Tips for a successful interview
We all know that the purpose of an interview is for the interviewer to find out about you, your skills, and your potential fit within their organisation. Remember it is a two way process - it is just as important for you to find out about your prospective employer, what is it like to work for them and whether you feel it is the right career move for you.
Interviews can range from half an hour informal chat on the phone, face to face or via a computer link (e.g. Zoom or Teams) through to several formal meetings including competency based questions and tests.
The key to having the best possible interview, is to be prepared. The interview may only take an hour, but you should dedicate much more time to looking into the background of your potential employer and finding out everything you can about the organisation.
Have you prepared enough for your interview?
Below are some reminders to help in advance of your interview.
- Ensure you know the format of the interview so that you’re not left with any nasty surprises when it’s announced you have to undertake a case study or presentation!
- Alongside ‘typical’ questions such as ‘Why would you like to work for this business?’ or ‘Why does this role interest you and what particular skills and experience do you think you can bring to the role?’, try and prepare yourself for the odd curveball question – see below for common (and uncommon!) questions you might be asked.
- Research the company thoroughly, familiarise yourself with their group and division websites, read any current news articles and familiarise yourself with their sector. Have a good understanding of the company structure, their competition, and the market they operate in.
- Having a better handle on the values and history of the organisation will give you more to talk about and will also help you to see if you would fit well within the business.
- Study the job description thoroughly, make sure you understand what your interviewer is looking for.
- Try and prepare some relevant questions in advance about their business as well as the role.
- Make sure you know your CV inside out, be prepared to answer any questions regarding moves you’ve made, challenges you’ve faced, your strengths and weaknesses, your key achievements and reasons for leaving your current employment. Don’t focus on the negative but keep explanations positive.
- Consider your presence and actions on social media, do they portray you in the correct light?
Most clients conduct at least two interviews in their recruitment process:
- First Interview: Often (but not always) this will be a more generic, ‘get to know you’ meeting, to discuss your CV and understand more about your motivations for moving, what you can bring to the role and more about your personality in general. These interviews can often involve competency based questioning (see below for further information about competency based interviews).
- Second interview: This may be more technical, perhaps involving a case study, presentation or tests. It will also be a chance to go back over areas of concern identified in the first interview.
- It might sound obvious but make sure you turn your phone off rather than on silent. If you are interviewed through video, make sure that you will not be disturbed or distracted, and your internet connection is strong.
- Listen to the questions carefully, think before you speak and try not to rush your answers. Try and remain ‘on point’ and concise with answers.
- Present your reasons for leaving in a positive light – i.e. seeking career development, a new challenge etc – rather than being negative or critical about your current organisation.
- Often candidates are remembered as much for their passion and enthusiasm as their technical/personal fit for the role, so let your enthusiasm shine!
- Show an interest in the vacancy, business, and its culture. Demonstrate this by asking your interviewers about company strategy, successes, and challenges. You could ask about training and prospects with the company, and outline how you would seek to contribute to the company’s success.
- How you leave an interview is just as important than how you enter the interview - you want your lasting impression to be a good one. Summarise why you want the position and why you are a good fit to leave this fresh and reinforced in the interviewer’s mind.
- Remember to contact McKenzie Douglas after the meeting to let them know how you felt it went as this ensures that we can provide feedback.
- Always let your consultant know about any concerns you may have – it’s always better to iron these out at the start of the process than the end.
Below are some examples of questions you might be asked at interview so try to prepare and anticipate how you would respond to them. It is also important to prepare a few specific supporting examples in case you are asked to back up your answers (such as in a competency interview).
- What do you want from your next role?
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- What attracts you to this position?
- What are your key strengths and weaknesses? Be honest we all have weaknesses.
- What has been your greatest success in your current role?
- What style of management brings out the best in you?
- How comfortable are you making business decisions and give an example of when you have had to do this or influence your client to make a business decision?
- What motivates you?
- How do you handle criticism?
- What can you offer us that the next candidate can’t?
Remember to prepare your own questions:
- What are the company’s current strategic objectives and how are they seeking to achieve these?
- What plans does the company have for growth/development in the next few years?
- How would you describe the company’s culture?
- What is important to you when assessing candidates for this vacancy?
- What is the team structure and reporting lines?
- How do you appraise the performance of your staff?
- What support is there for employees seeking to develop their career and do you offer ongoing training?
COMPETENCY BASED INTERVIEWING
The best indicator of someone's potential performance in a role is to look back at previous examples of work. More and more organisations are now turning to a competency based style of interviewing.
What is a competency based interview?
It’s a structured style of interview based around your behaviour and actions in specific circumstances, which can be used to assess how suitable you are for the role you’re being interviewed for. Instead of asking open questions such as “why are you interested in this position?”, you will be asked questions which target a specific skill or competency.
You will then be asked to provide a concrete (rather than hypothetical) example relating to specific circumstances where you demonstrated a particular skill or competency to address a problem, face a challenge, make a difficult decision, etc. You will also be asked for an explanation of why you chose a particular route of action and what you learned as a consequence. Questions may focus around areas such as:
Communication • Adaptability • Tenacity • Leadership • Independence • Managing a conflict • Taking a risk • Influencing • Going against the ‘flow’ • Reaction to stress/pressure • Problem solving • Teamwork • Integrity
Examples of questions:
- Can you give me an example of when you motivated others?
- Describe a situation where you had to make an unpopular decision?
- Tell me about a time you demonstrated strong leadership skills?
- Describe a time when you had to win someone over, who was reluctant or unresponsive? How did you persuade to your view?
- Describe a situation where you got people to work together?
- Give an example of a situation where your initial approach failed and you had to change tack? What did you learn?
- Describe a situation where you implemented a new process/function to enable a project to run more efficiently?
- Describe a situation where you won over a reluctant client?
Before the interview you might find it useful to reflect on your career to date, focusing on key working experiences and projects you’ve been involved in, as well as the way you typically approach your work. Familiarise yourself thoroughly with the job spec to try and identify the core skills and competencies you may be asked to demonstrate.
Remember these interview questions aren’t designed to trick you, but for you to highlight your skills, characteristics and methods of working to a potential employer.
How to structure your answers:
A useful way of tackling these questions is to base your answers around the STAR technique:
Situation: set the context and describe the situation you were in
Task: describe what you needed to do as a result of the situation.
Action: explain what you did, how you did it and why. This is where you can outline the skills and attributes you displayed to tackle the situation.
Result: describe the end result – what you delivered and accomplished. It’s also helpful to describe what you learned as a result
Try to be specific and keep the emphasis on the role you played, rather than the rest of the team; remember, this is your chance to shine!