the ultimate guide to acing job interviews

Being invited to an interview means you’ve passed the first test – your application must have made a good impression.

Now you need to prepare for the interview. This article will tell you the things you need to do to prepare and guide you through some of the pitfalls.

Research the company

If you are invited to an interview you should spend time researching the company. This will give you confidence should you be asked any questions on what the company does. It will also allow you to ask the employer questions.

You could contact the company to ask for an information pack but you must also 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 fit your skills to match the job?

Plan for the interview

Find out what the interview will involve to make sure you are prepared. Some may contain a presentation or tests.

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 be just as testing. Find out how many people will be interviewing you and their positions in the company. This will help you prepare for the type of questions they may ask.

Finding out how long the interview is likely to last will give you an idea of how detailed the interview will be. You should also ask if you will have to take a test or make a presentation.

If you have a disability, all employers must make reasonable adjustments for you to have an interview. If you need the employer to make particular arrangements then contact them before your interview to make sure they understand your requirements.

Gather together the information you need

Remember to take a copy of your CV or application form to refer to and prepare notes and questions. Take items the employer has asked you to bring along, for example references, certificates or your driving licence.

Re-read the job advert and it’s always good to have printed off some information from the company’s website to refresh your memory and make sure you haven’t missed anything.

Prepare for the questions

You can’t plan for everything a potential employer might ask, but there are certain areas of questioning that frequently come up, so be prepared!

“Why do you want to work here?”

  • Say: The good reputation of the firm
  • Say: Any other positive information you have about them for example their training record or their equal opportunities policy
  • Say: The job will give you the opportunity to do work that interests you

“Why did you leave your last job?”

Be positive. If you left for health reasons, explain that you’re now able to carry out all the duties for the job you are applying for. Don’t use this as an opportunity to criticise your previous company. If you were dismissed, say that you take responsibility for your actions and have learnt from the experience.

“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 other work experience that is relevant to this job. Emphasise your interest and your enthusiasm to learn.

“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 – say how you worked with them
  • How long you were there
  • Whether you were promoted
  • Responsibilities you volunteered to take on

“What kinds of equipment can you use?”

This is an opportunity to show an employer how you can fit into their company so remember to: Name the types of equipment you can use which 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

“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
  • Any voluntary work you have done
  • Any further education, study or training you have done
  • Your hobbies and leisure activities, if appropriate

Try to link what you did to the skills and experience the employer is looking for.

“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
  • The personal qualities that you bring to the job

“Why have you had so many jobs?”

You could say the following things:

  • You wanted to widen your experience in different types of work or in different companies
  • Many of the jobs were temporary
  • You would rather be in work than out of work

“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

“Why should we 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 hardworking, reliable and capable

“Aren’t you overqualified?”

Emphasise the following:

  • You are looking for something different
  • You can take as well as give instructions

“How do you get on with people?”

Tell the interviewer:

  • How you have worked as a team in the past
  • How you get on with people at all levels and give examples
  • How you have provided good customer service

“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 cooperate with other people
  • Having a good sense of humour

Give examples of how you showed these in previous work situations or leisure activities.

“How do you cope with pressure?”

Describe pressures in previous jobs using a recent example such as how you:

  • Coped with a deadline that had been brought forward
  • Completed a rush order
  • Dealt with staff shortages

“What are your strengths and weaknesses?”

It is a good idea to have one or two examples of each ready for this question. Employers value people who can admit their mistakes rather than blaming their failings on others.

  • Strengths: Think about this carefully. If it applies you can mention working as part of a team as well as on your own, being conscientious and always giving 100%. You may also 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. Be brief but honest for example: ‘I can sometimes be a little too enthusiastic’ which is also a positive weakness.

“What would you like to be doing in five years’ time?”

Explain that you would ideally like to be working for the same company but to have developed within it.

“What wage do you expect to earn?”

If the wage level is negotiable, be prepared to negotiate. The difficult thing to decide is where to start. If you tell them a wage that is too high, you could price yourself out of the job. If you give an amount that is too low you could lose out.Before going to the interview, try to find out about wage levels in your area. You can look at similar jobs advertised with your Jobcentre, in newspapers or 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. If you are using an agency then your consultant will do all of your negotiations for you and will tell you what the salary is before your interview.

