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Interview Techniques

The person who gets the job is not necessarily the most qualified, but perhaps the one who knows HOW to get a job.

Although we have headed this section as Interview Techniques and indeed the word interview often appears, we at Harrison Scott Associates, when working with clients and candidates do not refer to the word interview, preferring the word meeting. As we treat candidates differently than most recruitment companies, we feel the word "interview" conjures up traditional images of the days when employers had queues of people wanting to join them and could look down from a higher seated position with statements such as "Well Mr Jones, what makes you want to join ABC Company Limited?" Harrison Scott Associates operate in market sectors where our clients represent the market leaders in their respective fields. The candidates we deal with are at the top end of the market; therefore the word "meeting" is a fairer representation of the exchange between both parties rather than one having the upper hand.

Harrison Scott's experienced consultants will provide registered candidates with a wealth of information, sound advice and helpful pointers on how to excel in an interview situation. This is not considered coaching as we vehemently disagree with that. It is rather a case of ensuring that both client and candidate enter the interview process in a smooth and professional manner.

First impressions have a major influence on how an individual forms an opinion of someone. Therefore the importance of walking into a meeting armed with as much knowledge as possible cannot be overemphasised.

Our success is built on the understanding its industry specialists have of the needs and requirements of both its candidates and clients.

We have provided below our advice and guidance in the following key areas:

Part 1 Polish your job interview techniques and receive excellent offers
Part 2 Interview preparation - failing to prepare is preparing to fail
Part 3 Research the company before your interview
Part 4 Interview phases - what to expect
Part 5 Interview tips to help secure job offers
Part 6 Interview day - what should you wear?
Part 7 Tough interview questions and how to overcome them
Part 8 What questions should you ask in an interview?

 

Part 1 Polish your job interview techniques and receive excellent offers

Improve your job interview techniques by knowing your CV thoroughly, as most interview questions will be based on this information.

During the interview you need to present yourself in the best possible way. The most effective approach is to present yourself as if the employer was buying your skills and knowledge. You are advertising yourself and this is one time where you can talk about all your great skills and accomplishments, bragging a little while maintaining accuracy that can be verified.

Nothing works with weak interview skills, no matter how many interviews you secure.

It's how you appear and sound to the interviewer that determines how they'll react to you. Some candidates develop an instant rapport with the interviewer and find the process quite relaxing, although this is not the norm.

A great philosopher once wrote that "knowledge leads to power" power leads to confidence. Have you ever seen a prime minister or King with a nervous disposition? The more knowledge you have pertaining to the meeting, whether it be CV, the company, the marketplace etc, the better you will come across.

The more you prepare, the higher your confidence level. Failing to prepare is just like preparing to fail.

Employers are looking for energy, ambition, personality, confidence, competency, maturity, professional appearance, and reliability. Can you display this image throughout the interview?

Some Commonly Asked Questions:

  1. Tell me about yourself?
  2. Where do you want to be in five years?
  3. Why should I hire you?
  4. What have you learned on your own?
  5. What would you like to know about us?
  6. How do you work under pressure?
  7. What do you expect to accomplish here?
  8. What type of decisions do you find most difficult to make?
  9. You'd better know the answers - there's no second chance

The type of job interview you go to will depend upon the interviewer and the company. The questions above are very basic - there are over a thousand job interview questions you could be asked during a job interview. It will relieve you to know that there is a common approach to answering questions in a confident and skilful manner to secure a job offer.

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Part 2 Interview preparation - failing to prepare is preparing to fail

Preparation is critical in conveying a positive and polished image and having a productive and successful interview. Before going on your first interview, there are some important steps to take in order to prepare yourself.

  • Understand yourself and the great things you can offer.
  • Think about your skills, interests and values.
  • Know your strengths and weaknesses and be able to give examples to demonstrate your strengths.
  • Discuss decisions you have made, the thought process behind the decision and the outcome.
  • Identify accomplishments you are proud of and how they were achieved.
  • Provide examples of how you have developed your skills.
  • Explain why you are interested in this industry and position - show your personality.
  • Define your short and long-term goals.
  • Research the employer, the position and the industry or field.
  • Know what salary range is usual for this type of position.
  • Utilise the web to find information.
  • Review mission statements, annual reports, and company literature.
  • Find out who the firm's competitors are - how do they compare? Who are their clients or customers?
  • Familiarise yourself with the employer's organisational structure.
  • Practice, practice and practice some more for the interview.
  • Review interview questions with a colleague and/or use a tape recorder to critique your answers.
  • Remember back to when you were drawing up your CV, your thought processes involved in its creation will be useful when it comes to preparing for an interview.

