Interview advice & techniques

Got a job interview? Congratulations!

We can help you be prepared with useful advice & interview techniques, to ensure you leave a lasting positive impression on your potential new employer.

We recognise that interviews can be daunting and require significant preparation, so we’ll work with you to make certain that you’re prepared for any interview before you go, we’ll suggest quick ways of researching the company you’ll be visiting. We’ll keep you informed at each stage of the recruitment process. We want you to succeed and we want to be the agency that makes the phone call which lets you know you have been successful.

Plan your route

It’s an obvious one but if you are going to travel by car, plan your route in advance and find out where you can park.

If necessary ask the agency for directions, bus or train routes or details of parking.

Dress Code

It might be an idea to make contact with your prospective employer or agency to understand what the dress code is when being interviewed. Some organisations enjoy a more relaxed dress code some may not. If in doubt best advice is to dress smartly. Find out as much as possible about the company. If you have not received an information pack, visit their company website on the Internet. It is good idea to jot down a few notes to take along to the interview.

Read your application/CV, thinking through your own career and the questions they might ask you. You should try and anticipate the general questions, which they will ask. Many companies now interview in a more structured way, not only will they be asking you about your knowledge, skills and experience, be prepared to talk through some and give examples of where you have displayed certain behaviours e.g. communication, team work, motivation etc…

And remember it’s a two way street, what would you like to know, prepare some questions to ask them

Suggested check list before you set off for your interview

  • Your CV
  • The letter / e mail inviting you to attend interview
  • Any company information you have gathered including any notes you have made on the company
  • Examples of your work, e.g. reports, 360 feedback, personal development
  • Review information, references or achievement awards
  • Questions you would like to ask

Get off to a good start

  • Look poised and confident as you enter
  • Smile and shake hands firmly

Be aware of your body language

  • Maintain eye contact throughout and smile at the appropriate times
  • Vary the speed and tone of your voice

Listen and Talk

  • Do not talk for longer than two or three minutes at any time (This does not sound a long time on paper – but try it!)
  • Divide long explanations into stages, inviting questions after each stage
  • Avoid very technical or very detailed explanations – unless the “recruiter” is asking very specific technical or detailed questions
  • Watch for body language as this may signal that the interviewer has heard enough

Listen attentively

  • Look interested in what the interviewer is saying
  • Do not interrupt
  • Refer back to points made to demonstrate you were listening
  • Encourage the interviewer to talk
  • Ask questions about the interviewer’s job and the employer’s needs (what are their expectations of the job holder?)

Sell yourself

  • This does not mean only talking about yourself
  • Ask questions that identify their needs, problems and situation
  • Explain how your skills and experience match their needs
  • Demonstrate how the organisation will benefit by employing you.
  • Be positive and enthusiastic
  • You are in competition – stand out from the crowd!

After thoughts on interviews

If you’re not getting the job offers you desire then you need to look carefully at your interview performance. You should try and get as much feedback as possible from the people who have interviewed you.

If you have been unsuccessful in obtaining a job, ring up the interviewer or agency and ask them for the reasons why you were not successful and how they think you can improve.

Once you have got feedback you can modify your interview technique and will definitely do better at the next interview.

This section gives you a feel for what prospective employers may ask you at on interview. The best way to show your prospective employer that you are right for their organisation is to use real examples of where you have handled a particular situation well.

The best answers are the ones which are said ‘clearly, honestly and positively’.

You may be asked some very generic structured questions

  • Tell me about a situation where you have used your initiative
  • Give me an example where you have given excellent customer service?
  • Tell us about a time when you have had to deal with a difficult member of staff?

What motivates you?

We would suggest you answer this positively e.g Career development, opportunity to learn new skills, work colleagues, promotion.

How would you describe yourself? / How would others describe you?

Be honest and pick your best attributes e.g. Excellent team player, motivated, innovative, keen to support and develop colleagues, happy.

What was your greatest success? How did you achieve it?

You should try and pick an achievement that is related to their needs

Work through an example.

This is what I did

This is how I did it

The outcome was – e .g Cost savings, delivered a project within a certain timescale, business or team benefit or service level agreements were reduced etc

What has been your biggest failure?

Try to pick an example that you were able to correct and overcome

Do you know how to motivate other people?

Hopefully you can say “Yes”, and say that you have to find out what motivates a person and give them recognition for a job well done. You should always give them encouragement and help them when required.

Tell us about a time when you have worked under pressure?

