Saturday, April 28, 2012

Interview Preperation

Emily Gohl from Recruit4health explains how to prepare yourself for your interview

Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance

Good preparation is a key part to having a successful interview beginning with knowing the names and job titles of the people interviewing you.

One of the most important things you can do is prepare answers to questions you may potentially get asked... also rehearse them out loud. This will make you feel more confident and prepared when you walk into the interview room.

It is always a good idea to plan the route to your interview to make sure you give a good impression of being punctual. Find out directions as well as information on parking if you are driving or the nearest railway station or bus stop. If due to unforeseen circumstances you know you are going to be late contact the company to inform them of your expected arrival time and let the agency know you have done this. When you arrive ensure you apologise immediately and explain your reasons.

Interview Questions

Interview questions may vary but in essence they are all trying to establish the following:
  • Your skills and experience to do the job
  • Your enthusiasm and interest for the job
  • Whether you will fit in

If you can answer these questions, using real-life examples to illustrate your points, then you should be able to answer most of the questions that arise including the following frequently asked questions.

1. Tell me about yourself?

This question or something similar usually starts every interview. Your answer should be well-rehearsed, confidently delivered and last between 3-5 minutes.

This is your opportunity to sell yourself and your answer doesn't have any boundaries.

Remember they want to hear you speak and gauge just how confident you are. It is your chance to sell yourself!  

You need to:
  • Focus on the areas of most relevance to the job in question i.e.: key skills
  • Include some impressive achievements e.g. improvements made that could be relevant to the job you are interviewing for
  • Convey your enthusiasm for the job
  • Avoid going into too much detail on personal or irrelevant information e.g. your children, un-related jobs

2. What are your key skills/strengths?

This is one of the most difficult questions to answer and we would recommend planning and rehearsing an answer to this prior to your interview so that you know exactly what to say.

Focus on what you know they are looking for, even if it has been a smaller part of what you have been doing to date.

The job advert or person specification form will give you the information you need about their requirements.

3. What are your weaknesses?

Again, this is a very difficult question and you need to plan and rehearse this prior to an interview.

Do not say that you do not have any weaknesses and do not give any cliché answers such as: “I get bored easily”

Choose a weakness that:
  • Doesn't matter for the job e.g. languages for a UK firm. 
  • Is a positive e.g. "I like to make things happen and get frustrated if too long is spent sitting around discussing it without action" 
  • Used to be a weakness but which you have improved upon e.g. presentations. This demonstrates self awareness

4. Why did you leave your last job?

Your answer should be positive and upbeat even if the circumstances were difficult. If you were made redundant, depersonalise it by talking about company restructuring rather than your individual circumstance. Never criticise a previous employer no matter how tempting.

5. Why do you want this job?

Your answer should reinforce why you are such a good fit for the job and then convey your enthusiasm for the role e.g.
  • good match between your skills and their requirements
  • interested in the product/market/sector
  • company's excellent reputation, exciting challenge etc.
  • Do not say (even if it's true) that you just need a job, or you want it because it's local.

6.  What are your career goals?

They are checking if you are likely to stay and if so, for how long. Reassure the employer that the role you are applying for fits your career plan and your longer term commitment to the company.

7. What are your salary expectations?

Salary negotiations are best handled at the job offer stage so try to avoid this at interview if you can. If forced to name a price, give a realistic but wide salary range and say that you feel that salary won't be an issue if you decide to work together.

8. What do you know about our organisation?

Do as much research as you can. It is highly likely that you will get asked this question and remember that  “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” It will also impress the interviewer if you refer back to research/knowledge on the company in some of your other answers.

You need to know the following:
  • Company structure, finances, products and services, key staff 
  • Customers and competitors
  • Market trends and challenges

To find out that information, check the company website, any industry related media,  or companies house.

Competency Based Questions

In a Competency Based Interview or Behavioural Job Interview, the company has decided what skills are needed in the person they hire and will ask questions to find out if the candidate has those skills.

Behavioural interview questions will be more focused and specific than traditional interview questions and you'll need to respond with specific examples of how you handled situations in the workplace. 

Review examples of the questions you may be asked during a behavioral job interview and think about how you would answer them. 

Use the job description to get a clear idea on what key competencies they require in a candidate, that way you'll be prepared ahead of time, rather than having to think of a response on the spot during the interview.

Ensure you get to the point quickly, do not waffle. 

The STAR technique will help you add structure to your answer and ensure you cover all vital points so that you give a top quality answer.

S = SITUATION. Here you would briefly describe the situation you are going to base your answer on. Set the scene.

T = TASK. Describe what it was that you had to do. This section of your answer should flow quite nicely when describing the situation.

