It is nearly impossible to get a job offer without first attending an interview. So who would want to take a job without first meeting their new boss? The secret for a successful interview lies in preparation; it’s worth taking some time to do your homework.
Good employers understand the pitfalls of the interview, but the process is slowly becoming more structured, sophisticated, and fair. Many companies will use more unexpected interview questions to help gauge personality. Some may even use a psychometric questionnaire to see how well it fits your personality. Depending on the role, you may be asked to take an additional test or take part in an RPG to gauge your skills.
If you stick to a few guidelines, though, you won’t have a problem handling the interview questions you face and getting through your next job interview. You can also download a checklist to help you prepare for your interview at the bottom of this page.
Before the interview
Preparation is the key. Here are some things you might be thinking about:
- Research the organization. Check out their website and read all the news you can find about them.
- If you are about to change your career, research the industry. Check out industry association websites and magazines to get an idea of the latest developments.
- Prepare answers to standard interview questions that form the basis of most interviews.
- Be ready with some questions for the interviewer; this shows that you are passionate and on the ball.
- Check the interview format and find out who will interview you. It could throw you out of your mind if you were to unexpectedly face a six-person interview panel!
- Make sure you dress appropriately.
- Please review your CV and application letter and make additional copies with you at the interview.
- Plan your trip and check for any delays.
At the interview
Ideally, you want to make a good impression in the first few minutes of the interview. Try to:
- Plan to arrive for the interview at least five minutes early. If you are going to inevitably be delayed, be sure to let your interviewer know.
- Always turn off your cell phone before entering the recruiter’s building.
Sometimes the interviewer may want to provoke a stronger reaction, so expect to get some difficult questions to interview. Some common ones include:
- What are your weaknesses?
- What would your colleagues say are your weaknesses?
- Describe a situation where your work has been criticized?
Success here depends more on not fidgeting and thinking on your feet than on having the “right answer”. Be honest and motivate your responses. Admitting past mistakes and explaining what you have learned from them shows that you are a real person and not a robot.
Interview styles can vary greatly; whatever the situation, try to remember:
- Be friendly and courteous to everyone you meet, from the receptionist onwards. You never know who might have a say in your date.
- Use positive body language.
- When answering interview questions, relate parts of the job description to the relevant experience in your CV.
- Make the most of your research and cite it where appropriate.
- If you’re going through a group interview, be sure to talk to everyone rather than targeting your responses to just one person.
- Find out as much as you can about work. For example, who would you report to? Why is the job vacant? What are the promotion prospects?
- Never mention salary unless asked to do so, and even then try not to agree on specific numbers without being given time to think.
- Always let the interviewer finish talking before giving your answer.
- At the end of the interview, remember to ask when you can expect to receive an answer and what the next step will entail.
After the interview
It is always good to take stock of overall performance, learn from experience and prepare for the next step.
- Try to remember the interview questions you were asked and how you answered to see if you could improve in the future.
- If you think it’s appropriate, email the interviewer to thank you, but don’t be too pushy for a response.
- Remember to use any criticism constructively.
Before the interview:
- Research the organization, check the company website and search for them on the Internet
- If you are changing career / industry, research the sector
- Prepare answers to standard interview questions
- Make sure you know the name of the person or people interviewing you
- Check the interview format
- Check the formality of the interview and prepare an outfit for the interview
- Print backup copies of your CV to take with you
- Re-read CV
- Plan your journey to the interview
- Check the news / traffic reports to make sure there are no problems
- Bring a contact number for the company with you in case you have a problem
At the interview:
- Turn off the mobile phone
- Ask when you can expect to be answered
- After the interview:
- If appropriate, send an email to thank the interviewer for the opportunity
- If unsuccessful, contact the interviewer and ask for constructive criticism / feedback