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Seven Secrets for a Successful Job Interview
1. Know your CV or Resume Back to Front
One thing is certain: your interviewer will have studied your CV even if you haven’t in a while. Why place yourself at an immediate disadvantage?
You must ensure that you have read your CV thoroughly. Try and consider the types of questions you might be asked about it or the areas you could be asked to discuss further.
Common answers you should always consider preparing include:
- Your reasons for leaving a role
- The relevant skills and experience you acquired in a role
- What you enjoyed or disliked in a role
- Why you chose to study a course
- Why you left education for employment
- Your interests and non-vocational pursuits – these often offer ideal opportunities to demonstrate the essential soft skills of creativity, team work, leadership and communication
See our page: Writing a CV or Resume.
2. Know the Employer
Employers need to know that you have taken a genuine interest in their organisation and that you applied for the role because you wanted to work specifically for them.
If you show no knowledge of their organisation you reveal a lack of interest in where you work – so why should they hire you to work for them?
Browse the ‘about us’ on their website, visit their social media pages or track down their recent press releases. Make a note of points of interest and be sure to drop them into your interview responses in relevant places.
Save your best to last, however, as asking a pertinent question for more information about the company is a great way to handle that closing ‘is there anything else you need to know?’
3. Sell Yourself
A smart candidate will have thought carefully about exactly what they have to offer the role and the organisation.
The successful candidate, however, will have tailored their skills and achievements exactly to the job description for the specific role they are interviewing for.
It can be difficult to do this, but try to review awards, praise or recognition you have received in previous jobs as well as peppering your answers with references to achievements outside of work, volunteering roles you’ve held recently, or your involvement within group projects whilst studying.
4. Understand the Interview Process
Forewarned at an interview is very much forearmed. Make sure you have found out how many interview stages there might be and whether any will involve a test or competency questions.
If you can’t find out beforehand then do so at the interview: asking about the process reveals you to be proactive and sends very clear signals about your interest in the role.
5. Know the Job Specification
A job description in an advertisement tells you so much – but the candidate with success in mind will always request a full job specification.
Firstly, it sets the stage perfectly for you to enter your interview cast in the role of a committed, interested and highly motivated candidate.
Secondly, it gives you that extra bit of information over others and allows you to understand the role and the skills it requires more thoroughly.
Finally, it may reveal a requirement of the role that you do not fully meet. So now when you are asked about any weaknesses you can identify this as an area you wish to develop in the near future.
6. Rehearse Answers
For all the emphasis on matching your skills to the role and finding out about the specific company, the truth is that interviews tend to follow a fairly standard format. Which is to say you can predict standard questions that are highly likely to be asked and prepare for them so you are not left coming out with the first thing that comes into your head.
Here is how you should go about responding to some of the most common questions:
Tell me about yourself
This broad question actually requires a tailored response. Keep it concise and develop a narrative that builds to this interview.
What do you know about us?
Here you need to highlight a particular area and probe for more information. It shows you have done your research and are genuinely interested in finding out more about the company.
What are your strengths?
Regardless of what you excel at, above all else here you need to match your strengths to the job specification and company culture. Remember to consider soft skills such as problem solving, flexibility, time management, team work, leadership or communication skills, as well as sector or job specific skills.
What are your weaknesses?
This goes hand in hand with strengths so there should be no real reason to be shocked. It’s likely to come up in some form or another so be prepared.
Try to pick areas where you could do with some relevant training that would further enhance your skills for the role or highlight an area that you know you have not been strong in but have already identified and started to refine.
Why did you leave your last position?
Try to keep your answer here positive and upbeat, even if the circumstances were difficult. Focus on the progression or opportunities you went toward rather than what you left behind.
What are your salary expectations?
It’s fine to be confident in your answer, but pitching yourself well beyond the salary band of the position suggests you may have the wrong motivation for the role. Do your research by checking similar job descriptions which reveal the expected salary for the role.
What are your career goals?
This is another question where aiming too high can indicate dissatisfaction with what is being offered. You need to make sure you offer clear reassurances that this position fits your career plan whilst also revealing your drive by referring to further aspirations as part of a longer term plan.
7. Prepare questions for your employer
The worst response to being asked if you have any further questions is to glance thoughtfully at the ceiling before saying ‘no’.
Whatever you ask, recruitment experts at Randstad believe that you should “make sure you have prepared at least five questions and something that will set you apart from other candidates”.
So whether it’s asking about the team structure, the relevant department or the benefits of the role, the best questions are the ones you think of, because they are the ones that are important to you. However, here are a few examples to get you thinking:
- What can you tell me about the team I will be working with?
- How would you describe the management style of the company?
- Have there been any major organisational changes recently? Are there any planned?
- Are there any major acquisitions now being planned?
- What are the company’s profit and turnover projections over the next few years?
About the Author
This article is supplied by Randstad, one of the leading recruitment & HR services providers in the world with a top three position in the UK and the United States.
Further Reading from Skills You Need
Develop the skills you need to get that job.
This eBook is essential reading for potential job-seekers. Not only does it cover identifying your skills but also the mechanics of applying for a job, writing a CV or resume and attending interviews.