Preparing Your Answers

Many questions can be anticipated in advance and it is wise to have some well constructed answers that you can tailor more closely on the day. It is advisable to at least have a number of key phrases available to use.

Some interviewers use very broad questioning techniques such as "Tell me about yourself?" This can present the most difficult challenge of the interview. You need to perceive whether the interviewer wants an exhaustive resume of your career to date, or just a brief overview. You may need to confirm which it is with a question back before you make an assumption. If you feel you need to go into more depth, don't hesitate to stop and ask if the interviewer would like you to expand on the point.

Before the interview, it is often beneficial for you and your consultant to jot down your answers to these questions. By having a fair idea of what you are going to be asked and by rehearsing your answers, you will have greater confidence during the interview.

Some frequently asked questions include:-

How you see yourself:

  • Tell me about yourself? Or how would you describe yourself?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • Impress the interviewer by saying that you look upon weaknesses as challenges you seek to work on, not bad points!

For example:

  • Make a list of your own strengths and weaknesses in relation to this particular job.
  • Can you turn any of your weaknesses into strengths?
  • Make a list of the reasons why you want the job.
  • How do you behave in a crisis/when under pressure?
  • What motivates you?

How you see and interact with others:

  • What sorts of people do you like working with?
  • How have you handled a difficult colleague/boss in the past?
  • How well do you fit into a team.

Your current/previous role:

  • What was the most interesting/rewarding project you've ever worked on?
  • What was the most difficult aspect of your job?
  • How did you overcome the difficulty?
  • How do you handle criticism?
  • Why did you leave your last job? Why are you leaving your current job?
  • Why have you frequently changed jobs?  Why have you stayed so long with one employer?

What you want from your role:

  • What do you see as the next step in your career?
  • What are your long term aims/where do you see yourself in the next five to ten years?
  • What are the most important factors you require in a job?

Research and fitting in:

  • What do you know about the company?
  • Why do you wish to work for the client?
  • What makes you think you will fit in?

Personal Development:

  • What training have you done in the last year?
  • How do you keep up to date with changes in technology?

Outside Work:

  • What are your hobbies and interests?

Recommended Questions to Ask

These questions are merely suggestions but it is important to limit any enquiries to your role and the company.  Bear in mind that the interviewer’s main objective is to successfully fit you into their organisation.

  • What responsibilities will be expected of me?
  • How has this position become vacant?
  • What type of person are you looking for?
  • Will there be any training?

What challenges does the interviewer see in the role?
It is important for the interviewee to get the person or panel interviewing them to talk about any possible challenges which may arise in the role.  If you say the word challenge and avoid the word ‘problem’ then this shows that you are positive and will face situations optimistically.

Consider the following when discussing the company:

  • Who are your major competitors?
  • How are you ranked against your competitors?
  • Ask your interviewer how long they have been with the company;
  • Which particular range of products are successful at the moment and why?
  • Are there any plans for expansion within the company?
  • What are the major benefits for a client entering into a contract with you?

It is one the most fundamental parts of the interview when the interviewee is asked questions, if you have none, or perhaps only one or two questions, then this can show a lack of interest in the company and job role.

Preparation will result in the correct balance, it is not only your answers that are important but to place focus on key questions.

How to Close an Interview

If you really want the job, or if indeed you need to secure a second interview, the close of an interview can be crucial.  Think of the role of the interviewer, they are a liaison officer who aids an organisation in finding qualified applicants and selecting the wrong person will ultimately reflect upon their poor judgement.

Keep in mind the following:

Restate your interest and dedication to the job, remind the interviewer of your skills, credentials and relevant experience, which will positively contribute to the company.  However, be careful not to be over-enthusiastic.  Do not for example say “when do I start” this is being over presumptuous.

A person’s personality and style of communication are key factors to consider when arriving at a decision.

