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Interview Guidance

by Sheba Karamat - 4th November 2013

Temps Career Advice

There is some basic information that will help you prepare for the interviews that your Recruitment Consultant has arranged for you. It is vital that you set aside some time to cover the topics listed below. Every element will enhance your chances of getting the role.

Research the company

While your consultant can give you information on the company, the role and the interview format to help you prepare, you’d be wise to do as much of your own research as possible. Company websites are a major source of information and can provide you with corporate history, press releases, downloadable reports and reviews. You can also visit the archive files of newspaper websites or search engines such as Google.

Make sure you know about:

  • Brief company history - mergers, takeovers, growth etc.
  • Products and services
  • Company size, both in terms of employees and financial measures (turnover etc.)
  • Any recent press reporting or speculation (e.g. new product launches, joint ventures, initiatives, new advertising)
  • Company culture
  • Their main competitors

Try to predict the questions you may be asked

If you have researched the company in sufficient depth, you should be able to answer most of the questions in this area. Any other questions are likely to be about you so you should revisit your CV at this point and think about the achievements you have detailed. It is likely that the interviewer will probe deeper into these achievements so make sure you have additional information about these on the tip of your tongue!

Be prepared to answer questions on:

  • Gaps in your CV
  • Why you have made particular career moves
  • What you would have done better with hindsight
  • Motivations
  • Long term career plan
  • Problem solving

It’s often a good idea to write all your thoughts and examples down on paper – this will help you clarify any grey areas and give you more confidence in preparing for the interview.

Attending the Interview

First impressions

This is your chance to make a good impression. How you present yourself will have a big impact on the interviewer so don’t forget the basics: business-like attire, clean shoes, minimal jewellery and good personal hygiene.

Body language

Your behaviour will be analysed from the minute you walk in the building, so demonstrate an interest by reading company literature in the foyer, be friendly to the receptionist, offer a firm handshake and maintain regular eye contact. Always accept a drink – taking a sip can provide you with a little thinking time before you answer difficult questions.

Think about what you say

Always try to listen to the questions - it sounds obvious but candidates so often answer the question they wish had been asked. If you don’t understand the question, ask for it to be repeated and be honest if you truly don’t know the answer. Use every question to demonstrate your ability to do the job and make an extra effort never to criticise your previous employers, however bad you may feel about them.

Typical Questions:

  • Tell me about yourself

Summarise your qualifications, career history and abilities, highlighting those relevant to the position.

  • What do you dislike about your current role?

The interviewer wants to ascertain whether the aspects you dislike in your current role are also present in the position in question. The best approach is to highlight an aspect of your current company which differs from the company you are talking to.

  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Never be negative about your current employer but demonstrate a desire to achieve other goals. It is best not to refer to salary as being a contributory factor unless you are being paid significantly less than the market rate.

  • What are your strengths?

Choose 3 or 4 strengths and provide relevant examples. Strengths to consider are ability to learn quickly, positive attitude, technical ability and a determination to succeed.

  • What is your greatest weakness?

Try and pick one which isn’t particularly relevant for the position and could also be considered a strength, e.g. I am fairly demanding of my team but I am getting better at using the carrot and not the stick.

Other questions to be prepared for:

  • Why do you want to join us?
  • How much do you know about the role?
  • What attracted you to the role?
  • What skills and experience do you have that make you suitable for the position?
  • How do you cope under pressure?
  • How would your colleagues describe you?
  • What do you enjoy about your current role?
  • Which part of this role is least attractive to you?
  • What has been your biggest achievement?
  • What is the biggest mistake you have made?
  • What are you long term goals?
  • Why should I employ you?
  • What skills can you bring to the company?
  • How do you like to be managed?
  • Do you prefer to work as a team or an individual?

Questions you can ask

Always prepare several questions in case one or two of them get answered unintentionally in the interview prior to your opportunity to ‘ask any questions’. If this is the case, make sure that you don’t ask these questions as you will give the impression that you have not listened in the interview.

  • Pick up on comments throughout the interview about which you can later ask questions, ie.

You mentioned earlier that a new Marketing Director has been recently been appointed… how has this impacted on the rest of the team?

  • Look on the company’s website for any ‘latest news’. This can form a great basis for asking topical questions and also demonstrates that you have kept an eye on any recent company developments, for example:

“I notice that you have just opened a new office in Manchester, is this part of a wider expansion campaign?” or “I notice that you have recently become part of ABC Group, what impact will this have on the company going forward?”

Other questions you could ask:

  • What will be my responsibilities?
  • Where will I fit into the overall organisational structure?
  • Who will I report to?
  • Where does he/she fit in the structure?
  • Who will report to me?
  • What do you expect me to do in the first 6 months?
  • What are the chances of advancement/promotion in this position?
  • What training do you provide?
  • Do you provide assistance towards any professional qualifications?

 Ask Questions that Display Your Enthusiasm, Willingness and Ability:

  • What is the team working on at the moment?
  • Can I meet the team?
  • Can I look around?
  • What are your strategies for growth?
  • How soon do you want an employee in place?
  • If there was one major achievement that you would like to see happen within the role from the outset, what would it be?
  • Can you describe what made the last person successful in this role?
  • What are the immediate improvements or priorities that need to be applied to this role?
  • What changes would you like to see in the way the job is performed?
  • To ensure I would be able to hit the ground running would you be able to supply any procedures, literature or other supporting information in preparation for my first day in the role?

Post-interview tips

After each interview, try and obtain as much feedback as possible about your performance. Ask the interviewer how you performed and what how you could perform better in the future. Also what reservations they might have about your application and what impression you gave. At Opilio Recruitment, our consultants will always try to obtain as much feedback for you as possible. Keep a note of any feedback so that you can refer to it when preparing for future interviews.

A Successful Interview

If you have been successful in the interview process, you are likely to start feeling quite anxious in the weeks leading up to joining the new company. These feelings are quite normal as you naturally want to make a good impression and fit in with the team. The following tips should ensure that your first few weeks go according to plan:

  • Be part of a team – a team will lend support and help you feel less exposed, as well as providing a great learning ground.
  • Learn your job – try not to demonstrate a ‘know it all’ attitude in your first few weeks as this can often put people off. Instead show that you are eager to learn and willing to listen to the advice others offer.
  • Arrive at work on time and stick to your lunch hour. If your team are busy, offering to take a shorter lunch break to help out will demonstrate your willingness to be a strong team player.
  • Dress appropriately, according to how others are dressed in the office.
  • Don’t get involved in office gossip – you may want to listen but don’t contribute.
  • Find a mentor – sometimes your supervisor may not be the best person.
  • Always stick to project deadlines.

An Unsuccessful Interview

If you are unsuccessful in the recruitment process, don’t take it personally and don’t dwell on it. The best thing to do is to send another application out straight away to keep the ball rolling.

However, depending on which stage of the process you were rejected, you should address:

  • Your CV – Was it tailored to the specific job? Is the format correct? Your Opilio Recruitment consultant can offer advice on your CV at any time.
  • Your interview techniques – Did you do enough preparation? Were there particular questions on which you struggled?

The important thing is not to become too disheartened, but treat it as a learning curve. Make sure that you get as much feedback as possible from the client to understand where you may have gone wrong. Of course, your Opilio Recruitment consultant will always endeavour to obtain as much client feedback for you as possible. Always try to remain optimistic and focused on your career search as throughout the process your interview skills and techniques will only get better!

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