Preparing for an interview

 
Getting invited to an interview means you have passed the first test – your application / CV must have made a good impression.
 
Now you need to prepare yourself for the interview to make sure you make the best impression.
 
Before the day
 
Find out about the employer and the job – you could ask the employer if they have an information pack or you could look at their website.
 
It’s helpful to find out the following things about the employer.
 
What they do, make or sell?
Who are their customers?
What sort of organisation are they?
What is the job likely to involve?
How can you best fir your skills to match the job?
 
Plan the interview
 
Find out what the interview will involve to make sure you’re prepared.
 
If you have disability, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for you so it is possible for you to have an interview.  So, if you need the employer to make particular arrangements, contact them before your interview to make sure they can make these arrangements.
 
Think about who will be interviewing you.  If it is the person who would be your manager if you got the job, the interview may be more detailed.  If it’s the personnel manager, the interview may be less detailed but could still be as testing.
 
Find out how many people will be interviewing you and what their positions in the company are.  This will help you prepare for the kinds of questions they may ask.
 
Find out how long the interview is likely to last.  This will give you an idea of how detailed it’s likely to be.
 
Find out whether you will have to take a test or make a presentation.
 
Plan you journey
 
Consider travelling to the company the day before the interview to check how long the journey will take.
 
If necessary, ask the employer for directions, bus routes or details of where you can park your car.
 
Plan another way of getting there in case something unexpected happens (such as an accident blocking the road, or if your train is cancelled).
 
Creating the right image
 
This will depend on what sort of work you will be doing.
 
Decide what to wear and get your clothes ready the day before.
 
You don’t have to buy a new outfit!  Aim for a neat, clean and tidy appearance – if you look good it will help you feel good.
 
Gather together the information you will need at interview
 
Take a copy of your CV or application form to refer to.
 
Prepare notes or cue cards to help you if you think you might need a prompt during the interview.
 
Bring items the employer asked for (for example, references, certificates or your driving licence).
 
Reread the job advert to refresh your memory – make sure you haven’t missed anything.
 
Prepare for questions you might be asked
 
The following is a list of 20 popular interview questions and some suggested answers to help you prepare.
 
1.  Why do you want to work here?
Mention the following:
The good reputation of the firm
Any other positive information you have about them for example, their training record, or their equal opportunities policy), and
That the job will give you the opportunity to do work that interests you.
 
2.  Why did you leave your last job?
Be positive.  Don’t use the opportunity to criticise your previous company.  For example, if you left for health reasons, point out that you are now able to carry out all duties for the job you are applying for.  If you were dismissed, take responsibility for your actions and mention that you have learnt from the experience.
 
3.  Have you done this kind of work before?
If you have, tell them the skills and experience you have and how you can use them in this job.
If you haven’t, describe the other work experience that is relevant to this job or which will help you learn this job quickly.  Emphasise your interest and your enthusiasm to learn.
 
4.  What did you do in your last job?
Describe the following things:
Skills and duties relevant to the new job
Your responsibilities
How you worked with others
If you worked with customers and, if so, how you worked with them
How long you were there
Whether you were promoted, and
Responsibilities you volunteered to take on.
 
5.  What kinds of equipment can you use?
Name the types of equipment you can use that are relevant to the new job.
Mention any relevant qualifications or training you have had.
Tell them the length of time you have used this equipment.
 
6.  How long have you been out of work and how do you spend your time?
Describe the following:
What you have done to look for a job
Mention any voluntary work you have done
Mention any further education, study or training you have taken part in, and
Mention your hobbies and leisure activities – if appropriate!
Try to link what you did to the skills and experience the employer is looking for.
 
7.  What makes you think you are the right person for this job?
Tell the interviewer about the following:
The skills and experience you have which are relevant to the job, and
The personal qualities that you bring to the job.
8.  Why have you had so many jobs?
You could say the following things:
You wanted to widen your experience in different companies
Many of the jobs were temporary, and
You would rather be in work than out of work
 
9.  Why have you only had one job?
You could say the following things:
You had several jobs within your last company
The job offered you the opportunity to develop
You enjoyed the work
 
10.  Why should I take you on?
Be ready for this question and answer confidently and positively:
Describe your skills and experience and how relevant they are to this job
Tell them you are enthusiastic and willing to learn
Tell them you are hard-working, reliable and capable.
 
