your questions should be relevant, and reflect you have done some research. You might ask questions relating to their products, markets or technical specifications. Don't try to be clever: a manager confronted with a "know all" candidate may not feel comfortable with a challenger - you! You may want to know what some of the primary objectives of the job are, what responsibilities are critical, what will your performance be judged on, how will it be measured. Having questions like these ready avoids a deathly silence when asked if you have any further questions.

Sell yourself

This is where you will put your practice and preparation into action. You should have prepared a 2-3 minute resume of yourself for when you are asked to 'Tell me about yourself'. Have this resume well rehearsed, as it is a one off opportunity to sell yourself. Do not be modest about your accomplishments, but be factual, be proud of and proclaim your achievements.

Demonstrate your research

Use every opportunity to show that you have done your homework. However, do not speak for more than two minutes, and do not be a "know all". Rather than ask what gross sales were last year - refer to a figure from a report showing an increase / decrease, then ask if that reflects local or international sales.

Practice answers

Practice the tough questions so that your responses come across positively and naturally. Be prepared to answer any of three types of question: standard, open-ended, and structured. Standard questions require a straight forward 'yes' or 'no' response. Are you prepared to relocate? Try a brief, but not abrupt, answer, like "I have not specifically discussed relocation with my family, but they have always been supportive of my career". Open-ended questions invite you to talk. Tell me about yourself? What are your future goals? These answers should be rehearsed so that you provide a clear response, conveying the important information required, within two minutes. Structured interview questions discourage candidates from embellishing their responses. A professional interviewer may say "tell me how you would introduce and support our new database software". Whatever the style, do not feel rushed into giving an answer. Pausing before responding indicates thoughtfulness. Think carefully about what the company is looking for before you answer, and then do so slowly and confidently.

Demonstrate that you are enthusiastic

If someone asks you a question and you give a one word answer it does not really look very enthusiastic. So the way to deal with this is to answer the question as deeply as you can. Make your interviewer interested in you and what you have done. Show him that you really are passionate about everything you do. To the interviewer this shows that you will have enthusiasm and dedication to your new job should they decide to employ you.

Demonstrate confidence

The more confident you are the more chance you will have of getting the job. Try and expand on your answers again in this area. If you are asked a negative question try and respond with a positive confident answer.

Demonstrate that you are positive

Positive people give off positive vibes and those good vibrations nearly always rub off on other employees. The end result creates a happy, proactive, enthusiastic work force which ultimately creates a better working environment and more efficient team. If you can demonstrate this quality to your interviewer at interview stage you will definitely impress them.

Ask questions

You will have the opportunity to ask questions as the interview progresses, it is normal interview practice for the interviewer to give the job seeker the opportunity to ask questions for the last part of the interview. Asking insightful, well thought out pre-prepared questions when given the opportunity is as important as any of the answers you will have already given during the interview, this is well worth remembering. Not having pre-prepared questions or squirming uncomfortably as you try to think up a list of intelligent questions on the spot will make you look badly prepared and disorganised.

Spend time before the interview reviewing the job profile and review any notes you have taken during any briefing discussions with the recruiter before the interview. Pick out anything about the role, team or company you are unsure about. When going through the corporate website, note down any questions that are not answered by the information available.

And remember when asking questions, take notes to ensure the interviewer is left with the impression that you valued their answer and then ask follow up or probing questions to get more information. Simply running though a list of questions without taking notes or following up with further probing questions could give the impression you are simply going through the motions and will likely not help your application. Have 10 questions prepared before you go into the interview. As the interview progresses several of these will no doubt be answered as part of the general interview dialogue. However, when it is your turn to ask questions, pick the 3 to 5 questions that seem most relevant at the time.

Good questions to ask might include:

• How long have you been with XYZ company?
• What in your opinion is the best thing about working for XYZ company?
• What is the company's approach to training and development?
• How would you describe the company culture?
• What is the biggest challenge facing your team / department or XYZ company currently?
• How will my success in this role be measured over the next 12 months?
• How long would you expect someone to stay in this position before being considered for an internal promotion?

Establish the next steps

Before you leave, find out what the next step is, when you might hear, who makes the ultimate decision and when they hope to fill the position. Ask the interviewer about additional stages the interview process, ask for an indication of time scale for feedback (rather than asking them for direct feedback on the spot).

Express Gratitude

Companies usually favour candidates with good interpersonal skills – they want you to be likable. Thank the interviewer at the start and end of the meeting for their time and remember to follow up with a thank you note. When you do write, restate why you are interested in the position, what you have to offer the employer, and that you desire to meet for another interview if accepting an offer.

Follow up the interview

Following the interview it is important that you provide timely and frank feedback to the external recruiter (if you are working with one). The recruiter will discuss your feedback with the interviewer and relay his or her feedback to you in a constructive way that will hopefully benefit you in future interviews you may take part in, either with this company or others.

Regardless of whether the feedback is positive or negative try to view it objectively and think about how you can improve your interview technique in the future.


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