Additional Information

  • Look at the interview from the employer's standpoint. Know what they want and give examples to prove you can deliver.
  • Prepare a strategy for each interview: share the information you feel is appropriate and relevant.
  • Stay focused - keep conversation to the point.
  • Be as concise as possible.
  • Don't dominate the interview - the interviewer leads the meeting and guides the questions.
  • Ask appropriate and well thought out questions.
  • Don't expect an offer on the spot, interviewers often appreciate a gentle "close" at the end of a meeting, especially if it is for a sales role, don't be too pushy.
  • Be assertive, not aggressive. Confident, not cocky.
  • Practice a firm, confident handshake and look them in the eye.
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Part 3 Research the company before your interview

If there is one thing you should do it is to learn about the company and the role. There are many sources of company or industry information. Here are some ideas to help you get started on this very important research.

Where to look:
  • Gather information from the Internet, colleagues in the industry and the company itself.
  • Contact the Public Relations and / or Marketing Department and ask for the most recent annual report (if it's on the public stock exchange) and other company literature.
  • Speak to other people in the Industry, gossip can be useful. Look at competitors that your company and prospective employers may have come across: this can lead to affinity.
  • Electronic bulletin boards and online services
  • Read current periodicals and trade journals to learn about current trends in the field.
What to find out:
  • Know what salary range is usual for this type of position.
  • Find out who the company's competitors are, how are they placed in the industry and who are their clients or customers.
  • Familiarise yourself with the employer's organisational structure.
  • Company mission statement.
  • Know the full name of the Chairman, Managing Director, Sales Director, Operations Director, etc.
  • Locations of all operations or branches.
  • Know divisions, subsidiaries, products, services, and brand names.
  • Where the company has come from and where it is likely to go can be linked to possible questions you may be asked, e.g. "Where do you see yourself in five years". An answer such as "The company's move into XXXXXX market sector would give me the opportunity to do YYYYY." This shows a good understanding of the company and demonstrates your long term worth.
  • The way you find information will vary from company and industry - the important thing is to find and remember it. You will use this information to make a great first impression in the interview.
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Part 4 Interview phases - what to expect

The first interview is often a screening interview that will determine whether you are invited for a second interview. It is an opportunity for you to present your qualifications and to express your enthusiasm about the position, it typically lasts about 30 minutes. It is usually conducted by a friendly, encouraging individual who is trained to follow a fairly structured line of questioning. His or her main job is to make a recommendation about your suitability.

An in-depth interview may involve meeting with one or several different people in either a series of "one to one" or group meetings. This interview will require responding to technical (specific job related) questions.

It may involve a tour of the organisation and opportunities to meet with other employees. The interview can range in length - from 60 minutes to a full day. An in-depth interview may involve interviewing with one person or with several different people in a series of one-on-one meetings, or interviewing with a group of people.

The first meeting is normally designed to show if you would fit into the organisation, it is often more informal so that the interviewer can find out if you would be a good fit for the company. The second meeting verifies whether they feel that you have the skills for the job, it is likely to be more in depth.

Keep in mind that you are being interviewed and observed throughout the time that you are visiting the organisation, not only during the formal office interview. Don't say or do something when you think you are no longer being interviewed, which may later be seen as "unprofessional" or "inappropriate".

Remember, you are involved in the interview process from the moment you arrive until the time you depart.

One point that many people miss is that a meeting is a two way process, don't be afraid to ask questions as it is also the time when you have to consider if it is right for you. A lot of people become carried away and don't concentrate on whether they feel right about the company. It is very easy to get bowled over if you are being sold to. Make sure you are happy and that you have found out all that you need to know.

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Part 5 Interview tips to help secure job offers

These interview tips can help you. If we could give you one piece of advice, it would be - "be yourself", this has never been more important than in the job hunting process. Examine your best attributes and HOW to sell yourself to the marketplace.

  • Research the company - we can't stress this enough. Find out as much as possible about this industry, its changes, who the Managing Director is and the number of years in business. If you can help the company solve problems, you are that much closer to getting hired.
  • Practice mock interviews with a friend - pinpoint your weaknesses and work diligently to improve your technique.
  • Dress for success - make an immediate favourable first impression. Don't underestimate this. Polish your shoes, as many candidates forget this.
  • Shake hands firmly and don't take a seat until offered. Don't slouch - always maintain eye contact with the interviewer (s).
  • Bring at least three copies of your professionally prepared CV, as well as a list of references on matching letterhead.
  • Talk in a firm, confident voice and always present a positive attitude.
  • Always remain professional before, during, and after the interview. Relax and be yourself, but don't forget the person sitting on the other side of the desk could be your future employer.
  • Allow the interviewer to describe the position and its responsibilities early in the interview. Then you can apply your accomplishments specifically to that position.
  • Ask relevant questions during the interview. The meeting should be a two-way communication - it's important to develop a rapport with the interviewer.
  • Understand that nervousness is normal, so prepare for it and convey a calm appearance.
  • Don't bad mouth your present or former employers. Limit your comments to those that are absolutely necessary.
  • Let the interviewer bring up salary first. The person who talks about salary first will lose.
  • Always send a thank you and follow up letter - an important step in the job search process. Enthusiasm and interest make a difference.
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Part 6 Interview day - what should you wear?

