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How to ace your Interview

Preparing for your interview






Preparing for your interview
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Interviews can be scary whether they take place on the phone or face-to-face but you can calm your nerves by preparing well and knowing what to expect.

Before the interview:


What to expect from a face-to-face interview

First impressions are incredibly important. Dress in smart clothes even if you are not asked to do so. When you meet the interviewer, make eye contact, smile and have a firm handshake.

Spend a couple of minutes building a rapport with the interviewer. This will settle your nerves and give the interviewer a chance to see if you will fit into their team.

Be aware of your body language. Sit up straight, maintain eye contact when listening to questions and answering them and remember to smile.

Expect to answer questions about your previous work experience and the job you have applied for. Take a moment to think about your answer before responding clearly and confidently.

Be prepared to ask questions at the end of the interview. This will show the interviewer that you have done your research and you are genuinely interested in working for their organisation.


What to expect from a telephone interview

Some employers will conduct a telephone interview to test how you conduct yourself on the phone.

Make sure you sound outgoing and enthusiastic from the moment you pick up the phone. Speak slowly and clearly and make sure you are in a quiet room with no distractions.

Keep a copy of your CV to refer to and make a list of your strengths, experience and a few questions to ask the interviewer.


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Common interview questions
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Once you know what to expect from your interview, you can start to think about the questions you may be asked.


Tell me about yourself?

This is usually the opening question. This is likely to be a warm-up question so answer briefly and focus on your education, work history and recent career experience.


What do you know about our organisation?

As you have done your research, you should be able to answer this question.

You can talk about products or services, reputation, image, history and philosophy.

Let your answer show that you have done your research but also that you want to learn more about the organisation.


Why do you want to work for us?

Start by saying what you like about the company from your research. Mention the company's reputation and talk about the opportunities for learning from the company's success.

Talk about how you believe you can contribute to the company. You may have identified challenges they are facing in your research and have thought about a potential way of addressing those challenges.

Organisations may promote an ethos through their products, services and marketing. State that you share their ethos and believe you would fit into the company easily.


What can you do for us that someone else cannot? / Why should we hire you?

Mention specific accomplishments listed on your CV. Talk about how your skills and interests and these accomplishments make you valuable.

Mention your ability to prioritise, identify problems and use your experience to solve them.


Your CV suggests you may be over-qualified or too experienced for this position?

Suggest that, as you are so well qualified, your employer will get a fast return on their investment. Mention that experienced executives are always at a premium.

Say that a strong company needs a strong staff and can never have too much talent.


What important trends do you see in your industry?

Mention any trends or challenges to the industry you found in your research.

You can talk about technological challenges, economic conditions or regulation.


Why are you leaving you present job? / Why did you leave your last job?

Be brief and honest. If you were made redundant, say so. Otherwise, let them know that the move was your decision, the result of your action.

Do not mention personality conflicts and remember that your references will be checked.


In your current or last position, what did you like the most/least?

Be positive by describing more features you liked than disliked. Do not mention personality conflicts.

When talking about what you disliked, try to mention things that new job will offer. For example, you may have found your last/current job stopped challenging you and that the new job will take you out of your comfort zone.


How do you cope with pressure?

Describe the pressures in previous jobs using a recent example, e.g. how you coped with a changed deadline, completed a rush order and dealt with staff shortages.


What are your strengths and weaknesses?

The interviewer will already know your strengths from your CV or application form. Briefly repeat them to show.

When talking about your weaknesses, explain how you have overcome them in the past. Employers value people who can admit their mistakes instead of blaming their failings on others.


Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Explain that you would ideally like to be working for the same company but to have developed within it.


What are your salary expectations?

Avoid stating a number straight away. You might say: “I understand the range for this job is between £x and £x and I think that's appropriate for this position”.

If the interviewer presses, you might say: “I'm making £x at present. Like everyone else, I'd like to improve on that figure but my main interest is with the job itself.”

If no salary range is given, you will have to respond with a number. Don't sell yourself short but say the job is the most important thing.


Once you reach the 'final' stage of the interview process, you will know the company is interested in employing. Here, you can discuss your salary in more detail.


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Asking questions at your interview
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In most interviews you will be asked whether you have any questions for the interviewer. By asking good questions you are assessing whether the company and the position would be a good fit for you.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • How would you describe a typical week / day in this position?
  • What are the top three objectives the successful candidate would be expected to meet, and in what timeframe?
  • How is success in this position measured?
  • What are the prospects for growth, training and progression?
  • Where do you see the successful candidate within the company in five years' time?
  • How do you evaluate success in your company?
  • How does the company see itself changing in the future?
  • Do not ask about holiday entitlement, flexible working hours or payment schedules. You will have the opportunity to talk about this in more detail at the end of the interview process.


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