Face to face interviews
Please take time to read the tips below, because ultimately they will improve your chance of success. Of course, all interviews are different, but we have tried to pick out proven ways to impress.
1. Sell yourself effectively
Your first aim should be to make the interviewer comfortable with your personality:
- This starts with your choice of clothes (we can advise if you are unsure) and the way you present yourself when you walk into the room.
- Try to be courteous and smile. Maintain eye contact with the interviewer and avoid negative body language like crossing your arms. Steer clear of negative language and criticism of other people you have worked with.
- The end of the interview is important, too. This is your chance to ask questions and show your wider understanding of the role you have applied for and the company in general. Preparation will help you to appear positive and well-organised, because you won’t be struggling to think of things to ask or query.
- On leaving, be sure to thank the interviewer(s) for their time.
You have already been selected by the employer for this interview. They already see your potential.
2. Check your skills against the job description
Use the job description to help identify key skills and characteristics that the employer is looking for. Think how you can use your previous experience to answer the requirements.
Don’t just focus on technical aspects – try to see what interpersonal skills the client wants and be ready with examples to use if challenged.
3. Play to your strengths
Make sure you have a list of your strengths – write them down and memorise them.
4. Research the company
Have you researched the employer? They are likely to ask you questions about their business, their aims and the job role.
Visit their website, their corporate LinkedIn page and check whether they are part of a wider organisation or group of companies.
There may be news stories to read when you search for them online – details of company expansion, new product launches etc. It will help you to be aware of the wider picture if you familiarise yourself with their history, culture and values.
5. How do you come across online?
There is a high chance that your interview will check you out on social media. Make sure there is nothing that may put them off you!
LinkedIn profiles, Facebook pages and other online sites are all accessible to some degree regardless of your security settings. Check your profile picture. Remove postings that could be taken negatively.
6. Other considerations
You know the company and you know what they want, but here are some more things you should think about before attending the interview.
Check the venue of your interview – check the route you need to take and how long it will take to get there. Leave some time to account for delays…if you are early, run through your main points again or use the time to read through any company information in the reception area.
See what the building looks like on Google maps street view so you know what to look for when you arrive.
Have contact numbers of the client and our agency with you so that you can call if something is going to make you late. If you are for any reason late, do not forget to apologise for your late arrival.
Things to take with you:
- Pen and a notepad. These will be crucial for writing down key points and making a note of any questions you might have throughout the interview.
- An up to date copy of your CV.
- Your list of questions.
7. Competency based questions
Competency based interviews allow the employer to assess how you would react in a variety of situations in and outside of work.
Your answers will give clues to how well your personality suits the role, the company and the team you may be joining.
Scenario based questions are usually asked, which you must answer with examples from your past experiences. If you are unsure about any question, ask for clarification or for a bit more time.
Interviewers are trained to listen for evidence of competency and to press for detailed descriptions of actual behaviour. So how do you prepare for a question that is designed to put you on the spot?
Preparing for competency based interviews
The job description usually spells out what the essential competencies are likely to be. Think about the skills required and the scenarios they bring to mind. For example, if the job requires management skills, think about an occasion when you had to tackle an underperforming team member.
Keep answers concise. Interviewers want clear evidence; they know how to detect ‘waffle’!
You can use the STAR technique to help form your answers:
- Situation: Briefly describe the situation background
- Task: Specifically describe your responsibility
- Action: Describe what you did
- Result: Describe the outcome of your actions.
Keep answers specific rather than broad, describe how you have already resolved a similar situation – think about where, when, why and how.
Working examples for competency based answers
Here are some examples to think about. You could apply these answers to a wide range of competency questions so they are a great start but remember it’s not an exhaustive list!
- The project or piece of work you are most proud of – why you’re proud and what you did to achieve it?
- Show how you have used your own initiative – asking for help or support from a senior member of staff/another department, researching a problem using the web or internal knowledge library, identified a weakness or a potential future issue
- Where have you added value to a company or project? Maybe a cost saving idea or an idea to speed up a lengthy process or improve accuracy?
- Show you’re a team player, lead by example, mentoring a new or junior member of the team
- Good customer service you’ve demonstrated – going the extra mile for a client or stakeholder, pacifying a particularly unhappy user and solving their problem
- An example of when things haven’t gone well and what you did to turn it around
8. Other popular interview questions
This is not an exhaustive list but should help you make a start on the types of things you will likely be asked:
- What have you achieved in your personal life or your career?
