Got an interview coming up?
Our top 5 job interview tips.
If you’re counting down the days till your next job interview, these helpful hints will help you get in the right mood so you can leave a lasting impression on the interviewers:
1. Do your research
Fail to plan, and you plan to fail. You are certain to be asked specific questions about the company, so make sure you’ve done your homework on things like their locations, divisions, latest news . Also take a look at the latest developments in the industry so you can converse with confidence. The need to feel you want to work for them – not just any company.
2. Practice your answers
Although there is no set format that every job interview will follow, there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will crop up. You should prepare answers to some of the most common interview questions about your personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as being able to explain why you would be the best person for the job.
3. Look the part
Appearances shouldn’t matter, but the plain fact is that you are often judged before you’ve even uttered a word. Make sure your shoes are polished, your clothes fit correctly and that your accessories are subtle. Dressing one level above the job you’re applying for shows a desire to succeed.
4. Stay calm
Good preparation is the key to staying in control. Plan your route, allowing extra time for any unexpected delays and get everything you need to take with you ready the night before. Remember to speak clearly, smile and remember that your interviewers are just normal people, and they may be nervous too!
5. After the interview
If you’re unsuccessful, use it as an opportunity to improve. Ask for feedback from the interviewer.
You’re entitled to it! If you were skills or competency tested, ask for the results. This shows initiative and keenness on your part, as well as boosting your future interview success chances; the interviewer might consider you for future vacancies at the company based on this action alone.
And remember what your nan taught you...politeness costs nothing. It’s always worthwhile sending a note of thanks – via email or otherwise – for the interviewer’s time.
Don’t be afraid to highlight anything you feel is relevant to the role – this is your one opportunity to show off what you can do for the company – don’t waste it by being modest or shy.
Common interview questions
Although there is no set format that every job interview will follow, there are some questions that you can almost guarantee will crop up. Here’s a list of the most common questions and a guide to the kind of answers your interviewer wants to hear:
Tell me about yourself
This is usually the opening question and, as first impressions are key, one of the most important. Keep your answer to under
five minutes, beginning with an overview of your highest qualification then running through the jobs you’ve held so far in
your career. You can follow the same structure of your CV, giving examples of achievements and the skills you’ve picked up
along the way. Don’t go into too much detail – your interviewer will probably take notes and ask for you to expand on any
areas where they’d like more information. If you’re interviewing for your first job since leaving education, focus on the areas
of your studies you most enjoyed and how that has led to you wanting this particular role.
What are your strengths?
Pick the three biggest attributes that you think will get you the job and give examples of how you have used these strengths
in a work situation. They could be tangible skills, such as proficiency in a particular computer language, or intangible skills
such as good man-management. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at the job description. There is usually a section
listing candidate requirements, which should give you an idea of what they are looking for.
What are your weaknesses?
The dreaded question, which is best handled by picking something that you have made positive steps to redress. For
example, if your IT ability is not at the level it could be, state it as a weakness but tell the interviewer about training courses
or time spent outside work hours you have used to improve your skills. Your initiative could actually be perceived as a
strength. On no accounts say “I don’t have any weaknesses”, your interviewer won’t believe you, or “I have a tendency to
work too hard”, which is seen as avoiding the question.
Why should we hire you? or What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?
What makes you special and where do your major strengths lie? You should be able to find out what they are looking for
from the job description. “I have a unique combination of strong technical skills and the ability to build long-term customer
relationships” is a good opening sentence, which can then lead onto a more specific example of something you have done
so far in your career. State your biggest achievement and the benefit it made to the business, then finish with “Given the
opportunity, I could bring this success to your company.”
What are your goals? or Where do you see yourself in five years time?
It’s best to talk about both short-term and long-term goals. Talk about the kind of job you’d eventually like to do and the
various steps you will need to get there, relating this in some way back to the position you’re interviewing for. Show the
employer you have ambition, and that you have the determination to make the most of every job you have to get where you
want to be.
What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?
This is a great time to brag about yourself through someone else’s words. Try to include one thing that shows your ability to
do the job, one thing that shows your commitment to the work, and one thing that shows you are a good person to have in
a team. For example, “My boss has told me that I am the best designer he has ever had. He knows he can always rely on me,
and he likes my sense of humour.”