General hints and guidelines
Think about yourself
It is important before an interview to think about all the reasons why you are attending it and what you have to offer the organisation. Be ready to discuss both short and long term career goals in general terms.
Reasons for leaving
Prepare to discuss the reasons you left your previous jobs. If it was for a better opportunity, explain how it was an opportunity. If you left involuntarily, present the reason in the most positive light you can. Make sure your responses are honest and be positive.
Research the job
Before attending any interview it is a good idea to research the organisation and familiarise yourself with the following:
- Size of organisation, number of employees.
- History, how long have they been operating – do they have any affiliated organisations or belong to an umbrella group?
- General information about their services / products / aims etc.
- Major competitors or other organisations operating in the same field.
- Job description – understand the skills required for the position.
- Have some well thought out questions that would help further your understanding of the organisation e.g. How do you see the organisation developing over the next year / three years?
- Feedback to your consultant how you thought the interview went and tell us whether you would be interested in the job if it were to be offered to you.
Points to consider throughout the interview
- Be prepared with answers to the traditional interview questions. Rehearse your answers with a friend who will give you honest feedback about the content of your answer and body language.
- Give honest answers with a positive tone.
- Concentrate on the employer’s needs, not yours.
- Emphasise how you can help the organisation achieve its goals.
- Describe your past responsibilities and accomplishments.
- Explain why you approached projects in a certain ways.
- Explain how the skills you bring will benefit the organisation.
- Don’t downplay your accomplishments or attribute them to luck.
- Be specific in your answers. Avoid rambling or getting off on a tangent.
- Ask for clarification if you are unsure of the question.
- Ask the employer if they think it would be helpful to add information about skills or experiences that you believe are relevant but which have not been covered during the interview. Take responsibility for communicating your strengths. Don’t rely on the interviewer to pull it out of you.
- Consider the types of skills and characteristics you think the employer needs in the applicant to be successful in the job for which you are attending an interview, e.g. attention to detail, diplomacy, leadership, persistence, problem solving and planning, stress management, team building, technical.
- Once you have determined what you think the employer will be looking for, write out examples of situations that showed your skills in those areas. Explain your past successes, the more you can clearly describe the experience, the people involved, the challenge and the solutions, the more you’ll stand out in the interviewer’s mind.
The traditional interview – sample questions
Sometimes interviews follow a more traditional format. The following is a list of typical interview questions which may arise in one form or another. It is a good idea to reflect on the sort of answer you might give before an interview but it is unwise to learn answers off pat as you risk coming across as unnatural and not genuine. It is a good idea to back your answers up with examples taken from your own work experience.
- Why do you want this job?
- What qualities do you think this job requires?
- Why do you want to work for this organisation?
- What have you got to contribute?
- What can we offer you that your previous organisation cannot offer?
- How long have you been looking for a new job?
- What do you know about this organisation?
- What interests you about this organisation?
- What are you looking for in a new job?
- What would be your ideal job?
- What sorts of jobs are you considering at the moment?
- What did you do on a day to day basis?
- What do you not like about the job?
- How did you make a difference to your last organisation?
- How successful are you?
- What was your greatest success and how did you achieve it?
- What has been your biggest failure?
- How could you improve yourself?
- How did you progress in your last job?
- How do you handle criticism?
- Do you need other people around to stimulate you?
- Are you accepted into a team quickly?
- Give me an example of when you took initiative to solve a problem?
- What motivates you?
- What problems did you encounter and how did you overcome them?
- Do you feel you are ready to take on greater responsibilities?
- What are you like under pressure?
- How many hours are you prepared to work?
- What are your career goals?
- How did you get on with your last manager/colleagues?
- Are you competitive?
- Are you competitive?
- How do you work with others?
Questions from you
Try to think of some questions to ask at interview. If you have researched the company well, you will be able to come up with questions concerning the organisation. You may also like to find out more about your responsibilities in the role, the organisation’s long and short term aims, training opportunities, overall organisational structure and what they would hope you achieve in the first six months.