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Former Member

I recently ran a series of sessions at a local school coaching the 18 year olds who intend to enter the world of work. Below is what we covered, I hope you find it useful:

An interview can be daunting but remember, an interview is a 2 way conversation, they want to find out about you but you want to find out about them before you take the job. You are looking for a career hopefully so it is important you find out as much as you can about the company and the job. Having this attitude will also make you more confident so here are my top tips for interviews:

1.      Do your research

Find out as much as you can about the company prior to the interview – so that you can sound knowledgeable and enthusiastic about wanting to work there.  You can check out the company website get a feel for the company and its vision.  Also look at any relevant articles/publications to see what has recently been written about your potential employer and their industry. Do they have a blog or news page? Post a comment. Are they on Twitter? Engage with them before interview

2.      Prepare your questions

To avoid your mind going blank during the interview, prepare beforehand by brainstorming all the possible questions you may get asked. (I have attached a file of most common interview questions) Look at the job description to see what sort of qualities, skills and experience are needed for the role.  Here are a few common questions that you could get asked:

·        Tell me about yourself

·        How would your friends / colleagues describe you?

·        What are the main strengths you’d bring to this job?

·        Why should I give you this job?

·           Why do you want this job?

3.      Practice your responses

To help structure clear and succinct responses to each question, write down your ideal response to each question you have listed.  Then practice each response out aloud.  By speaking your response out aloud rather than just in your head you will remember the key words and phrases to use in the actual interview and this will help you to come across more confidently even if you are feeling nervous.

4.      Allow enough time

Arrive at the venue in plenty of time - about fifteen minutes before the interview.  Check the time, date and location of the interview the day before and spend time working out the best way to get there.  Allow plenty of time, anticipating any delays. There’s nothing worse that arriving in a panic if you think you are going to be late. Make sure you have money for parking, an umbrella etc

5.      Know your Interview Panel

Make sure that you have the full names and roles of each of the interviewers.  Learn these off by heart.  The more familiar you are with them, the easier it will feel when you meet them - as if you have already met them before.  This will help you to appear more approachable and feel more confident at the start of the interview. Look them up on Linked In / Twitter. Don’t engage with them but learn what they are like in and out of work and remember it for conversation.

6.      Control your nerves

It’s easy for the nerves to build up while you are waiting for your interview and you need to be able to know how to control them so that they don’t take over when you start.  To help do this you can use a simple breathing technique – by focusing on breathing out for as long as possible to help release any tension in the body.  You will find that your in-breath is deeper and more controlled and this will help to feel calmer before you start. You can so this sitting or standing or even walking around. 

7.      Slow down

Take care not to race ahead when you first start to speak in the interview.  This can happen when you are keen to get your ideas across too quickly.  But if you speak too fast you will find it harder to stay focused and may start to ramble or lose track of your key points.  Also your interviewers will find it harder to follow. 

8.      Body Language

I’m not an expert but here are some basics. Don’t slouch, don’t cross your arms, make eye contact. Don’t forget to look at your interviewers when speaking to them so that you really feel that you are having a conversation with them.  A key time to look at your interviewer (s) is at the end of a sentence as this will help you to appear more convincing in your response.

Remember to have a firm handshake! Tip, if you are taking a folder, hold it in your left hand, it will make your hand sweaty and it’s not nice to shake a sweaty hand & first impressions count.

9.      Understand the question

Always listen carefully to the interviewer’s question first and don’t try to formulate a response in your head before you have fully heard it and understood it.  Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you need to.  This will also buy you time to think about your response.

10.     Finish confidently

Even if everything hasn’t quite gone to plan it’s important that you finish confidently – with a firm hand shake and thanking the interviewer for their time.  This will demonstrate that you have good communication skills and help to leave your interviewers with a strong impression.

They will ask you if you have questions for them and this is a time to shine:

This list of questions will make you sound intelligent, interested in the role and confident and could help set you aside from the other candidates. I have attached it for your reference too.

Questions to ask at your interview

This list of questions will make you sound intelligent, interested in the role and confident and could help set you aside from the other candidates. I have attached them for your reference

  • What do you expect me to accomplish in the first 60 to 90 days?

Great candidates want to hit the ground running. They don't want to spend weeks or months "getting to know the organization."

They want to make a difference right away and this shows the interviewer you are determined and have drive.

  • What are the common attributes of your top performers?

Great candidates also want to be great long-term employees. Every organization is different, and so are the key qualities of top performers in those organizations. It shows you aren’t happy with just being average. Great for a Sales job

  • What do employees do in their spare time?

Important as it shows you want to try and fit in

  • How do you plan to deal with (XX)...?

Every business faces a major challenge: technological changes, competitors entering the market, shifting economic trends...

This will show them you have researched the market and are concerned enough to ask as you want a career.

  • What opportunities are there for progression? What training do you offer?

Both very good as it shows you want to progress and are looking for a career.

Simple questions about your performance are also really useful:

  • How have I done today?

  • What would stop you form, offering me the position?

You can then deal with any objections up front

  • When can I expect to hear back?

This is a closing question and will be great if you are going for a sales based job as you are closing them on a date / time.

As with everything in life, have a list of objectives for the interview. First objective is to get the job, then it is to make a good contact for the future, next is to get some market information about your sector and the last objective is simply to get some practice at interview. If you can achieve any of these objectives then the interview has been a success and you should be pleased with yourself and the interview has been a success!