The Key to Successful Job Interviews

Interview Techniques

"Whatever fears or misgivings you may have about going for an interview, it does represent the normal way for you to sell yourself to an employer."

From the interviewer’s point of view your job interview is an opportunity to explore more fully what has already been learned about you from your CV, job application form, letter of application or other recommendation. From these documents the interviewer will have some insight into your social skills, work motivation, keenness for the job, and likely long-term commitment.

Remember, your objective is to be offered the job by convincing the interviewer that you are capable of doing it better than any of the other candidates. To do this, some preparation is necessary.

Before the Interview

It is important to find out as much as possible about the company and the particular job being applied for. Few employers can resist the candidate who has more than a superficial knowledge of the organisation and who has taken the trouble to find out about it. The type of information you should try to get hold of includes: -

  • Where are the company's headquarters located
  • What service it provides or what its product is
  • How many employees do they have
  • What is the company's recent profit history
  • Where is their the main business market
  • Who are their main competitors

Although you will probably not use all the information during the interview, the fact that you have it will boost your confidence greatly and the odd comment which shows you know about the company is bound to impress the interviewers.

Make sue you know where the interview is being held and how to get there. Allow plenty of time for traffic jams and public transport running late. Most people do not like to be kept waiting and it creates a bad impression if you do not turn up on time. If you are unavoidably late, try to telephone and let the company know that you will be late and why you have been delayed.

It's important to pay attention to personal grooming since appearances do count. Dirty shoes, unkempt hair and grubby clothes can create an unfavourable first impression which is difficult to overcome.

Be sure you know the name of the person you are about to see and his/her position in the organisation.

A job interview may last 15 minutes, an hour or even longer. You will be asked many questions – some straightforward factual ones and others more complicated – as the interviewer tries to find out about your aptitudes towards life and work.

During the Interview

How you get on at the actual interview is critical as jobs are offered largely on the strength of a good performance.

If you have the experience and ability to do the job, you must not let your interview let you down. Even if all the candidates could do the job equally well, some of them will give the impression that they will be unsuitable. What impression you wish to give is up to yourself.

Be prepared to answer at least some of these questions.

  • Are you a stable person, capable of withstanding stress?
  • How do you get on with other people?
  • What are your domestic circumstances?
  • Do you take your career seriously?
  • Do you take your family responsibilities seriously?
  • How do you react to criticism?
  • Are you easily bored?
  • Can you work on your own initiative?
  • Can you get things done even when faced with difficulties?
  • What are your long term personal goals?
  • Can you get things done on time?
  • Once started, do you finish a job?
  • Do you pay attention to detail?
  • Do you have pride in your work?

Areas such as these will be investigated with the aim of finding out if you would be the most suitable person for the job.

Contrary to what you might think, most interviewers are not trying to trip you up or trap you. He or she merely wishes to be convinced that you are the person for the job. It is up to you to put your abilities, experience and achievements over in a positive way to the interviewer and to convince him/her that you are the most suitable candidate for the job.

Important Points to Remember

Be professional and business like.

  • Do not sit down until invited – or at least until the interviewer sits down.
  • Do not touch or lean on the interviewer’s desk or table.
  • Do not slouch down in your chair; equally, do not sit nervously on the edge of it.
  • Try not to display nervousness by fidgeting.
  • Do show that you can listen, show positive interest in remarks, acknowledge them with nods and other signs that you are alert.
  • Do not smoke unless invited to do so (even then it might be better not to).
  • Look at the interviewer – not round the room or at you feet.
  • Speak clearly.

Do ask about the job. Intelligent questions about the job not only make a good impression but can provide you with information you need to help you decide whether the post is an appropriate one for you.

  • Do not swear – even mildly.
  • Do not interrupt the interviewer.
  • Do not interview the interviewer.
  • Do not argue with the interviewer.
  • And don't forget to smile.