  • Enquire as to what is the next step, if for example, do they have several candidates to interview, or there is a second interview, some sort of time frame indication.
  • Perhaps ask if you are allowed to contact the interviewer – a direct telephone number or a business card providing contact details.
  • As whether any samples of your work are required, if you feel this could increase your chance.
  • Make sure you have addressed the interviewers concerns as you want to be certain all issues have been dealt with.  If for example, the interviewer has a negative view on a matter, state how you will overcome this, suppose you cannot drive – could there be a concern regarding travel?  Clearly explain that this will not be a problem.
  • Your main objective is for the interview to end on a positive note, remember to maintain eye contact and smile, as this will maintain a confident disposition.
  • You need to leave the interviewer with a lasting impression that you are the right person for the job.
  • Thank the interviewer for their time. 
  • Remember to send a thank you note for the interview because manners go a long way and if it is close between two people, this could just tip the decision in your favour!

Typical Interview Questions

An interview is a nervous experience for anyone but bear in mind that research has proven that the most successful candidate for the job is not always the person whose experience, skills and intelligence is far above other candidates but it is the individual who possesses learning agility – a worker who can adjust rapidly, a ‘quick learner’ adapting to a new situation and working environment together with excellent communication skills.

Therefore, consider common interview questions listed below and when preparing your answers try and prove your point by showing an example. It is important to show commitment, flexibility, as well as loyalty and, of course, good manners.  Do not interrupt the interviewer, wait to be seated and at the close of the interview remember to smile and thank the interviewer.

Typical Interview Questions by the Interviewer and Suggested Answers

Tell me a bit about yourself?
This is your opportunity to create an immediate impression with a simple introduction of your background, include a quick summary of your academic qualifications, if attended university you could say “since graduating I have worked at …” highlight your dedication but make it brief. Do not sound to rehearsed but speak slowly and clearly.

Why have you applied for this job and why should the company employ you?
Study the job description highlight something from it by demonstrating what experience and skills you have and how the company would benefit from you, speak enthusiastically about previous jobs and apply past examples to this new role.  Demonstrate commitment and loyalty.

Are you a team player?
This is extremely important, bear in mind that you have to fit into the company’s culture, the capability of blending within a team is crucial.  Provide examples, a model answer would be to demonstrate a working example but also illustrate instances outside of work, such as sport, if involved in an organisation which supports a charity etc.  This is an opportunity to deliver a lateral response because this will show flexibility. Highlight occasions where you have lead a team as this confirms leadership skills.

What is your weakness?
Admit to a weakness do not attempt to disguise it or turn it around and say well perhaps others may consider that to be a strength – for example, if you feel, you are under experienced in a particular area state your enthusiasm to learn to better yourself in this specific subject.

Why do you want to leave your current job?
Be extremely careful not to criticise your current employer or colleagues this shows negativity, be positive about what you have learned and that you have been happy but now feel it is time for a further opportunity to develop and progress.

How do you think your current employer and colleagues would best describe you?
Be factual and professional – do not make any flippant remarks, for example you could say “I am punctual, hard working and always ready to help some one if for instance a computer becomes jammed or breaks.”

Where do you want to see yourself in 5 years time?
This is where you need to state you would be committed to the company – you have applied for this job because you consider this organisation to be a progressing business and you would welcome the opportunity to develop alongside this enterprising firm.

What kind of a salary do you have in mind?
If afraid of asking for too much or selling yourself short, perhaps you could turn it around and say “what would you normally pay someone for this role with my qualifications and experience?”

Have you got any questions?
It is essential that you have some questions relating to the company because this will show that you have adequately prepared for the interview, homework equivalents enthusiasm.

How would your strengths benefit the company?
It is not just saying what your strengths are try and prove them by fact, if you have won an award, for example,‘employee of the year’ alternatively express your ability to prioritise work, adapt in new situations and being confident at multi-tasking.

Can you work with minimum supervision?
Your response, if ‘yes’, will indicate that you can just get on with the job and cope with ease.

What are your hobbies?
The purpose of this question is to determine if you are a well-rounded individual because the employer wants to get a broader perspective of you and your life outside of work may tell the interviewer a little more about you.  However, try to balance a list of individual interests but also hobbies as being part of group activities.  Highlight any outstanding achievements.

