Interviewing A-Z

Thursday, April 18, 2013

For anyone who watches the Apprentice on Monday night it might put the fear of God into you regarding doing well at interview. Remember that was part of an entertainment show so in reality interviews work quite differently and are rarely as harsh.

Here is an A to Z of interviewing for anyone looking for some tips before what can be a daunting experience: 

Attitude – A company can train you or improve your skill, but your attitude is all about You. Ensure it is positive, as one company put it “It’s your will not your skill” that gets you the job, or as another company put it, “we hire for attitude and train for skill”. 

Body Language – Understand how you come across in a non-verbal sense. We read a lot more from what we see than what we hear, if you don’t believe me think of how the dating scene works. 

CV – The only purpose of the CV is to get you an interview yet so many people get it so wrong, it is one hundred percent in your control so do not even try to get a job without your best possible cv. Remember it’s what you did well not just what you did – focus on your achievements 

Dress – How you look says so much about you whether it’s the top button of the shirt, the scuffed shoes, the inappropriate clothing – and remember it’s not what you think works, its all about the employer so ensure you look as professional as possible. 

Eye contact – interviewees who fail to look at the interviewer come across poorly, so ensure you talk to the interviewer and not to his/her shoes. 

Familiarity – Know the location of the interview, who you are meeting and when, this will ensure you have less chance of turning up at the wrong building or realising all too late that you are in a business park where all the buildings look the same. 

Google – Check what Google (or other online sites says about you), it’s called “ego surfing” but it’s important you know what is said online about you. Search not just on your name, but also on your email address. 

Handshake – Many interviews are over in the first thirty seconds even if there is charades for the next 15 minutes, all because of a poor, wet or limp handshake. Develop a firm, but not hand crunching handshake. 

Interview types – While these may vary from biographical, presentation, competency based or panel interviews, understand what type of interview it is you are attending and prepare accordingly. 

Jokes – unless you are confident that you are the next Dara O’Brian it is dangerous to try jokes and humour, let your personality out and be confident but try not to start with “I wouldn’t say my mother-in-law is fat but...” 

Knowledge – Interviewers love to see that the interviewee is continuously learning so keep up to date on your area/topic and demonstrate this at interview, it shows interest and passion in the area. 

Listen – this is not akin to the first history essay you ever wrote which was essentially – write everything you know on the topic – listen to the questions and answer specifically, ideally using examples from your work or personal life. 

Money – do not bring up money at interview, the only time you want to talk about money is when they are offering you the job, then you have more control, if pressed - you want a “competitive package”. 

Negativity – one of the deadliest of interview sins, if you come across negative about a previous employer, boss or colleague it reflects very badly on you, focus on positives and the learning experiences. Whatever city you are in or industry you are in, Ireland is a small place. 

Odour – be careful of bad breath, bad BO or strong foods like garlic that you may have eaten beforehand – the only way to know if you smell is to ask someone – they will never volunteer this information, you may not want to hear the answer but you need to. 

Practice – over eighty percent of interview questions are the same - read up on these and prepare and practice aloud, or even better do mock interviews and accept all feedback, you need to know if you are doing something wrong. 

Questions – ensure you have questions for the interviewer, make sure these are questions you want to ask and prepare them as opposed to feeling you have to ask them. If you really want to work for the company you should have questions…and not questions like how many sick days you are allowed! 

Research - don’t just look at their website for research, most are 6 months out of date, read the press, look at social media sites like twitter and linkedin and most importantly find people who work for the company – that’s the best way to research your prospective future employer.

Smile – it’s one of the sub-conscious things an interviewer notices - we all want to work with happy and positive people so don’t lose out to a bad first impression. 

Thank you note – its rarely done but follow up with a thank you email or note, it is often a way to highlight that you are keen and demonstrates this to the employer. 

USP- (Your unique selling point) what differentiates you from everyone else. Everyone has a unique set of skills, a unique personality. Analyse what makes you better or different and build a credible picture of what makes you worth remembering. 

Value – its the new post-recession Ireland, all employers are looking for an employee of value and know-how who can help the company and make a difference as opposed to just going there to do a job. So have examples of how you can bring that extra 5 or 10% to the role, this is a time to sell yourself not to be reserved. 

Wider Network – know how to use your network effectively, interviewers are always positively biased towards someone who has been recommended to them, so look at your network of friends, colleagues, relations and see how they can help influence your interview positively. 

eXperts – Recruitment agencies and career coaches are experts in interview technique – don’t be too proud to ask their advice; they have seen all potential scenarios so let them help you. 

You – all an interviewer will want to know regardless of how long the job interview lasts is – can you do the job and do you really want this job – so keep these in mind as that is what the interviewer is thinking after he/she leaves the room. 

Zzzzz – Do not bore the interviewer with rambling monologues, all answers should follow the ‘STAR’ approach i.e. what was the situation, what task was I responsible for, what action did I carry out and what was the result. . Irish people love to talk about what “we” did but they want to know what “you” did


This article is courtesy of Peter Cosgrove in CPL, Peter is a regular contributor to the national media on areas of recruitment, assessment and retention as well as a speaker at industry events.