Interview Techniques

If you’re sitting for an interview, it can only mean one thing – you’ve already impressed them once, with the unique combination of experience and skills you demonstrated on your application.

Interview Tips - Here are 10 tips for interview success

1. First impressions count
Greet your interviewer with a smile and firm handshake. Give eye contact. Try to make small talk during the walk from the reception area to the interview room.

2. Be prepared
Re-read your CV and the job advert just before the interview. Do your research thoroughly: Look at the company web site or obtain literature.

3. Don’t waffle
Answer questions properly – even if you need a few moments’ silence to collect your thoughts.

4. Why should they hire you?
Most job adverts will list qualities they’re looking for – a team worker, a good communicator – so it’s up to you to think of examples of how you can demonstrate these skills. Be ready to talk about your knowledge, experience, abilities and skills. Have at least three strong points about yourself that you can relate to the company and job on offer.

5. Be positive
Your interviewer will be thinking about what it would be like to work with you, so the last thing they’ll want to hear is you talking about your boss or current colleagues behind their back. Interviewers like to see someone who enjoys a challenge and is enthusiastic.

6. Remember your body language
It is not what you say, but how you say it. During the interview, do not fold your arms and lean back or look to the floor! Sit upright and try to maintain good eye contact. Use your hands and lean forward when making a point. Many people cannot think and control their body language at the same time, which is why you need to prepare.

7. Expect the unexpected
Your interviewer may try to catch you off guard. It is impossible to plan for every difficult question, such as “How would your colleagues describe you?” but try to appear relaxed and in control. Ask the interviewer to repeat the question if necessary but do not evade it.

8. Develop rapport
Show energy, a sense of humour and smile.

9. Clarify anything you are unsure of
If you are not certain what are meant by a particular question, ask for clarification. At the end, ask the interviewer if there is anything else he or she needs to know about. Do not be afraid to ask when you are likely to hear if you have been successful or not.

10. Remember your manners
It is better to choose than to be chosen. Tell the interviewer why you are interested in the company and job opportunity. Ask them for a business card and follow it up by sending a “thank-you” e-mail or letter, saying how much you enjoyed meeting them and how interested you are. Take the opportunity to detail the key advantages you bring.

Sample Interview Questions

Tell me about yourself?

This is a very common interview question yet many candidates fall at this first hurdle. The interviewer is not asking you to just repeat what is on your CV, but want you to add a little extra to try and get a hint of your personality. This provides the opportunity to show who you really are and focus the interview on your strengths. This should be roughly 2-3 minutes in length:

State who you are and what you want to do next in your career. ‘I am currently working as a XYZ and am hoping to further myself in the XYZ sector’

Follow up by mentioning and detailing your relevant job experience for the role. ‘Within my previous position/education, I did XYZ and acquired these skills…’ ‘In the past I have also been involved in previous position/education and learned how to…

End with an interesting fact about yourself or mention some of your hobbies and interests.

End by asking the interviewer if they would like you to explain anything as it nicely wraps up your answer.

What would your friends say about you?

Words they’ve used to describe me are:  reliable, understanding, a good team player, I do my fair share

Do you take work home with you?

When I need to, no problem.  I realize the importance of meeting deadlines and getting work done on time.

Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?

I would say that I have never really had a problem working with anyone. I try to find our common ground, and get along with everyone’s different personality.

Have you gotten angry at work? What happened? How do you respond to pressure?

When I get stressed, I step back, take a deep breath, thoroughly think through the situation and then begin to formulate a plan of action.

How would you describe the pace at which you work?

I work at a steady pace, but usually complete work in advance of the deadline in case something goes wrong or has to be changed.

Describe a situation in which you led a team

The interviewer is looking for proof that you can motivate and direct other people, as well as time management and organisational skills. Try to think of a time when you organised an event or worked in a group previously in work/school. - I once had to organise my rowing society’s trip to a national tournament. I worked with other members of the committee to arrange every detail of the trip; from travel arrangements to finances. I put in place deadlines and ensured they were met. When one person in the team failed to deliver on time I divided the tasks among myself and others to guarantee we would meet the final deadline. I found it difficult to direct people who were essentially my friends; but found the experience made me more assertive.

What would you say your greatest weaknesses are?

It is best to state a previous weakness and say how you learned to overcome your failings. For example: I considered myself fairly poor at giving work-based presentations. I’ve discovered that I need to prepare a script ahead of time and read it a few times till I have learnt certain sections, so when I’m actually presenting I am quite familiar with the material, I always need to be certain and informed about what I am presenting. Now I consider myself to have fantastic presentation skills.

What are your key skills/strengths?

I have fantastic written skills; it has been a consistent remark among all my teachers/employers. I take initiative; I’m constantly setting myself aims and writing to-do lists. I am a good team player; I’ve been a part of many groups/clubs/societies so I’ve really harnessed the ability to adapt quickly within a team. I also have an incredibly good memory, which I think gives me an eye for detail;

Tell me about a problem at work and how you dealt with it

I like to think I deal with problems head-on. Once, I found a major flaw in the work of one of the senior members of a department I worked in, which, ultimately, could have been very costly to the company if it had been overlooked.  I went directly to her, and called it to her attention so we could fix it before it had a far-reaching effect. 

Tell me about an achievement of which you are proud?

Overcoming my general ineptness in regards to public speaking. I gradually placed myself in situations where I was forced to speak in front of an audience. Initially this began with baby steps, having to give small presentations in seminars, allowing myself a couple of days to become familiar with the material I was going to present. As well as making an effort to talk to people more, both new people and ones I already knew. I now consider myself a capable public speaker, providing I have time to prepare. However I feel my biggest achievement is yet to come.

How would you describe success?

Innovation, always staying ahead of the game, meeting not only my own goals, but also my employers

Why should we hire you? What can you do for us that other candidates can't? What can you do for this company? What can you contribute to this company

I have a unique combination of strong skills and the ability to work both independently and in a team. For example, I once worked in a small team completing a major project with a great variety of tasks that had to be completed in a short period of time. I had to take initiative and be prepared to pick up any slack or get involved in another task at a moment’s notice. This obviously requires a solid relationship with my co-workers and the ability to make my skills quite interchangeable. 

What are your goals? Where do you see yourself in five years time?

Ultimately to push myself as far as I can go within [job sector]. Just continuing to put in the effort and make the most out of every opportunity. I like to see myself as a top performing employee in a well-established organization, ideally spearheading some major projects. 

How do you measure success?

I measure professional success by the standards of the company for which I work, the feedback I receive from my peers, supervisors and subordinates. Personally, it is to know I'm regarded as a decent person, and regularly achieve my personal aims.

What are three positive things your last boss would say about you?

Reliable, self-sufficient, and they rather liked my sense of humour.

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