Preparing for an Interview

The key to a successful interview is preparation. Researching the company, understanding the role and offering polished responses shows initiative, enthusiasm and a keen interest in the job.

Researching the company will help you to better understand the actual necessity of your role to the company and how your knowledge will boost your credibility with the interviewer. The company’s website, annual report, newsletters, and media releases can provide you with valuable information on the company’s key products and services, target markets, recent events, structure, culture and long term goals.
Your interview preparation should also include reading trade publications and newspaper/magazine articles. These will give you an insight into the company’s reputation, major competitors and potential industry challenges.

Carefully examine all the information you have about the role, including the job advertisement and job description. This will not only help you to anticipate what you are likely to be asked but will also let you prepare relevant responses beforehand. To set you apart from other candidates, you can also use this information to form intelligent questions which can be raised in front of the panel as interview culminates.

 

Rehearsing answers to the questions you are likely to be asked is the most critical step in interview preparation. For each potential question, identify practical examples which shows how you responded to the task/situation and generated a positive outcome. Rehearse your responses with a friend to gain feedback on whether you are matching your skills, experience and personal attributes to the requirements of the job in a coherent and succinct way.

 

The key to presenting yourself in the best possible light is to know your potential strengths and be able to communicate them confidently and convincingly. The interview is your opportunity to “sell” yourself, so be sure about your prepared concrete examples because that is what makes you special. Revise the key achievements from your resume so that they reside in that part of the brain which responds to ad hoc questions, and demonstrate how you can meet the needs of the employer better than any other applicant.

 

Tips for making a great impression

The interview is your opportunity to convince a potential employer that you are the shining star among all the applicants. No matter how compelling you appear on paper, the impression you make in person always remain the deciding factor.

Give yourself the best chance to make a great impression with these tips

Punctuality is a strong indicator of your professionalism and enthusiasm for the role. Confirm the time and address of the interview, research directions and parking, and aim to arrive 10 minutes early. Make sure you have all required documentation and the phone number of the person you will be meeting with in case of any emergency.

Your appearance conveys how serious you are about the role, and how you would represent the company in the future. Be sure you dress appropriately; neat, professional and relatively conservative. Pay attention to details such as clean shoes and limit the amount of jewellery you wear.

It is important to remain as relaxed as possible. Even the most seasoned professional can get interview fright. Preparing thoroughly will help you to maintain your composure. Remember that both you and the interviewer wants a successful outcome from the interview.

First impression do count. Greet your interviewer while standing, with a firm handshake, good eye contact and a smile. Try to find out the name(s) of the interviewer or the interview panel in advance. This will help you to address them correctly and make a positive impression.

Positive body language is vital. Be aware of your tone, eye contact and how you are positioned on the chair. Try to convey genuine enthusiasm, warmth and professionalism. Speak with clarity and confidence. Remember that your motivation and attitude are often as critical as your skills and experience.

Close the interview with a handshake, a smile and a genuine thank you. A brief, friendly email thanking the interviewer for their time and consideration is often viewed positively. Restating your enthusiasm for the role could be a deciding factor for your allotment to the same.

Common interview questions

To demonstrate at an interview that you are the right fit for the role, preparation is vital. Use these common interview questions to prepare succinct, relevant responses and for matching your skills and attributes to the needs of the company and the role. Make sure that you have a suite of compelling examples because that will make interviewer certain about you being the best person for the job. Preparation, positivity and proof are your keys to interview success.

This is a commonly asked question designed to break the ice. A strong, succinct answer will quickly gain the interviewer’s attention and separate you from other candidates who may be tempted to divulge into their life story. Give a brief, concise description of who you are and your key qualifications, strengths and skills. Tailoring your answer to the role on offer and declaring the strongest benefit that you offer an employer will leave the interviewer compelled to know more.

The interviewer is trying to gauge your enthusiasm for the role as well as your level of knowledge about the company. Give specific examples of things that attracted you to the company and elaborate on your strengths, achievements and skills and how they match the job description and make you the right fit.

The interviewer wants to know what you are particularly good at and how this would fit into the role. Choose a few of your key strengths that are required for the role and give examples of how you have demonstrated them successfully in the past. Strengths could include the ability to learn quickly; composure under pressure; ability to multi-task; team focus and your ability to work autonomously.

The interviewer is trying to gauge your self-awareness. We all have weaknesses so it’s best not to say you don’t have any. Avoid using the word ‘weakness’ and instead talk about ‘areas needing improvement’. However, you can freely put up concerns which are not vital for the job, or specify a ‘challenge’ that you are trying to overcome. Demonstrating a willingness to develop yourself and face challenges turns the answer into a winning shot.

The interviewer wants to know if you are a high-achiever and wants to ascertain how your accomplishments will be beneficial to them. Select one or two recent accomplishments that are directly related to the job on offer. Identify the situations, the actions you took, skills you used and the positive outcomes; quantifying the benefits wherever possible. Show how you can bring what you learned to the new role.

The interviewer is trying to find out your definition of ‘difficult’ and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. Select a tough work situation that was not caused by you. Explain the way you approached the problem, including the actions you took and the solution you applied to overcome the problem. Give your answer with the air of being someone who takes setbacks and frustrations as stride, when related to the job.

The interviewer is trying to find out your key interests and whether the job on offer has responsibilities you will dislike. Focus on what you particularly enjoyed in your last role and what you learned from it, drawing parallels to the new role. When addressing what you disliked, be conscious not to criticize your last employer. Choose an example that does not reflect on your skills (such as company size) or which reveals a positive trait (such as your dislike for prolonged decision making).

This should be straightforward. Reflect positively on your current employer but state how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment. Explain how your current role can no longer provide you with these things, and how your strengths and potential can portray a sense of growth.

