Job interviews – we’ve all been there. Whether it’s sitting alongside other candidates in a workshop interview, sitting in front of multiple interviewers in a group job interview or having a one-to-one, they are all just as nerve-wracking as each other!
But when it comes to job interviews there are number of things you can do in preparation which will improve your chances of gaining employment and impressing the interviewer. But with so much information out there for jobseekers on job interview preparation, it can be tough to know what advice to listen to and what advice is just plain nonsense.
The team at Jobulo wanted to make it extra-easy for jobseekers to prepare for job interviews and maximise their chances of securing a position. So we sent some of the Jobulo team out into the world of employment to talk to employers and employees to find out exactly what it takes to win over an interviewer during that all important job interview.
No matter the interview scenario you find yourself in, check out these tips below and get prepping!
If you have an interview lined up then the most important first step to take is to re-read the job description you are applying for. You should already know it well but you need to know it word-for-word when you attend the interview. There are a number of reasons why knowing the job description is so crucial but the most obvious reason is because it enables you to identify exactly what an employer is looking for and this can help you relate your own skills and attributes to the position.
Read through the role and prepare for the interview by listing the main responsibilities of the position, the main goals and the key skills the employer is asking for. Now you are in an informed position you’ll feel much more prepared and confident when walking into the interview room. Matthew Fitch, a Recruitment Consultant, says the more you know about the role, the more you’ll be able to build rapport:
“The chemistry & credibility you build with the interviewer are all-important. Being able to structure your answers properly, give clear and relevant examples and communicate clearly are amongst the most important things. In my own interviews with recruitment companies I always make sure to show plenty of enthusiasm. You should also avoid overselling yourself but demonstrate that you’ve done your research and can talk confidently about your own background.”
Regardless of the job interview scenario, whether it’s a telephone interview, group job interview or an informal chat with an employer, you should do your research on both the job role and the company. Not only will researching the company score you points (employers love it when you know how many customers they have across the country or how many staff members they have working for them) but it will also make you feel more confident during the job interview stage. Nichola Whitehead, an NHS Dietitian, says the right research is one of the most crucial steps of winning over an employer:
“Even if you have a hot CV, the job interview stage is crucial so working on your interview skills is important. Before attending an interview ensure you read the job application and if they ask you to complete something specific ensure you prepare for it.”
Visit the company website before you attend a job interview to find out the company’s story, history, ethos and aspirations. Knowing this will help you to answer job interview questions and will enable you to demonstrate how you could integrate with the company culture.
Sharpy, Editor at Carve Magazine, says he looks out for research skills from new writers applying for work all of the time:
“You can never do too much research on a prospective employer. Being interested in a company and what they do is essential.”
One of the key tasks to complete before a job interview is to analyze the key skills you have that make you the right candidate for the role. After all, that is the main reason an employer has invited you to an interview; to find out if you possess the skills and experience to successfully fill their vacancy. Before you attend your interview look through your own CV and work experience and do this alongside reading the job description of the role you are interviewing for. Are there any responsibilities that match up? Are there skills the employer is asking for that you’ve already shown in your previous positions? If there are, note them down as this will help you to identify why the employer needs you. Write a list of all these relevant skills as this will ensure they stick in your head on job interview day.
If you’ve attended job interviews previously and not been offered the position it can leave you with a feeling of rejection and so finding the motivation to identify your key skills and really show them off at another job interview can be tough. But Life Coach Becki Houlston says motivation before a job interview is crucial and she says there are a number of ways to improve your job interview performance:
“If you have been unsuccessful before seek feedback from previous job interviews. Get some feedback from successful people, or people you trust in the business community. Ask them ‘what do I need to improve?’ Asking for help shows innovation and strength, it is not a sign of weakness. Today’s employers want staff that can adapt to change.”
When it comes to job interviews it’s fair to say most employers DO judge a book by its cover. Most employers we spoke to confirmed that ‘first impressions are crucial.’ During a job interview an employer will be taking a lot of notes on how you perform during the interview and dress sense is definitely something most employers consider.
Let’s take an example; if you arrive at an interview for a corporate company for a Receptionist role sporting a pair of baggy jeans and a ripped t-shirt then the employer is probably going to be wondering how you could fit into their front-of-house team and how you could interact with their clients. You’d make much more of an impact if you could show them the positive image you could help their company to portray and something as simple as wearing a suit can make this impact. We’re not saying a suit and tie is appropriate for every job role (jobs at Google and digital agencies probably require less formal attire for instance) but use commonsense to decide what the most appropriate outfit is for the job you are applying to.
Turning up on time for your job interview (or early) is important. It’s important for any job interview scenario but it’s especially worth turning up early if you are attending workshop interviews. Workshop interviews usually see you competing against other candidates to demonstrate your key skills and impress the employer. If the other candidates in a workshop interview share similar work experience and qualifications as you then you need to ensure you try your best to stand out from the crowd. Arriving early for your interview will not only demonstrate that you are professional and a reliable candidate but it will also re-affirm your interest in the role.
