Whether you’re looking for your first role post-qualification, relocating or seeking promotion, interviews can be the toughest part finding a new position.
While there’s a tiny element of luck involved in interviews, thorough preparation is essential. You need to know what to expect and be in the best position you can be to land your dream role.
Do your homework
Research is paramount to making sure you come across as well-informed, hungry for success and passionate about the role you’re interviewing for. Make sure you fully understand who the firm are, what they do and who their clients are.
Once you’ve checked out their website and searched for information and recent news articles, you need to be able to apply what you’ve learnt to your experience and skill set and demonstrate how you are the perfect fit.
Know what’s coming
Your consultant should explain who you’ll be meeting; look them up.
They’ll also tell you about the format of the interview, whether there will be a non-verbal assessment like a psychometric test or written project, and give you tips on how you should pitch yourself to the specific firm or individual.
Master your CV
You’ll have been invited to interview based on the strength of your CV and it’s likely that the bulk of the interview will revolve around its content.
Ensure you’re fully conversant in any particular areas you’ve shown knowledge of in your CV, and experience that’s particularly relevant to the role you’re going for. You should also be prepared to answer questions on anything that may be an obvious target (such as gaps in your employment history).
On the day
Look the part and arrive on time
Never underestimate the power of first impressions. It will take seconds for an experienced interviewer to form an opinion of you based on your appearance, demeanour and body language. Make sure you’re well-groomed and dressed appropriately to avoid the risk of creating a negative first impression.
Punctuality is also important in demonstrating your professionalism. Allow yourself plenty of time to get to where you need to be and arrive around 10 minutes early. Give yourself a chance to absorb your surroundings, collect your thoughts and compose yourself.
During the interview
Appear enthusiastic but professional
When you first meet the interviewer(s), make eye contact and offer a firm handshake.
Demonstrate that you have the confidence to quickly build trust. If you’re unable to put the interviewer at ease and communicate your professionalism, it’s highly unlikely that they’ll have belief in your ability to command the confidence of their clients. Convince the interviewer that you have what it takes to do the job competently with enthusiasm and charm.
And remember, it doesn’t hurt to show that you’re friendly and good to have around. Don’t be afraid to go slightly off-track. Talk about common interests to build rapport; you never know, you might find that the interviewer is also an avid traveller, supports the same football team or likes sailing, but don’t go overboard.
Structure your answers
Stay calm, breathe, and listen carefully. If you don’t understand a question, don’t be afraid to ask for clarification. An interviewer will be far more impressed by your honesty than they would be if you were to ramble on about something completely irrelevant.
When answering questions, don’t launch into a narrative without providing any context. The STAR technique (situation, target, action, result) is one way of structuring your responses. Focus on an aspect of a project that you personally took responsibility for and give compelling examples of instances where you took initiative. If you’re interviewed by a panel, make sure you direct your responses to each person equally.
If you’re asked a particularly difficult question, take your time when answering. Tough questions aren’t intended as a personal attack, more an opportunity for you to perform well under pressure.
If you’re caught off guard, don’t panic and focus on your response. A potentially tricky question might give you another chance to apply your intellect and creativity. If you stumble, remember that a slightly ham-fisted answer is likely to seem a much bigger deal to you than the interviewer.
Don’t talk money
Talking about pay is difficult. An increase in salary might have been one of the reasons for applying for the role in the first place, it’s not wise to consider salary or benefits in isolation. Bringing up the matter of pay unprovoked will undermine the genuine interest you have in the position and could jeopardise your standing as a serious candidate.
The best place to frankly discuss your salary expectations beforehand with your consultant. This will ensure that you’re both on the same page and their expert knowledge of your sector makes them well positioned to offer advice on the package you should expect. To save you from any awkward conversation during the interview, your consultant will deftly handle the money issue on your behalf and communicate your thoughts to the partner when the time is right.
Ask sensible questions
Every interview should be a dialogue; the interviewer must gauge if you’re suitable for the firm and you need to find out if the firm is right for you. When you’re invited to ask questions, be clear about the essential information you need and carefully consider the interviewer’s standpoint and experience.
You will have your own carefully chosen questions but it is often worth asking about the firm’s development plans for the next 12-months if you don’t already know. What does the interviewer like most about working for the firm? Is he/she being truthful? Think about the questions that’ll give you an insight into what real life at the firm is like and establish whether you have found the perfect home for your talents.
At the earliest opportunity make notes about how you feel things went. Your view might change over time, so take care to capture the immediacy of your gut reaction. Write down the questions you were asked and think about how satisfied you were with your answers? Equally, think carefully about your impressions of the employer. Do you still want to work for them?
Contact your consultant
Soon after leaving the interview, get in touch with your recruiter and let them know how it went. Talking with someone about the interview could help you to process your thoughts and speaking with your consultant will help to relay your feedback to the interviewer.
While the interview process can be challenging, making sure you’re properly prepared and have done your research will help make the experience easier and more rewarding. What’s more, you’ll be better-equipped to communicate your strengths, relevant experience and most importantly, what you can offer the firm.
Ready to make that important next move? Realm Recruit is here to help you.
At Realm, we’re experts in helping people find roles they love. From the minute you first get in touch, we’ll be there for you. We’ll give you the honest advice you need and guide you every step of the way. Contact us today to find your next big career move. Call 03300 245 606 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.