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Banish interview jitters with our interview checklist

06/07/2018
Posted by: Lynn Sedgwick

You’ve crafted a great CV, made a stellar application, and you’ve been selected for interview. Congratulations! You can rest assured that your personal brand is working well if you’ve made it this far. However, don’t be complacent. According to experts, only 2% of job seekers will be offered an interview. And just because your personal brand looks great on paper, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that an interview guarantees success. The work to secure your ideal role is only just beginning.

Acing an interview is not about being a business or an industry genius, it’s about the small practical things you can do that will give you the best chance at success. View the interview as an opportunity to enhance your personal brand further – our interview checklist will help you prepare for the challenge and to secure the best outcome.

Here’s a brief overview of what you need to know.

Practicalities

First of all, arrange time off with your current employer. Don’t just go AWOL on the day, as you want to retain good relations with the company that is currently paying your wages. Gather all of the relevant information from the recruiter – the who, what, when, where and format of the interview. Allow plenty of time to reach the destination and factor in time to find a parking space – don’t let traffic woes stress you out ahead of the important meeting with those you’re trying to impress.

First impressions count for a lot, so make sure you are dressed appropriately for the work environment you’re hoping to join. Even if you’re entering a creative field, anything too ‘out there’ is unlikely to be appreciated. Be smart – iron your clothes, clean your shoes and make sure your hair is freshly washed. Smile, and shake the interviewer’s hand firmly to portray a confident, relaxed demeanour.

Research, research, research. The best way to ensure interview success is to be clear what the job involves, and what is being asked of the candidate. If it’s a multi-stage interview process, ensure you have plenty of examples to showcase your skills as repeating the same anecdote will risk you sounding like a one-trick pony. Demonstrating that you have a wide range of skills and experience is much more impressive to company bosses and HR personnel. They want to see that you can cope with a range of everyday demands and situations.

The interview

There are plenty of steps you can take to enhance your interview success. If you have a phone interview speak slowly and clearly. You may well be on a speaker phone in a meeting room – not favourable acoustics at the best of times – and you want to make sure that everyone in the room hears you properly. A phone interview may be the first time you speak to a potential employer – put across what you need to well, and it won’t be the last.

Whatever interview stage you’re at, bear these tips in mind:

  • Hone in on your skills and have the job spec in front of you - or at least review it before your interview. Relate your past experience to what the new company is looking for.
  • Be specific when talking about your experience. The STAR method helps you to answer questions fully while staying focused. It stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. Explain the situation you were faced with, the task that needed to be done, what action you took, and the end result.
  • Asking about development opportunities is fine, as this shows that you want to stick around, but do not ask about salary or benefits!
  • Your reasons for leaving may be a question the interviewer asks, so have a professional answer prepared. It’s OK to be honest but do frame it in a positive light – saying that the business was moving in a different direction to where you wanted to go, or that you feel you’ve achieved all that you can in the role will be sufficient.
  • Don’t talk down your current employer. Following the previous point, this is absolutely vital. Any unprofessional or personal comments will not win you brownie points with the interviewer.
  • Ask the interviewer questions, for example: how they plan to grow, or where the leadership want to develop key business areas. It’s important you show an interest in the employer you may work for.

Popular interview questions still revolve around the topics of: teamwork, sales ability, planning and organisational skills, customer focus, initiative, and motivation/drive for results. Prepare for questions you may be asked ahead of time. Just make sure that you answer the question you’re asked on the day, and you’re not just shoehorning what you want to say into the conversation. Consider these interview questions and how you might answer them. We’ve put some tips and tricks to give you a head start:

1. Tell me about one of the toughest groups you've had to work with. What made it difficult? - What did you do?

Talk about why the group was tough, without talking down other people. Was there a deadline, or a mix of abilities and experience in the group, for instance? Focus on your actions, not other people’s.

2. Tell me a situation in which you were able to turn around a negative customer? - What was the issue? - How did you accomplish the turnaround?

Again, don’t vent about the customer. Explain how they came to be upset. Demonstrate that you took positive actions, like listening and being patient, to resolve the situation.

3. Give me an example of when a mistake you made provided you with a learning experience?

This isn’t a trick question – we all make mistakes, so don’t say you haven’t! Focus on how your rectifying the mistake resulted in a better way of working for you, the team or the business.

Celebrations and learnings

So, you excelled at the interview and have been offered a position – great news! However, if you didn’t receive an offer this time, don’t panic! You can still take a lot away from the experience. Ask the interviewer or your recruitment consultant for feedback – understanding areas where your interview performance could have been better gives you insight into what you need to change next time.

Our interview checklist for candidates is full of practical tips and information to help you make the best of an interview. From preparation to the big day, it has everything to help you land your dream job. Visit our website or call 01772 259 121 to request your free copy.

And if you enjoyed this blog, you may also like to read our blog on ‘What is your interviewer actually thinking?’. Don’t forget to have a look at our recent job vacancies too.

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