Interviews

Interview photo

If you have been offered an interview, it means you have already succeeded at the first stage – so, take heart! Your application form, CV, letter of application or initial telephone call has convinced the employer that you are a strong contender.

This is your chance to convince them that you’re the best person for the job! You may have been short-listed from dozens of applicants, so you’re doing well to have got this far!

Here are some tips for coping confidently with job interviews

Find out where the interview is to be held

  • Make sure you know where you are going for the interview – maybe a ‘dummy run’ to check location and travel time.

Decide on the right clothes to wear to interview

  • First impressions count so make sure that you wear something smart and simple. Whatever kind of job you’re going for, this will show that you’ve taken trouble, and will help to make sure that those important first impressions are positive.

Prepare for interview questions

It’s not possible to know exactly what questions the interviewer will ask you but there are some topics that almost inevitably come up. Thinking about how you might reply beforehand can help prevent your mind from going blank on the day. Likely topics are:

  • The reason why you have applied to work in the particular organisation
  • Why you are interested in the actual job role
  • Your previous work experience – what you did and what you enjoyed
  • Your strengths and weaknesses – be careful not to sound too negative when discussing weaknesses, and end with a positive e.g. I have never used your computer system before but I am quick to learn new skills, and learned the computer system in my current job very quickly.
  • What you have to bring to the job and the relevance of your experience; there may be particular reasons why you have been short-listed – you may have a skill or background in which the interviewer is especially interested
  • Your reasons for changing jobs, if appropriate
  • If you have been out of paid employment for a while, what you have done with your time
  • what do you know about their company? Do some research on the company before your interview, it will show the employer that you are enthusiastic and self-motivated. Search for the company on the internet as most companies have a website.

Know what to expect in the interview

Types of Interview

Interviews can vary tremendously - some may be casual, such as a chat in the corner of a crowded shop, others may be formal. The number of interviewers can vary, ranging in number from two or three to even six or seven people. Alternatively, you may go through a series of interviews with different people, possibly all on the same day. Keep calm and remember they are interviewing you because they liked your application or CV. They want to find out if you are the right person for the job.

Competency-based interviews are now commonly used. Competency questions are questions about real life situations. You will be asked to give examples of how you have dealt with certain situations in the past – such as how you coped with a difficult customer, how you prioritised tasks or solved problems. You will probably have been sent a list of competencies for the job you are applying for, so you should do some preparation before the day. Remember to take a moment to think about your answers, rather than rushing in quickly.

Find help with how to answer questions in application forms and interviews

See examples of competency questions and answers

Tests

You may be asked to take a test on the day of the interview. It might be an aptitude test, or a practical test relevant to the type of work for which you are being interviewed. Usually, you will have been told in advance about any such tests.

Presentations

As part of the selection process, you may be required to give a presentation on a topic relevant to the organisation or the job you are applying for. Normally you would be told about this in advance. Check that you will have access to any equipment you may need, but be careful about relying too much on technical equipment which could let you down or give you unforeseen technical problems.

Group Activities

You may have to take part in group activities with other candidates, e.g. to test your ability to work in a team, your communication skills, your initiative or ability to lead others. Make sure you listen to others in your group and take on board their thoughts. But also make certain that you share and contribute ideas too.

Stay calm and be positive. Show the employer that you are the right person for the job.

Interviews - Dos and Dont's

  • Give yourself time to get ready. Make contingency plans, e.g. in case your car doesn’t start or your children are sick.
  • Make sure you’ve got your exam certificates and any other documents which you think you might need (perhaps, open references, for example).  You should always take the letter inviting you to interview, telling you where and when the interview is and who will be interviewing you. 
  • If you have any examples of things you have done in previous jobs, or in your spare time, which would be relevant to the job you are applying for, take them along.
  • You may need some change for bus/train fares or to use a drinks machine while you are waiting.
  • Never go cluttered with things like shopping bags.
  • Set off in plenty of time to allow for delays and so that you arrive about ten minutes early. Then you’ll have time to gather your thoughts and to visit the cloakroom and tidy yourself up, if you need to.
  • When you arrive, introduce yourself to the receptionist (if there is one). Be professional and friendly to everyone you meet – you never know who the interviewer will consult about their impressions of you!
  • If you are unavoidably delayed on the journey, do your very best to phone to let the employer know. 
  • Sometimes, all candidates are invited to arrive early in the morning for a pre-interview briefing. Your actual interview may not be until later in the day.  If you know this in advance, you might ask if you could look around the organisation during the waiting time 

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