Interviews can be a pretty daunting experience, but fear not! Your friendly TAS Recruiters are on hand to help you at every step of the way!
The two main things that will have the biggest impact on whether your interview is an unmitigated disaster or a heroic success are;
Everything will fall into one of these categories, and in this guide we will help you make sure you nail all these key areas and deliver the killer interview.
The motto of Boy Scouts around the World for the last 100 years or so – and with good reason.
Your interview will really live and die on the basis of your preparation. You will usually have a few days’ notice before your interview, which should be plenty of time. Use this time to research the company by having a good look at their website. Depending on the level of role you are interviewing for, you might want to also research issues affecting the wider industry.
Don’t forget to make sure that you really understand the role too – you will be asked about this at interview. Understand the scope of the position and the responsibilities involved. This will really help you explain why you are right for the role later on!
Make sure that you know what the interview will contain. You should have received detailed information from the company or from your recruitment agency. If not, then ask! Also make sure your CV is up to date and error free; don’t want to look silly now, do you?
If you have time, it can also be a good idea to do a ‘practice run’ and drive to the interview location to ensure you know the route, etc. If you can’t do this, then at least make sure you have planned the route or checked public transport schedules.
The night before the interview, make sure get your interview outfit ready, get a good night’s sleep, etc. It’s common sense, but makes all the difference!
Image is everything! And interviewers will form an opinion of you in a few seconds. Don’t worry though – you’ve got this!
It can be difficult knowing how to dress for an interview now that many companies have adopted more relaxed dress codes. Our advice would always be to wear business attire (a suit, etc.). You can contact the company or your recruitment agency to confirm this, but if in doubt it is always better to be ‘over-dressed’ than too informal.
Whatever you find yourself wearing, make sure it is clean, ironed, well-fitting and appropriate. Keep colours and designs fairly low key and neutral. Make sure your hair is clean and tidy, and not obscuring your face, and keep jewellery and makeup to a tasteful minimum. If you have lots of tattoos it might be a good idea to cover the ones that you can.
If you’re a smoker, try to avoid having a cigarette right before the interview, as the smell of smoke can be unpleasant for some people. However also avoid wearing too much or an overpowering perfume or aftershave. If you can see your interviewer’s eyes watering, then you’ve probably overdone it.
Make sure you are comfortable though – there’s nothing worse than wearing an outfit that doesn’t make you feel like you!
Hopefully you’ll have already had chance for a dummy run to the client’s office, but if not make sure you have at least mapped the route. Take into account traffic delays or disruption to public transport. If you can, take a taxi rather than a bus as these are far more reliable. Either way, make sure you leave in plenty of time.
It’s really important that you check out parking facilities. Many town centre locations might not have their own parking. There’s nothing worse than arriving at the company half an hour early, only to then drive around for 40 minutes trying to find a parking space and getting to the interview late in a sweaty, tear-soaked mess.
Do the company have parking? Are they expecting you? Is there a public car park nearby? Do you have change to pay for parking? Take all these into account.
You should aim to arrive at the company about 10-15 minutes early. Try to avoid getting there too early if possible, as some interviewers might then feel pressured into seeing you earlier. If you do find yourself with half an hour to kill, find a Costa (there’s bound to be one…) or something nearby and just sit and relax. Put those notes away though – no point in cramming now!
Oh, and best make it a small Americano; don’t want to be asking for a bathroom break midway through the interview now, do we?
…Is that you only get to make one of them. So make yours count!
Make sure you’re bringing your ‘A Game’ from the second you step through the door. Make sure you are polite and confident. Smile and make eye contact with everyone you speak to. This includes the receptionist and anyone else who might pass you while you are waiting to be seen – it’s not just your interviewer who will be forming an opinion of you, and who knows, that unassuming person who said ‘hi’ to you in reception might just be the MD of the company…
When you meet your interviewer remember; smile, eye contact and confidence. Make sure you speak slowly and clearly, thank them for their time and offer to shake hands. Even if they don’t. It won’t be awkward, and will make you look like a boss!
Right – on to the biggest killer of interviews.
Don’t get us wrong, a bit of nerves is good – it shows you care about the interview. But if we had a pound for every great candidate that blew out of an interview for a job they were perfect for because of nerves – well, we’d have many pounds.
Remember one key thing; despite what you’ve heard, interviewers don’t interview people for fun. Hiring Managers don’t interview people for no reason – they are far too busy. So that means, they must think that you are potentially suitable for the role. And if they think that, then you should too.
They will be interviewing you for based on one of two factors;
Suitability – You already have relevant job/industry/product experience
Potential – They see something in you that they think they can develop
Sometimes it’s even a combination of these things. So, if you’re sitting in front of them, it’s down to you to prove them right. You have as much chance as the next person.
