Congratulations for getting this far in the job application process. You are now a part of an elite group that survived the review of hundreds of applicants for the job. Now, the application process becomes more competitive. No longer can you rely on punchy keywords or a summary of your work history. At this stage, you will be required to sell yourself and show the interviewer why you are the best choice for the job.
Luckily, you are reading this guide that contains behind the scenes look at what interviewers are wanting and hopefully this guide will land your dream job.
Do your research
Research the company
When you wrote you CV for this job, you did research on the company to help you fine tune your CV. Now, do more research. Learn as much as you can about the company. If the company is a corporation there are public records that you can access, like yearly shareholders’ report. Plus, there will be news articles about them. Take the time to familiarise yourself. Even if the company is a limited company there will be some public records available and accessible information.
So, what do you do if you cannot find information about the company? Almost any company of any size is on social media. Search for them on the various sites and learn what you can.
Research the interviewer
Understanding who is interviewing you will help you develop rapport with them, help you anticipate what questions may be asked, and help you stand out. I am not stating to stalk the individual. Nonetheless, depending on the role, the person interviewing you may be listed on the company’s website or social media sites. Likewise, they may have had journal articles published, led seminars, or been in the media. Take a few minutes as a part of your research to learn something about the person who will interview you.
Review the job description
Learning the job description is vital to a successful interview. Most of the questions you will be asked will be based on the job description. Therefore, knowing the job description is vital as it will guide you on how to answer the questions and guide you in the types of questions you may be asked. So, take time to read it thoroughly and begin anticipating the questions you may be asked.
So, how do you review the job description? I use a two-step process. First, read the job description. At this stage, ignore the job title and focus on the responsibilities. Why do I say this? In the UK employers will call very similar roles by very different names. So, getting focused on the job title is a distraction. Instead focus on the responsibilities.
Does the role sound like a job you know about? If so, think about what the role involved, the responsibilities, and the priorities for the role. For me, conceptualise what the role requires and how I have seen it performed. Even if you don’t know a job that sounds like the role being described, don’t worry. Draw on your experience or use the internet to help you understand the role.
Once you understand what the role requires, spend time understanding the person specifics. Job descriptions will vary greatly. However, most job descriptions will contain at least three parts. First part is the tasks involved, how it fits into the organisation, and the type of person the employer is seeking. The latter is sometimes called person specifics. This is where you should focus on preparing for your responses to possible questions.
Draw on your experience
At this stage you should have an idea what the role involves and an idea what the company is wanting. The next step in preparing for the interview is a self-assessment. This involves reviewing your work history, looking for experiences that match the role requirements.
How to draw on your experiences
One method is to go through the job description and match your experience to each requirement. This can be a painstaking and tedious process that may not be very productive. Especially, if there are many overlapping requirements and the person specific section of the job description is not clearly defined.
Choose 3 – 4 experiences
Using the job description as the overarching guide, think of 3 – 4 comprehensive experiences that you can use to demonstrate your experience. By comprehensive experience I mean 3 – 4 experiences that you can use to cover a variety of possible questions. For example, if you are a project manager you can think of a project that you managed that was falling behind and how you managed the situation. Likewise, if you are a customer service agent, you can think of 3 – 4 experiences whereby you helped to solve customer issues.
If you are unsure of how to identify a comprehensive experience one good technique is mind mapping. Think about an experience and the map out the experience from beginning to end. Once you have mapped it out, begin connecting the experience with the role requirements. You will begin to see how your experiences matches the requirements of the role.
At this point, you have your experiences and you have done your research. Now it is time to anticipate questions. The internet has a plethora of sample interview questions to help you prepare and if you can find someone get them to ask you questions.
Everyone has their own style to answer interview questions. However, as an interview, my preferred response is:
- Define the situation
- Explain your role
- What did you do
- What was learnt for the experience
It is important to note, when answering interview questions the interviewer wants to know what you did. The interview does not care what other people did or the team did. Instead, they want to know what you did!
Day of the Interview
If the recruiter for the role does not advise the type of dress, it is appropriate to ask. Generally, rule, dress requirement for role + 1. This means if it is casual you should dress business causal. Likewise, if dress is business casual then you should dress business formal. If in doubt, then go business formal.
Try to arrive about 10 – 20 minutes before the scheduled interview. If you are anticipating you are going to be late, make sure to call.
Meeting the interviewer
It is acceptable to shake their hand and to look them in the eye. While being taken to the interview room it is acceptable to talk. Sometimes talking can help relax you and build a relationship with them.
During the interview
People interviewing you will expect that you are nervous. A way to help get over your nerves is to see the interview as a conversation about your skills and how you can help the business with your skills.
Even if you are nervous make sure to keep eye contact and to talk to everyone in the room.
Types of Interviews:
Done by phone, messenger service like Skype, or similar service. These are typically done before a formal interview offer is made to help further screen applicants.
This is typically done with 1 or 2 people in the room with a focus on your application. Questions can be anything.
Experience / behaviour based:
This will typically involve 2 – 4 people doing the interview. Questions will regard how your experiences match the job. Interviewers will be looking for specific experiences, how you dealt with them, and the outcome.
A two-stage interview will involve interviewing a larger pool of applicants to screen for the next stage. First stage involves general questions and tends to, from my experience, be more informal. At the next stage, when I have done two stage interviews, it is usually involving a more senior manager leading the second stage and the applicant pool is much smaller. At the second interview, it tends to be more formal and focus is finding the right fit for the role.
These use to be quite popular in the UK. However, this type of interview is rarely used due to cost and time involved. Group interviews involve at least two parts, an interview and a group activity. During the group activity the interviewers are looking at how you interact with others and how you solve problems.
Two questions you are likely to get
Why did you apply for the role?
This question will come in many different forms, like:
- Tell me about yourself
- Talk me through your CV
- Why did you apply for this role?
- What about this role attracted you to apply for it?
This question is typically the first and you should spend only a few minutes answering it. It is meant to transition you from waiting room to get you to focus the interview. Also, it is used to see how well you understand the role and how your experience relates to it. When replying think about the job description and how your history brought you to apply for it.
What do you know about the company?
This is where your research will begin to pay-off. Unless you are a business consultant or a very senior manager, this question is meant to test your interest in the role. The interviewer is looking to see if you are interested in the company or just someone applying who will move-on once they get their next opportunity.
Do you have any questions for us?
This is another question you will get, and this question causes a lot of angst on how to respond. If you say yes and it is the wrong question, then it will hurt you. An example, I was interviewing for an admin role. During the interview they were told there was a more senior admin person who performed a different but would support them. Then our questions ended and asked if they had any questions. The interviewee asked if they will be working alone? Because they were not listening when they asked that question the decision was made not to hire them in the role.
So how do you answer this question? It is appropriate not to ask any questions and to state no. There is a fear if you do not ask then it shows you are not interested. This is not totally correct. If you have developed a rapport with your interviewers and you answered the questions with interest, then it is okay to take the chance to say no.
If you do ask a question, please avoid asking anything that you would ask when the offer is made. Asking the question now, could put the offer in jeopardy. Instead focus your question on something you heard in the interview, something positive you read about the company, or any technological advance you feel may impact the role.
Finally, interview dos and don’ts
- Think of yourself as a brand that you need to sell. Why should the company chose your brand over another brand?
- Provide detail about your experience
- Ask for clarification if you do not understand the question
- Take time to reply and think through your response
- Arrive early
- Demonstrate you are prepared
- Speak negatively about a colleague, previous, or your current employer
- Avoid eye contact
- Show up late without calling
- Be too casual
- Overstate your experience
If you have any questions please feel free to contact us using the button.