Hayley Smith, an Ex-Recruiter, says that turning up late for an interview can mean you’re out of the running straight away:
“I have conducted lots of job interviews for my clients and there have been a few occasions where candidates have turned up late and not informed me. Even if that candidate is exceptional and has all of the right skills for the role, a recruiter will question why they turned up late and they will automatically gain the impression that they are unreliable. But employers are only human – we know traffic and other factors leading to a candidate being late are not necessarily their fault. But if a candidate turns up late and doesn’t even inform the employer then it’s not going to leave a lasting impression. If you really can’t avoid being late to a job interview then at least call the employer and let them know in plenty of time.”
To ensure you don’t arrive late to an interview plan your route to the office by doing research ahead of it – find out about public transport routes, ask about parking if necessary and allow for plenty of time to travel.
Although an employer will have seen your CV there’s no harm in taking extra copies along with you to a job interview so ensure you have these printed and ready to go. It will make you look prepared and it will also mean you’re not caught off guard – if an extra interviewer sits in on the meeting and wants a copy of your CV, you’ll have one to hand to them. It’s also good practice to have a copy of your CV to refer to – in case the employer asks something specific or you want to draw attention to certain sections of your CV.
You should have already proofread your CV before you sent it to the employer but be sure to check the ones you are printing out have no spelling mistakes. Guy Bosworth is Commercial Director at LPC and says spelling mistakes are a big no-no:
“I receive quite a few CVs that are sent by recruitment consultants who are incapable of using correct grammar and spelling, unfortunately this does not give their candidates a chance as the CVs are discounted. Some are equally poorly presented which does not make a good first impression. If you are taking your CV to a job interview ensure the information is clearly laid out in a logical order containing all of the information that an employer would want to take into consideration.”
Most employers won’t ask for this but it’s a great addition to many job interview situations. Preparing a career portfolio to show an employer at a job interview can certainly improve your job interview performance and it can support your CV content too. What better way to demonstrate to an employer that you have the skills to succeed in the role than to show them a career portfolio of all the times you’ve used the skills at work? Whether you complete a portfolio in a folder or you set up an online blog to showcase your work, start gathering all of your career information and achievements.
The content of your career portfolio can vary as it depends on the industry you are applying to. Generally you want to try and include your biggest achievements to showcase your skills and to give an employer an idea of the kind of impact you could have on their organisation. So achievements could include a project you have worked on, an event you organised, sales targets you hit or an award you gained at work for either yourself or the company. Whatever your achievements, you should try to showcase them with a mixture of images and statistics as this will grab the employer’s attention. Compiling a career portfolio will also give you the opportunity to look back over your work history and will help make you feel more confident during the job interview stage. So whether it’s including a sales statistic or a customer testimonial, try creating a career portfolio before your interview.
Most candidates prepare answers to questions they might be asked during a job interview but very few prepare questions they want to ask an employer. And yet this can be the difference between an average candidate and an extraordinary one. Employers want to know that you’re interested in their company, that you want to find out the finer details of the role and that you are taking an active interest in the company’s goals and motivations. Asking questions during a job interview is also important because it’s a two-way street. An employer is trying to find out if you are the right fit for their company and you need to find out whether the company is the right one for you. Asking questions will help you determine whether the job role and the company offering is the right career move for you so get your notepad and pen out and start writing.
Natalie Lester works in HR and says this is an important part of the preparation process:
“It is good to be able to ask questions about the business and team you might be working in. It will also help you decide if you want to work for that company, not everyone works in the same way and not every job will be the right one for you.” Natalie also re-emphasises the importance of finding out the finer details of the recruitment process: “I also think that after an interview you should always ask when you will hear back – you don’t want to be left unsure of your position. If after the interview you are unsuccessful ask for feedback – use this to help you to prepare for the next interview.”
This is definitely one to concentrate on before a job interview. The team at Jobulo found that over half the employers they spoke to spend most of a job interview making notes on how a candidate answers questions. Things the employers said they look out for include examples of previous work and innovation and creativity when answering questions.
So to prepare for your interview questions try answering typical job interview questions (e.g. why should we hire you? what can you bring to the company? Can you name your proudest work achievement?) and consider asking a friend to act as the employer and interview you. Hosting job interview role-plays will build your confidence and it should enable you to answer questions efficiently and effectively in the real thing! Preparing in this way will also give you some time to think of creative answers that can help you stand out from the other candidates applying for the role.
Natalie Lester, a HR Administrator, offers her tips on answering job interview questions effectively:
“Read the job description and person specification before interview – if they are conducting a competency based interview this will be based on what these documents say. Think of examples of when you have met these requirements in the past. If you don’t know an answer to a question, ask to have a think about it and try to remember back to it at the end of the interview. Avoid being negative in an interview and think of positive reasons why you are moving employment e.g. I want a new challenge. Essentially try to think clearly and remain as calm as possible, listen to the question and if you’re not clear ask for further explanation.”
Most employers will want to know that you have career progression plans and that they fit with their company. For instance; if you are in a job interview for a role as a Marketing Assistant there is little point in telling the employer you want to become a Hairdresser. They will wonder why you are even at the interview and they won’t be able to see how you can progress within their company and grow with the organisation.
To prepare for possible career progression questions ensure you know your own career path. Why have you applied for this role? What motivates you about the company? And where would you like to be in five years? Knowing this before you attend your interview will help you to form a strong job interview performance.
So, you know the top ten tried and tested ways of preparing for a job interview – now’s the time to put them into practice! If you’ve got a job interview on the horizon try some of these techniques to boost your chances of winning the role!
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