Second Interview

It is very likely that you will be interviewed by another person, along with the first interviewer, and that you will be asked very similar questions to those in the initial interview. Repeat everything from the first interview that got you to the second.

Remember to share your eye contact with all interviewers, not just the one you feel comfortable with.  Also, answer the questions fully again, the other person has not heard your answer. Have another set of questions - refer back to the previous interview or a question from their company literature.

Reiterate your interest in the role and enthusiastically ask for the job again.

You will probably be asked more questions regarding your personal skills and specific interests at the second interview, be prepared for more challenging questions and try to back up your responses by examples and facts.  It is essential to remain composed, do not flutter and take your time it is important that you can effectively communicate your opinions.

The second interview is your opportunity to ask questions, which you were probably hesitant to ask at the first interview, for example issues regarding salary, bonuses and training schemes.

Although you have been selected for the second interview, and it is probably between two or three people, be careful to remain practical and do not be over presumptuous assuming that you are the successful candidate, there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  Competition for most jobs nowadays is high and it is crucial to at all times display good manners in a confident but unassuming manner.

Bear in mind that the second interview is your opportunity to showcase your intense interest for the job and this is demonstrated by everything you say during the interview, your sole objective is to convince the employer that you are the right candidate for the role.

Interview Preparation

Many of these difficulties and concerns can be overcome by research, preparation and rehearsal so here at Premiere People your consultant will work with you to plan how to make your interview an easier and less stressful experience.

Do your research
There are a number of things you are certain to be asked during an interview and they tend to cover the following topics:

  • The company - an online search on the company's website is the best place to start. As well as information about the business itself you'll get a feel for how they market themselves, there maybe some key people within the organisation and often there will be a news page with recent stories and updates about them. Google news is also a good place to look for up to date reports about a business and it shows you have gone further than just the easy route to find information. If you can get an annual report too this can be really useful.
  • The products or services they sell - know and understand the product range. Get brochures from the company if possible and find out who their competitors are including strengths and weaknesses as well as unique selling points. Most industries have trade magazines and websites so this should give you a wealth of information to work with.
  • The market - look at the market the products/services will be sold to and potential new areas that could be exploited. Talk to users of the products if you can to find out how they are perceived in the market. In short, get to grips with the issues of the industry. This is where industry publications could come in useful again.
  • The job - your recruitment consultant should be able to brief you fully on all aspects of the role you are being interviewed for, so you should make written notes on how you perceive the job, the responsibilities and how you would go about doing it. Try to relate specific areas of your CV back to the job description. It will help the interviewer see clearly why you are right for the job.
  • The journey - plan the journey, check how long it takes online and then if possible do a dummy run, plan to arrive at least 10 minutes early, as late arrival for an interview is inexcusable.

Appearance counts
Your appearance is the first thing people notice about you and will leave a lasting impression so getting it right is really important.   You need to feel comfortable as this will make you act comfortably and can make you appear at lot less nervous, if in doubt always go for a classic business suit in a dark colour. For both men and women this conveys a serious approach but shows clean lines and can be bought inexpensively in all shapes and sizes. Either a crisp clean shirt and tie or smart top will finish the look along with polished shoes and clean nails. A few more specific points would be:

  • Ties - keep them sensible. No  cartoon characters or strange shapes and colours
  • Facial hair - this must be well-trimmed and clean to maintain a smart appearance
  • Make up - keep it subtle
  • Piercings and tattoos - if they can't be removed then keep studs small and cover as much as possible
  • Accessories - keep them to a minimum. Sometimes big earrings or chunky chains can be distracting for an interviewer and can detract from what you are discussing
  • Odours - too much aftershave or too little deodorant can be very off putting in an interview. Smoking just prior to your meeting may leave a scent on you which is hard to get rid of, so make sure you are not leaving the wrong impression.

