The key to success is to prepare well to show the interviewer(s) you understand the job, have researched the employer and match the characteristics they are looking for. You have cleared the first hurdle of selection with your written application. Now you have a chance to make a personal impression on the selectors at interview.
This section gives general tips on preparation. You can find information on different types of interview and specific advice on academic job interviews. You can also look at examples of interview questions. Some jobs will involve one interview, others may have two or three in a series as candidates are screened out. Other recruiters may invite you to an assessment centre for a series of selection tests and activities.
An interview is a two-way process. You are chasing your ideal job; they are chasing their ideal candidate. You are marketing yourself; they are marketing the organisation.
|The selector(s) want to||You want to:|
verify your claims
verify their claims
evaluate your skills and professionalism
understand what the job entails
establish the relevance of your skills
convince them your skills match the job
decide whether you would fit in as their employee
decide whether you want to work with them
promote the organisation
persuade them you are worth employing
find out if they can afford you
find out if they will pay you enough (don't discuss this before an offer is made unless they raise the subject)
The more prepared you are, the more relaxed and confident you will feel and the better impression you will give.
- Ensure your message at interview is consistent with your application Refamiliarise yourself with your CV, application form, covering letter and notes you made while researching the job
- Get back in touch with any personal contacts in the organisation to learn about any internal changes or issues. Ask about interview procedures
- Look at websites, the press, annual reports
- Look again at the person specification or advert to be clear about skills that you need to demonstrate. Check the evidence you included in your application and think of a couple of new examples for each skill. Draw examples from all parts of your life - not just from work
- Think about the kinds of questions you may be asked and how you will respond
- Try to find out what type of interview you will have and look at the tips below on presenting yourself
- Prepare your own questions to ask.
The balance of power in an interview is more equal than it may feel. Just as candidates are not all perfect, interviewers are human too - and not all are highly experienced or highly trained.
Personal presentation is crucial. The tips below are common sense - but you'd be surprised how many people fall down on one or more of these.
‘You never get a second chance to make a first impression'
- Be punctual and unflustered
- Make a strong first impression - smile, firm handshake, confident body language
- Dress smartly, appropriate to the occasion and organisation, but be comfortable
- Maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s)
- Listen carefully. Ask for clarification if unsure of the question - this is not a sign of weakness, but conveys confidence and assertiveness
- Speak slowly (but not too slowly!) and clearly
- Be interested and enthusiastic
- Answer questions fully, illustrating them with real examples and explaining your personal contribution (talk about what ‘I' did, not what ‘we' did)
- Be specific and succinct - don't waffle.
- Watch the interviewer's body language to gauge whether you are talking too much
- Maintain a positive attitude - even when describing difficulties you have encountered. Explain what you have learned from dealing with problems
- Be yourself - the interviewer is assessing your persona as well as your answers
- Take a list of your own questions. Use them to show your genuine interest in the job and the research you have done into the organisation
- When the interview is over, leave positively and thank the interviewer(s).
And a few don'ts
- Don't lie or exaggerate
- Lose your temper
- Criticise your previous employer
- Fidget or slouch
If all has gone well, you should receive a job offer or progress to a second interview or assessment centre.
If you aren't selected, spend some time reflecting on what to improve next time. Do ask for feedback, it can be very valuable. Most employers are willing to give feedback to unsuccessful interview candidates, but few are ever asked.
When you are made a job offer, you have convinced them you have what they are looking for. They want you to join them. Equally, you may want to join them. If you have any concerns about terms and conditions, this is the time to ask. You might want to raise issues such as salary level, their commitment to your development or flexibility of hours around caring responsibilities. Once you have signed the contract, it will be much more difficult to renegotiate.
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