Succeed at Interview - Complete Interview Guide

You have been selected to attend an interview. This guide is designed to give you confidence during the interview process.

Interview Guide


Prepare Yourself!

Taking the time to think through the following areas will help you to be prepared when you get asked questions. Think about the following:
• Your skills and aptitudes
• Your strengths
• Your achievements
• Your development areas

Examples of skills & aptitudes:
• Accurate data entry
• Word processing
• Excellent customer services manner
• Negotiation techniques
• Organising
• Prioritising workload

Examples of strengths:
• Assertive
• Conscientious
• Creative
• Determined
• Passionate
• Enthusiastic
• Flexible
• Quick to learn
• Self motivated
• Reliable

Examples of Achievements:
• Your academic record from school, college or university
• Your qualifications, professional or technical
• A difficulty you have overcome
• A skill you have mastered
• A sporting accomplishment or hobbies
• A way in which you have improved results
• An initiative you came up with
• Any other area in which you have achieved something you are proud of

Your Areas for Improvement

The important thing when considering a development area (weakness) is to acknowledge your awareness of it and then describe what you do to combat it.

So for example: If your development area is that you tend to take on too many tasks as you want to help people, then explain that because you are aware of this, you work hard to be more assertive and to delegate and prioritise more effectively.

An interview is often described as a "selling" exercise in which you sell your skills, experience and personality to the interviewer. Your challenge is to persuade an interviewer that you are worth "buying". Remember that if the Company recruits you they have taken a decision to make a long-term investment in you and it is in their interests to make the right choice.


Now that you have prepared yourself, the next stage of your preparation should be geared towards the interview you will be attending. The more research you can do, the better prepared you will be and the bigger advantage you will have over other candidates. The key areas of research are:
• The interview
• The job
• The company

The Interview
Ensure you know the date, time and location of your interview in order that you can plan your route and travel arrangements in advance. Also, ensure that you have the full contact name and job title of the person that you are seeing. Generally, arriving 10 minutes early for an interview is good timing.

The Job
Ensure that you spend time reading over the job description. Print it out and take a copy along with you to the interview. Use highlighters to highlight aspects of the job that you can do and make notes on the description when you have this on the desk at the interview the interviewer will be able to see the level of preparation you have carried out.

The Company
At the interview, you are likely to be asked what you know about the company. This can be one of the easiest ways to demonstrate that you have taken the time and trouble to find out about the company and therefore stand out from other candidates. You should try to find out as much as possible from as many different sources as you can - Tate, Google, the company's website, Leaflets, Brochures, etc.

Things it may be useful to know:
• What the company do
• How long they have been established
• How many staff they have
• Who their customers are
• What their company culture is like
• Any other information such as internal departments, employee information, other locations, etc

At the interview
First impressions are very important, take note of the following:
• Dress smartly in a business suit
• Shake the hand of the interviewer as they approach you in reception
• Smile as the interviewer approaches you
• Make polite conversation with the interviewer as they lead you to the meeting room
• Place your CV, job description and notepad neatly in front of you in case you need them to refer to

Through non-verbal communication, we can end up revealing far more than we may be aware. Although in the interview you will be concentrating on what you are going to say, you should be aware of how you say it and the type of body language you are displaying. Research shows:

Words account for 7%
Tone of voice accounts for 38%
Body language accounts for 55% of the message

It is important to remember that the interview should be a two-way discussion and in any day-to-day discussion you would have with friends or family you would be relaxed and would naturally indicate your interest in the person to whom you were speaking. Whilst an interview may be a more formal style of discussion, an interviewer will still appreciate it if you give your full attention to them. Try to appear comfortable and relaxed and give signals that you are listening by nodding, smiling and looking interested.

