Interviews are the make or break of the job search. No matter how good your career record is to date, the job interview remains one of the most important steps towards achieving your career goals. Therefore, preparation for the job interview is crucial.
Before you begin the interview process you need to:
- Know your CV
- Know your potential employer
- Understand Interview Styles
Know Your Potential Employer
Always research the organisation you are being interviewed by, and not just for knowledge. Use the information you discover to develop questions to ask those interviewing you. Look for trends, study the financials and ask questions about strategy and direction.
You can research organisations by reading the business press, reading their annual reports and prospectuses, talking with your networks and, of course, make use of the Internet.
Company recruiters and recruitment agencies use a number of different interview styles and quite often a combination of styles is used. To help you prepare for interviews, learn to recognise these styles since each requires a different approach by the person being interviewed.
The most common styles are:
- Behavioural or Competency Based
- Preference Based
- Ad Hoc
Behavioural or Competency Based
The basis of behavioural interviewing or 'targeted recruitment' is 'past behaviour as a predictor of future behaviour'.
The questions asked will relate specifically to your experience, and so expect questions such as :
'Tell me about a project you have managed from beginning to end.'
'Describe a problem you have solved. What was your approach and what was the outcome?'
If during the interview you find yourself beginning answers with:
'Well, what I would do...'
Stop and think about a specific example and begin an answer with:
'Well, what I did was...'
If you have detailed information about the role you are being interviewed for, you can do some very specific preparation by aligning your experiences with the job's key competencies. The S.O.A.R. model provides an easy outline for demonstrating your skills.
S – Situation. Think of a situation in which you were involved that resulted in a positive outcome
O – Obstacle. Describe any obstacles you encountered
A – Action. Describe what action you took in this situation to overcome the obstacle and achieve your results.
R – Results. Describe the position outcome(s) of your actions.
The preference-based interview is, in reality, the preference-based 'part' of an interview. You will probably encounter this style when being interviewed by a recruitment agency consultant.
This method is used to find out what individuals really want out of a career . It is based on a theory.
Don't be thrown by questions (at the beginning of an interview) like:
- What are you looking for in the future?
- What sort of company would you like to work for?
- Which industry preferences do you have?
- Where do you want to live?
- Why are you exploring other options?
- Who had the greatest impact on your life?
- Describe your past mentors.
If a line manager in an organisation is interviewing you, there is a good chance that no pre-ordained method or model will be followed. It is still very important in this situation to know your CV and the organisation.
You will need to develop answers so that you are prepared for the following questions:
- Why did you choose this particular role?
- What do you really want to do in your next career move?
- Why would you like to work for our organisation?
- What do you want to be doing in your career, five years from now?
- What was your last salary and bonus?
- What style of management gets the best from you?
- What interests you about our products and services?
- Can you get references from your previous employers? What would they say about you?
- What have you learnt from some of the jobs you have had? Which did you most enjoy?
- What have you done that's shown initiative?
- What is your major weakness? What are you doing about it?
- What do you think determines a person's progress in a good company?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- How do you spend your spare time? What are your hobbies?
- What does teamwork mean to you?
- What type of books do you read?
- What are your strengths?
- What can you bring to this role?
It is important in an ad hoc interview to be prepared to answer questions about weaknesses or areas of development. It is important to acknowledge weaknesses but it is equally important to state your intent to do something about these, for example:
Q: What are your weaknesses?
A: I have an energetic marketing orientation. I enjoy meeting people and am pro-active towards my customers. However, I don't always follow-up paperwork so I guess that is something I need to work on...
Two commonly asked questions at the start and end of interviews provide you with the opportunity to give an impression summary to the interviewer:
Q: Why are you here?
and later, maybe last, in the interview:
Q: Do you have any questions for me?
These examples will give you an opportunity to explore the different kinds of information the interviewer might be looking for in the CV and in your interview conversation. They will also indicate the different kinds of questions that you could prepare to ask the interviewer.
The examples below include the three styles outlined previously. Each question is followed by the style of interview associated with that question.
- Why are you here? (Preference/General)
- What type of position are you looking for? (Preference) - Don’t be too general. Refer to job titles, responsibilities and the reasons why.
- Describe your ideal company. (Preference)
- What are your career aspirations? (Preference) - Be honest but flexible.
- What salary/package are you looking for? (Preference) - Discuss your previous package and perhaps quote a desired range - be flexible.
- Why did you leave your last employer? (Preference/General) - Keep it short, factual, to the point and positive.
- Provide an overview of your career. (Preference/General) - Be structured, but not necessarily chronological, focus on skill sets.
- What are your key strengths? (Behavioural/Preference) - Need 4 or 5 and identify a good example for each, in SOAR format.
- What are your limitations/weaknesses? (Preference) - Need 1 or 2 and highlight what you are doing about them or preferably describe what was once a weakness and, after feedback, you worked on it and turned it into a strength.
- What have been your major career achievements? (Preference) - Need 4 or 5 and give examples in SOAR format.
- What do you bring to a new employer? (Behavioural/Preference) - Refer to type of experience, industry knowledge, unique skills, personal characteristics etc - consider using a SOAR example.
- Describe your management/leadership style. (Behavioural/Preference) - Don’t use “general” statements, describe how you go about it and use examples in SOAR format.
- Tell me about a project that you initiated/managed/completed. (Behavioural)
- Tell me about a difficult people issue that you had to resolve. (Behavioural)
- Tell me about a time you managed a change process. (Behavioural)
- Do you have any questions? (General)
Don’t forget your presentation
- Make a good impression during the interview. People want to hire people they like.
- Be friendly, outgoing, maintain good eye contact.
- Be on time and dress professionally.
- People remember stories better than specific details so tell a story about your successes.
- Don’t chew gum.
- If you are a smoker, don’t smoke on the way to the interview. Cigarette smoke can linger on your clothing.
- Avoid heavy perfumes or after shave lotions.
- Make sure your clothing is clean and neatly pressed.
- Shine your shoes.
- Don’t overdo the jewellery.