So, stow those nerves. You’ve got this!
The first questions that you are usually asked, are about your knowledge and understanding of the company. This is where your preparation comes in.
Now, it can be tempting to just reel off a load of facts and statistic from the website.
Well done, you’ve proven you can repeat something you’ve read. Interviewers find this pretty boring, and it doesn’t really show that you understand the company. Don’t get us wrong, it can be useful to have a few key points up your sleeve to prove you’ve done your research, but our advice would be to find one thing out about the company that really interests you and then talk about that at interview instead.
Boom. Instant brownie points.
You will usually then be asked why you want to work for the company and why you want the role.
Stop right there!
Before you start telling them why you are right for the company and positon, flip the question, and explain why the company and the role are right for you. Does it fit with your career goals? Have you heard positive feedback regarding the organisation? Are you passionate about the product or industry?
Find one thing about the company or role that you are really passionate or excited about – and talk about that. You need to convince the interviewer that this is the only possible job in the whole wide world for you
This will prove that you have really thought about this role as a potential career.
Now you can go on to explain why you are right for the position.
The interview will usually be made up of a series of Competency Questions.
We will cover these in a later guide.
Aside from competency questions, and depending on the role you have applied for, you might also be asked to give a presentation, take part in a role play, or undertake some sort of specific skills-based testing.
You should have received this information way in advance and prepared accordingly.
Another area that people slip up on during interview, is not being able to account for themselves properly.
Nothing makes you look more unprofessional than not knowing your own job history! An up to date CV can help with this as a prompt – take a copy with you to interview for reference.
Make sure you are clear on dates that you were employed at various companies, and your reasons for leaving. Make sure that you can give a good account of any positive impact that you had in that role, experiences gained or lessons learned.
A little tip for all you sales guys – make sure you know your numbers!!
Having an in-depth understanding of your own experience will really help you with competency questions, but will also really help you sell yourself.
Remember, this is an interview. This is your one chance to sell yourself and an interview is no place for shrinking violets. There’s no point kicking yourself at home later because you didn’t mention the one thing that would have clinched you the job!
So, don’t be shy.
But don’t be cocky either – no one likes a show off!
Closing an interview can also be tricky, and is one of the areas that people are usually least prepared for.
Don’t worry – we’ve gotten you this far, so will hold your hand the rest of the way.
You’re nearly there, though this is not the time to hurriedly bolt from the room as quickly as possible – no matter how much you want to.
You will usually be asked by the interviewer if you have any questions for them. Now, you may have prepared some already based on your research, and sometimes questions just arise organically throughout the interview. If that’s the case, then great.
One question we would always advise asking is;
“Is there anything I’ve said that concerns you, or needs further clarification?”
This is a great question to ask, as if there is anything that the interviewer is unsure about, then you are giving them the chance to address it directly and not leave with doubts.
You can also ask the interviewer some questions about his or her own experience such as;
Why did you join the company?
Why is it a great place to work?
What does the future hold?
Tell me about your journey and experience with the company.
You might also ask about the interview process;
Do my skills and experience match your requirements?
Will there be a further interview to attend?
How many people are in the process?
Are there any internal applicants interested?
What are the timeframes for next steps?
Finally, ask them if they have any last questions for you.
Once the interview is finished, shake hands, thank them for their time again (remember - eye contact, smile, confidence), and you’re done!
And breathe! Take your tie off, have that cigarette or coffee you’ve been craving, go home and wait for the offer to come though.
Dress to Thrill
The Journey Begins...
The Trouble with First Impressions...
You’ve Got This!
Knowledge Is Power
Competency Based Interviewing is one of the most commonly used techniques for assessing candidates. It is designed to essentially level the playing field, ensuring all candidates are assessed equally, to a set of standard factors, and only on skills that are essential to the role being interviewed for.
Competency Questions will usually be based on either key competencies required to carry out the role effectively, or on behaviours that the company deem important and that might form part of their values.
The questions will usually be Experience based, as opposed to Knowledge based, and will often really on the candidate describing a specific Scenario. The questions will be structured to assess the candidates’ ability to meet the required competency, based on how they dealt with a particular situation.
