There is no process or method to ensure the perfect interview performance and guarantee that you secure the job you want. However there are certain processes and preparation work that most candidates should find useful for successful interviews.
At Language Recruitment Services we want to provide you with the best possible prospect of interview success. In order to assist you we have provided advice, suggestions and preparation processes in order to help you achieve your objectives.
The interview is usually the main way an employer will decide who is the right candidate for the particular job and for their company. It is important not only for you to demonstrate that you have the skills and experience for the role but also that your working style will fit in with the company culture.
The interview is a two way process and an opportunity for you to establish whether both the job you are applying for and the company itself are really right for you.
Your CV has presented you as a potentially suitable candidate for the job role you are applying for – the interview process gives you the chance to discuss your skills and experience in more detail and demonstrate that these match the requirements of the job for which you are applying.
Applying for jobs
It is always important to be realistic about the job which you apply for. Applying for jobs which match the skills, education/training and experience that you present on your CV will give you the greatest possibility of success in your job search. If you apply for jobs that are not consistent with your skills and experience it is far more likely that your application will not proceed any further.
Many people underperform at interview by not preparing adequately for it. The following fundamental preparation activities are often essential for achieving success at interview.
Find out something about the company you are applying to join (such as their products or services, company size, the corporate culture, their current business/market issues etc).
This kind of information can be most easily obtained from the Company’s own website and from current news articles on the internet. Having some knowledge about the company will help demonstrate at the interview that you are genuinely interested in the job. It may also give you more confidence at the interview. The information that you find out, as well as any information that you would hope to find but may not be available online, can make excellent starting points for questions which you can ask at the interview.
It is important to ask some questions at the interview to demonstrate your interest in the job and the company. Some possible questions are as follows:
- What medium term goals does the company have?
- What are the current priorities and objectives of the department you would be working in?
- What results would you be expected to achieve within the first six months in the role?
- How will this role develop in the longer term?
- Who are the company’s direct competitors and what are the main business issues facing the company at the present time? (these issues could be anything from new competitors entering the market, rising costs due to world market prices, falling selling prices due to market conditions, the need to adapt or modify the company’s products/services to meet changing consumer preferences or purchasing habits, etc.)
- Make sure that you understand the job specification and consider all of the skills and abilities which are required within that particular job. Decide how you can demonstrate that your own skills and experience match each of the things required for this job and therefore make you the ideal candidate for this job.
Be prepared to talk in more detail about the things which you have written on your CV.
You have been selected for interview based on the information you have included in your CV and it is likely that you will be asked to elaborate on these items so that the interviewer can confirm your knowledge and understanding, the depth of your experience, and the extent of the responsibilities which you have had.
Plan your journey to the interview so that you do not get lost or arrive late.
Your consultant at LRS will be able to assist you with this by providing journey details and office location maps. For journeys by public transport it is suggested that you look on the websites www.tfl.gov.uk and www.nationalrail.co.uk in order to plan your journey. For journeys using your own transport it is suggested that you plan your journey using either www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp or www.rac.co.uk/route-planner. For location maps you can use www.streetmap.co.uk
Make sure that you arrive on time for your interview, ideally about 5 minutes before the agreed interview time.
If you are significantly late this can create a bad impression and severely reduce your prospects of success (unless there are exceptional circumstances, beyond your control, causing the lateness). Do not arrive too early for the interview either. Your interviewer might have a prior meeting or other work matters to deal with before meeting with you at the agreed interview time. If you arrive 30 minutes before the arranged interview time you might end up having to wait around in reception. Worse still your interviewer(s) might find it irritating to be interrupted by your early arrival if they have other pressing matters to deal with beforehand.
Dress smartly and professionally for the interview.
This will help to show that you are serious about getting the job and will create a better impression than dressing casually. Even for interviews with companies which have a casual dress policy in the working environment, it is advisable to dress smartly because your own view about what is appropriate casual wear might not be the same as the interviewer’s.
There is a well known saying that “first impressions count” and for an interview which in most cases will last for less than an hour it is important that the meeting gets off to a positive start. What you wear and the way you present yourself when greeted by the interviewer should convey that you are professional, responsible and well organised. This will help set the tone for the rest of the interview.
If you have been kept waiting by the interviewer, it is important to show patience and toleration for having been delayed. You can create rapport with the interviewer by demonstrating an understanding attitude when given an explanation for the delay.
Candidates who express irritation about having been kept waiting for their interview will not endear themselves to the interviewer(s) and can severely reduce their chances of being successful.
Interview do’s and don’ts:
- Creating a good rapport is important. Greet your interviewer(s) by name, with a smile and a firm handshake.
- Throughout the interview maintain eye contact with your interviewer(s).
- Be aware of your posture, look attentive and avoid slouching.
- Always speak clearly, calmly and sufficiently loud to be heard by your interviewer(s).
- Be concise in your answers. Do not waffle or digress and do not avoid answering difficult questions.
- Make sure that you have sensible reasons and explanations for your job changes and the career decisions you have made.
