Interview techniques

Well done! All that job searching has paid off and you’ve bagged yourself an interview.

Now all you need to do is leave a sparkling impression that burns you into the hearts and minds of the interviewers, ahead of all that competition.

If reading that sentence made you feel anxious then you are ready to start preparing for your interview. No matter how many times you may have done this before, always assume the competition is fierce.

What are interviews for?

A job interview gives the employer the chance to meet you and see if you are the appropriate person for the job.

The most successful interviewees are the ones who put in the work to research the company and practice their answers, not just the night before or the day they find out they have an interview; you can start practicing for interviews now.

Of course there will be specific questions depending on where you get an interview, but some questions are universal and you can learn the answers now to save sweating over them later.

Ten top tips

  1. Practice answering general interview questions e.g why do you want the job.
  2. Go prepared, do your research into the company and the job role.
  3. First impressions are important, decide what to wear etc.
  4. Be cool, calm and collected.
  5. Be positive about your skills and experience.
  6. Go prepared with a copy of your CV and your application form (if you have filled one in).
  7. Prepare some questions for the interviewer.
  8. Think about your body language and make sure you give a good handshake.
  9. Get there on time and switch off your mobile phone.
  10. Try not to get overwhelmed, take your time to answer their questions fully.

The National Careers Service has some great advice on interview techniques, click here for more information.

The STAR Technique

A big part of interviews is assessing your level of competency. Employers will ask ‘competency based questions’, which usually involve a request for an example of when you have done something at work. For example:

  • Tell me about a time you have delivered excellent customer service (be wary of this question – they don’t mean average or good customer service – this question is looking for a time you went above and beyond the call of duty).
  • Have you ever had to work as part of a team?
  • Can you tell me about a time when something went wrong? What did you learn?
  • Do you have any experience of working under pressure?
  • Are you able to prioritise your own workload?

Tip: the answer to all of the above should be, ‘yes I can…’

Using the Starr Technique

This is the best way to answer competency questions.

SDescribe a situation, “When I worked for…” or “at my volunteer job…” or “during my time at school…” or “I remember once…” 

TTell them what your task or role was, “I was responsible for…”, “I needed to…”, “the issue which arose was…”

A – Say what action you took, “I handled this by…” or “I knew I could sort this out by…” or “the actions I took to complete this task were…”

R – Always talk about the result, employers like to see results driven people; “The result of this was…” or “as a result of my quick thinking…”

R – Sometimes it is appropriate to say how you took the time to reflect on what happened, how you decided to tackle the issue and whether you would do things differently next time. This is particularly useful if the result of your actions may not have been ideal, even if the situation and task are really good examples of you working hard to resolve an issue.

As well as practicing your competency-based questions, you can be fairly sure the following will come up:

  • The content of your CV.
  • How much research you have done on the company.
  • If you have any questions (tip: yes, you have two very relevant questions which arose from your extensive study of the company).

To find out more about interview questions and how to answer them, take a look at Reed here.

You can also see if anybody has posted interview questions on the internet from the company. Glassdoor is a good place to start but be wary – you can never truly tell what you will be asked and thorough preparation and research is your best defence.

Technique does not stop at having the answers to questions.

Interviewers have seen all sorts of interviews. They have witnessed the ‘mind blank’ and the ‘blagger’, the ‘verbal waterfall’ and the ‘beetroot face’. They understand that this is a high-pressure situation and that no matter how much you prepare, sometimes, we all trip up.

Making a strong first impression is vital to combating potential hiccups during the interview.

Do’s and don’ts (and one never!)

Do dress smartly and appropriately and don’t wear anything that could be judged negatively. You have a right to be an individual, however this is an opportunity to prove you’re the right individual for this company.

You can find some advice about interview outfits here.

Do make sure you shake your interviewers’ hands and smile as you introduce yourself. Take a moment to repeat your interviewers’ names back to them and use their names when you address them.

Do sit forward, remember to smile frequently, nod and try not to cross your arms or legs.

If you smoke, don’t have a final cigarette outside the building. The longer you leave between your last cigarette and the interview, the better.

Don’t bring to many things with you. When you walk into the interview, try to have as little to carry as possible. You will look disorganised and get flustered if you are holding a coat, a bag and three shopping bags when it’s your turn.

Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewers to repeat the question before you answer it. Don’t let your nerves see you jumping straight in to answer a question, only to forget what it was two minutes later.

Take your time to answer – give yourself a few seconds to digest what you have just been asked.

Never have a drink to steady your nerves.

Most importantly:

Be yourself – a half hour interview can feel like four hours and that is a long time to be someone else. Be the best version of you that you can be. You got this interview and it is you they want to meet. Do not be swayed into pretending you are someone that you aren’t by people you may be sitting with.

Remember: your personality is important. The interviewer is thinking about their team and whether you would get along with them. Be polite, positive, open and friendly.

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