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Interview Time - post author

Post Written by Anna Sharrott


Interview Time

The day has arrived, and you are sat in the waiting area, hopefully fully prepared for your interview.  You have done all you can up to this point, you just have the next hour to make that all important first impression!

Interviews often follow a similar pattern, and below is a general insight as to what to expect once your name has been called.

Firstly, try and relax!  Smile, make eye contact and greet your interviewer with a good firm handshake.  They will hopefully break the ice with a little small talk, so do engage with them – this should hopefully shake off a few nerves.  Once you are in the hot seat, they should then explain the process and give you an idea of how the interview will be structured. 

Most interviews tend to be competency based these days, and while some will be more formal than others, the principles remain the same.  Your interviewer will expect you to be able to back up your answers with solid, well considered examples.  Yes, you are hardworking, keen and ambitious but can you support all of this with examples of when you have gone the extra mile or have turned around a potentially problematic situation? 

Having four or five strong competency examples of real situations should cover most questions asked.  Do some research on the STAR interview technique as this is a great guide – Situation Task Action Result

Some competency examples could include;

A good piece of work or project you’re particularly proud of
Something that went wrong but you managed to overcome and turn into a positive
Managing multiple deadlines
Exceptional customer service
Changes to company systems and processes
Managing strong/difficult personalities

Try to keep your examples work related and try to link them to the skills required for the role you are interviewing for.  If you don’t yet have the relevant work experience, then linking to any academic or vocational experience should also stand you in good stead. 

The more information you provide the interviewer the better, however don’t let nerves get the better of you and start waffling!  Keep your answers interesting, concise and on point.  Listen carefully to the question you are being asked and try and avoid going off on unnecessary tangents.  

There are the obvious questions, that do crop up time and again, and it would be a crime not to be prepared for these basics: - 

Talk through your CV
What do you enjoy about current job?
What do you dislike about current job?
Why move?
Why this business?
What do you know about the business?
Why this role?
What do you expect from this role?
What can you bring to the business?
What motivates you?                 
What analytical/excel skills do you possess?
What technical (job specific) skills do you possess?
How do you operate in a teamwork or individual situation?
How do you learn new skills?

In addition to these standard questions, another favoured by interviewers is the much-feared strengths and weaknesses question!   Strengths can be easier to deal with, but weaknesses really can cause a few headaches.  Sometimes, thinking about previous feedback from a colleague or that was given during an appraisal can help.  Ideally, you will turn your weaknesses into positives.  Some examples include; taking on too much work, working late to complete additional duties, providing too much detail above the initial requirement, helping colleagues when a busy workload yourself.

A lot of weaknesses can usually be seamlessly turned into positives, so don’t shoot yourself in the foot having come so far.  

With strengths, you may find it easy to talk about success in previous roles, but also remember your personality traits – again back these up with examples from previous appraisals/clients etc.  Maybe talk about how colleagues/friends would describe you (keeping it work appropriate, obviously!). 

Some companies are known to ask slightly awkward questions i.e. which famous person you would like to have dinner with, how would your friends describe you etc. The main aim of these questions is to see how you respond, it is not necessarily the answer you give, more how you handle yourself during the process.

It is essential to do some research on the company too (it is amazing how many people skip this part); a large chunk of the interview is aimed at showing that you are interested in the company and the role too.  This can be shown through researching the company and sector they operate in, how are they performing, what about their competition etc.  Go the additional mile, research their products, the sector they work in, visit retail stores (if applicable), speak to staff members, it can make a real difference.

Above all else be yourself, be open and be honest, your personality will get you a long way!  Nerves are natural, but hopefully once you relax into the interview and build some rapport with your interviewer things will flow naturally.  

Ultimately, it is always better to be over prepared for an interview, if you are keen on the job then put a bit of extra effort in, it will pay off for you!