11.  Aren’t you over-qualified?
Emphasise the following:
You are looking for something different, and
You can take as well as give instructions
 
12.  How do you get on with people?
Describe how you have worked as part of a team in the past
Give examples of your ability to get on with people at all levels
Give examples of how you have provided good customer service, if this is relevant.
 
13.  What makes a good team member?
Describe the skills needed, for example:
Good communication skills
Flexibility
The ability to adapt to change
The ability to co-operate with other people, and
Having a good sense of humour and so on.
Give examples of how you showed these in previous work situations or leisure activities.
 
14.  How do you cope with pressure?
Describe the pressures in previous jobs using a recent example (for example, how you coped with a deadline that had been brought forward, how you completed a rush order or dealt with staff shortages).
 
15.  What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Strengths – the employer should already know your strengths from your application but you may want to emphasise particular skills relevant to the job by giving examples.
Weaknesses – start by describing parts of your last job which you found difficult and then explain how you overcame these difficulties or be brief but honest (for example ‘I can sometimes be a little too enthusiastic’).
 
Remember: Employers value people who can admit their mistakes rather than blaming their failings on others.
 
16.  What would you like to be doing in 5 years’ time?
Explain that you would ideally like to be working for the same company but to have developed within it.
 
17.  What wage do you expect to earn?
If the wage level is negotiable, be prepared to negotiate.  The difficult thing is where to start.  If you tell them a wage that is too high, you could price yourself out of the job, but if you give an amount that is too low you could lose out.  Before going for the interview, try to find out about wage levels in your area (for example, look at similar jobs advertised with on the internet).  You might be able to use this information in your negotiations.  If you are really not sure, then say you would expect to receive the going rate for the job.
 
18.  How often were you absent from your last job?
If you were hardly ever off work, say so.
If sick leave has been a problem, explain why and reassure the employer you have sorted the problem.
If you have had time off because of a disability, discuss this openly, including the possible solutions – be positive.
 
19.  When would you be available to start?
As soon as possible! Do not put any barriers in the way.
 
20.  Do you have any questions?
You may like to prepare for this, as it is almost always asked at interview.  Asking some questions (but not too many) can show you are interested.  One or two of these may be appropriate.
 
Do you offer ongoing training and development?
What will my first job be?
How soon will I hear the result of my application?
Does the company carryout performance reviews and if so, how often.
 
On the day
 
Before you leave
Give yourself plenty of time to get ready.
Make sure you’ve got all relevant paperwork with you.
If you are delayed, contact the employer as soon as possible to explain, apologise and arrange another appointment.
 
When you arrive
Aim to arrive about 10 minutes before the interview time.
Give your name to the receptionist or whoever is there to greet you.
Try to relax and keep calm.
Chat to the receptionist or whoever greets you before going into the interview.  It will help calm you.
Remember that the interviewer can be just as nervous as you!
 
At the interview
First accept that it is natural to be nervous, and you may have a fast heartbeat, clammy hands and ‘butterflies’ in your stomach.  These are your body’s natural way of meeting a challenge, and in small doses it can help you.
 
You will make an impression in the first few minutes.  It takes this time for people to assess you and store this information.  Once you have made a first impression, it’s hardly ever changed.  It’s important to make a good first impression.
 
If you are nervous, your voice may sound shaky and squeaky.  Practise deep, slow breathing before you get to the interview.  This will slow down your heart rate and help you avoid taking quick, shallow breaths if you are nervous.
 
Here are some general tips which may help you.  Not all of these will be appropriate to you – use the ones which are suitable to your situation or style.
 
Do
Enter the room confidently.
Shake hands firmly and introduce yourself.
Smile!
Be polite and friendly – look the interviewer in the eye as soon as you enter the room.
Check that it’s OK to use cue cards or notes during the interview.
Try to maintain eye contact with the person or people you are talking to.
Look interested, and ask questions as well as answering.
Answer questions as fully as you can, avoid just saying yes or no.
Provide examples to prove your skills and achievements.
Tell the truth.
Ask if you don’t understand a question.
Speak clearly.
Sell yourself – get your good points across and be positive.
 
Don’t
Sit down until the interviewer asks you to.
Fidget, slouch in the chair or fold your arms.
Swear (even mildly).
Criticise your past employers.
Interrupt.
Draw attention to your weaknesses.
Lie or be too enthusiastic.  Stay calm and stick to facts.
 
Remember, most employers like people who:
Listen
Answer questions with examples
Are brief and keep to the point
Come prepared, and
Appear confident.