Do’s and Don’ts for Interview Success
Interviews are an inevitable part of the recruitment process, so it is important that you prepare well for them. Kathryn Hills brings you the lowdown on how to make sure you deliver your best.
Remember, the competition is fierce. The interview is a vital stage in the recruitment process for separating the successful from the unsuccessful applicant. To succeed, you need to give your best possible performance. These tips, ranging from preparation techniques to interview etiquette, provide an outline of what to do and what not to do to make a positive impression and ultimately achieve interview success.
DO research the company
"Make sure you do thorough research into the company and business area you have applied for," says Laura Everingham, graduate recruitment manager at investment fund manager Fidelity International. You will almost certainly be asked "Why do you want to work for us?" A blank face and the response "I’m not sure – it just seems like a nice place to work" will result in your application being discarded. Don’t underestimate the competition – 63 per cent of all graduates achieve a 2:1 in their degree, so to stand out you really need to do your research. Ensure that you research the company’s history and its services. When you are asked the appropriate question, commenting on what you have learnt will be noticed. It shows effort and enthusiasm about working for the organisation.
DO make a positive impression
Ever heard "prior preparation prevents poor performance"? Well, it’s true. According to Rowan Harwood, graduate recruitment manager at global real estate adviser DTZ Debenham Thorpe, being well prepared is vital to ensure that you stand out. "There are so many internet, career and university resources – it’s surprising how many graduates don’t usually make use of these." Using these resources, prepare answers to possible questions before an interview. "Will it be competency questions or technical questions? Who will you be meeting? You can then ensure you do the appropriate preparation and research," says Laura at Fidelity. Start with the basic questions, such as "When have you worked in a team?" or "When have you had to work to a deadline?" She stresses: "Ensure you can always back up what you say. For example, if you think you are a good team player, how have you demonstrated this?" It is likely that you will be asked about the job itself, so make sure you fully understand the role for which you are applying. Make a list of your attributes, and match them to the skills that are required for the job. Preparation can also take the form of a role play. Get a friend or family member to act as the interviewer and listen to their feedback. If they give you an honest opinion, you can then adjust your interview technique accordingly. Role play will also allow you to practise your answers out loud, and make the whole interview process seem less daunting.
DO bear in mind the type of interview
"Ensure you know the format of the interview before participating – is it a telephone face-to-face or panel interview?" says Laura. This is a vital question to keep in mind, as your interview skills will have to be adjusted accordingly. Many companies sift out unsuccessful applicants through an initial phone interview. But beware the pitfall of becoming too relaxed over the phone – treat this interview as you would any other. Always prepare, and answer all questions as fully as possible. However, remember to speak slowly, so the interviewer has a chance to write everything down. The thought of being interviewed by a panel may make you anxious, but don’t be – at the interview, simply acknowledge everyone and divide your eye contact equally.
DO remember interview etiquette
When the interviewer is seeing many applicants a day, it can be easy for them to forget any single individual. However, techniques such as these will ensure you make a positive impression: greet the interviewer with a smile and a firm handshake. Throughout the interview remain attentive. Keep eye contact, but remember a staring match just appears aggressive. Pay attention to your body language – sit up straight, and don’t fold your arms.
DO appear informative but also succinct
While it is important to answer all questions fully, rambling will only indicate poor communication skills. One technique you can use, when answering questions about yourself, is the 1+1=2 method. First outline the situation, then give a description of what you did to achieve your goal, and then describe the outcome.
DO show an awareness of current news issues
"This is always a great idea," says Rowan at DTZ. Even if you’re not applying for a job as a news reporter, interviewers within any industry can often ask for your opinion on recent news topics. It is also important to bear in mind the specific sector the organisation operates in, as you may be asked questions that are relative to the company’s field. "Especially look into property-related sources, such as the property pages [of the newspapers]," suggests Rowan. To appear socially aware, it is important to keep up to date with the world around you. Ensure that you understand what you have read, and have an opinion on a variety of topics.
DON’T forget the receptionist
Whatever the organisation, it can pay to build a rapport with the receptionist. Think of yourself as being interviewed as soon as you enter the building. "If a receptionist feels there is something we should be aware of, they will inform us," says Laura. The receptionist is often asked for their opinion of the applicant. It’s therefore important to be self-aware even when you think you’re not being watched.
Be truthful, but don’t underestimate your abilities. "It’s good to be honest – don’t pretend to be anyone you’re not," says Rowan. If you worked hard to achieve something you’re proud of, say so. If you’re asked about something that covers a negative area, respond positively. "Concentrate on what you would now do differently, so we can see your personal development," says Rowan. Acknowledge a failure, but then emphasise what skills you have learnt from it and how you now apply these skills to your working life.
DON’T be late
Be sure that you know what time to arrive, allowing enough time for travel. If you’ve never been to the area before, plan to arrive 30 minutes early. This allows you time to find the building, and then to find a café to collect your thoughts and chill. Be sure, however, to arrive at the interview 10 minutes early.
DON’T forget about the final checks
If you’re unsure, ring ahead and ask what documents you should bring and what the dress code is. Make sure everything is organised the night before, so you don’t need to rush on the day of the interview. It is also vital to make a copy of your application form, so that you can re-read it. You may be asked to comment on what you have written.
DON’T leave without asking questions
At the end of the interview you will be asked if you have any questions. To appear enthusiastic and interested in the job role, you should prepare two or three questions. While you should never ask about the pay, safe questions could be: "How successful have other graduates been in terms of career progression?" or "If I’m successful today, what will be the next stage of the recruitment process?"