Interviews are your chance to make a good first impression on a new employer - and obviously hold the key to your next job! If you make the effort at this stage, you are more likely to be the kind of forward-thinking, hard-working, committed employee the employer is looking for.

Think about your skills, experience and qualifications - all the things you can bring to this role.

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Regardless of the job you are going for (and to a certain extent, regardless of the company's dress code) you should wear appropriate interview dress. In most cases, this will be a conservative suit (black, grey, navy) with a plain shirt/blouse and smart, freshly polished shoes

Spend time on your appearance if preparing for a date because it gives you confidence if you feel you look good, and this confidence applies equally to interviews - if you feel you look smart and professional, it will give you more confidence. If you smoke, try not to smoke just before you go in to your interview. If you do, consider taking something to freshen your breath and/or your clothes.

Be nice and polite to everyone you meet - quite often the person who meets and greets might say to the interviewer "who was that you saw this morning? - they were very nice", and all positive comments can count in your favour.

A firm handshake, eye contact and a smile are considered traditional business etiquette. If for any reason you are not comfortable with these formalities (for example, for religious reasons), please let your consultant know at registration so that you are not placed in an uncomfortable situation.

If you are offered a drink, it is a good idea to accept. You may get a dry mouth in the interview due to nerves, but taking a sip of drink is also a good way to buy a bit of time to think about the answer to a tricky question.

Date and time

Make sure you know when your interview is (it sounds basic, but you'd be amazed at how many people miss interviews because they hadn't written down the date and time!)

Location

Where is the interview, and how long will it take you to get there?

Accessibility

If you are mobility, visually or hearing impaired, have you let your consultant know what you need so that reasonable adjustments may be made?

Who is interviewing you?

Is it one person, or a panel? What are these people's roles within the company?

What format will the interview take?

It is unlikely that you can do any preparation for assessments such as psychometrics, however if you know what to expect you will be more confident and can also allow sufficient time for your interview (especially if you are taking time off from another job to attend)

What is the interview for?

You should receive an interview confirmation from your consultant, and should be fully briefed so that you are sure you are interested in the role. If there is anything about the role you are not sure about, it is best to try to sort that out before the interview, otherwise you might end up wasting time in an interview for a job you wouldn't take if offered

What is the Employer looking for?

Where possible, read the full job description before the interview, and find out about the company itself (these days most companies have a website you can look at to get an idea of what is important to them). Talk to your consultant to ensure you have a good understanding of what the client is looking for. Then think about yourself and how you meet those requirements. You can prepare examples that demonstrate why you are suitable for the position. Remember that the employer is also looking for someone who will fit into their company culture - someone who will be a willing and productive member of the team.

During the interview

  • Listen to the questions carefully - if you are not sure what the interviewer means by their question, ask for clarification
  • Don't talk too much - the employer wants to hear relevant answers to their questions, not your entire life story!
  • Don't talk too little - the employer needs to hear enough evidence that you are suitable for the position
  • Be honest in your answers - if you don't know the answer to a specific question, it is better to admit it than to get it wrong
  • Be positive - it is not considered professional to be negative about previous employers, so rather than saying "I'm leaving my current company because they're old fashioned and their IT is in the dark ages", try turning it round to say "I'm looking to work for a forward thinking company who embrace new technology"
  • Think about your body language - don't fiddle with your hair, fidget, or look at your watch; sit forward in your chair and look interested

End on a high note

The final impression is important. Don't rush out of the room like the interview was some ordeal that you are grateful has ended! Thank the interviewer for their time. If you are interested in the job - make sure they know this. There is nothing wrong with saying "Thank you for seeing me today. From everything we've discussed so far I have to say I am really keen. I look forward to hearing from my consultant how you wish to progress".

You can do it

You wouldn't have got an interview if you weren't potentially suitable for the role. Be confident, and think positive.

    This is not an exhaustive list of interview questions, however it should help you to think about what you need to prepare.

  • Tell me about yourself
  • What is your understanding of the job you are applying for?
  • Why do you want this job, and what qualities do you think you have that make you suitable for it?
  • What have been your main achievements to date?
  • What is the most difficult situation you have had to face, and how did you handle it?
  • What do you like about your present job?
  • What do you dislike about your present job?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years?
  • What motivates you?
  • Why do you want to leave your current employer?
  • Give an example of how you cope under pressure
  • Give me an example of when your work was criticised
  • What five words best describe you?
  • How does this role fit into the department/organisation?
  • What are you looking for in the first 6 months from this appointment?
  • What learning and development opportunities does this company offer?
  • What do you think are the best things about working for this company?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What is the next stage in the recruitment process, and when can I expect to hear?

Competency based questioning is a technique used by interviewers to assess your suitability to the job you have applied for, by using questions based on the competencies required to perform the job. These competencies will relate to the job role and the values of the company. Key competencies are specific skills you need for the job, i.e. decision making, leadership, problem solving, conflict resolution, customer service skills, management, project management, budgetary control or team working.

>
  • Tell me about a time when you have dealt with a complex problem or complaint raised by a customer/client?
  • Give me an example of a time when you identified an opportunity to improve a method / process / procedure?
  • What experience do you have that you believe will make you successful in the role?
  • Tell me about a time that you had to deal with a set-back that prevented you achieving an objective at work?
  • Tell me about a time that you went the extra mile to meet a client’s needs?
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Why do you want to work for (The Company)?

