Step 3: The Interview
Getting invited to an interview means you’ve passed the first test: your application must have made a good impression. Here is our guide to ensuring you keep impressing your prospective employer and secure the job.
Before the interview it’s important that you spend some time researching the company as this will give you the confidence to answer questions about what the company does, its products and services and markets. It will also allow you to ask the employer questions that are relevant.
Looking at the company’s website is always a good place to start. Another option is to get in touch and ask if they have an information pack they could send you, by post or electronically. Then of course look at their social media platforms as most companies have a presence on at least two or three.
Here are some hints to guide your research on the employer:
- What they do, make, or sell – try the ‘about us’ section of their website
- Who their customers are
- The sort of organisation it is
- What the job you’re applying for is likely to involve
- How you and your skills match the job and company as a whole
2. Prepare for the interview
Find out what the interview will involve to make sure that you’re prepared.
- Find out how many people will be interviewing you and their positions in the company. This will help you prepare for the kinds of questions they may ask.
- Finding out how long the interview is likely to last will give you an idea of how detailed the interview will be. You should also find out if you will have to take a test or make a presentation.
- If you have a disability, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for you to have an interview. If you need the employer to make particular arrangements (for example, to help you get into the building), contact them beforehand to make sure they can make these arrangements.
3. Plan your journey
- Make a note of the date, time and location of the interview, plan how you will get there and consider travelling to the company the day before the interview to check how long the journey will take.
- If necessary, ask the employer for directions, bus routes, or details of where you can park your car.
- You should plan another way of getting there in case something unexpected happens (such as an accident blocking the road, or if your train is cancelled), and ensure you have a contact number so you can let them know if you are unexpectedly held up.
4. Creating the right image
- Deciding what to wear for the interview will depend on what sort of work you will be doing, but usually it’s a good idea to dress smartly.
- Once you decide what to wear, get your clothes ready the day before. You don’t have to buy a new outfit, just aim for a neat, clean and tidy appearance – if you look good it will help you feel confident.
5. Prepare your materials
Next, you should aim to make sure you’ve got the information you need to take with you to the interview including:
- A printed copy of your CV or application form to refer to.
- Notes or cue cards to help if you think you might need a prompt during the interview.
- Any items the employer has asked you to bring along, for example, references, certificates, passport or your driving licence.
- Read the job advert or information you have again before the interview to refresh your memory, and to make sure you haven’t missed anything out, take a printed copy with you in case you want to remind yourself on the day.
6. Prepare for the questions you might be asked
- You may be asked to discuss examples of your previous work and achievements.
- The examples you give should expand on, or be different from those on your original application form.
- Before the interview, list the skills and experience needed for the job and think what you have done that you could use as an example for each one.
7. At the interview tips
- Enter the room confidently
- Shake hands firmly and introduce yourself
- Be polite and friendly
- Try to maintain eye contact with the person you are talking to
- Look interested, and ask questions as well as answering
- Answer questions as fully as you can, avoiding just saying “yes” and “no”
- Tell the truth
- Ask if you don’t understand a question
- Speak clearly
- Sell yourself – get your good points across and be positive
Some standard interview questions you might want to prepare for
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Why do you want this job?
- What do you know about our company?
- Why did you choose this profession?
- What are your strengths / weaknesses?
- What do you like / dislike about your current job role?
- Why are you looking forward to a new position?
- What has been your greatest achievement to date?
- How would you describe yourself?
- How would your friends and colleagues describe you?
- What are your future aspirations?
- What can you offer to your new team / company?
Preparing for a telephone interview
Sometimes a telephone interview is required before attending a face to face interview. The benefit of this is that you can have your personal information and advert ready in front of you to make it easy for yourself.
To get the feel of being interviewed over the phone, compile a list of probable questions and ask a friend to use them in a practice phone interview. Prepare your answers carefully (write them up in note form) using key words and phrases from your personal statement. Even though it may seem easier, do not attempt to write out your answers in full or they will sound scripted.
The telephone call
- Find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed during the telephone call.
- Keep your CV, covering letter, a copy of the job advertisement, and your notes in front of you.
- Be prepared to note down key points throughout the course of the telephone call.
- It is a good idea to treat the telephone interview as if it is a face to face interview, including dressing smart and holding a confident stance.
- You may find it helpful to stand during a telephone interview as this makes you sound more confident and helps project a positive and professional image.
- It is also a good idea to phone a friend just before your telephone interview, so you can get rid of any last minute nerves and try out your voice.
Responding to questions
- Listen to the interviewer’s questions and comments, responding appropriately. If you don’t understand a question, ask for it to be repeated. Try and provide examples when answering a question and avoid just yes and no replies and if you don’t know the answer to a question, say no.
- Keep your answers to questions to the point and never criticise any previous employers or colleagues. Always be positive.