Interview Advice

Interviews are an essential part of the recruitment process, not only for the recruiter to assess you but also for you to get an appreciation of your potential employer. It is natural to feel nervous beforehand, and a little anxiety can actually be beneficial in sharpening your performance. However you don’t want to appear too nervous, which is where preparation comes in.Remember the 5 ‘P’s – Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance!!Image
First impressions are crucial and often lasting, however this is easy to get right by following some basics:

1.Keep hair tidy, neatly cut and styled or tied back.
2.Dress conventionally and professionally, dark suits and crisp white shirts never offend anyone, and for ladies trousers skirts or dresses are acceptable these days but we recommend a jacket to give a more formal image.
3. Prepare a briefcase or folder with everything you need, including a job description if you have been given one, several copies of your CV, and a notepad and a pen.

Arrive 15 minutes early! Check your route the day before – the internet is great for this – allowing an extra 30 minutes in case you get lost. Present yourself 5 minutes before the interview time as it can be annoying for the interviewer if you are too early. If you find yourself running late always phone ahead and let them know you have been delayed. If you have a long way to travel, you may want to consider travelling the day before and staying overnight at a local guest house or hotel. Try not to schedule any other crucial appointments that day – you don’t want to appear distracted if the interview goes on longer than expected.

Research the Company
The first question you are likely to be asked at interview is “What do you know about this type of work?” so make sure you are prepared. Check the company website thoroughly, and if you know anyone who has worked for them, take the opportunity to investigate what the company is like as an employer. You may also want to telephone the company to request a brochure or annual report. If you are able to talk to any of their customers it is always interesting to get their view!

Research the job
If you are planning a career change it is very important to research the job as much as you can. For example, if you are planning to leave the laboratory and start a commercial career then we recommend the following:

1. Talk to other sales representatives or someone doing a similar job to establish the positives and negatives about the position.
2. Read around the subject, there are many books available to help you get a basic understanding of the sales concept.
3. Shadow a representative for a day. This is not always easy and may take some persistence on your part, but this will give you an insight into ‘a day in the life of a sales representative.’
4. Ask for a job description before hand. The more you know about the job before the interview the better.
5. Have a few good questions ready for the interviewer – these should show that you have done your homework on the company and the industry e.g.

What is the history of the company?
What are its future plans for growth and development?
What exactly does the job involve?
What will be expected of me?
What goals will I be expected to achieve?
What training or back-up will be given to me?
What are the longer-term opportunities for career progression?

Research the interview format
Find out the interview format, how many interviewers will be conducting the interview and what their positions are in the company. As an agency we endeavour to give you as much help as possible with this type of information. Think about the types of questions you might be asked and prepare possible responses e.g.

Tell me a bit about yourself (prepare a 1-2 minute history).
What are your strengths and weaknesses? (Don’t be arrogant! Employers value hard work, enthusiasm and reliability above most other characteristics).
What has been your key achievement in your current employment?
Why do you want to work for our company?
Why do you want this job?
What can you bring to the company?

Most companies will now interview candidates 2 or 3 times before making a decision, often including a short presentation at second interview stage. If possible these should be done on powerpoint.

A few suggestions of what NOT to do:

1. Criticise the company in any way even if you have heard rumours in the market place.
2. Criticise current or previous employers.
3. Answer by simply answering “yes” or “no”, try to elaborate on your answers.
4. ‘Waffle’ if you do not know the answer.
5. Interrupt the interviewer by answering the question before they have finished asking it. i.e. listen carefully.
6. Lie! Employers almost always verify the information given to them by following up references.
7. Make excuses for previous failures – employers appreciate candour and honesty.
8. Be contentious in choice of discussion topic – avoid sex, politics or religion.

A few suggestions of what to do:

1. Always smile on first meeting, giving a firm handshake – and remember, you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression!
2. Relax and enjoy the experience.
3. Be a good listener as well as talker.
4. Do make your points in a factual, logical and sincere manner. Highlight your professional and personal achievements. Be prepared to SELL YOURSELF!
5. Do indicate your commitment to a career in this line of work.
6. For sales positions always remember to ask how you have got on and whether you will be considered for a second interview.

For additional information on interview technique, see Alec’s career advice and Interview Skills Consulting.

Preparing for tests

Selling Exercises

Telephone Interview