Interview Techniques

Being interviewed for a job can be a scary business. In one way it’s great to get an interview. It means that your initial job enquiry, usually in the form of a letter and a CV, has been met with a degree of approval. Great! This is a really good start. But what else can you expect?

Do Some Research and Ask Questions

The real trick is in distinguishing yourself by appearing more acceptable for the job than absolutely necessary. One of the best ways to do this is to first do some research, and then ask questions during the interview.

First, research the company beforehand if you are not employed there. Don’t get caught looking silly by showing ignorance about what the company does, or how it is positioned among its peers. For this, the first place to check might be the company’s own website. While setting up the interview time, it is also considered appropriate in most fields to ask for corporate literature or information.

If the business is local and public, consider stopping by before the interview. You may be able to walk around the establishment or take a guided tour. If you are applying at a large company far away, you may consider checking financial news sources for information on the company. Both the Internet and library searches of newspapers may be helpful. The amount of research you do will understandably depend on the job and salary you hope to get.

Also, find out as much as possible about the job. You may be able to get some information while setting up the interview. If you are seeking a promotion within your own company, don’t hesitate to start a casual conversation with someone in the department the job is in. They may have inside information on why the job is vacant, or what exactly the interviewer is looking for.

While being interviewed, you have the option of either demonstrating your knowledge or keeping your fact-finding a secret. In many cases, interviewers will be impressed if you know pertinent facts about their company. In other cases, they may be surprised if you specifically mention personal traits that match their needs when they have not told you what traits they are looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you are asked an unclear question. In some cases, your question may demonstrate more knowledge than an obscure answer would have.

After the interviewer has finished with their questions, it is your turn to ask what your duties will be in the new post, what the starting salary will be, whether there will be opportunities for advancements and raises, and so on. If the job is technical in nature, ask a technical question or two as appropriate. This will make the interviewer feel that you are actively interested in the position, and will reinforce the feeling that you are very knowledgeable in your field. Do not ask more than a few technical questions, or the interviewer may start feeling annoyed or defensive.

Dress Accordingly

If you are applying for a conservative company dress conservatively. Men should opt for a dark suit, plain shirt, tie and good shoes. Women can go for a business like skirt or trouser suit. A calm hairstyle and discreet jewellery and make-up are essential.

However, if the company is a little more relaxed you can add varying degrees of colour. Still look smart and organised, because no matter how laid back the company may appear, you still have to make a good first impression as someone who will give 100% for the sake of the company.

Don’t wear jeans, wrinkled/dirty clothes, anything that is in style (eg, hair bandana or giant hoop earrings) and take out any pierced jewellery that wasn’t intended for the earlobes.

If the job you are applying for is summer work, then the best thing to do is dress smart casual; chinos, khakis, shirt and good shoes.

Dos and Don’ts

  • Don’t wear anything new – wear something that you are familiar with.
  • You shouldn’t wear a skirt which is too short or has a split up to your bum.
  • Don’t leave your mobile phone switched on.
  • Don’t chew gum.
  • Try to avoid saying ‘um’ and ‘so…’.
  • Do try to use correct grammar.
  • Do ask what it was about your application that made the company want to get to know you better.
  • Do make sure you know where the interview will be held. Make sure you know how to get there (by whatever means). If you go by car you really need to research where you can park. Don’t run out of petrol on the way.

Questions you may be Asked

Below is a list of questions, supplied by one Researcher, that you can be expected to be asked in an interview. You have been forewarned.

  • I will always ask you what you’re doing now and why (how do you fit in the company? Do you know how your role relates to the rest of the firm? Are you interested in the company you work for?). Apart from anything else, it acts like an ice-breaker and lets me frame some of my follow-ups.
  • I will ask about strengths, weaknesses, things you’re proud of, things you wish you’d done differently. Don’t hide the negatives. I will never believe a candidate who has no weaknesses or never made a mistake and if I start distrusting you on that, I will distrust you totally.
  • I will ask you why you want the job and why you want to get out of your existing one. If you have specific relevant skills beyond the more general (obviously this depends on the role) I’m bound to ask about them.
  • Think like an employer. I will not know what the PQR system or department is. If possible, don’t put things on your CV that will just confuse me, but if you do, expect me to ask. Have a simple and concise explanation prepared.
  • Expect me to probe. I will not always take your first answer for granted.
  • Try not to make me feel ill at ease. If I ask you what you’ve been doing for six months (say you have a break in your CV) and the answer involves a death in the family, etc, do your best to tackle the subject in a matter of fact way. I have been taught to handle things if you get unexpectedly emotional, but that doesn’t mean I feel comfortable with it. If you have something like that lurking in your CV, expect it to come up.
  • One caveat – when asked what your ‘weaknesses’ are, don’t say ‘I’m a bit of a perfectionist’, ‘I expect everyone to work as hard as I do’ or any other self-aggrandizing, mock-deprecatory answers. Trust me on this – because people are still being trained to say this sort of thing – the only effect you will have on the interview panel is that they will laugh themselves sick after you’ve left the room. If any of these things are really faults of yours, explain why you think this is a problem for you rather than a problem for your colleagues.
  • Take time to think about the question before you start to answer. A pause of six or seven seconds (longer than it sounds) is definitely okay. If you lose track halfway through the answer, stop, ask the interviewer to repeat the question and make sure you stick to the point.
  • Make sure that you ask a question appropriate to the post. If you really must ask about promotion, ask whether people who have come into the company at this level have been promoted internally. That sounds less pushy and less as if you are going to leave if you don’t get promoted in the next five minutes.


Rocket Science

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