You’re hired – if you can nail the interview

Westerly21 Alan Sugar (Image by Westerly21)

It may not feel like it but according to the Office for National Statistics the number of people in work rose during the last three months of 2012.

Unemployment fell by 12,500 to 1.54 million, while the number of people in work rose by 154,000 during the same period.

None of these figures suggest an imminent escape from recession but they suggest the job market is stirring.

And if it is, then we can expect to see a return in confidence from those who already have jobs as they dust down their CVs and look to make their next move.

Finding a job is hard work. Finding the perfect vacancy takes a degree of dedication, then there’s the effort to tailor your CV, draft a killer letter to go with it or complete the application form. – which can be a fulltime job itself. Check out this communications graduate’s experience of drawing up CVs and filling in application forms.

And that’s before you compile your portfolio.

And even after all the effort the odds are against you getting an interview. Higher numbers are chasing the most surprising jobs – 1700 applied for eight jobs at a Costa Coffee Store.

So if you do get the golden ticket and secure an interview how can you make sure you’re the one that walks away with the job?

Your efforts have already set you aside as one of the most impressive applicants. You’ve potentially beaten off hundreds of others. But at the interview you’re up against the cream of the crop – a group whose talent and experience matches yours – on paper at least. You know you’re the best so how can you convince the interviewers?

Firstly, don’t dread the interview. How many other times in life do you get to sit in a room with people and tell them how fantastic you are? And they have to listen. So you have to make sure you tell them exactly what you want them to hear.

If you’re not confident or have missed out at interview stage on other jobs it might be worth investing in some professional help. Martin Macleod, director at specialist training company Skillstudio believes half a day spent face to face with a skilled coach could pay a quick return on your investment if you get the job.

Tell me about yourself

There are some questions you know will come up – the classic icebreaker is always a variant on “Tell me about yourself”. This isn’t your cue to give your life story but an opportunity to highlight aspects of your experience that set you apart – your major achievements. You know this question is coming so plan it, rehearse it and then deliver it with a smile when they ask you.

Lots of organisations have standard interview questions. Conservative HR culture and the fear of reprisals means many interviews are structured to avoid giving any candidate the chance to complain they were unsuccessful on grounds of being treated differently to other candidates.

But you should still expect the odd curve ball – maybe not as curly as these but there’ll always be one question you haven’t prepared for.

One communications manager asked candidates to name a broadcaster or journalist they admired. There was no right or wrong answer but it meant candidates had to think on their feet, provide an answer to a question they maybe weren’t expecting and demonstrate a tiny bit of knowledge about their chosen field.

Another sales manager asked candidates to recommend a book they’d read or a film they’d seen. There was no trick here to weed out the Bond fans from Booker prize winners. He wanted to know if his potential employees could take a complicated plot, distil it down to a simple message and convince him to read it or see it. Could they sell him the concept?

Prepare for the end

Don’t forget to prepare your ending. Almost all interviews finish with “Is there anything you’d like to ask us.” This isn’t your chance to enquire about the nuts and bolts – negotiating terms and conditions is what you do when they make you a job offer. Instead this is your opportunity to turn the tables on your interviewers and show you’re interested in them, their organisation or their customers.

Ask the interviewer why they are proud to work for their company, or to tell you about the people you’d be working with, a project you’d have to pick up or even ask them about t something they think the company could improve.

If you’re really confident you can always unveil the killer interview question – ask your interviewers if they’ve seen anything of you in the interview which suggests you couldn’t do the job. Explain that if they have any doubts you’d like them to tell you, so you can reassure them you are the best candidate.

And remember to smile as you leave the room. Whatever company manuals tell you about equality and impartiality, interviewers recruit people they’d like to work with.

Make sure you convince them you’re the one.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “You’re hired – if you can nail the interview

  1. Pingback: You’re hired – if you can nail the interview | weeklyblogclub

  2. Pingback: The Untitled One | weeklyblogclub

  3. Some really good interview tips and a great list of ‘curveball’ questions.

  4. Chris

    I once had this advice from an excellent outplacement coach – “managers employ staff they like. They are going to spend more daytime with their colleagues than with their family and they want to work with people they get on with” So make yourself likeable. Smile, engage with everyone in the room, make eye contact, use open body language and try to use concise and positive language.

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