Interview advice

A well written CV has secured you an interview - well done! Now comes the time to really sell yourself in order to put you ahead of other applicants. Don't forget - the interview is a two way process. The prospective employer will want to know all about you, but you can also see if they fit your vision. 

Before the interview

  • Ensure you know where you are going and what time to arrive (10 minutes before your appointment). Also don't forget who is interviewing you (your consultant should have found this out for you).
  • Be prepared with industry information and have some well thought out questions. Prepare and research the company in depth using their website and / or company results etc.
  • Do not be put out if asked to complete an application form, they are often standard procedure.
  • Allow enough time to complete the interview. Usually between and hour to an hour and a half for a first meeting. However, if the interview goes well, it may last longer than you anticipate.
  • Dress appropriately - do make an effort. Suits for both men and women are always a safe bet.
  • Smile! Be alert and relax. Shake hands firmly. Do accept a drink if offered. Maintain eye contact throughout. Be aware of your body language.

During the interview

There is no formal procedure for all interviews and some interviewers will be far more experienced than others. Bear in mind these points:-

  • Ask the interviewer to discuss the role in more depth early on. This will allow you to relate your skills exactly to the position.
  • Be prepared to expand on your CV. Ensure that you can explain key terminology which appears on your CV and provide solid examples of tangible achievements, e.g. savings made, reduction of suppliers etc.
  • Listen to what is being asked. Do not be afraid to ask for a moment to think, or for the question to be repeated if you are unsure.
  • Always be ready to give positive reasons for wanting to join the new company as opposed to dwelling on negative reasons for leaving your current role.
  • Be honest and don't attempt to hide the truth.
  • If you are asked about CIPS or other professional qualifications, this is probably because the company is supportive of further study. Even if you do not feel CIPS study will benefit you, avoid criticising it as the company and/or interviewer may value the qualification.
  • Try to be concise and do not get side-tracked. End a response with reference to the original question.
  • Never interrupt or 'finish off' sentences for the interviewer.
  • Be enthusiastic, but controlled. Even if the style of the interviewer is very informal, remember to remain professional and focused throughout.
  • Engage in topical business conversation. It is important that you demonstrate commercial awareness.
  • Avoid talking about salary if possible. Remember, you have secured an interview on the basis of the salary guide discussed with your consultant. If asked, a good response is to re-iterate what you presently or most recently earned. Demonstrate that you are more interested in progression and future opportunity. Salary negotiations are far better conducted after a company has expressed an interest in taking you on board.

Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions include:-

  • Tell me about yourself...
  • What motivates you?
  • Why are you seeking a new position?
  • What makes you think that you will succeed in this position?
  • What are your strengths/ weaknesses? When asked to identify your weaknesses, try to think of this as an opportunity to identify areas for your own personal development. Never state a weakness without acknowledging the steps you take to overcome that weakness.
  • What do you know about our organisation?

Closing the interview

Questions for the interviewer are ideal for demonstrating your own willingness and enthusiasm for the role. However, be careful not to interview the interviewer! The following are all good relevant questions to ask:-

  • How will my performance be assessed?
  • What is the long-term picture? (for myself and the company)
  • How has the position become vacant?
  • What will the opportunity be for further training?
  • Any technical questions regarding the role.
  • Do you have any reservations in my suitability for the position?

This final question is crucial. It allows you the opportunity to address any concerns the interviewer may have. The alternative is you leaving with them not being 100% sure about you. It may also provide an indication of how you have performed.

Remember the following also...

  • Confirm your interest in the role.
  • Remain positive, even if you now have doubts, having attended the interview. Decisions are always better made after reflecting on an experience.
  • Establish what will happen next time you meet.
  • Thank them for their time.

Testing and presentations

Don't panic if testing techniques such as is psychometric tests are involved. Where possible your consultant will have already briefed you about the format of any testing. 

If you are asked to give a presentation, you should make sure that you aware of the following prior to the meeting:-

  • What is the purpose of the presentation?
  • What is being assessed?
  • How would the company like you to present e.g. Powerpoint, slideshow, handouts etc.
  • Who will you be presenting to and how many people will be there?
  • Make sure that you can commit enough time to prepare adequately.

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