3.3 out of 5 from 35 votes
Feeling well suited to a job you have applied to is a totally different matter to presenting yourself as well suited to the role in question. Your interview gives you an important audience in your employer-to-be or their recruiter, and it’s essential to be prepared so you can present why you want the job and why you fit the bill credibly, articulately and succinctly.
Don’t walk into an interview unprepared! It’s vital that you do your research both on your potential employer and the role you have applied to. The avenues you explore will vary based on the job, but a firm starting point involves reading up on the mission, ethos and values of the organisation as well as thoroughly familiarising yourself with the job description. Researching the wider department or directorate is useful in larger organisations, as well as reading the company’s Annual Report and Strategic Plan. It’s also a good idea to research the backgrounds of the Managing Director or the individuals who will be interviewing you, in order to gain insight into where they are coming from and what they may be looking for.
Once you have a firm hold on the organisation and role to which you are applying, you will be able to discuss your experience and examples within the context of the job and the company. This will enable you to draw more powerful parallels between your experience and values, as well as to answer more probing business-related questions in a credible manner.
All material you include on your CV, Supporting Statement and application form is fair game at an interview. It is likely you will be asked about specific roles you have performed and skills and successes you say that you bring. Ensure that you can speak sincerely and knowledgeably about your entire application so you are not caught off-guard or embarrassed that you can’t elaborate about something you have put down on paper.
Anticipating the questions you may be asked at interview is a key part of your interview preparation. Some employers provide more guidance on interview content and structure than others, but you are likely to be questioned around the main skills and competencies of the person specification, as well as on the relevant market / field to which you are applying, plus your relevant experience. Many interviewers ask for a five minute overview of your relevant career history. Forward thinking about the interview’s likely areas of focus better allows you to gather your thoughts and begin to craft pertinent, compelling examples.
Giving fore-thought to the questions you may face at interview is only part of the battle. Now it’s time to begin crafting potential responses to these questions. Employers will be looking for real examples of how you meet the technical and personality requirements of the job and it’s difficult to provide thorough, succinct and convincing examples off the cuff. You don’t know the exact questions you will be asked and won’t be able to formulate set in stone answers. What you will be able to do, is create an arsenal of thought through responses that convincingly parallel your experience to the requirements of the job that you have applied to. You can then draw from and adjust these responses throughout your interview with relative ease compared to crafting them on the spot without preparation.
No one wants to discuss their weaknesses at an interview, but it is prudent to be well equipped to briefly address the weaknesses you have directly in relation to the role, whether it is a skill, limited experience in a particular area or a step up. Imagine that you are up against people with these experience and skills that you lack; what can you say or do that will help the interviewer feel confident about your ability to develop quickly? It is also likely that you will be asked about your development areas and if you are not honest about your weaknesses, employers will see through this and may question your self-awareness.
Now you have anticipated potential questions as well as your responses; it’s time to put your interview skills to the test. Don’t underestimate the power of role playing your upcoming interview someone else. Give them your list of anticipated questions, let them amend them and put you through a mock interview. Practice your responses out loud, in a credible and concise fashion. You may need to run through your response to each question several times, but this is the beauty of a mock interview. It gives you the opportunity to tweak your responses and become more self assured in your delivery.
It’s also important to take feedback from your mock interviewer. Did they find you articulate? Did they understand your motivations and skills? If you are able to plausibly, succinctly and confidently make your job case to an independent party, you are well on your way to delivering a strong interview.
Interviews are a two way process. While employers will be assessing your fit and abilities for the job, you will be assessing your fit within the organisation and what the role / company has to offer you. Use this face to face time with your potential employer to ask topical questions on the role or the company and organisation’s future vision. Don’t ask questions just for the sake of asking questions; ensure your queries are relevant, thought through and further display your motivation and interest in the role at hand.
Nerves factor into any interview, but try to relax, breath, take it slow and be you. Taking a new role is a big step and you want to ensure employers meet the real you in personality, style and approach before extending an offer. Don’t put on a front that you can’t maintain down the line; false appearances quickly show cracks. Preparation, practice and bringing your genuine skills and motivation to the table are the most crucial elements to successfully navigating job interviews.
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