- Ensure that you are able to explain any significant gaps (of 3 months or more) in your employment history (e.g. you may have been studying, travelling, moving to a new country or have other reasons for not having been working).
- When you are asked questions, remember that this is an opportunity to sell yourself. Try not to give too many ‘yes’ or ‘no’ replies, give sufficient detail to demonstrate your actual skills and experience.
- Present you answers in such a way as to demonstrate that your education, skills, experience and achievements match those which are required to be successful in the job you are being interviewed for.
- Maintain a confident and friendly attitude throughout the interview but do not become over familiar or over friendly with the interviewer because this might be considered unprofessional and even a little disrespectful.
- If you feel the interview is not going well, do not be put off by this. Some companies use this technique to test your reactions.
- Be positive about your skills, experiences and motivations for seeking a new job. Never talk negatively about or criticise your current or previous employer.
- Remember to ask any questions you have prepared before the interview. (It is acceptable to bring notes into the interview with you.)
- Do not ask about salary, holidays or benefits at first interview stage (these can be dealt with at a later stage, preferably via your recruitment consultant).
- If you are interested in the job, make sure you let the interviewer(s) know before you leave by saying why you like the job role.
- Thank the interviewer(s) for their time and say that you look forward to hearing from them soon.
Frequently asked Interview Questions
In order to assist you with questions commonly asked at interview, below is a brief overview, along with reasons for asking the questions and the type of responses expected. These points are only provided to give you an idea of the type of questions asked and by no means provide an exhaustive list. It is important that you should be comfortable with the answers you provide to questions and as such you should practice your responses in your own words.
The interview is not about giving the “perfect answer” to every question, it is about presenting yourself in the most positive and genuine manner and demonstrating that you are able to communicate and interact effectively with other people.
Q: What have your achievements been to date?
A: This is a common question, so be prepared. Select an achievement that is work related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit. For example, “my greatest achievement has been to design and implement a new sales ledger computer system – bring it in ahead of time and improve our debtors’ position significantly saving the company £50,000 per month in interest”.
Q: What is the most difficult situation you had to face and how did you tackle it?
A: This can be a trap! To avoid it, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.
Q: What do you like about your present job?
A: This is a straightforward question. All you have to make sure is that your “likes” correspond to the skills etc. required in the job you are being interviewed for. Be positive, describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it – after all, you are leaving!
Q: What do you dislike about your present job?
A: Be careful with this one! Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses, which will leave you open to further difficult questions. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company such as its size – its slow decision-making etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride as part of the job!
Q: What are your strengths?
A: This is one question that you know you are going to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four explanations of how they could benefit the employer. Strengths to consider include technical skills; ability to learn quickly; determination to succeed; positive attitude; your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal. You may be asked to give examples of the above so be prepared.
Q: What is your greatest weakness?
A: This is another standard question for which you can be well prepared. Don’t say you have none – this will ensure further problems. You have two options – use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered a strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be, “I know my team think I’m too demanding at times – I tend to drive them pretty hard but I’m getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick”. Do not select a personal weakness such as “I’m not a morning person- I’m much better as the day goes on”.
Q: What kind of decision do you find most difficult?
A: Your answer must not display weakness. Try to focus on decisions that have to be made without sufficient information. This will show your positive side. For example “I like to make decisions based on sufficient information and having alternatives. When you have to make quick decisions you have to rely on “gut feeling” and experience”.
Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer?
A: This should be straightforward. State how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and change of environment. NEVER be negative in your reasons for leaving and rarely will it be appropriate to mention salary as the main motivator.
Other Questions to Consider
- How does your job fit into your department and company?
(Gives the interviewer an idea of level of responsibility).
- What do you enjoy about the industry?
- Have you worked under pressure? (Meaning – can you?) Give examples.
- Can you give me an example of when your work was criticized?
(Be prepared for the next question asking you how you coped and the outcome).
- What kind of people do you find it difficult to work with? (Take care! You won’t know all about the staff at the company at which you’re being interviewed).
- Give me an example of when you had to face a conflict of interest at work. (Testing interpersonal skills, team and leadership abilities).
- Do you prefer to work alone or in a group and why?
- This organization is very different to your current employer; how do you think you are going to fit in? (You may not be able to answer until you have established what he/she perceives as the differences).
- What are you looking for in a company?
- How do you measure your own performance?
- What kind of pressures have you encountered at work?
- Are you a self-starter? Give me examples to demonstrate this.
- Describe the biggest problem you have faced recently and how you resolved it.
- What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why?
- How do you feel about working long hours and/or weekends?
- What can you bring to this organization?
- Which part of this role is least attractive to you?
- Why do you think you would like this role?
- Where would you like to be in five years? (Make sure that this corresponds to your application for this position and that it is a realistic objective/expectation !)
- How would your work colleagues describe you?
- What do you do in your spare time?
- What five adjectives would you use that best describe you (both in and out of the workplace)?
Competency Based Interviews
Competency Based Interviews are a type of interviewing which is becoming increasingly common within the UK job market.