Prepare what you want to talk about

  • You can never guarantee what you will be asked at interview but your consultant can help you prepare for some of the most common ones to come up. By having an idea of what could be asked and rehearsing your answers you will have greater confidence during the interview.
  • Prepare what questions you want to ask your interviewer. Remember that the interviewer knows that you will have been briefed on the job specification by your consultant so asking what the job is and how much the salary is will not be greeted with positivity. Your questions are a chance to sell yourself so asking what makes their best employee so successful or what background their best employee came from gives you a chance to match your skills and experience with what they have already confirmed is a successful person.
  • Write down your questions and take them into the interview. This allows you to relax and not have to remember everything you want to ask, as often this section of the interview is left until near the end. It also shows that you have prepared in advance even if your questions get answered early on in the meeting.
  • It's always useful to know the reason the job has become available. This will give you a number of different avenues to pursue in your questioning.
  • Is it a competency based interview?  If so then your consultant will be able to work with you to prepare the right kind of answers. This is a specific technique so we can help you get it right!
  • Know how you will close the interview. Finding out what reservations or concerns an interviewer has about you before you leave gives you an opportunity to sell against them and hopefully overcome them to leave a positive image of you in their mind. You will want to know about timescales and decision making processes so your Consultant will spend time making sure you know how best to close your interview depending on the type of position you are applying for.

Lastly, smile, have positive body language and shake hands confidently with your interviewer. Good eye contact puts both of you at ease, builds a relationship and sets the scene for a great interview. You have done the preparation so you're set up for a great interview!

Panel Interview

The golden rule of a panel interview is to engage with the whole panel not just one specific member of the group.   By definition a panel job interview is when an applicant is interviewed by a group (panel) of interviewers.  In many instances a candidate will meet the panel separately; this is most common for a senior position.  However, in other scenarios there will be a panel of interviewers and several candidates all in the one room.

A panel interview can be extremely uncomfortable for a candidate nevertheless it saves an employer time and money because it creates an opportunity for the employer to screen multiple candidates at once.

It is the usual practice for multiple candidates to sit behind a desk whilst the interviewers sit facing the desk, each interviewer will then ask every candidate a question.

If you cannot anticipate likely questions, study the job specification to best effect, prepare as far as possible questions and a response.  Maintain eye contact at all times with the person asking the question and do not be disrupted by other people in the room.

When entering the room look at all of the interviewers, try and remember the names of each and address them accordingly.

The whole idea of a panel interview is to put an interviewee under a lot more pressure rather than a typical one-to-one interview.  It could be the case that you will have four or five people all asking you questions.  The panel will consider how you cope under this pressure.

This could be your opportunity to make your interactive practical skills shine, bear in mind that you want to appear better than your qualifications on paper.

Although it may be an intimidating experience it has its benefits because it is much more objective and reliable due to multiple opinions and of course a collective decision.

How an Interviewee Can Cope With a Poor Interviewer

Regardless of the circumstances of the interview, and if the interviewer appears to be unorganised for whatever reason, a candidate should always bear in mind their own objective, remain polite at all times and display enthusiasm.

The agitated unorganised interviewer

An interviewer may appear to an interviewee to be agitated; perhaps the interviewer has lost the candidate’s CV, or has not taken the time to read it and has not got anything prepared to conduct a constructive interview.

How does the interviewee cope with this?

The interviewee should bear in mind that first impressions stick and must remain polite and respectful, no matter how unorganised the interviewer appears to be.  Also the interviewer should be equally respectful bearing in mind the impact of conducting a poorly prepared interview can have on the company’s employer brand.

Place and setting of interview - avoid interruptions

The company should ensure an office or room is situated away from noise, such as telephones ringing, delivery vehicles, the sound of any industrial machinery and the general clamour of a workforce.

If the interviewer has to constantly make the effort to shout over noise,  they will become irritated in asking necessary questions and likewise will become somewhat bad-tempered and impatient when they cannot hear the interviewee responding to questions.

An experienced interviewer should be able to guarantee a suitable relaxed atmosphere in order to carry out a comfortable but formal interview.  There is nothing more discouraging for an interviewee to hear from the interviewer say “where was I up to before I answered the telephone?” Or perhaps the interviewer had to leave the room; the interviewee is then left, waiting for the interview to resume.

