How you present and market yourself at interview is crucial in determining whether or not you secure the job you want. The purpose of this guide is to provide you with best practice advice as well as hints and tips on undertaking a successful interview.
Before your interview, ensure that you know the following:
- The exact time and location of the interview, route, transport options, parking and how long it will take
to get there.
- The interviewer’s correct title and pronunciation of his or her full name.
- Specific facts about the company – its history, financial position, mission, markets, competitors, latest news, products and services. The company’s website is often an excellent source of this information. Simple internet searches can also reveal information that may not be profiled on the company’s website.
- Facts and figures about your present or former employer. Refresh your memory on this as you will be expected to know a lot about a company for which you have previously worked.
Dress like a professional, in a smart business suit with a clean, ironed shirt and tie (or blouse) and dark shoes. Do not wear casual clothes even if you know that it is company policy.
Review your CV and ensure you are equipped to answer questions on the details you have supplied.
Be ready to use pertinent examples from your career or personal life to demonstrate your skills and competencies. Also review the job description and the core competencies of the role. Examine your suitability and prepare specific examples before the interview.
Example Q & A
Can you tell me about yourself?
This is a common first interview question and is designed to just get you talking. The interviewer is looking for you to talk for a few minutes and wants you to summarise your experience relating to the role and your suitability.
The important thing is to be concise a good structure would be to describe your current job, some career highlights and details of your education, and include something about you as a person, perhaps your aspirations for the future. If you have no work experience then talk about your education and any clubs you may belong to.
TIP: End by asking the interviewer if they would like you to expand on any particular details.
Where do you want to be in five years time?
In your answer to this question you want to show a balance between ambition and commitment to the position in which they are interviewing you for.
TIP: Include how you want to make a great contribution to the company as you develop experience. You can emphasise specific goals you would like to achieve such as to lead a major project or achieve certain revenue or targets for the business.
What are your strengths?
The interviewer wants to know what your key strengths are in relation to this particular job. Make sure you choose examples that are relevant to this job but also examples that set you apart from other applicants.
TIP: It is important not just to list qualities but to back it up with an example. E.g. I am a good negotiator, in my current position I have just successfully negotiated a contract with a client and improved the terms by 15%
What is your weakness?
There are different ways in which to answer this question which are all deemed suitable answers.
I used to be… and this is how I resolved it.
Say a weakness that you USED to have and explain how you turned it around. The interviewer will see you’re willing to adapt, can problem solve and, more importantly, are self-aware - all strengths that any employer will want among their workforce.
E.g. I used to struggle to be assertive, but have since taken on further training to improve this.
I could improve on my….
Nobody’s perfect, so bring up a quality that could do with a little more attention and extra work. It is however a good idea to choose a quality that is not deemed as vital for the position.
E.g. If the role does not require leading colleagues this might be something that you could use as an example to improve on for the future.
I think my weakness could actually complement your company…
It’s time to knuckle down and play snap with this potential employer. So if you can, match your weakness to theirs, as what you perceive as bad might actually benefit their company.
Too strict about structure? If the company clearly needs a more organized routine, then your weakness could be their strength.
E.g. I like everything to be organized and in its own place – to a company that clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word filing.
What not to say as your weakness
I’m a perfectionist – Lazy text book answer that everyone is bored of hearing
I have no weaknesses, only strengths – Arrogant and lying everyone does
I work too hard – insincere
I’m not great at timekeeping and struggle with deadlines – Important in everything
You seem over-qualified for this job, can you tell me why you are interested?
The interviewer wants to see if you are really interested in this position and they want reassurance that you won’t get bored and leave.
You must show them your interest in this job, and your answer should show how your qualifications and experience bring value to the role. Demonstrate your enthusiasm and play down any idea of this job being a ‘backward step’.
TIP: Be honest let them know you understand that this could be a concern for them but that you have thought about this and the benefit of having more responsibility, working for a larger company or indeed joining a smaller company with more autonomy is your driver.
Why do you want to leave your current job?
The interviewer is looking for an honest but professional answer. They want to know you can make good decisions and can take responsibility so blaming someone else for lack of fulfilment or being unsuccessful is not the answer. Your answer should make it clear that you’re a strong performer in your current role and are now looking for a new opportunity. You can then focus on what this role will bring to you.
TIP: It is important to remain positive about your company or the people you work with. This will only make you look unprofessional if you are negative
Questions to ask the interviewer
Remember that an interview is a two-way process. The interviewer will be trying to determine whether you are the right person for the role and you should also ensure they are the right company for you. Asking questions is also the best way to show you have prepared and are taking a real interest.
Some questions you might ask include:
- Why has the position become available?
- How does the position fit into the structure of the organisation?
- What training programmes are available to ensure continued personal and career development?
- What plans does the organisation have for future development?
- How would you describe the work culture?
- How is performance measured and reviewed?
- What motivated you to join the organisation?
- Do you have any doubts as to whether I am suitable for this position?
In the unlikely event that the interviewer has answered all your questions it is a good idea to repeat one or two back to them. For example, You have already answered all my questions. I did want to know about the work culture but you have told me it’s very much a work hard play hard environment. This shows you did prepare questions and also that you have good listening skills.