For many people, one of the most stressful things to do in life is going for an interview. In the hope that I can help, here is some advice from what to wear, to what to say, gathered from my own experiences, that of my friends and family, and also different articles written by employers on what they are looking for, and what they expect from each candidate.
Go back to the start – visit your CV
- You should know your CV inside and out. The things your interviewers will know about you will be from what you wrote about yourself, so they will probably refer back to it. There is little more embarrassing than forgetting what you wrote and being caught out.
- Do not embellish – James Williams of the University of Sussex, advises , “do not embellish your CV or work history or nudge a few grades up – even in subjects that you think don’t matter. A lie on an application or CV could see your place in training terminated or a job offer withdrawn. Be truthful at all times!”
- Make sure your referees are relevant, available and still happy to be contacted.
- Keep up with the times, and male sure your CV is up to date.
- “Don’t leave gaps in your work/education history. These are always looked at suspiciously” James Williams advises even further. And he’s right – your interviewer will wonder what you were doing and why you left a gap.
- Practice – both for the interview and for the job. Get some experience by talking to people and being questioned on your opinions, while also doing some voluntary or temporary work where you can observe the business in practice.
Possible Questions they may ask you
“How would you approach explaining a difficult concept?”
For your answer – Make this question specific to your area of expertise (e.g. teaching music or showing someone how to use a database). Refer to your past experiences or examples where you have done this successfully and reflect on why that worked well.
“Why do you want to be XYZ?”
For your answer: My advice for this is to be honest. This is one of the most common questions asked and many people will come across as having rote learned an answer they think is what they are meant to say. Endeavour to sound unique and sincere by being honest about yourself and your strengths – only you can talk about yourself in the most detailed and original way. Avoid clichés and refer to past experiences that refelect your dedication, knowledge and talents. And put a firm emphasis on the key area of work – for working in insureance it might be on protecting people, working as a vet is all about the animals, and teaching is all about the children. These are your priorities, according to Williams.
“How would you deal with an employee behaving inappropriately?”
For your answer: This refers to people who are responsible for other empoyees at a workplace, and relates to your discipline principles not specific experiences.
“What characteristics make a good XYZ?”
For your answer: Refer to your best qualities that make the job feel thought provoking, natural and enjoyable for you to do, as well as how you can benefit the institution by working there and how you will try to show them.
“How do your previous studies or experiences make you suitable to this job?” For your answer: Know your CV. If you are worried about your skills oe studies not seeming suitable or relevant for the job be inventive and creative in how they relate to the job.
On the day of the interview
- Dress smart, dress relevant and dress comfy. Try not to wear bold colours unless it is on a shirt accompanied by a standard office palette: black, blue, white and grey.
- Avoid bold or complicated jewelry, hair, accessories, hats or makeup. The more subtle you are, the more they will see the real you. You can where something that might be memorable – for university interview I wore black jeans, a suit jacket and a grey Mickey Mouse shirt – but make sure it is appropriate. A casual interview should be dress for as smart casual.
- If you take part in a group activitie, don’t forget or shy away from having your say. This is still part of the interview process, so they will be testing you to see how you cope on the spot in comparison to the others. But don’t get too carried away, you will probably be part of a team so remember that you are being judged on how well you work in a group.
- Arrive early. You know why.
- Take a pen and some scrap paper
- Turn your phone on silent without the annoying vibrate sound on
Smile (and the world will smile with you), stand up to shake hands, appear attentive and comfortable.
Don’t slouch or support your head with your band
Wait to be asked to sit.
If there is a panel, remember to look at all the interviewers.
Make eye contact.
Use gestures to emphasize your point, but don’t go mad with it – small gestures go a long way.
Some final words of advice
Though James speaks specifically about teaching, his final advice can be applied to many jobs. While reading this, replace the bold words with ones relevant to your subject or occupation. He says this:
‘The ideal candidate will show…a passion for teaching…and a passion for their subject…They will have thought about how their talents and skills match the qualities needed of a good teacher. They will be organized, aware of the stresses that teaching involves.’
He goes on to explain one of the key beliefs I hold about interviews – it goes both ways:
‘The interview is two way, you also need to assess if you like the provider and the people who are interviewing you. They will be keen to fill their places with good people and although there may be more applicants than places, you must be happy that you can work with the university and your tutor for the next nine months in what will be stressful times.’
I hope this helps prepare you for any upcoming interviews – it can be a stressful time, but it needn’t be if you give yourself a head start before you walk in the door to that interview room.