Possible questions you may get asked:
• Tell me about yourself
• What do you think are your strengths?
• What are your weaknesses?
• What can you do for us that someone else can't?
• What do you do outside of work?
• Talk me through your CV
• Why are you leaving/did you leave your present position?
• In your current/last position what do/did you enjoy the most?
• In your current/last position what do/did you least enjoy?
• What contribution did you make in your current/last position?
• How would your friends describe you?
• What do you know about our company?
• Why do you want to work for us?
• Why should we recruit you?
• What do you think you would enjoy the most about this position?
• What do you think you would enjoy the least about this position?
• How do you like to be managed?
• What qualifications so you have that relate to this position?
• What is your greatest success or achievement?


Using the STAR technique
When answering a competency based question, an interviewer is looking for a beginning, 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.
It allows the candidate to structure a scenario based question into 4 sub-headings ensuring they tell a story with every answer. These are:

Situation - What was the situation that occurred
Task - What were you tasked to do
Action - What action did you take to ensure this was achieved
Result - What happened as a result?
An example of how to break this down would be'
Client - "Give me an example of when you provided exceptional customer service"
Candidate - (SIT) Well in my last role as a customer service advisor with HSBC I received a call from Mrs Jones who was very angry with the service she received at her local branch of HSBC. She was evidently irate and upset as she was raising her voice whilst discussing her reasons for the complaint. (A) I listened to her complaint thoroughly with no interruption and took notes as she was highlighting particular areas of concern. I empathised with her throughout the conversation and apologised for any inconvenience caused. I highlighted that HSBC pride themselves on good customer service and suggested that this was an isolated incident and a rare situation that shouldn't have happened. (R) By repeating to her the areas of the complaint she wished to highlight I displayed that I understood her query and listened to her throughout. I explained that the issue would be addressed immediately to enhance her understanding that she is a valued customer. At the end of the conversation, she was more relaxed and thanked me for my help. I immediately escalated the call to ensure the complaint was dealt with.

Other examples of competency based questions that the 'STAR' technique could be applied to are:
• Give me an example of an occasion when you have worked as part of an effective team.
• Describe a time when you have had to work hard to meet a deadline
• Explain what you have done in the past, to build trust amongst fellow team members?
.' Describe a situation where you have had to deal with conflict either between others or between yourself and another?
• How did you deal with the situation, and how did you get your point across? What did you learn from it?
• Give an example of a difficult decision-making situation. What important factors did you consider when making that decision?
• In past or current roles, how have you used your influencing skills to achieve a set goal?
• Give an example of a time when your opinions were not well received.

Your time to ask questions
Generally, this is at the end of the interview but sometimes the interviewer may encourage you to ask questions throughout.
Always have 2-3 questions ready so that you look interested and prepared. Steer clear of questions relating to salary, hours or benefits, ideally, you will know the answer to this before the interview.

Examples of questions:
• After meeting with me today, do you have any reservations as to whether I could perform the role?
• What are some of the important personal traits the successful candidate should have in order to fit effectively into your company's culture?
• What obstacles might I encounter within my first few months?
• If I were to be successful what training would I receive?
• Is this a new position? If so, why was it created? If not, how has it come to be available?
• What were the previous persons approach to the job? What were his/her major successes?
• What changes would you like to see in the way this job is performed?
• Where would you see the successful person in this position progressing to within the organisation?
• Now that you have met me could you see me fitting in with the team?
• How would you describe the company culture?
• How would you describe the management style of the department manager?
• When can I expect to hear from you with a decision?


Overcoming Reservations
It may help your chances by asking the interviewer, or find out from the interviewer, whether they have any reservations after meeting you. This would also give you the opportunity to eliminate any doubt the interviewer may have. Maybe you could have been more specific in relation to an example?

Business like close
Research shows that the way in which you leave an interview has a major effect on your chances of getting a job offer. When an employer is faced with a choice between two equally capable candidates, they will offer the job to the candidate who showed the most interest in their company and job and who they bonded with the most.
If you are keen on the job then let them know that. Summarise your interest with a simple statement - 'thank you for your time, I am very interested in your position and I look forward to hearing from you'.

Offer them a big handshake whilst maintaining eye contact and smiling - body language plays as big a part at the end of the interview as it does at the beginning. Always remember to thank them for their time.