1. Learn about the company you are going to interview at. Look up their website if they have one so you have an awareness of what the company does.
2. Dress smartly for the interview. Appearances count for a lot so make sure you are well presented and that you appear professional.
3. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to the interview. Last minute rushing will only add to nerves and stress. If you need any help a consultant will be happy to give you a map and directions of where you need to go. Make sure you have a note of the name of the person you need to ask for when you arrive for your interview.
4. When you speak to people at the interview make eye contact and shake hands with the interviewer(s). If they offer you a drink it is fine to accept, however, be sure not to spill it!
5. Listen carefully to any questions you are asked and answer them without going off the subject.
6. Many interviewers will ask ‘competency-based’ questions. These are questions used to test for real life experience of using a certain skill so always give a true example of your experience to answer this type of question.
For example -
“When have you had to handle a customer complaint and how did you deal with it?”
“Give an example of when you met an obstacle at work and how you overcame it”
7. A useful method to use when answering questions is the PAST-PRESENT-FUTURE technique.
For example –
“In my last job I used to cover reception which means I have a good phone manner and that I’d be successful in the Customer Service role.”
8. Turn negatives into positives when answering a question.
For example –
“I haven’t worked in accounts before, however I am numerate and used to be in charge of petty cash at my previous job, and I’m sure I could be a valuable member of the team.”
Typical Interview Questions
Have you looked at our website?
(A pretty standard first question so take time to research the company before your interview. If you don’t have web access ask a consultant and they’ll arrange for you to see the website)
What do you know about the company?
(Similar to the question above. If the company doesn’t have a website then ask a consultant for information or a company brochure)
What are your strengths?
(Make these relevant to the job you’re applying to. E.g. if it’s a customer service role strengths could be an excellent phone manner, the ability to actively listen and a focus on customer care. If it’s a secretarial role strengths could be good organisational skills, quick typing speed and the ability to meet deadlines)
What are your weaknesses?
(A difficult question to answer, so make sure your answers don’t make you sound incapable of handling the job in question. A good answer could be that when working in a team you get frustrated if another team member is letting the side down. Of course, if the role is purely data entry it could be fair to say you get nervous on the telephone, or if the role is purely manual it could be reasonable to say you don’t have very good IT skills. Just make sure the weaknesses wouldn’t affect your ability to do the job.)
What would you bring to the company?
(Relate your skills, personality and experience to the job/company and resell those points. This is often a recap of what’s already been said in the interview, however, if it becomes apparent that the ideal candidate will have a certain set of skills this is a perfect opportunity to match yourself to that person specification as honestly as possible.)
Why do you want the job?
(Relate your answer to the job/company. This is a good time to reiterate that you understand what the company does and that you want to be a part of it. Reasons such as progression from your last role, wanting to work for a market leader, joining a forward-thinking company are all fine. Don’t say “For the money”!)
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
(This is a standard interview question designed to test whether your ambitions are in line with the plans of the company. Answer according to the role. If the company can offer progression then it is reasonable say “I’d like to progress through the ranks if my performance warrants it”. If the company has no career path as such, and you’re not looking for promotion, it’s perfectly reasonable to say “I’d like to be working here and to be happy and healthy”. Do not say anything irrelevant like “On Top of the Pops” or “Centre forward forEngland”!
How would your last manager describe you?
(This needs to be positive. Phrases such as flexible, team player and proactive are all good.)
How would your friends describe you?
(Again, this needs to be positive. Phrases such as friendly, loyal and good humoured are all fine)
Give an example of a time when you ...
- Worked in a team
- Faced your biggest challenge
- Exceeded customer expectations
- Worked to your own initiative
- Met an urgent deadline
- Changed procedures and improved the system
- Dealt with an irate customer
(Questions that require examples are known as ‘competency-based’. You will usually be asked to draw on your previous experience to give a real life example if how you dealt with a particular situation. Have some examples in mind before the interview as it can be difficult to think of an answer under pressure.)