So, you did a great job on your CV and have earned a place in the next stage of the recruitment process: the interview. Brilliant...or is it?
A job interview is a daunting prospect, whether it’s your first or your tenth. It can feel as though you’re about to be thrown into the lion’s den.
Relax. Interviews aren’t supposed to be a scary initiation ritual. They’re an important part of the process, both for the employer and for you. They’re a chance for both parties to gauge whether you’re a good fit for the role and for each other.
Give the employer the best chance of seeing how well you’d fit in: be yourself and as relaxed as possible. It’s easier said than done, but there is a tried and tested method:
Preparation. After all, Alexander Graham Bell - inventor of the telephone - said “Preparation is the key to success.” And that guy knew a thing or two.
Preparing for 5 Common Interview Questions:
1. Tell me about yourself.
Asked early in the interview, this is your opportunity to make a great first impression.
Do: Talk with enthusiasm about your hobbies and ambitions. If you can relate these to why you’ll be great in the role, bonus! Employers like to see that you can be selective though, so keep your answer to less than five minutes.
Don’t: Simply repeat your CV – they’ve seen that already.
2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Think of concrete examples. Until he makes you laugh you’re unlikely to believe a guy that simply tells you “I’m funny”. So if you tell the interviewer you’re good with numbers, back it up by talking about the spreadsheet you keep for household finances. If you’re identifying multi-tasking as a weakness, show how you’re working on improving it (“I’ve undertaken a time management course and am since finding balancing tasks much easier”).
Do: Prepare examples for work-related strengths such as: good communication skills, expertise in relevant skills and a positive attitude.
Don’t: Just reel these off. Without evidence, the interviewer can’t tell whether they’re justified or you’re simply listing adjectives.
Do: Turn your weakness into positives, e.g. “I sometimes take mistakes to heart. However, this means I’m sure to learn from them”.
Don’t: Say you have none, highlight something for which there’s no improvement (“I’m always late” never sounds good!) or cite the cliché “I’m a perfectionist”. Your interviewer’s heard it all before.
3. Why do you want to work here?
The employer wants to see that you’re serious about this job. This is where research comes in. You should know the basics: what the company does and what you’ll be doing in the role. Find out about the size of the organisation, their competition and their philosophy; these will boost your credibility. Use the internet, ask around and of course, you can speak to us.
Do: Think in terms of what you can bring to the organisation (rather than what they can do for you).
Don’t: Say “because I need money”!
4. Do you have any questions for us?
Here’s your chance to find out anything you want to know that hasn’t been covered yet. Some possible question categories are:
- The interview. Asking the interviewer to expand on something you’ve picked up on shows you’re interested and attentive.
- The role. E.g. What's a typical day like?
- The company. E.g. Could you tell me about the company culture?
Do: Ask open-ended questions.
Don’t: Say “no”, asking anything at all will make a better impression.
5. Wild card question
Employers often like to throw in a random question to test whether you can think on your feet. This can be as wacky as “If you were a biscuit, what type would you be?” You can’t plan for such questions (that’s the point!) but if you’ve prepared for the others, you’ll hopefully feel relaxed enough to come up with something positive that relates to the job.
Do: Get creative. “I’d be a pink wafer because I’m neat but colourful and I slot right into the pack”.
Don’t: Panic! There are no wrong answers.
We’re here to support you in your job search. If you need further guidance in preparing for these questions or any other element of the application process, do get in touch to see how we can help.