Be Prepared

Interviews can sometimes be a daunting prospect. The best way to overcome this is to be fully prepared and well briefed on the job and the company you are interviewing for.

In today’s competitive jobs market being properly prepared is all important. In this regard we hope that the following advice will help you make the right impression with prospective employers and give you a competitive edge.

Do Your Research

Your FK Consultant will ensure that you are fully familiar with the company and position that you are interviewing for. He/ she will provide you with expert knowledge including details of the working environment, company culture and employer expectations.

In addition research the company and its industry sector in as much detail as you can. Visit the company website and also use search engines to gain additional information. By bringing these elements together, you should have a good grounding on the company's business and culture in advance of your interview.

Areas to research:
  • Business operations
  • Latest published financial information
  • Future plans
  • Competitors
  • Market place perception
  • Press releases

Ensure that you are also familiar with this information in respect of your current/previous employer.

If possible, obtain details in relation to the interviewers and their positions, as this information, together with any information on their professional/career background can be beneficial. LinkedIn is a useful tool in this regard.

It sounds obvious, but ensure that you are very familiar with your CV and your academic and career achievements. Give some thought about how to present these in a manner that will most closely align them to the responsibilities and requirements of the role that you are interviewing for.

Being well prepared will help you respond to questions confidently, in a relaxed manner, accurately and concisely.

Presentation

First impressions count! Impressions gained in the first five minutes of meeting someone are crucial in developing an opinion.

From the outset, it is important to build a friendly yet professional rapport with everyone you meet. A firm handshake, a warm smile and sustained eye contact will help you achieve this.

Always ensure that you wear a smart business suit and act in a professional manner.

If you are well-presented, calm and confident, this will go a long way to making the right impression.

Punctuality

Ensure that you know the exact time and location of the interview and the route to take. Allow plenty of time in case of travel delays.

Arrive on time or a few minutes early, but not too early. If you arrive earlier than planned go for a walk or review your notes. You should not arrive more than 10 minutes before the appointment.

If you are going to be even slightly late, always call ahead to apologise and let the interviewer know that you are delayed.

The Interview

Interview Dos
  • Arrive on time or slightly early if possible
  • Introduce yourself courteously
  • Express yourself clearly
  • Smile during the interview
  • Be well researched on the company and the industry sector
  • Be confident when demonstrating how your experience can benefit the company
  • For every responsibility/requirement on the job specification, have at least one example of relevant experience or a transferable skill
  • Construct your answers carefully
  • Show willingness to learn and progress
  • Be assertive without being aggressive
  • Don't ask too many questions at first round interview stage; reserve them for the second meeting
  • Switch off your mobile phone
  • Remember an interview is an opportunity to sell your skill set. It is important to have your ‘pitch’ well prepared and ensure that you emphasise anything that will make you stand out positively from the competition
Interview Don'ts
  • Don't be late
  • Don't leave preparation to the last minute or be unprepared
  • Don't answer questions with a "Yes" or "No". Expand whenever possible
  • Don't lie. Answer all questions truthfully and honestly
  • Don't over emphasise salary expectations. Salary should never be discussed in the first interview unless the prospective employer brings it up; getting the job at this stage should be the priority - salary negotiations will follow
  • Don't say negative things about previous employers
  • Don't speak over the interviewer

Questions to Expect

Most interviewers will have a bank of questions that they will use during each interview to help them structure the meeting and also to promote answers from candidates that will allow them to benchmark accordingly. It is important to prepare for answering questions such as those outlined below.

Q: Tell me about yourself:

A: This is a conversation starter and is nearly always asked. Talk about your qualifications, career history and range of acquired skills. Particular emphasis should be put on those skills that are most relevant to the position you are interviewing for.

Q: Describe your achievements to date:

A: A common question, so prepare beforehand. Think about an achievement that is career related. Identify the skills you used in this situation and quantify the benefit.

Q: Has your career met your expectations?

A: The answer here should be "Yes". Promote yourself as a content, successful and positive candidate but with the drive to achieve more. If you feel that you need swifter progression in your career development then ensure that the position you are applying for offers this - if not, it is best not emphasis this point.

Q: Tell me the most challenging situation you have faced recently and how you dealt with it?

