Interview Preparation

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Introduction

Interviews are obviously the key point in the recruitment process. It doesn’t matter how good you are at your job, if you don’t interview well it will limit your career choices. It’s crucial that you prepare well before your interview. We hope that this short guide can steer you in the right direction. Before you even start on the interview process you have to make sure that you:

  • Know your CV inside out

  • Know where you want to go to next in your career

  • Know about your potential employer and their portfolio of products

  • Know the facts and figures about your previous employers

  • Prepare the questions that you are going to ask about the potential employer

  • Know what sort of interview styles you might be faced with

  • Know how to manage those styles to ensure that you are offered the job.

  • Brush up on the Do’s and Don’ts of interviewing.

 Know Your CV Inside Out:

  • No matter which interview technique your potential employer uses, he or she, will want you to give evidence that you can actually do the job. Don’t forget that the interviewer doesn’t know a lot about you except for what is in your CV and they will use the CV as a prompt to find out more about you and your abilities.

  • A winning technique is to be able to tell a story about every point you make on your CV. It’s called the SOAR technique and is great for dealing with what’s known as behavioural and competency-based interviews.

The SOAR Interview Technique

This is particularly useful in behavioural, situational or competency-based interviews. You can spot these interviews easily because the interviewer will usually ask something like “Tell me about a situation where you were….”

You should answer these questions with a little 2 minute (not 10 minute!) story following the SOAR technique.

 S stands for Scenario.

  • Begin your story with a brief description of the scenario you were in. It needs to be brief and clear, do not go into detail, you just need to give them the big picture.

  • For example, take this question framed from the competency, ability to manage a small team of professional staff: "Tell me about a time a couple of your team members were not working well together and you had to intervene."

  • Answer: "I was managing a team of five recruitment consultants who generally worked on separate accounts, but needed to work together as a group for preferred supply contract.“

  • “When we were putting together the recruitment plan, I realised that that 2 of the team members just didn’t work together at all well. They’d had an argument at a five-a-side game and now they wouldn’t share information and were creating a lot of tension in team as a whole."

O stands for Ownership.

  • This is where you explain, very clearly, that it was your responsibility to get things resolved. "It was my responsibility to get the recruitment plan prepared by the end of the following day, so I had to do something immediately."

 A is for Action.

  • Tell them what the action you took, but don’t go into too much detail.

R stands for Results

  • Tell them what your action actually achieved.

Know where you want to go to next in your career:

  • Employers are interested in focused, driven, career-minded people. If you don’t know where you want to go in your career, or even what career you want to follow, the interviewer will not be impressed.

  • Think this through before the interview and ensure that what you want fits in with what’s on offer at the employer. For instance, there’s no point saying that you want to be a regional manager if you are going for a job at a single-branch agency.

 Know Your Potential Employer:

  • You’ve got to show respect to the organisation that’s interviewing you and the best way to do this is to know about them. Fortunately, the internet now makes this easier than ever. Check out their website and look to see how long they’ve been in business, what they specialise in, where they’re located, who the main players in the organisation are, who their clients are, and what is their turnover / profits.

  • If it’s a major company quoted on the stock market you can also do an archive search on www.guardian.co.uk or www.ft.com

 Prepare the questions that you are going to ask about the potential employer

  • A detailed description of the position

  • Reason the position is available

  • Culture of the company

  • Anticipated induction and training program

  • Advanced training programmes available for those who demonstrate outstanding ability

  • The sort of people who have done well

  • Company growth plans

The next step

Know The Interview Style:

  • Companies use a number of different interview styles. Those that have a prolonged interview process (3 – 4 interviews) will probably use a behavioural or competency-based style, although the initial interview may be the ad hoc style.

  • It doesn’t take too much effort to learn to recognise the styles. If you can do this, you can adapt your interview technique to the style demanded and come out winning.

  • Behavioural or competency-based

  • Preference-based

  • Ad hoc

 Manage the styles and get the offer:

  • Putting a little bit of work in prior to the interview really will bring you the benefit of many more job offers.

