Making an impact: top tips for a successful interview
Regardless of how many interviews you have attended and how comfortable you are with the process, most people (whether they think so or not!) can improve with the right preparation.
This article looks at how to increase your chances of success in interviews, and highlights factors you can influence to your advantage.
When you attend an interview, you are in a competitive arena – rarely will you be the only candidate being considered for the role. This is the case particularly in the current volatile market conditions we are experiencing.
To perform well in an interview, it is imperative to create a strong, positive impression and to give a good account of your professional experience, ability and personal attributes. You need to demonstrate your achievements and personal successes, as they are what set you apart from your peers and give you the “X-factor”. Your goal is to assure the interviewer that you can add value to their team/ organisation above and beyond the other interviewees and you have a set period of time in which to do this.
Preparing thoroughly beforehand is the best way to instil self-confidence and minimise the likelihood of nerves detracting from your performance.
There is no excuse for not ensuring you have the basic information – I would have serious concerns if I interviewed someone not in possession of all of the following:
- The address and directions – if necessary do a trial run out to the location so you are comfortable with how to get there and how much time to allow
- The name and position of the interviewer, and having checked them out on LinkedIn
- A job spec. for the role
- The style, format and intended duration of the interview
- A contact number in case you are running late
Your experience in relation to the role
This preparation presents you with an opportunity to identify relevant experience and attributes that make you a good fit, and to identify skills gaps and think of positive ways to deal with questions in these areas, pre-empting a lack of experience becoming a major issue.
- Review all relevant documents e.g. CV, job spec., company/ team structures
- Identify what you can offer the team/ company
- Identify your strengths and weaknesses; turn awareness of weaknesses into a positive e.g. you are taking steps to address a weak area/ lack of experience in a specific area
- Think of aspects of your role and the role you are interviewing for that you particularly enjoy
- If it’s a competency-based interview, prepare some examples to use relevant to the role
There are many sources of company information, including the annual report and accounts, the company website and press centre, online press articles and people you know who work/ have worked for the company etc. Be able to answer the following about the company you are interviewing with and your current employer:
- Who owns the company/ what is the structure?
- Is the company part of a group – what are the subsidiaries?
- Who are the competitors?
- What services/ products does the firm offer?
- Are they growing/ consolidating/ contracting?
- How is the company performing financially?
- What are their product lines/services?
THE ACTUAL INTERVIEW
You have arrived on time, you are dressed smartly and appear calm and professional. What else can you do to improve your chances?
- Entering the room – hold your head high and enter the room confidently. Make eye contact and try to smile however nervous you may feel inside. Shake hands firmly with the interviewer(s) on arrival and again on departure
- During the interview – sit up straight and try to relax. If you are normally quite expressive and animated, be yourself. If you feel nervous and self conscious, maintain good eye contact and focus on the interviewer(s) and what they are asking you
Try and suss your interviewer(s) out – there are many types of interviewer and how you respond to them will be influenced by whether or not they are experienced, talkative or monosyllabic, on the ball or unprepared etc. Use those finely-tuned people skills you have developed in your IT Audit career to determine what their interview style is. The following tips apply to all interviews:
- Try to build a rapport but avoid over-familiarity
- Be positive but not over-enthusiastic
- Sell yourself but don’t be arrogant
- Convey your interest in the role and organisation
- Listen to the interviewer and don’t interrupt
- Avoid slang and filler/ stalling words such as “like”, “basically”, “erm” etc
- Give examples where appropriate to avoid giving general answers
- If a question is ambiguous, ask the interviewer to clarify
Standard interview questions
Some questions that tend to crop up often. Think about these is advance. These include:
- Why are you interested in this role?
- What do you know about us/ the role?
- Take me through your CV
- What do you most enjoy/ what frustrates you about your current role?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What skills do you need to develop/ work on?
- What motivates you?
- How do you react under pressure?
- What supervisory experience do you have?
- Describe your management style
- How do you keep up with developments in your field?
- What are your short/ long-term goals?
- Why do you want to leave your current role? – Don’t be negative about current employer(s)!
- Why have you changed jobs frequently?
- What other opportunities are you looking at just now?
- Why should we hire you?
If the interview is Competency Based, the employer is looking for evidence to support specific competencies they have identified as being important to the role. Contact us for more information.
You will usually be given the chance to ask questions.
Good questions include
- Why do you (the interviewer) enjoy working for this team/ company?
- Why did you (the interviewer) join the company?
- Why has this position arisen?
- What are the opportunities for training and professional development like?
- How is the function perceived by the business?
Questions to avoid if you want the job!
- Will I have to work overtime?
- What was the bonus last year?
- When can I expect promotion?
- What holidays are there? Can I buy more holidays?
- What is your disciplinary procedure?!
Closing the meeting
This is your final chance to leave a good impression! Ask if they have any more questions and what the next step is in the process. Make sure to thank them for their time, shake hands again and remain positive however you felt you performed in the interview.
INTERVIEW CLANGERS TO AVOID
Lack of preparation
Do your research and memorise key facts and figures, be able to talk through your CV including dates, responsibilities and key achievements.
Answering questions poorly
Make sure you are actually answering the question you were asked – LISTEN to the question. Be concise – do not talk for too long or give monosyllabic answers. Try and build a rapport and avoid appearing too relaxed as this could be perceived as complacency/ arrogance.
Not being prepared for the unexpected
Remain composed at all times – don’t let a curve-ball question throw you! Attempt to answer every question and try to turn questions about something negative into a positive e.g. I have had a problem with …………in the past but since working to address it, I’ve not had any issues.
Do not exaggerate your contribution to a project or your skills and knowledge – it will come back to bite you. Be honest about everything,
Creating a poor first impression
Be punctual, turn off your mobile, give a firm handshake and make eye contact. Above all don’t let nerves affect your performance.
Not maintaining a positive impression
Stay positive at all times – do not badmouth previous employers, disclose inappropriate information or become disheartened if you think the interview could be going better.
Hopefully these pointers will provide a good starting point should you be invited to attend an interview. If you wish to discuss any of the above or if you want more information on Competency Based interviews please do not hesitate to contact me.
Lucy Adam, Director