Clothes tell the employer how you see yourself - your hairstyle and choice of accessories (handbag, briefcase, jewellery) and makeup are either going to reinforce or hamper your professional impression.

  • The best colours for men's suits are dark grey, deep blue and black. Don't wear a three-piece suit to an interview - it is too much.
  • Shoes are extremely important - make sure they are polished.
  • Select a simple tie - you don't want attention to be on your funny looking tie - you know what we mean.
  • If the place of business is "casual or semi - casual" - don't wear jeans, even if the staff does (even on casual Fridays). Strive to dress professionally without overdressing. A pair of dark or casual trousers and a sports shirt will make a nice presentation.
  • Although it is important not to overdress, do not be lured into under-dressing. If unsure, you can always settle for something in between. If you believe you are overdressed you can always remove the jacket if offered.
  • For females, a tailored classic suit is always appropriate for the interview. Consider investing in yourself, and your future career - this will be part of your wardrobe for years to come.
  • Wools for the cooler months and linen for the warmer months - stay away from 100% polyester blend.
  • Choose a conservative colour - you won't go wrong if you choose a solid basic colour. The blouse or sweater you select to accompany your suit should be white, off-white, beige, or a colour to complement your suit. For example, a burgundy or red blouse can spice up a grey suit - especially if those are your colours.
  • Solid tailored colour dress is acceptable for interviewing. Make sure you choose fabrics that are suited for the season.
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Part 7 Tough interview questions and how to overcome them

Don't kid yourself; all employers will try their best to detect problems or limitations you can bring to the company.

For example if you are showing a two-year gap on your C.V. many would consider this a problem or "red flag". Ensure you can explain this gap. Do you know how to answer the question "Tell me about yourself"? This open-ended question can lead to rambling. Knowing how to respond is critical to securing a job offer.

There are steps to answering interview questions:
  1. Understand what the interviewer wants to find out.
  2. They may be finding out if you are dependable, able to adapt, or a team player, etc.
  3. Don't give too much information this may result in presenting it in a damaging way. Present the answer in a way that is to your "best" advantage - think before you respond.
  4. Respond to the real question - present your relevant skills. If you know what they are asking you can respond by selling your skills and accomplishments that are relevant to the employer's concerns.
Some of the top problem questions, would include:
  1. Tell me about yourself.
  2. Why are you here?
  3. You don't have a degree, the ad specifically stated you needed one, why did you apply for the position?
  4. What are your salary expectations?
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Part 8 What questions should you ask in an interview?

Make sure you are "prepared" to ask questions about the position and the company. Generally you will be given an opportunity near the end of the interview. The interviewer usually asks if you have any questions - you should at least have about two or three prepared. If you don't, the employer may think you are not really interested in the company.

Use this opportunity to ask questions that demonstrate your knowledge of the company and the industry - show that you are interested in a long-term career that is "mutually beneficial". Don't allow this to be an interrogation, therefore, no more than four questions.

Do you know what questions you can ask at the interview?

It certainly depends on your situation; the position you are applying for, and your relationship with the interviewer (s) and organisation - below are some common questions.

  • What would a normal working day be like?
  • Can you explain the position and the type of candidate you are looking to hire?"
  • What do you expect from the successful candidate in the first two months?
  • Is this a newly created position? If not, what happened to the person that held this position?
  • Who will the new employee be reporting to?
  • Do you see any major changes within the company that will effect this position?
  • How often are performance reviews given?
  • Is it possible to tour the facility?
  • Does the company provide any educational benefits?
  • What is the dress code?

At the end of the interview, thank the interviewer for taking the time to meet with you. Make a short, concise summary of your qualifications and stress your interest in the position. Here is an example:

"This interview has convinced me that my abilities match your company needs. I am extremely interested in the position -- I know it's a perfect match." "Can I ask what the next step is." (or) "When can I expect to hear from you?" or Could I call you in a few days to check on the status of my application?"

The same day or the next day, send a personalised thank you letter to refresh the interviewer's memory of you. This is your opportunity to mention any experience or skills that were not discussed in your interview. If possible, try to offer new information or discuss something that went on in the interview.

A "post-interview assessment" can help improve your technique and build your confidence and perfect your interviewing skills. After each interview you will be able to fine-tune weak areas - practice creates perfection. Analysing the interview and discussing your feelings during and after it, can be very helpful in preparing for the next interview.

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CV Preparation Interview Techniques Resigning your position Counter Offers