The Best Way To Prepare For Your Next Interview, According to our Industry Expert.
Written by Dawn Moss, Your Interview Coach
What to do and what not to do in an interview
Interviewing isn’t necessarily a skill we learn. We tend to just figure it out as and when required. There’s a lot to think about when you get invited to interview. It’s definitely worth spending some quality time preparing. It’s also worth understanding what to do and what not to do in an interview.
Would you like to know the techniques to be able to answer any interview question? Wouldn’t it be great if you could breeze through the interview process with confidence?
We are going to share the techniques to consider when preparing for certain questions. We are also going to share with you the most important aspects to consider during an interview.
It’s less than easy getting the balance right during an interview. Chatterboxes need to practise being more concise and getting to the point. While quiet candidates need to learn to give a little more detail to their answers.
Taking the time to prepare properly is absolutely essential today. Good recruiters and hiring managers will know which candidates have taken the time to prepare. They will also be able to tell very quickly which candidates are trying to ‘wing it’. Which is not a good strategy for success.
So, what and how do you prepare?
Prepare for those commonly asked questions (see below). These questions look fairly simple and innocent at first glance. However, these often throw the candidates that don’t prepare. These questions must be prepared with the vacancy in mind. They should not be prepared for in isolation. Throwing out some stock answers will not demonstrate an understanding of the job requirements.
- Tell us a bit about yourself
- What is your understanding about the job role?
- What do you bring to the job role?
- What do you know about our company?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Where do you see your career in 2, 3, 5 years?
Consider the purpose of the interview and why an interviewer is asking these questions. Think about these questions as an opportunity to explain your match to the job, the company culture and demonstrate your motivation.
Job Fit: Tailoring your answers to the vacancy will demonstrate an understanding of the requirements of the job and therefore, satisfy the hiring manager you have the relevant knowledge, skills and competencies.
Cultural Fit: Interviewers are assessing your fit to the organisation’s values and operating principles. At the same time, they are checking whether you have taken the time to research the company.
Motivational Fit: They also want to find out if you are motivated and genuinely interested. Why? Because highly motivated and career orientated individuals are more productive and take pride in achieving results.
Behavioural Competency Questions
A traditional style of interviewing is still the behavioural competency assessment. Recruiters will be asking a variety of behavioural competency questions to establish your fit to the job.
- Tell us about a time when you…
- Describe an occasion when you…
- Talk us through step-by-step when you…
- Give us an example when…
The most common behaviours in most jobs are communication skills, customer service, planning and organising skills, problem solving skills, building relationships, interpersonal skills etc.
First, spend some quality time thinking how you demonstrated the behaviours relevant to the job. Then use the S.T.A.R. process (Situation, Task, Action and Results) to write up the example in full. It’s then a good idea to practise talking through your answers. It’s not about reading from a script – it’s practising until you can talk through an example fluently. Remember you are not making up examples – you are thinking of specific occasions when you demonstrated certain behaviours and sharing these examples.
Make a good first impression
There are lots of factors that contribute to making that important first impression. You can, in fact, start to make a good impression before you turn up for interview. Taking the time to create a cover letter and tailor your CV and how you behave throughout the process all contribute to making a good impression. Ensuring you turn up on time and smartly dressed. A good handshake can help and a nice warm engaging smile. Taking the time to research and prepare contributes and will be noticed during the interview.
It’s also important to consider leaving a positive lasting impression. How do you achieve this? Think about your “closing” statement. If you get an opportunity consider having a 30 second pitch or statement to explain why you are suitable for the position. You may be asked, “Is there anything else you want to say regarding your suitability for the job?” Again, remember to focus on the information that recruiters and hiring managers need to make the decision. Otherwise, your statement could end up being a desperate plea and not the lasting impression you want to leave.
Don’t be negative
The interview is not the place to be sharing your bad experiences. You want to be totally honest and it’s appreciated. However, going into too much detail here will only leave the decision makers with doubts. There’s always some valuable learning from every experience negative and positive.
Of course, there are probably genuine reasons why you’ve left your last company. An interview is the time to be really positive about your experience. Think of the knowledge and skills you’ve learnt and can offer to the new organisation.
If you are leaving for a new challenge then be specific about what that involves. It’s a fairly common question to ask why you left your last job. This is another one to prepare before the interview, particularly if you left for negative reasons. The interviewer is just gathering information about your decision-making process and what drives and motivates you at work. If you don’t prepare, you are more likely to share what de-motivates you.
Employment law might be a dry and heavy subject however, it’s there to protect us all from discrimination and stereotypical assumptions. It’s no body’s business how you set up your childcare arrangements. So, don’t bring this up in the interview. Don’t make it easy for employers to discriminate. It shouldn’t be their concern.
Good recruiters won’t ask this question. What they will do is make sure every candidate knows the requirements of the job – hours, work patterns and shifts, travel or overnight stays etc. Then it’s up to you how you manage your lifestyle around the requirements of the job.
If you are asked about your childcare arrangements you are not obliged to answer. However, I know some people will be uncomfortable handling this situation. They don’t want to damage the rapport or flow of the interview. Organisations should only be interested in assessing your capability and ability to do the job.
Do’s and don’ts checklists:
- Do prepare for each vacancy
- Do use the S.T.A.R. process to help you prepare for behavioural competency questions
- Do practise answering common questions
- Do be concise with your answers
- Do ask questions about the job, team and company – it shows you are interested
- Do be polite and courtesy throughout the recruitment journey
- Don’t prepare in isolation or use stock answers
- Don’t be late – always contact the interviewer before you are late!
- Don’t be too casual during the interview
- Don’t be too familiar – the interviewer isn’t your friend (yet!)
- Don’t waffle on and on…you can talk yourself out of a job
- Don’t be negative about your last company or boss – it’s not professional
- Don’t give one-word answers to questions – recruiters are trying to start a conversation
- Don’t ask questions about sick pay
So, the three fundamental aspects you need to consider when preparing are your ability to do the job and how you fit in with the organisations culture. And how you demonstrate your interest in the job and the company.
Keep these three aspects in mind and you’ll be sharing all the information (evidence) recruiters and hiring managers need to make a confident decision.
Job Fit: Think about how your experience, skills, knowledge and competencies match the requirements of the job.
Company Cultural Fit: Research how your values align with the organisation’s values and operating principles and how you fit with the culture.
Motivational Fit: Demonstrate you are genuinely interested in the opportunity. Highly motivated individuals are likely to be as productive. They are career orientated and take pride in the work they produce.