Think back to a time when you have been in this situation and talk through it and how you dealt with the pressure. You could ask how much pressure the job involves.

How long do you think it would be before you were making a significant contribution to the team/company?

If you think that you could contribute from day one then say so. Then turn the question round on them and say how soon they would expect it.

Tell us about a time when you have increased sales or profits in your role?

If you have increased sales and/or profit then do not be afraid to shout about it e.g. General downturn in the market, etc. It might then be a good idea to mention an achievement in a previous job if your performance was better there.

Tell us about how you have reduced costs within your role?

If you have reduced costs say so – companies are always looking for ways to reduce costs.

Why did you choose a career in …?

Be positive about your reasons. If you have changed careers make a logical argument as to why you did so.

Why are you changing careers?

This question will only be asked if you are making a radical change in your career. Always stress the positive aspects of the change rather than the negative aspects of your previous career. Say why you think you will be good in the new career – this should come from your experience and achievements, stress the transferable skills you have, such as leadership ability etc.

Explain the organisation structure in your last company and how you fitted into it?

This sort of question may be used to find out whether your old job is at a comparable level to your new job. If the new job being discussed would be a step up the ladder you will need to show that you are ready for a more demanding position. You may be able to show that you have already had many of their responsibilities and the necessary skills that would be required for the next step.

What are you looking for in a new job?

Make sure your answer fits in with the company who is interviewing you. A suitable reply would be that you are looking for a new job where you can apply your existing skills and learn new ones.

What would your ideal job be?

Again, remember where you are! Describe the job in terms of the criteria they have used to describe their job. An ideal job might include things like challenging work, nice colleagues, good career prospects, good team atmosphere, opportunity to learn new skills, apply old skills, etc.

Are you considering any other positions at the moment?

If you are say so, but do not give too many details away – it will weaken your negotiating position later. If you do not have any other job offers at the moment just say that you are looking for the right opportunity.

How has your career progressed?

If you progressed faster than normal you should say so. If growth was not as good as expected then be careful how you phrase this.

What sort of manager are you? / What makes a good manager?

Again this is a very personal answer. Ideally it is someone who listens to other people and can delegate whilst maintaining overall control of the task at hand, bringing in the project on time and to budget. Good planning skills are essential.

What management style gets the best results out of you?

Try and think about how you have reacted to different managers and which factors have motivated you.

You may be over qualified for this position?

Tell them that you feel that your extra experience would enable you to make a bigger contribution sooner.

Are you prepared to relocate?

If you are, say so. If you do not want to move then you do not have to accept the job – try and come across as someone who is positive.

What are you currently earning?

You have to be very careful when answering this question because once an interviewer knows your current salary they will try and fix your next remuneration based on this figure. This may be satisfactory if you only wanted a modest rise in salary and your current salary is in line with their salary range, but, what if your current salary is substantially lower than the rate for the job, or if you want a substantial salary rise? In these cases you would be best advised to say that you do not really want to prejudice yourself by being too high or too low. Ask if you can discuss this later after the responsibilities for the job have been discussed; you may also want to ask them what the range for the job is (if you do not already know).

What level of salary are you looking for now?

If you are applying for a specific vacancy you could ask them what the salary range is. Once they have answered you could say “I think my experience would place me at the top end of your range, don’t you?” If they ask you this question fairly early on in the interview you could delay answering by saying “It is hard to discuss salary without first knowing a little bit more about the job and the responsibilities”.

The interviewer may ask further probing questions for any of the above questions

  • What was the situation?
  • What difficulties did you have to overcome?
  • How long did the project take?
  • Who did you report to?
  • Who did you support?
  • Were did you get your ideas from?
  • How did you achieve this objective?
  • How successful were you?
  • Looking back what did you learn from this situation?
  • How did you feel at the time?

Prepare some questions in advance that you may want to ask the interviewer

The interview is a two-way process you will want to find out if the company and position are right for you. You should therefore ensure that you have enough information to make up your mind whether you want the job. For example:

  • Where will I fit into the overall organisation structure?
  • What will be my responsibilities/ accountabilities?
  • Can you explain the reporting structure?
  • Who would be my key stakeholders ?
  • Where does the person interviewing you fit within the team / structure?
  • What would be the objectives of this role in the first 6 months?
  • Ask about the company strategy and values
  • What training and development do you provide?
  • What are the opportunities for promotion?
  • Will traveling be required in this position?
  • Will relocation be required now or in the future?
  • When will you decide on the appointment?
  • What is the next step?