A competency based interview question is one that asks candidates to demonstrate that they have a particular skill or a “key competency” which the company is looking for. Candidates will be asked to do this using examples of situations from their life experiences, to illustrate their personality, skill set and individual competencies to the interviewer.
When answering competency based questions you should not generalise or use your imagination but should use specific situations from your life as examples.
Your answers should be structured as follows:
- Explain the situation you found yourself in.
- Explain the task or objective you had to achieve.
- Explain the decisions you made about what to do and why you made these decisions.
- Explain how you carried out these decisions and why certain outcomes happened.
Your answer should always emphasise what you actually did, even when working as part of a team, focusing on how you personally contributed to the successful outcome of the situation.
The objective of your answers is to demonstrate that you have the skills or “competencies” which the company consider are required in order to be successful in the job which you are applying for.
Employers typically use some of the following as the key competency areas that they focus on:
Commitment to career
Trustworthiness & Ethics
Example Competency Based Questions
- What was the most difficult problem that you have experienced at work and what action did you take?
- What has been your biggest achievement and how did you achieve it?
- When have you taken a stand against a group on something you felt to be a matter of principle?
- What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome to get where you are today? How did you overcome it?
- What was the most pressurised work situation you have been in during the last year? How did you handle it and what did you do?
- Give me an example of a situation where you have experienced conflict with a work colleague – how did you deal with this conflict and overcome it?
- What was your most satisfying (or most disappointing) experience in presenting an idea or proposal and trying to gain support for it from management?
- Tell me about a task or project which you have been involved in. What was you role? What did you actually do?
- Have you experienced a situation that seemed to be slipping out of control? (If so) what have you done to correct it?
- What were your work objectives for last year? Were they achieved? What action did you take when they were first discussed and established?
- How well informed do you feel you are in what is going on in other departments of the organisation? How do you keep informed?
- What was the biggest decision you made in the last year? What alternatives did you consider? Why did you do it that way?
- What work problems have you recently been asked to solve? Tell me about what you did to achieve the solutions?
- Tell me about a time when you have gone an “extra mile” for your organisation.
- Give me some examples of projects or tasks where you postponed immediate action. Why?
- Are you doing a good job? How do you know?
- Tell me about some disappointments you have had at work. How did you respond?
- Tell me about a time at work when you found that things were not arranged as you had expected or been led to suppose? What did you do? How did you feel? How effective was your behaviour?
Further information about competency based interviews and many more example questions can be found on the internet.
Telephone interviews are often used as the first stage of the interview process because there are a simple way of short-listing candidates who are most likely to be successful at the face to face interview stage(s).
This is particularly common when candidates are residing in other countries because it is a way of eliminating unsuccessful candidates without them having to go to the trouble and cost of travelling to attend a face to face interview.
Your recruitment consultant will contact you to arrange the date and time for the telephone interview. Factors to consider when planning the telephone interview are as follows:
- Arrange the interview for a time when you can be somewhere where you can speak freely without the risk of being interrupted.
- Use a landline number for receiving the call whenever possible. It is more likely to be a clear line where you can communicate positively to build rapport with the interviewer and avoids the risk of any misunderstandings of questions or answers due to poor mobile reception.
- Prepare yourself for the interview in the same way as you would for a face to face interview.
- It is important to sound natural and responsive so avoid using or referring to lots of written notes which may break up the flow of the conversation.
A panel interview is where you meet with several interviewers at the same time. The panel interview can be more stressful for candidates because there are several interviewers involved and the interview questions may be more rapidly paced than in a one to one interview.
There are 2 main reasons why panel interviews are used by companies.
- They save time because candidates meet various people at once, rather than having to attend more than one interview.
- They are a good way for the company to see how you can handle a pressurised situation.
You should always remain calm and composed during a panel interview. If you need to gain more time to think about an answer to any question you can do so by asking for further clarification of the question being asked or you could ask questions of your own.
As with one to one interviews, you should maintain eye contact with each person who is interviewing you, paying special attention to the person who asked the question you are answering.
After the company interview, please call the consultant at your recruitment agency to give feedback about the interview and also to confirm your continued interest in the job.
This is an important part of the interview process because your consultant can then contact the client company to let them know your feelings about how the interview went and to confirm your enthusiasm for the role and the company, presenting you in the most positive manner.
Your consultant will obtain feedback from the client company and contact you to discuss this and the next stage of the process where applicable.
When a job offer is made this will usually be communicated to you via your recruitment agency. At this point, your recruitment Consultant will provide the details of the offer and follow your instructions to either accept or decline the offer on your behalf. Any questions relating to the offer can be raised and resolved with your consultant and a suitable start date will be confirmed.
If you do not get the job, please do not take it personally and try not to let this affect your confidence and self belief. Think about your answers to the interview questions and how these could be improved upon. Also consider whether the other aspects of your interview performance, such as the way you interacted with the interviewer(s), could be improved in any way.
In most instances you may have interviewed well but when there have been many candidates going for the same job, one of these will either have performed slightly better on the day, or will have more relevant experience for that specific job than you do. Treat each interview as a learning experience where your performance will improve with practice. You can then be confident that there will be a time when you get the job offer.