Decide on your outfit well in advance; ideally it should be a suit or equivalent business wear. Ensure it is ironed and ready to wear. Make sure your shoes are polished, your clothes fit correctly and that your accessories are subtle. Personal grooming is essential and you should avoid wearing overpowering fragrance.
Prior to the interview find out information about the company you are interviewing with. Visit the company’s website, social media channels and search for articles and press releases written about or by the organization. Also take a look at the latest developments in the industry so you can converse with confidence.
If you are being interviewed for a job that was advertised, use the job description as a guideline as to what you’ll be asked about in terms of your personality, skills, work experience and qualifications. Other candidates may have similar abilities, employment and academic experience to you. Think about how you might distinguish yourself. It is possible to highlight all of your strengths without sounding over-confident or aggressive.
First impressions really do count. If you get an interview you can assume that your potential employers already like what they have seen. The interview is an opportunity for you to build on that impression to secure the job. It’s not just what you say but how you say it that reinforces the message you are giving and creates an overall impression of your suitability. Here are some tips for making a good initial impression:
Arrive on time – ideally at least ten minutes early giving you time to relax and collect your thoughts.
When you arrive state, in a clear and friendly manner, your name, the time of your appointment and the name of the person you expect to meet;
Present all relevant documentation if needed: your interview invitation and a copy of your CV and cover letter or application form;
Switch your mobile phone off before you enter the interview room.
Once the interview commences you will continue to make a positive impression if you:
Listen carefully to each question and give concise answers supported with relevant examples; avoid saying just yes or no;
Ask for clarification if a question is not clear;
Speak clearly and loudly enough for the interviewer to hear and try to keep to a moderate pace;
Stay as relaxed as possible. Prepare techniques in advance that will help to offset any nervousness. This might be simply repeating a silent mantra such as ‘relax’ or whatever works for you and also taking a deep breath before you start to answer a question.
A useful strategy for providing that evidence and for answering competency-based questions concisely is to use the STAR technique:
Situation – briefly describe the where/when/who;
Task – outline the task or objective (what you hoped to achieve).
Action – describe what you did – focus on your role and your input.
Result – what the outcome was and what skills you developed.
Develop a range of examples of numerous competencies, using the above format. Draw from all aspects of your life. Store them safely and update your examples as you go through your career.
Think of all the questions you would least like to be asked…
Is there a gap in your CV?
Have you had some poor academic results?
Were you ever fired?
Prepare an answer to each one. Answer as honestly as you can, without being defensive or blaming anyone. Try to turn your answer into a positive statement with a successful outcome. Show how you overcame any difficulty and what you learned from it.
Have a list of questions in mind to ask. You may feel that all your questions have been answered at some point during the interview but try to ask some, if only to show enthusiasm and interest.
These might include questions concerning progression opportunities, support for further study or any plans that the company has to expand. Avoid asking questions for the sake of it or asking very basic questions that you should already know the answer to.
If the interviewer does not tell you, at the end of the interview ask when you should expect to hear news of their selection decision and, if you are successful, what the next stage of the process will be. End the interview on a positive note. Thank the interviewer and reiterate your enthusiasm for the job for which you have applied.
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