This article looks at how to prepare for interviews so that everything goes smoothly. It also gives tips on how to come across well on the day.
All kinds of interviews
An interview is where one person talks to another to find out something about them. Job and course interviews can involve just two people, but there are lots of other types. It is important to know about all the different kinds, if you are preparing for an interview.
The letter or email inviting you for an interview should give a clear idea of what kind of things you will do. If it doesn't, contact the organisation and ask what you can expect on the day.
The panel interview is quite common. Normally two or three people will sit facing you and ask questions in turn. Try not to worry about who to look at when you are speaking; if you look at the person who has asked the question, you won't go wrong.
Group interviews are less common, but they do happen. In this case, you would be interviewed at the same time as a few other candidates. A panel of interviewers will ask you questions in turn. The important things to remember are not to interrupt other candidates when they are answering and to listen at all times.
An interviewer might ask another candidate a question and then turn to you and say "What do you think?" If you have been listening, you can use the other candidate's answer to build up your own, eg, by saying something like "I agree with X, but I think...".
Some organisations use a method called the assessment centre approach to select suitable people. It could involve you doing things like written tests, taking part in group activities with other candidates and, of course, being interviewed.
Psychometric tests are used by some organisations, either at the application stage or at the interview stage. A psychometric test is a special kind of multiple choice-type form. After you have completed the form, it is analysed to assess your personal qualities.
Preparing for the interview
The most important thing to remember for an interview is to be prepared. If you prepare properly, everything else will go more easily. You'll be more relaxed on the day and you'll be able to be yourself, instead of worrying about what kind of person they're looking for.
So, once you know you've got an interview:
- make sure you make a note of the date, time and place, and double check that you've got it right
- work out how you are going to get to the interview and it might be a good idea to do a practice run
- make sure you read all the information you have about the job or course and the organisation
You should think about how you are going to present yourself. Ask yourself the following questions:
- what do you want the interviewer to know about you?
- what are you good at?
- what can you contribute to the company or course?
- what skills and abilities are you offering?
It's a good idea to sit down and make a list of your strengths and weaknesses before you go to the interview. Make sure that you can back up your strengths with positive examples of how you use them.
Also, try to think of a weakness that can also be presented as a strength. For example, if you think your weakness is impatience, you can turn this into a strength by showing how much energy and commitment there is behind your impatience.
- read through your application form again to remind yourself of the questions and what your answers were as the interviewers could well ask for more details about the things you wrote
- think about the kinds of questions that you might be asked in an interview and try to work out some answers
- think about what questions you might like to ask the interviewer, but don't dwell on pay and benefits
It's fine to make a list of these questions and take it with you.
On the day of the interview
On the day of the interview, think about the following things:
- make sure that you organise your day so that you have plenty of time to get ready, to read through your notes and to get to the interview
- take care with how you look - first impressions are very important
- make sure that you have anything you might have been asked to take with you, such as examination certificates, a portfolio of work or Record of Achievement
- give yourself plenty of time for the journey
During the interview
During the interview, think about the following things:
- try to relax and look confident
- shake hands with the interviewer and make eye contact
- when you sit down, sit back, loosely cross your hands in your lap and make eye contact with the interviewer
- don't be afraid to say if you don't understand a question - ask if it can be repeated
- if you really can't answer a question, don't be scared to admit it. Explain that it is something you are not currently familiar with but that you would be interested in finding out more about it.
- try to shape the interview. If, at the end of the interview, you feel that something important has not been covered, ask the interviewer if you may briefly describe/explain something that you think is relevant to your application.
- when you are asked if you have any questions, refer to your list. Ask things such as whether you will receive any training, what sort of career prospects there are and what sort of people you will be working with. If you don't have any questions, tell the interviewer that you did have a couple but that you feel they have already been answered fully.
Likely interview questions
Some of the questions you are asked in an interview obviously depend on the kind of course, training or work involved. However, there are some standard questions that are likely to be asked in a variety of interviews. Here are some examples:
- why do you want to do this job/course?
- what do you know about our company?
- what do you think you can offer our company?
- can you tell me about a problem you had and how you dealt with it?
- what are your strengths?
- what are your weaknesses? what are you doing to improve these areas?
- what are your hobbies and interests?
After the interview
It's important to follow up any interviews you have by contacting the recruitment department. You'll be showing them that you're keen, and even if you weren't selected, there's always the chance you might be considered for a future vacancy.
If you weren't successful with your application, it's always a good idea to ask the recruitment people for any tips on where you could improve your interview technique. Not all recruitment departments will have time to give you advice, but it's still worth a phone call, or an email.
Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions
Author: Martin John Yate Publisher: Kogan Page
Author: Lynn Williams Publisher: Kogan Page