A: This is a trap question. To avoid it select a difficult work situation that was not caused by you, the options available, how you selected the appropriate one and why and how you resolved it and what the outcome was. Ensure that it is positive. The interviewer is looking to see if you have a logical thought process capable of solving problems.

Q: What are your strengths?

A: A very common question, so be prepared. Discuss your main strengths. List three or four ways they could benefit your employer. Provide examples and be prepared to back them up.

Q: What are your major weaknesses?

A: Don't say "none" - we all have weaknesses. Use a professional weakness such as lack of experience on your part in an area that is not essential to the job on offer.

Q: What decisions do you find difficult to make?

A: Your answer must not display weakness. Focus on decisions that have to be made without sufficient information. This will show your positive side.

Q: Why are you leaving your current employer?

A: Don't be negative here. Be positive about your experience with your current/last company. You are leaving in order to further your career, widen your experience etc.

Other Typical Questions

Below is a list of other types of questions that may arise. Think about the answers that you could give to these. It's a useful exercise, and will get your brain in "interview mode".

  • How does your job fit into your department and firm? (Gives an idea of level of responsibility.)
  • How do you respond to working under pressure? (Provide examples.)
  • How have you coped when your work has been criticised? (Give an example including the outcome.)
  • What kind of people do you find difficult to work with? (Be extremely careful when answering this question. Give an example and how you resolved/overcame the situation.)
  • Tell me about the last time you disagreed with your boss. How did you resolve this? (Only use examples with positive outcomes)
  • What are your preferred working conditions, working alone or in a group and why? (Your response should be dependent on the requirements of the position you are interviewing for).
  • How do you measure your own performance? (Critical analysis)
  • What motivates you? (Use positive words here; Success, Development, Progression, etc.)
  • Why do you think you would be good at this job? (Outline how you have the right experience and skillset and can add value to the organisation.)
  • What changes in the workplace have caused you difficulty and why? (Again, look for examples with positive outcomes)
  • What example can you give me of when you have been out of your depth? (Use this to show your ability to adapt and learn quickly – again, use examples with a positive outcome)
  • What can you bring to this firm?
  • How do you see this job developing your skills and experience?

Competency Based Questions

Organisations are increasingly using competency based interviews to standardise their interview processes. Questions posed in this fashion will focus on the core competencies required for a role including knowledge, skills and personal characteristics.

You will be required to give specific examples that demonstrate your competence in particular areas. Competency based interviewing is scenario based; you are asked to give detailed examples of situations you experienced in previous roles, and use them to demonstrate your underlying skill-set.

Time spent in advance preparing for a competency based interview is vital as the interviewer will be seeking relevant, well thought out responses that demonstrate the competencies clearly rather than general examples.

Questioning the Interviewer

The interview is a two-way process. As well as the employer interviewing you, you are also interviewing your prospective employer.

The best way to approach an interview process that has at least two stages is to ask a small number of important, thoughtful questions at the first interview, reserving the more detailed questions for the second stage. The first interview should be more about you convincing the prospective employer that you are right for the job (if you don't like what you see, you can always decline to attend the second stage). Don't bring up salary at the first stage; leave this to the second (unless the interviewer asks you directly).

Prepare questions prior to the interview:

  • How has this position become vacant?
  • How does the role fit into the structure of the overall department?
  • Who will I report to?
  • Will anyone report to me?
  • What are the opportunities for further training?
  • Where is your firm going? Expansion plans?
  • What is the objective of this organisation/department/team?
  • What sort of person does well here?
  • How will this role satisfy my drives for success/progression?

Closing the Interview

If you are interested in the role, ask about the next interview stage if appropriate. If the interviewer offers you the job on the spot and you want it, verbally accept it but ask to be provided with a contract in the coming days. If you require further time to think it over, be tactful in saying so and qualify your reasons.

It is important to remain enthusiastic and courteous at all times – the final 5 minutes may not necessarily get you the job but they can certainly help you lose it. Good manners go a long way, stand when the interviewer stands, maintain eye contact and smile when saying good bye and thanking the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you.

If you feel that the interview is not going well, do not be discouraged. Sometimes this is part of an interviewer's technique to see how you perform under pressure and may have no bearing on whether you will/will not get the job. Display a positive attitude at all times.