  • Concentrate on getting the job first and then consider if you really want it later. Unless you definitely do NOT want the job, tell the interviewer how keen you are on the position.

  • Ask if there is any reason why you would not be offered the position / the next interview. If the interviewer says that he needs to think it over, ask just what it is that he needs to think over, address those points again and try to close him down again.

INTERVIEW STYLES AND HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM

Behavioural or Competency-Based:

  • The basis of behavioural interviewing or "targeted recruitment" is "past behaviour is a predictor of future behaviour". Questions asked of you will relate specifically to your experience. Expect questions like:

  • "Describe a problem you have solved. What was your approach and what was the outcome?"

  • When confronted with a behavioural interview, you will be glad you practiced your SOAR stories.

  • If, during a behavioural interview, you find yourself beginning answers with, "Well, what I would do...", stop!!!!

  • Think about a specific example and begin an answer with, "Well, what I did was...".

  • If you have detailed information about the role you are being interviewed for, you can do some very specific preparation by aligning your experiences with the job's key competencies.

Preference-Based:

  • The preference-based interview is usually the preference-based "part" of an interview.

  • This method is used to find out what individuals really want out of a career. It is based on a theory, for example, that a recruiter could be interviewing an accountant who would love to be a HR manager.

  • If you don’t convince the interviewer that you really know what you want out of life and out of a job, you will probably fail the interview, so brush up and have your answers ready!

  • The sorts of questions that are likely include:

  • What are you looking for in the future?

  • What sort of company would you like to work for?

  • Where do you want to live?

  • Why are you exploring other options outside of your experience?

  • Who had the greatest impact on your life?

  • Describe your past mentors.

 Ad hoc:

If a line manager in an organisation is interviewing you, or the interview is a one or two stage process, there is a good chance that no pre-ordained method will be followed.

It is still really important in this situation to know your CV and the organisation. You will need to develop answers so that you are prepared for the following questions:

  • Why did you choose this particular role? What do you want to do in your next career move?

  • Why would you like to work for our organisation?

  • What do you want to be doing in your career, five years from now?

  • What was your last salary?

  • Go through your past performances.

  • Can you get references from your previous employers? What would they say about you?

  • What have you learnt from some of the jobs you have had? Which did you most enjoy?

  • What have you done that's shown initiative?

  • What is your major weakness? What are you doing about it?

  • What do you think determines a person's progress in a good company?

  • Are you willing to relocate?

  • How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?

  • What does teamwork mean to you?

  • What type of books do you read?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What can you bring to this role?

Answers to some of these questions will call on self-knowledge from two sources: the assessment of your ideal next career move and your CV. Whenever possible, use SOAR to demonstrate your achievements in answers to these questions. However, other questions can only be well answered if you have anticipated them and prepared an answer beforehand, for example, questions about salary. 

It is important in an ad hoc interview to be prepared to answer questions about weaknesses or areas of development. It is important to acknowledge that you have weaknesses but it is equally important to state your intent to do something about these, for example:

Q: What are your weaknesses?

A: I’ve got loads of energy and enthusiasm. I really enjoy meeting people and I’m very pro-active. However, I don't always follow-up paperwork so that’s really something I should be looking to improve on.

Two commonly asked questions at the start and end of interviews provide you with the opportunity to give an impression summary to the interviewer

  • "Why are you here?" and later, maybe last, in the interview:

  • "Do you have any questions for me?"

Don’t leave these to chance. Have your answers prepared beforehand and know them off by heart. Don’t forget, first impressions and last impressions count for a lot. Make sure you make the most of these opportunities to sell yourself. 

DO’S AND DON’TS OF INTERVIEWS

  • Know the exact place and time of the interview, the interviewer’s full name and correct pronunciation, and his/her title.

  • Do arrive a few minutes early, but not too early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable. You can easily get directions and plan your route from www.theaa.co.uk by simply entering the postcode of the potential employer. Think about car parking.

  • Dress conservatively and preferably in darker colours. Men should wear a dark suit, white shirt, and bright tie and have black, polished shoes. Leave earrings at home. Women should wear a business suit. Everyone should pay attention to all facets of their dress and grooming and get a haircut.