A sense of purpose is an attractive feature in an applicant, so this question is designed to probe your ambition and the scope of your career planning. Your commitment is also under question, but avoid blankly stating that ‘I want to be with your company’. Instead, describe how your goal is to continue to grow, learn, add value and take on new responsibilities in the future that may arise in the role for which you are applying.

The interviewer wants to see that if you have got composure, problem solving skills and whether you remain focused under difficult conditions. Give an example of a time when you were faced with a stressful situation (not caused by you) and how you handled it with poise. Describe the context, how you approached the situation, the actions you took and a positive outcome. Demonstrate how you remained calm, in control and got the job done.

The interviewer is trying to gauge your interpersonal skills and team contribution. Outline the project objectives, your responsibilities, the actions you took to assist the group and the successful results. Provide evidence of how you were a keen collaborator and how your contribution was critical. You should also mention that you value teamwork and understand its key attributes such as honest communication, a shared purpose and effective problem-solving.

Things you should not do in an interview

If your CV and cover letter have been impressive enough to get you an interview, the job could be yours – provided you perform well at the interview. Even the most seasoned professional can get flustered and spoil their chances. So prepare a bit and avoid falling foul of these common interview blunders:

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You might have the skills to do the job but do you know how the company operates? Don’t you dare forget reading ‘About Us’ link and their mission statement on the company’s website? Find out what is the magnitude of competition and who are key players in the market.

Unless you have a very good excuse and ring ahead to rearrange, turning up late for an appointment will not endear you to any employer.

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While smart casual might be the current trend, professional attire is still proper business etiquette for interviews. You see, it’s all about the first impressions.

This can include mobile phones, nail files and chewing gum. They all have one thing in common — they don’t belong to the interview table.

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Eye contact, good posture, a cheerful demeanor and a firm handshake will get you a cutting edge in an interview.

This is a great question which you can really turn to your advantage. A candidate in demand will naturally appear more appealing to any hiring manager. So, say you are actively looking for a new position but don’t give them the impression you’re more interested in landing another job than the one you’re being interviewed for.

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This is where your pre-interview research pays off. Outline briefly what you’ve learned about the company and appear keen to hear more.

Take time to think before you answer questions and avoid bumbling to an uncomfortable halt; it doesn’t inspire confidence. Also, don’t mumble; the interviewer doesn’t want to have to ask you to repeat an answer or bear strain to hear every word you’re saying.

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Never grumble about your current employer no matter how despotic or ineffectual they are. Badmouthing won’t reflect well on you.

Employers want to see if you’re interested enough to hear more about the post or company and will look kindly on any well placed questions.

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Anything written on your CV could be discussed at an interview and if any fabrication about your work or education record is figured out, damage to your reputation in long run would be massive.

Avoid giving sob stories about how much you need the job due to the mountain of debt you’ve accrued. Also, don’t behave in a conceited or over familiar and flirty manner; it’s not as good as it looks no matter how much fancy your chances are.

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If you’re unsure how many people will be interviewing you, bring along surplus copies of your CV to hand out. It will show that you’re highly prepared.

It’s common courtesy to wait until you’re shown a seat to sit down. Also, avoid slouching or putting your feet anywhere. Try to use them firmly on the ground.

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Unless an offer is put on the table it’s not recommended that you discuss money or future working and holiday arrangements.

Using foul and inappropriate language is generally not acceptable at any time in the workplace, so at an interview it won’t win you any accolades.
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You might not think you’ve performed well in an interview but a simple email reiterating your interest is a courtesy that might just pay off in the long run.

 

Challenging interview questions

It’s the interview moment every job seeker dreads. Just when you thought you had them eating out of the palm of your hand, you’re hit with a question straight out of left field. While there’s no way of predicting exactly what you’ll be asked at an interview, these answers to our 10 challenging questions might just help you out of a tight spot.

If your reason for changing jobs is because of a personality conflict with your manager or colleagues, it’s best not to highlight the situation as it may raise red flags. Instead, focus on talking about how you are looking for a new challenge, how excited you are about this new opportunity, and how you believe you are very well suited to the position.

Here you need to emphasize your ability to work as part of a team. Talk briefly about how all teams need to take direction from a manager and give a strong example of how you have done this successfully in the past.

Here you get to show your human side by talking about how we all make mistakes, and how we can learn from constructive and positive criticism. If they ask for an example, talk about some constructive feedback you’ve received about an area that is not vital for the job, and how you worked to overcome it.

This is definitely not where you talk about ‘money’ and ‘fast cars’. Try discussing about high performance team, being immersed in important and meaningful projects, or seeing how much of a difference your contribution makes to customers or your business.

You can always say you’d hope to contribute from day one, but you also need to be realistic and explain that it might take a couple of months before you fully understand the inner workings of the company to a sufficient extent that you could make a noticeable impact.
This is a great question which you can really turn to your advantage. A candidate in demand will naturally appear more appealing to any hiring manager. So, say you are actively looking for a new position but don’t give them the impression you’re more interested in landing another job than the one you’re being interviewed for.

This is where your pre-interview research pays off. Outline briefly what you’ve learned about the company and appear keen to hear more.

This is where you get to show off what you’ve got to offer. Talk about your achievements to date and the areas of the business you feel you could work with and where you feel you can make a positive impact.

Explain that you’re eager to establish yourself within the organization for the long-term. You can say that you believe your experience will enable you to make significant contributions to the company from the outset and make them sure that ultimately you feel very well suited to the position on offer.

Less is definitely more when answering this one. It’s a good idea to say that you’ve read through the job spec thoroughly, and at this point you are excited about all aspects of the role and looking forward to sinking your teeth into the new challenge. You could also demonstrate maturity by conceding that it’s natural for things to come up in the future that you may find less interesting than others, but this is the nature of any job and everyone understands it well.