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A job interview can be a pretty scary prospect but with a bit of thought you can make things a lot easier for yourself. The purpose of interviews is for the employer to gain a deeper understanding of a candidate's skills and capabilities as well as personality and general attitude. The interviewers will be looking to weed out unsuitable candidates at an early stage by trying to determine if the candidate is a suitable fit for the company and the role. In this section you can also find out about:
An interview is not something you can just wander into and 'wow' them with your personality, and it's even harder when faced with a telephone interview, which removes all the impact of body language. Well-prepped candidates are more confident and provide more thorough answers. If you know how to give complete answers, you worry less and are able to ask better questions. All of this improves the odds that you will be assessed fairly, especially if the focus of the interview is on detailed discussions about your major accomplishments.
For telephone interview advice please visit our phone interview advice section.
Preparation is even more important for applicants who are applying to roles that are located far away, possibly even abroad. Graduates are becoming more and more globally mobile and the job market reflects this. With this comes the issue of interviewing global applicants, to overcome this companies are turning to technology such as skype. To view our tips on skype interviews go to our Interviews For Graduates Using Skype advice page.
Ask the "universal question"
Discussions about major accomplishments should dominate the interview session. Since most interviewers don't usually do this naturally, you can take the initiative. Ask this question if you feel the interview is going nowhere:
"From what I understand from the recruiter and my research, this job involves (for example) launching new products and setting up a national advertising programme. If this is correct, could you explain it more thoroughly? After that I'd like to give you some examples of projects I've worked on that are comparable."
Something like this will allow you to then describe some important related university or work experience projects you have carried out.
Showing enthusiasm and energy at an interview is probably the most important factor
In this economic climate when there are perhaps fewer jobs and more graduates looking, it is possible that although looking good on paper they are not offered the role just because they don't convey enthusiasm, excitement or a sense of urgency that a company is looking for. Make sure you leave an interview conveying a strong desire, energy and enthusiasm to work for that company. You should leave having the interviewer thinking you want the job, even if you do not. It is important to remember that a negative or apathetic attitude has a way of sticking in people's minds and so does a positive one.
Selling your strengths and strengthening your weaknesses
No matter how suitably qualified or confident a person is, a job interview is a stressful situation. It is filled with questions that can catch you off guard, especially an inexperienced new graduate with little or no prior interview experience. Make sure you know your own strengths and weaknesses. A good idea is to write down four or five strengths and one or two weaknesses. Include a short, one-paragraph example of some accomplishment you have achieved using each strength. With the weaknesses, write up a specific situation where you have turned that weakness into a strength, or have overcome the weakness.
Write up your two most significant accomplishments
To improve your verbal pitches, prepare more detailed write-ups for your two most significant accomplishments. Each of these should be two to three paragraphs in length, no more than half a page each. One should be an individual accomplishment, and the other a team accomplishment. Make sure you include examples of your strengths in both write-ups. Most candidates get a little nervous in the opening stages of an interview, which can result in temporary forgetfulness. The write-ups will allow for better recall of this important information in these times. They'll also be the basis of the examples in the SAFW response.
These will obviously vary from interview to interview, but there are always some basic underlying questions which you should be able to answer once you have done your preparation. You can read some below or for futher possible questions by sector visit www.whatwilltheyask.co.uk
Learn the "optimum answer". Answers should be about two minutes long. Much more than three minutes and candidates can be perceived as boring or unable to get to the point. Less than a minute and they're branded as dull and lacking interest. It has been suggested that candidates use the acronym SAFW to form their interview answers:
The examples part is the most important. This is the demonstrated proof behind the opening statement. Interviewers will use these examples to form their judgements about candidate competency. Most candidates talk in generalities. This is not as convincing as a specific example. The answer will be more meaningful if the candidate shows how one or two of their strengths, like creativity and perseverance, were required to achieve the results described in the example. Examples can be drawn from your university, employment, voluntary and social experiences, but ensure they are relevant and positive.
For more expert interview advice check out our Job Interview Advice From Whitney Port
Ask for the job! At the end of the interview, tell the interviewer that you are interested in the job, and would like to know what the next steps are. If the next steps seem evasive or unclear, ask if your accomplishments seem relevant to the performance requirements of the job. Understanding a potential gap here allows you to fill it in with an example of a related accomplishment.
Thank the interviewer for his/her time at the end and perhaps follow up with an email or letter expressing your enthusiasm for the role. You can download an interview follow up letter template here:
Interview follow up letter template - MEMBERS ONLY, PLEASE LOGIN TO DOWNLOAD!
Also think about the interview soon afterwards and make a note of things which went well and not so well to help you in future interviews. Some employers may even be prepared to give helpful feedback to unsuccessful candidates.
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