- What is your greatest achievement?
- What did you most enjoy about your previous jobs?
- What did you dislike most about your previous jobs?
- If asked, what do you think your current employer would say about you?
- How would your friends describe you?
- How would your work colleagues describe you?
- What are your ambitions in life?
- What do you want to achieve, personally and professionally, in the next 5 years?
- How do you like to be managed?
- What examples are there where you’ve been uncomfortable with a manager’s style?
- What pressure have you worked under?
- What makes you think you can do this job?
- What fresh attributes could you bring to the company?
- How do you spend the weekends?
- What newspaper do you read?
- If you were in our shoes, what doubts do you think we should have about you?
- What jobs interest you at the moment and what other applications have you made?
- What do you know about us?
- Why do you want this job?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- How would you gain the respect of the staff already at the company?
- What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s ever happened to you?
- What is your availability, holidays booked, etc.
- What questions do you have?
- What interests you about the position?
- What do you see as the satisfactions of the job?
- What do you anticipate the frustrations to be?
- What skills / experience do you have that make you right for the position?
- What has been your biggest achievement in your career to date?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Give an example of when you coped well under pressure?
- When have you had an opportunity to show initiative?
- What motivates you?
- How do you motivate yourself?
- What de-motivates you?
- How do you analyse your own performance?
- How do you think that you could improve your own performance?
- What are your long-term goals?
- Why do you wish to leave your current job / last job?
- If you could change one aspect of your current / last position, what would that be and why?
- What are you looking for in your next position?
- Choose 5 words to describe yourself?
- Describe a time when you received negative feedback about your performance?
- Are you considering other vacancies?
- Give an example of a time when you had to make a quick decision.
- Give an example of an important goal you set and tell me about your progress in reaching that goal.
- Tell me about a time when you faced a problem at work, and tell me how you solved it.
9. Questions you may want to ask your interviewer
It’s great if you can research and find out the answers yourself but this isn’t always possible especially with smaller companies and it’s always good to ask relevant questions that show you are interested in the position and working for the company :
- Why is the position available?
- What happened to the last person who did the job?
- What are the future plans for the company / position?
- Why has the vacancy arisen?
- What is staff retention like?
- How long has the company been in business?
- Who are your main competitors?
- What makes you better than them, i.e. the key differentiators?
- How will I be judged in this position, i.e. what will be my key performance indicators?
- What training will I be given?
- What percentage of time will be spent on a particular activity?
- What is the company culture / ethos?
- How many employees do they have, how many other offices do they have, UK and overseas?
- What can you tell me about the people / team I would be working with?
Finally … let us know how it goes!
Try and call us soon after finishing your interview. By doing this, I can relay your feedback to the client as soon as possible. We can discuss the feedback, cover anything you wish you’d said or answered incorrectly and stress how keen you are on the role.
Remember: You have been selected for this interview because of your knowledge, skill and experience but now it’s up to you to market yourself in the best possible light. If you have any questions then please give me a call
Preparing for a telephone interview
- Many clients insist on a preliminary telephone interview to assist in their candidate shortlisting.
- Usually lasting between 20 and 30 minutes, these interviews can make all the difference between success and failure – particularly for roles where good interpersonal communications are vital.
- Here are a few tips to help you:
- You will usually be asked for a telephone number on which you would prefer to be contacted. If you are giving a mobile number, be sure you will have a good signal strength for the period of the interview and that your phone is fully charged. Try to provide a back-up number which could be used in the event of a technical failure.
- Make sure you are aware of the title(s) of the people who are interviewing you. And remember that a telephone interview is not necessarily one-to-one….other members of staff may be participating via conference links.
- Research the Company and the role thoroughly before your interview. See the notes on face-to-face interview preparation for an idea of the sort of questions you may be asked.
- Make sure you are ready to take the call at the agreed time. Have a notepad and pen handy.
- Speak clearly and be sure to answer the questions asked of you without over-elaborating.
- Try not to interrupt the interviewer (s)
- If you are unsure of any question, ask for it to be repeated rather than guessing what may have been said.
- If you have any questions, leave them to the end of the conversation (you will usually be invited to voice any queries).
- Be sure to thank the interviewers for their time.