These factors create a negative and pessimistic atmosphere for both parties, which will consequently damage the company’s employer brand.  Companies should keep this in mind, as with the power of social media, a candidate can quickly relate the inexperience of a bad interviewer on Twitter, which has damaging consequences and will ultimately affect a company’s talent pool.

Interviewers arriving late

This will have a detrimental effect on the interview.  The interviewee will be waiting anxiously and during this time will be building up tension.  An interviewer who arrives late, or does not send an apology or explanation whilst the interviewee is in reception or a waiting room, shows arrogance and bad manners and will not become that employee’s first choice of employer.  First impressions also count when it comes to the opinion of the employee.

Positive Body Language

Well done for making it to the interview table – this proves that academically you are qualified to perform the job. The next hurdle, and it’s a big one, is how to impress in person.  This, in a nutshell, boils down to portraying an image of positive body language.

Consider the following:

  • Check your appearance before entering the building, or alternatively find a (rest room/wc) wherever the interview may be held, if need be drink some cold water so that your mouth is not dry.
  • Appearance -  wear conservative colours, do not wear too many colours, clothes should be clean and neat.  Look groomed, this will show you have prepared for the interview.  Bear in mind that first impressions stick.  If you want a good salary then do not look cheap.
  • Stand upright and have a firm handshake with whomever you meet.
  • Do not sit down first, wait until invited to take a seat.  Sit upright and avoid fidgeting.
  • Keep your hands still.
  • Look your interviewer in the eye and maintain eye-contact throughout the interview.  If you are before a panel try and give each member of the panel a glance – do not for the whole interview look at one interviewer only.
  • Speak slowly - remember your voice, this will reflect your personality, consider the tone of your voice avoid speaking in a monotone pitch, think about the clarity of  diction and pause on key words – this will emphasise any significant points.  A good voice will also show ease and reflect your measure of confidence.
  • Wear a smile!  Show a willingness to learn and be flexible in anything which may initially appear to be a problem.
  • Be optimistic but be careful not to come across too confident and over presumptuous.  There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence.

Tips for the Telephone Interview

Preliminary interviews by telephone are becoming increasingly popular.  This is a very low cost method of approaching candidates at the initial stage of recruitment but extremely important.  If you want to get to the next stage of the interview then you have got to approach this first step with full preparation and professionalism.

Points to Consider

Why not ask at the beginning of the conversation the structure of the interview – then you will know what is coming next.  (If it is a long interview keep a glass of water nearby to prevent your voice from becoming dry.)

  • Ask if the interviewer can hear you clearly.
  • Have your cv in front of you, highlighting your qualifications and personal attributes.
  • Do some research on the company and have a list of questions to hand.
  • If you smile whilst you are on the phone, you will be more relaxed, bear in mind that your vocal cords change when you smile.  It is your voice which will fundamentally create an impression, consider your tone, pace and diction.
  • Think about using a headset – this will enable you to have both hands free to write effectively and produce answers quickly.
  • Avoid noise, no background music or television, ensure your surrounding will not disturb or hinder your concentration.
  • Listen carefully and if you do not understand a question ask for clarification, it is better to request this than give a wrong or inadequate response.
  • Do not allow yourself to become flustered, if perhaps a question may seem irrelevant to you, do not display any irritation in your voice, the interviewer will be skilled and can quickly pick-up on it.
  • Never interrupt the interviewer and attempt more than a straight forward yes or no answer to a question.
  • A candidate must come across confident and provide intelligent answers to questions. Try and avoid long pauses of silence and repeating yourself.

The downside to a telephone interview is that you cannot judge a reaction as you can in person, therefore you could ask and say “is that all you need to know, is this sufficient etc.,”  as you cannot read the body language of the interviewer, it is imperative to sound enthusiastic.

A telephone interview could make or break your chance of a job, it should never be considered lightly, as you could be speaking to your future employer.

At the close of the interview remember to thank the interviewer and state that you can provide more information if requested.

Take notes of what you said and perhaps follow this up with a letter confirming the interview took place, as this will also demonstrate your enthusiasm and you could be the only one to do this!