  • Greet the interviewer by their surname, shake hands firmly and SMILE.

  • Wait until you are offered a chair before sitting down. Don’t slouch – it looks like you’re not interested. Look alert and interested at all times. Look the interviewer in the eye when s/he talks. Be a good listener as well as a good talker. SMILE

  • Get the interviewer to describe the position and the duties to you early in the interview so that you can relate your background and skills to the position. Ask what the qualities are of the people who are already achieving in the company and relate your qualities to them.

  • DON’T answer questions with a simple “yes” or “no”. Explain whenever possible.  Tell them those things about yourself that relate to the position. SMILE

  • DO make sure that your good points get across to the interviewer in a factual, sincere manner.  Keep in mind that you alone can sell yourself to an interviewer.  Make them realise the need for you in their organisation. SMILE

  • DON’T “over-answer” questions. You can talk yourself out of a job this way!

  • DON’T lie.  Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as much to the point as possible.

  • Find out about the company. Check out their website and look to see how long they’ve been in business, what they specialise in, where else are they located, who are the main players in the organisation, who are their clients and what is their turnover / profits

Be prepared to answer typical questions such as:

  • What kind of job are you looking for?

  • What are your strengths?

  • What are your weaknesses and what are you doing about addressing them?

  • What do you know about their company?

  • Why did you choose your particular career?

  • What are your qualifications?

Prepare YOUR questions you want answered. This is your opportunity to find out the company will give you the opportunity for the growth and development you want. Some questions you might ask;

  • A detailed description of the position

  • Reason the position is available

  • Culture of the company

  • Anticipated induction and training programme

  • Advanced training programmes available for those who demonstrate outstanding Ability

  • Company growth plans

The next step

  • Do NOT ask questions about salary, bonuses, holidays, office Christmas parties etc. on your first interview unless they raise these points first. Wait until the second or ask us to find these details out for you. However, you should know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.

Negative Factors To Watch For during the course of an interview, the employer will be evaluating your negative factors as well as your positive attributes.  Listed below are negative factors that feed back to us the most.

  • Poor personal appearance

  • Overbearing, aggressive, conceited; superiority complex; know-it-all

  • Inability to express thoughts clearly; poor diction or grammar

  • Being “vague” when responding to questions – major problem

  • Lack of planning for career - no purpose or goals

  • Lack of interest and enthusiasm - passive and indifferent – major problem

  • Lack of confidence – nervousness

  • Over-emphasis on money - interested only in remuneration

  • Evasive - makes excuses for unfavourable parts of your CV

  • Lack of tact/maturity/courtesy

  • Speaking ill of past employers or colleagues – major problem

  • Failure to look interviewer in the eye

  • Limp handshake

  • Lack of appreciation of the value of experience

  • Failure to ask good questions about the job and company (this is most important!)

  • Persistent attitude of “What can you do for me?”

  • Lack of preparation for interview - failure to get information about the company, resulting in inability to ask intelligent questions

  • ALWAYS conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing.  Never close the door on an opportunity.  It is better to be in the position where you can choose from a number of jobs rather than only one.

“Close off” the Interview

  • If you are interested in the position, ask for it.  Ask for the next interview, if the situation demands.  If he/she offers the position to you, and you want it, accept on the spot.  If you need some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time.

  • Don’t be too discouraged if no definite offer is made or specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to communicate with his/her office first or interview more applicants before making a decision.

  • If you get the impression that the interview is not going well and that you have already been rejected, don’t let your disappointment show. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may seem to discourage you in order to test your reaction.

  • Thank the interviewer for his/her time and consideration of you. You have done all you can if you have answered the two questions uppermost in his/her mind:

  • Why are you interested in the job and the company?

  • What can you offer and can you do the job?

And Finally

  • Call us immediately after the interview and explain what happened.  We really do need to talk with you before the interviewer calls us back.  If you are interested in progressing further it is really important that we tell the employer and for us to swiftly arrange the next step on your behalf.

 

Monday the 23rd.

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