Asking the right questions

Towards the end of an interview you are likely to be given the chance to ask questions yourself. Provided they have not already been dealt with, it is reasonable to ask about some of the following:-

  • Promotion prospects.
  • Training and further education.
  • Wages/Salary/Hours for the position.
  • Is a pension scheme available.
  • How performance in the job is assessed.
  • Are staff often transferred to other branches.
  • Who would you be working with.
  • Who would you report to.
  • What are the main challenges in the job.

At the end of the interview thank the interviewer(s) and leave confidently. Do not overstay your welcome.

After the Interview

At the end of the interview you may not be told whether you have got the job. Other candidates may still have to be interviewed or other people in the firm may have to be consulted before making a final decision.

After the Intervew

However well the interview went, do not assume that the job is yours until you have an offer in writing. You should continue with your job search until you receive a firm offer.

If you have not heard from the employer within a fortnight it is reasonable to contact the company to find out the position.

If you are offered the job, immediately confirm in writing that you accept.

Remember it is not the end of the world if you are unsuccessful. Look on it as good experience, since the more interviews you go to the better your performance will become. Try to be objective, analyse what went wrong and learn by your mistakes.

The Panel Interview

Panel (or Board) interviews can be somewhat disconcerting: it is almost impossible to establish rapport with several interviewers in a short space of time.

Panel Interviews

The points made earlier about dress and grooming, and about how you move and sit, are even more important for panel interviews than for those conducted by a single interviewer - there are more eyes observing you.

It is particularly important to speak clearly and loudly enough for all the panel members to hear what you say. Direct an answer primarily to the person who asked the question, but look at the others from time to time and be alert to any reactions from them (nods of approval etc).

General Hints for Panel Interviews

Try not to answer questions with YES or NO or other single words. Always expand your answers into at least a few sentences.

Do not draw attention to any of your weaknesses (e.g., age, physical shortcomings, lack of qualifications, long time out of work) by making constant reference to it or by apologising. Be prepared to cope with questions on weak or sensitive areas.

Be ready with answers which show up your strong points, especially those which are relevant to this particular job e.g. ‘I get on well with other people’ or I work well with figures’. Try to give practical examples where possible. And do not criticise present or past employers.

Most importantly! LISTEN to what you are being asked and THINK before you answer.

Questions an Employer may ask

Finally, here are some of the questions employers frequently ask, and the reason why they ask them.

Why do you think you would like to work for our company?

(To see if you have learned anything about the company before applying)

What subjects did you enjoy at school?

(Your answer reveals some of your interests and aptitudes)

What activities do you participate in outside of work?

(To see abilities and interests which your work or school record did not reveal)

What do you consider to be your strengths?

(An honest answer is a great help to an employer, but be careful not to brag)

What do you consider to be your weaknesses?

(Shows if you can recognise your own faults – but do not overdo it)

What sort of job do you hope to have in five years?

(This is your chance to show your drive, ambition and ultimate goal)

What starting salary would you expect?

(If you are not certain, say “Any fair salary is fine, to start”)

Would you accept a job which required you to travel?

(Many jobs require travel – think about it before you are asked)

What do you feel you have to offer this job?

(This gives you a chance to show that you have abilities useful to your potential employer)

Why did you leave your last job?

(In case you had problems there)

What did you like best and least about your last job?

(To bring out any qualities that would make you a good employee)

What suggestions or changes did you make in your last job?

(To show you are a constructive person who has accomplishments)

Why did you apply for this job?

(Most employers prefer a person who has selected a job to one who drifted into it)

If you could have any job in the world what would you choose?

(This should relate to the job for which you are applying; but do not show limited ambition by setting your sights too low)

What types of books do you read and what films, TV do you watch?

(To see if you are a well-rounded person, with varied interests)

Useful Addresses

Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI) Registry of Companies, Credit Unions and Industrial & Provident Societies,
1st Floor, Waterfront Plaza,
8 Laganbank Road,
Belfast BT1 3BS

Tel: 0845 604 88 88

Website: www.detini.gov.uk

The Department provides basic information on all NI companies, both public and private. Records are available for public inspection. The information you can obtain includes the registered office of the company, name of the directors and secretary, how many shares have been issued etc.


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