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Interview Preparation

Learning to be Successful at an Interview

You have approximately 30 minutes to impress an employer in an interview and many candidates step in to the situation without having done any preparation and expect to be able to make an impact. Some candidates choose to create an impression of indifference by acting too casually and at the other end of the scale some candidates are so nervous that they are completely unable to relax and perform to their best.
Inexperience can be tackled by taking the time to prepare yourself as best you can for some of the questions that may be asked, or some of the practical tests you may face in the interview.

This step-by-step guide will provide you with some useful pointers that will help towards making a great first impression and securing your ideal job.

Preparing for the Interview 

It is extremely important that you gather the following information with regards to your interview slot:

  • The time and date of your appointment
  • The place where you will be interviewed
  • The full interviewer’s name and correct pronunciation
  • The interviewer’s title

Do some research on the company you are about to interview with. Information can be gathered from internet websites, newspaper articles and public libraries. Employers will be more interested in someone who is able to talk about and show an interest in their business. When conducting your research it might be helpful to know the following:

  • How old the company is
  • What its products and services are
  • The regions in which it operates
  • What its growth has been and what its growth potential is for the future

For an employer, the purpose of the interview is to determine whether you have the right skill set and cultural fit, as well as potential to grow with the company. It is also an opportunity for you, the candidate, to decide whether the company you are interviewing with would provide you with the opportunity and prospects that you seek. Prepare some questions for the employer that you can ask at the end of the interview. This will show the employer that you are proactive and take an interest in your own future.

Dress Code

It is important that you always dress to impress for your interview. It will not only set you in a more positive frame of mind for your meeting, but it will show employers that you are well presented and conscious of making a good impression. A dark suit and white shirt is always recommended.

The Interview

The important thing to remember in an interview is that employers do not want to trip you up or embarrass you. They are trying to gain a better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses and will be evaluating you on your skills, qualifications and intellect.

Below are some pointers to remember in an interview situation.

  • Make sure you arrive early for your appointment. Arriving late does not make a good first impression
  • If you are given forms to fill out by your employer, make sure you complete it fully and legibly
  • Remember that you need to sell yourself with your personality and that you cannot rely on your CV or application form alone to secure the role
  • Greet the employer by their surname if you are sure of the pronunciation. Ask them to repeat their name if you aren’t
  • Remember to smile, be full of energy as you walk in to the room and shake the employer’s hand firmly
  • Wait until you are offered a chair before you sit down and make sure you sit upright when you are seated
  • Remember that it is just as important to be a good listener as well as a good talker
  • Do not chew gum in the interview
  • Be sure to make eye contact with your employer when you are talking to them
  • It is advisory to follow the employer’s leads, but try to get them to talk about what the position actually entails so you can relate your background, skills and accomplishments to the position
  • Do not give simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers to questions. Make sure you elaborate on your answers whenever appropriate, but be careful not to say more than is necessary
  • Answer all questions truthfully. You will eventually be caught out if you lie
  • Do not make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.

Questions an employer may ask you and how to answer them

Q1. Tell me about yourself

A1. The point of this question is to get you talking and to break the ice so you feel more relaxed. It is common in an interview that this question will be asked, so you can craft yourself a good response for use in any future interviews you attend

Q.2 Tell me about your achievements to date

A.2 This question appears in many interview set ups also, so again this allows you the opportunity to prepare an answer that will reflect your achievements in the best light. It is best to select an achievement that fairly recent and if possible relevant to work. Indicate the skills you used, the achievement and identify the benefit of your action, for example, “I implemented a new filing system which improved the smooth running of our office. This meant that our team could meet deadlines more effectively as we had time to prioritise the more urgent tasks.”

Q.3 Are you happy with your career at present?

A.3 This question allows the employer to assess how positive and self-confident you are and helps establish your aspirations as well as your level of self-esteem. The answer to this question should be “yes”, but if you feel you have hit a dead end in your career or are seeking a more challenging role, then you must qualify the answer

Q.4 Describe a difficult situation you have found yourself in and explain how you resolved it?

