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Interviews

Preparing for an interview

Preparing for a job interview in this tough economic climate is vitally important. Gone are the days when you could read a corporate website and bluff your way through an interview.

Companies are demanding higher standards than ever before. Putting on a suit will help with your potential employer's 'first impression' of you but the candidate who wins is the one who is polished and prepared.

Before

  • Research the firm – look at the company’s website, but don’t stop there! Look at their social networking sites including LinkedIn. Social media is also a great way to see if you would be a good culture fit within the company. 
  • Check up-to-date company literature, if this isn’t available on their company website, call them and ask them to post a corporate brochure to you and take this to your interview. This displays a genuine interest and ability to use your initiative.
  • Read the press and search in editorial archives on news websites to see the heritage of the company, this will also tell you what the company is in the news for; from charity events through to corporate disasters, and will help shape some questions for you to ask at the interview.
  • Talk to people you know who work or have worked there if possible. This will give you first hand information and genuine opinions about the company as an employer. 
  • Know your CV inside and out – the interviewer will expect you to answer questions about anything that is written on your CV. If you don’t know your own history, how do you expect the interviewer to view you as a credible candidate? 
  • Check out the interview process; how many stages will there be, will there be a test? 
  • Find out who you will be meeting and get their full name and job title. LinkedIn can be a fantastic tool to find out more information about the interviewers.
  • Review the job description – think about how your experience would benefit the company and be prepared to give examples. 
  • Remember the interview is a two-way process and offers you the opportunity to decide if you want the role. 
  • Prepare suitable clothing the night before the interview to avoid unnecessary stress on the day.
  • Ensure you know where the interview is being held, how you are getting there and how long it will take to get there. Being late will never make a great first impression.


During

  • Remember to smile and maintain good eye contact and positive body language throughout.
  • Your interviewers will expect some level of nerves so take a deep breath.
  • Avoid answering questions with just yes or no. Always back up answers with examples which illustrate your skills and how you could contribute to the company. Click here for more advice on competency based interviews. 
  • Let the interviewer bring up the subject of salary, when asked you should stress the importance of the nature of the position and organisation is just as important as the salary. 
  • Ask questions! 
  • Under no circumstances should you criticise your current/previous employer.

After
It is important to follow up your interview with an email of thanks and to stress your interest in the role.  


What to wear to an interview

It’s often said that hiring decisions can be made within the first few seconds of an interview, which means what you wear and making a good first impression can have a big impact on your chances of success. 

It is important that you strike the right balance between looking professional and fitting in with the company’s brand and ethos. Spend some time on their website and social media pages to get a feel for this. If you are using a recruitment company such as Meridian Business Support, they will be able to advise you further. 

Be wary of the term ‘business casual’ you still need to look smart. Avoid jeans, t-shirts and trainers, but bear in mind who you are interviewing for. 

Most importantly, wear something you are comfortable in. If you are unable to breathe or feel self-conscious, it will affect your performance and will probably be picked up on by the interviewer. 


Questions to ask at the end of an interview

It is important to remember that an interview is a two way process. You are there to find out information about the company and the role, just as they are there to find out about you. This is your chance to find out information about the company that isn’t in the job description and can help you make an informed decision about whether you definitely want the job. Below we have listed some potential questions for you to consider and prepare for. 

Tell me more about the company
If your interviewer has already talked about the company at length, leave this question. However, if discussions have only revolved around the role, you can use this opportunity to show them what you have found out from your own research. 

I found out from your website that you have a set of key values. Can you explain how these work throughout your business?’

How many people are in the team?

If you are going to be working as part of a team, it’s good to get an idea of who that team consists of. What their roles are and how they relate to the position you are interviewing for?

 

Competency-based interview

The STAR Technique

When answering a competency-based question, an interviewer is looking for a beginning, a middle and an end in the answer. It should tell a story without giving too much information and without saying too little. It should not prompt the interviewer to explore more questions within the question. A technique commonly used that would help you feel confident that you are providing the right kind of information is the STAR technique. 

Using the STAR Technique

The STAR Technique allows you to structure a scenario-based question into four sub-headings, ensuring you tell a story with every answer. These are: 

  • Situation: Brief explanation of the situation
  • Task: What were you tasked to do?
  • Action: What action did you take to ensure that this was achieved?
  • Result: What was the result?

Click here for examples of how you can use the STAR Technique to answer interview questions.