This article clearly describes how to succeed at competency based interviews, and gives full advice on how to use the STAR technique in order to structure your answers to demonstrate effectively your ability to do the job.

In an interview situation you may be faced with competency based questions, which at first may seem a little daunting, and can potentially be fairly disastrous in you don’t know how to make the most of your answer. However, using the right technique this type of questioning at interview actually gives you an excellent opportunity to provide evidence of your suitability to the job. In this article I will explain what a competency based question is, why interviewers use this technique and how these questions can be easily and effectively answered. The aim of this article is to help you prepare and structure your responses, make the best use of the opportunity you have to demonstrate your suitability and very importantly to avoid the dreaded nervous rambling response!

Faced with perhaps 6 good candidates who on paper may all have similar or equal attributes for the job, the hiring manager will have to make a decision based on a meeting with the candidates often lasting no more than an hour. The outcome of this meeting will be the appointment of one of the candidates. The hope is that the successful candidate will become a valuable and long lasting member of their staff. This person will be able to fulfil the role, fit in with the company ethos, prove profitable, be happy in the role, and not present unexpected problems or require training and development above and beyond what the hiring manager had initially envisaged for the role.

Competency based questioning is an effective way to assess the suitability of candidates in a short time, and is an unbiased method of comparing one applicant against another. The interviewer will ask a series of questions relating to the key competencies for the job. The best indicator for the future performance of an applicant is to look at their previous performance in these key areas, this will demonstrate clearly if they have the required experience, behaviours and potential to fulfil the new role.

You will be able to easily rehearse for this type of interview, and some good preparation at this stage will help you answer your interview questions fully and also reduce your interview nerves. The first task is to identify the competencies for the job. Look for the competencies for the particular job you are applying for, you should be able to spot these in the job description. You may come up with a list something like this: team working, project management, quality service, liaising with clients, working to deadlines, commercial awareness. You should also identify the mission statement and values of the company as you will probably be questioned on these too, remember they are looking for a fit for the company as well as the role. The type of areas company values and mission statements often cover are quality, team working and budgetary considerations, so be sure to revise these too.

The key to answering this type of question is to be specific in your response. You should avoid generalisations, it is important to remember why they are using this technique and what they are looking for. So do not generalise, use actual specific instances when you have demonstrated the competency they are questioning you on.

Situation

For the particular competency describe the background of a particular situation when you used the key competency in question. For example if the competency is budgetary control , you may answer ” In my last job I was appointed to lead a project involving a £600,000k engineering factory shutdown lasting 2 weeks, and I had overall responsibility for the budget for this project. I did face some challenges on this project which required careful management to keep to budget.”

Task

Describe what you particular task was in relation to this, i.e. ” My responsibility was to ensure that the project came in on time and to budget, which required very close liaison with the discipline heads, maintenance managers and cost and planning team. As it was very important the project ran to timescale and costs were maintained as per estimates. This was my ultimate responsibility. Any overspend, delay or conflict had to be resolved immediately to keep the project to budget. 1 week into the project we were faced with unexpected delays due to unavailability of essential maintenance equipment which threatened the completion of the project on time and would ultimately have prevented the plant from becoming operational again on time. This would have obviously created a loss in production and so revenue.”

Action

“I worked long hours with the buying and contracts manager, sourcing alternative suppliers and negotiating price, to keep to the original estimates. I worked closely with the planning team to reschedule some of the other work to ensure no time was lost. It was key that I kept in very close contact with the whole team throughout, as any delay would affect the budget. I examined all aspects of the project to ensure that there were no wasted costs and that despite the tight budget safety standards were never compromised.”

Result

“I am pleased to say that through perseverance and my determination to deliver on time and to budget, the long hours paid off and a new supplier was found who have since proved to be a new and more effective supplier for us. The project was completed to time and came in a little under budget, and the whole project was carried out without accident or injury.”

For the particular competency describe the background of a particular situation when you used the key competency in question. For example if the competency is budgetary control , you may answer ” In my last job I was appointed to lead a project involving a £600,000k engineering factory shutdown lasting 2 weeks, and I had overall responsibility for the budget for this project. I did face some challenges on this project which required careful management to keep to budget.”

Remember the interviewer will probably score your response, and you will gain marks by giving a specific instance, quoting what the situation was, what you did and what your motivation was to do this. Think about what did you say and what was the outcome? You might also add your observations about what you learnt from the experience. If you give a generalised answer it will be very difficult for the interviewers to award you any points on this part of the interview.

Try not to use any scenarios which are too personal and which will cause any awkward moments in the interview. Try to think of a situation that you are quite familiar with, and one which involved interacting with other people, you may also be asked about your personal feelings in this situation, i.e. how did you feel about that? be prepared for this.

Finally, the interview may not be overtly competency based and if your interviewer is not very experienced may include questions such as: This job deals with a lot of confidential information, have you done this before? This question is in fact a closed question which could be answered with a yes or no. However, in order to make the best of this opportunity to demonstrate your suitability, think of it as a competency based question and answer with a specific example of when you have dealt with confidential information. Use the STAR technique and you will find that you will be able to stick to the question, demonstrate your suitability and present clear evidence to show you are capable of fulfilling the role.

Good Luck, although I’m sure using the STAR technique and with some good preparation into the key competencies and the mission statement of the company you will succeed.