A.4 There are two reasons why an employer will ask you this question. The first is to define what you would classify as a difficult situation and secondly, whether you can show initiative in solving such problems. Always select an example of a scenario which doesn’t put you at fault and can be explained quickly in a few sentences. Describe how you defined the problem, the options you had and why you chose to take the path you did in finding a resolution. Always end your example on a positive

Q.5 What aspects of your current position do you enjoy most?

A.5 This is your chance to show that you will enjoy doing some of the tasks that are part of the job you are being put forward for. Always ensure that the aspects you enjoy correspond to the skills required for the current job. Be aware of not over selling your current role as you are looking for new work!

Q.6 What aspects of your current position do you dislike most?

A.6 The answer you give to this question will help the employer determine whether the job you are being interviewed for entails responsibilities that you won’t like, or are unsuitable for. The key with this question is not to draw attention to your weaknesses by being too specific. You might want to choose a characteristic of your present firm, such as the size, or its slow decision-making. Always try to come across as someone with a ‘can-do’ attitude, where no problem is too big or too small.

Q.7 What do you feel are your strengths?

A.7 Ensure you discuss two or three of your main strengths and describe how they could be of use to your employer. Some of the strengths you might like to include are:
Positive attitude
Fast Learner
Determined to succeed

Q.8 What is your biggest weakness?

Q.8 There are a few pointers you need to note before preparing your answer to this question. You should never say you don’t have any as it will lead to further problems. You should try and use a professed weakness such as, a lack of experience, (but not ability), in a certain area that is not key to the job on offer. Weaknesses that could also be seen as strengths are also an option, for example, “My team members tell me that I am too demanding sometimes. I am aware of this and I’m trying to improve.”

Q.9 Why do you want to leave your current employer?

Q.9 Employers who ask this question really want to know whether you are being pushed. The answer to this question should be relatively simple, so stating that you need a change of scenery, or more of a challenge, or a need to gain more responsibility in a new role will be adequate.

Your questions to the employer

Now you have the opportunity to ask your employer the questions you prepared before your interview. Questions should be relevant to the firm/company or industry/market. If you have done your research properly, the appropriate questions to ask should come to you.

Questions regarding Salary, hours of work and benefits

These matters should not really be discussed until the second interview stage, unless of course the employer raises the issue. However generally speaking they are matters to be dealt with later. This segment of your interview should be used to fully qualify the role you are being assessed for by asking questions that are related to the role and the workplace.

Making Sure you get the Job Offer 

When you have been selected for an interview, it is likely that other people will be going for the same position as you. Therefore it is important that you use your time in the interview wisely, sell yourself and ensure that you stand out from the crowd in order to get the position.

  • Do not be discouraged if you are not offered the position in the interview, or if a specific salary is not discussed. It is likely that the employer will need to discuss your interview with his office, or interview more candidates before a decision can be made
  • Do not let it show if you feel your interview is not going the best it could be. Sometimes employers will test you to see how you react by appearing to discourage you, when really they are very interested
  • Before you leave the interview, ensure that you have answered the following questions:
  • Why you are interested in the position/company
  • What you can offer the company/employer as an employee
  • Always thank the employer for their time
  • When you leave the interview, make sure that you contact your recruitment consultant. They will be able to offer you guidance from your feedback and then approach the employer for their thoughts on your performance. Your consultant is there to help you, so it is important that you keep them informed of your actions every step of the way.

About Leaman Consulting

Leaman Consulting was formed to offer a unique and confidential recruitment service to clients and candidates who prefer to work with an independent and highly experienced consultancy who give that personal touch that the big agencies cannot offer.

We have grown every year on the basis of continuous referral and recommendation as being the agency of choice who produce the best results for both the candidate and client.


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