“How often were you absent from your last job?”

If you were hardly ever off work, say so. However, if sick leave has been a problem explain why and reassure the employer that you have sorted out the problem. If you have had time off because of a disability discuss this openly.

“When would you be available to start?”

As soon as possible. Do not put any barriers in the way.

“Do you have any questions?”

Be prepared for this, as it is almost always asked at an interview. Asking some questions can show you are interested. One or two of these may be appropriate.

  • Do you offer on-going training and development?
  • What will my first job be?
  • How soon will I hear the result of my application?
  • Does the company carry out performance reviews and how often?

Plan your journey

Travel to the company the day before the interview to check how long the journey will take. If necessary, make sure you have thought about bus routes or details of where you can park your car. You should plan another way of getting there in case something unexpected happens.

Create and project the right image

Deciding what clothes to wear for an interview is crucial. It is important to create the right image within the first few seconds. How you dress can reflect on how you work, wearing a suit and being neat and tidy will suggest you take pride in yourself and in turn take pride in your work.

We suggest that men wear a suit, collar and tie and women keep their hemlines to just above the knee, have a non-revealing neckline and definitely no flip-flops.

Finally…

Try to get a good night’s sleep and enjoy your interview. This is your time to investigate the company and see if you want to work for them.

Interview tips and techniques

As well as these great tips, it is worth having the following guidance in mind when preparing for your interview – as well as when you’re in the hot seat. With some of the below, it is worth preparing in advance and/or practising with a friend (or even in the mirror).

This guidance will help you to make a good impression and impress the employer so you can show them that you are the best person for the job.

Things you should do:

  • Enter the room confidently, head held high and shoulders back
  • Be polite and friendly with the receptionist as their opinion may count
  • Shake hands firmly and introduce yourself
  • Always smile
  • Be polite, friendly and look the interviewer in the eye as soon as you enter the room
  • 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’
  • Know your CV
  • Provide examples to prove your skills and achievements
  • Be honest and tell the truth – there is no point lying about your achievements and skills
  • Ask for clarity if you don’t understand a question
  • Speak clearly
  • Sell yourself – get your good points across and be positive
  • Listen
  • Answer questions with examples
  • Keep your answers brief and to the point
  • Thank them for their time and ask when a decision might be made

Things you shouldn’t do:

  • Be late
  • Dress casually
  • Sit down before 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 the facts
  • Bring up money unless you are asked (you will have always seen the job description and know the salary before you go in)

A guide to great presentations for job interviews

Everyone gets a buzz out of listening to a structured, well-delivered and impactful presentation. The trick to delivering a great presentation is to follow the simple process known as IMPACT:

I – Identify your goals
M – Manage your stress
P – Put on a Performance
A – Consider the Audience
C – Keep Control
T – Timing

Identify your goals

What are you hoping to achieve from your presentation?

Are you merely relaying information or are you attempting to gain commitment to a new plan or strategy? Clearly, the actual content of your message will determine the style that you choose to adopt. Consider what questions they are likely to ask you and include those subjects in your script.

Manage your stress

Relaxation comes from the knowledge that you know your subject and are prepared.

Put on a performance

You owe it to yourself and your audience to put on a good show. Hit them with a compelling opening, a statement of intent and content, develop all aspects fully and round-off with a simple summary. Use strong, uncluttered visuals and avoid clip art.

Audience

Who are the audience? What do they know? What are they expecting? Can you deliver? Consider using some of their words to help you in presenting your message; obtain quotes and testimonials from key members of the audience as this will undoubtedly strengthen your position.

Control

Keep control. Losing your way during a presentation can weaken your delivery to the point of no return. Deal with objections and questions in a positive and confident manner. If you have carefully considered the questions they might ask and included the answers in your presentation, you can avoid interruptions altogether. Encourage questions and never leave them until the end as someone who is holding a question until later will not be fully listening.

Timing

How many presentations have you sat through where the pace at the front end was much slower than at the back? It is vitally important to maintain a constant pace that enables you to cover all that you need to in the time allotted.