A = ACTION. This is the most important part of your answer. You need to talk about what YOU did to successfully complete the task. Remember to show how you added value here, what you achieved etc as this will show the employer what you could potentially do for them.

R = RESULT. Finally, what was the result of the task and your actions? Try and make it a positive result or if it wasn’t, try and put a positive spin at the end i.e: what you would do next time to achieve a better result.

Example question could be:

Tell me about a difficult scenario at work and how you dealt with it

Here they are testing how you cope under pressure as well as your problem-solving and communication skills.

Good examples are where you:
  • helped resolve or improve a difficult situation
  • were resilient in adverse conditions
  • showed emotional intelligence and cool-headedness
  • Avoid any examples which still feel sensitive, because in a high-pressure interview situation, old emotions can easily resurface and throw you off balance. Always remain positive.
  • Other questions could include:
  • Give an example of an occasion when you used logic to solve a problem.
  • Give an example of a goal you reached and tell me how you achieved it.
  • Give an example of a goal you didn't meet and how you handled it.
  • Describe a stressful situation at work and how you handled it.
  • Tell me about how you worked effectively under pressure.
  • How do you handle a challenge?
  • Have you been in a situation where you didn't have enough work to do?
  • Have you ever made a mistake? How did you handle it?
  • Describe a decision you made that was unpopular and how you handled implementing it.
  • Did you ever make a risky decision? Why? How did you handle it?
  • Did you ever postpone making a decision? Why?
  • Have you ever dealt with company policy you weren't in agreement with? How?
  • Have you gone above and beyond the call of duty? If so, how?
  • When you worked on multiple projects how did you prioritize?
  • How did you handle meeting a tight deadline?
  • Give an example of how you set goals and achieve them.
  • What do you do when your schedule is interrupted? Give an example of how you handle it.
  • Have you had to convince a team to work on a project they weren't thrilled about? How did you do it?
  • Give an example of how you worked on team.
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a co-worker? How?
  • What do you do if you disagree with a co-worker?
  • Share an example of how you were able to motivate employees or co-workers.
  • Do you listen? Give an example of when you did or when you didn't listen.
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with a supervisor? How?
  • Have you handled a difficult situation with another department? How?
  • What do you do if you disagree with your boss?

Questions to ask at the end of your interview

Asking the employer questions at the end of your interview confirms to them your interest in working for their organisation and obviously is a good way for you to find out more information.

It is always best to go to your interview with around 5 questions prepared. Do be aware though that some of your questions could get covered earlier on in the interview.

Some questions you could think of asking could be:

1.        What types of training opportunities can you offer?
This is one of the classic questions as it can highlight that you are keen to advance your skills and add further value to a company.

2.     Is there a chance for promotion in the future?
This is another classic question, and in a similar vein. It can emphasise a determination to make progress and to do so over the long term.

3.     How would you describe the work culture here?
Here you are signalling that you want to be able to operate at your optimum and understand that for this you require a positive environment. In turn, this can indicate you are a good self-manager who is aware of how to get the best out of yourself.

4.     In what way is performance measured and reviewed?
This question can flag up that you appreciate the importance of delivering real results. You can be seen to be someone who understands the value of commitment, reliability and returns.

5.     Do you have any doubts about whether I am suited to this position?
This is a rather more brazen way of emphasising some of your strengths. It suggests you are open to constructive criticism and willing to learn from the experience of others. In addition, it gives you a real chance to address any weaknesses the interviewee may think you have. Finally, it allows you to finish on a high, re-stating why you think you are the right person.

Dress for success

The first impression you make on a potential employer is the most important one. The first judgement an interviewer makes is going to be based on how you look. It is always important to dress professionally, even if the work environment is casual or requires a uniform.

Men's Interview Attire
  • Suit (solid colour - navy or dark grey)
  • Long sleeve shirt (white or coordinated with the suit)
  • Belt
  • Tie
  • Dark socks, conservative leather shoes
  • Little or no jewellery
  • Neat, professional hairstyle
  • Limit the aftershave
  • Neatly trimmed nails
Women's Interview Attire
  • Suit (navy, black or dark grey)
  • The suit skirt should be long enough so you can sit down comfortably
  • Coordinated blouse
  • Conservative shoes
  • Limited jewellery (no dangling earrings or arms full of bracelets)
  • Professional hairstyle
  • Light make-up and perfume
  • Neatly manicured clean nails

CHECKLIST - Have you?
  • Researched the Company
  • Sorted out what to wear
  • Travel Arrangements
  • Prepared some broad questions to ask the interviewer (try to avoid the salary question unless prompted)
  • Rehearsed interview scenarios
  • Confirmed Date/Time/Location of Interview
  • Printed a copy of your CV and any relevant project work
  • Got a decent notebook and pen in case you would like to make notes

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