Typical Competencies Assessed
Questions will usually begin with a phrase like;
Give me an example of
Tell me about a time that you
Let’s look at some more specific examples that could fit into these areas;
“Give me an example of a time that you demonstrated excellent Customer Service”
“Tell me about a time that you went the extra mile for a customer”
“Tell me about a time that you had to explain complex information to others”
“Give me an example of when you have had to work to multiple deadlines”
“Tell me about a time that you have had to reorganise your daily workload”
“Describe a time that you had to learn a new system/process”
“Tell me about a time that you worked as part of a team to achieve a common goal”
“Give me an example of a time when you have dealt with a difficult customer or complaint”
“Tell me about a time that you have had to give bad news to someone”
“Describe a time that you saw an opportunity to make an improvement”
“Tell me about a time that one of your ideas was implemented”
“Describe an occasion when you were not able to deliver what a customer wanted”
“Give me an example when your opinion or idea was at odds with the entire group”
“Tell me about your biggest success”
“Describe a time when you delivered against all the odds”
“Give me an example of when you’ve had to manage a difficult team member”
“Tell me about a time that you have helped develop another person”
This is by no means an exhaustive list, there are literally 1000’s of questions that could be asked, but these should give you a good feel for the sort of things that might be thrown at you.
A Smart Reply
When giving a reply, it should usually be structured as follows;
What did you do?
Why did you do this?
What was the outcome?
This should prove that you thoroughly grasped the situation, and demonstrated the competency in question.
A Few Tips…
It’s not necessarily easy to prepare for a Competency Interview, as there are so many questions that get asked. However they do tend to follow a fairly standard pattern, and the questions above should get you thinking along the right lines.
Here’s a few more tips to help;
Use specific examples. It might be tempting to try and make something up on the spot, but interviewers will see through that. Also if you regularly demonstrate a competency, or frequently experience one of the scenarios, it can be tempting to be vague. Don’t. Give a specific example as you will only be selling yourself short.
Keep a ‘response library’. If you’re interviewing for several roles, you might well get asked the same questions. So just focus on a few examples and perfect those answers, rather than trying to think of loads of new ones. This will make your answers feel a lot more natural and genuine.
Start thinking of answers now. You will encounter these scenarios every day. So start looking for them and working them into suitable interview answers.
Make sure your answers are relevant. Really listen to the question being asked and make sure that you are demonstrating the skills they are looking for in your response.
Make sure your answer doesn’t sell you short. If your contribution to the scenario discussed was minimal, or worse, negative, then it’s probably not the best example to use. Give an answer that really showcases your skills.
Keep your answers to about 5 minutes or so long. Any longer than that and there’s a chance that the example you’re using is just way too complicated. Or that you are boring.
You don’t have to use scenarios from a work environment. Particularly if you are just starting out in your career. It’s ok to use some examples from your education or even social/sporting clubs that you might be a part of.
Make sure you follow up each question by asking if you have given the interviewer the information they require.
We hope this helps – as we said earlier, this is not an exhaustive list, but should help you along the way to being competent at competency questions!
Strengths & Weaknesses
Ok, so not really part of the Competency Interview, but one last area that’s worth mentioning is the Strengths and Weakness question.
This will often get asked, and can trip some people over. So let’s go through it quickly.
This one is fairly easy. We can all find something that we are good at to talk about. Just make sure to keep it relevant and maybe back up with an example.
If you are one of these people that suffers from a chronic lack of self-confidence, then it might be an idea to ask a friend or family member what they think you are good at, and work on this as an answer.
This is the tricky one! Most people will probably end up being too hard on themselves (apart from that small group of people that will genuinely try and tell you that they have no weaknesses. These people exist – we’ve met them).
You can try and give one of two types of answer;
1 – The Fake Weakness
This is a weakness that isn’t really a weakness such as;
I’m a perfectionist
I have trouble saying ‘no’ when to comes to taking on extra work
I’m too self-critical
I can be competitive
These aren’t really weaknesses, and can quite easily be turned into strengths. Just make sure that when giving one of these examples you actually explain how this particular behaviour turned out to have a positive impact, and not be detrimental to colleagues or the company.
2 – The Overcome Weakness
This is more of a genuine weakness, but you can demonstrate that firstly you recognise it, and secondly you are doing something about it. Such as;
“I used to be really bad at Excel”
“I then took the initiative to do a course and improve my skills, and even though now it’s not my strongest point, I’m much better”
“I really struggle with criticism”
“I have learned that this is not personal, and try not to take it that way. Instead I look at how the criticism can improve my performance.”
We all have examples of these that we can give, and these will make you seem like more of a genuine and humble person.
On a final note – try not to give out and out negative weaknesses with no follow up. Things like;
“I am just terrible with numbers. Flat out terrible.”
“I have a massive issue with authority”
“I like to steal”
Are all unlikely to land you a job.
So, that’s it.
That’s Interviews, Competency Questions and Strengths & Weaknesses all covered.
We can do no more for you. Go out into the world, and may all your interviews be successful.
You've Got This!