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Interview advice and interview tips to prepare for your perfect job interview

Interview Preparation

Having reached this stage of the selection process, you need to ensure that you do yourself justice - and preparation for your interview is the key to achieving success. Your interview is your chance to demonstrate to the interviewer that you have the right personality, qualifications, experience and relevant proven track record, and that your recruitment consultant was right to recommend you for interview with the company.

Preparation

It is essential that you prepare yourself as much as possible for your interview to make sure that you make the most of your opportunity. Preparation not only increases your chances of being successful; it will also build your confidence.

  • Be punctual - the key is to plan ahead so that you know how you are going to get to the interview and how much time to allow for the journey. If it helps, do a dummy run to the interview to ensure everything runs smoothly. On the day, leave home or work early and give yourself plenty of time. If, due to unexpected circumstances, being late suddenly becomes unavoidable, call your recruitment consultant so that they can inform your interviewer and explain the circumstances.
  • Research the company - your consultant will provide you with some information on the company, however you must have a good, solid understanding of the company’s expansion plans, goals, values and history. Demonstrate to the interviewer that you have taken the time to read the company's Annual Report and study their website. This will enable you to ask informed questions at your interview and show you are genuinely interested in learning about the company.
  • Know your CV - make sure you can clearly and succinctly detail your career history in 10 minutes, and be prepared to describe your roles, responsibilities and key achievements without waffling and seeming un-organised.
  • Practise questions and answers - take some time ahead of your interview to think about the types of questions you may be asked and also, to prepare some questions you might want to ask about the company and the position for which you are applying. You can discuss interview styles in more detail with your McCarthy consultant.

First Impressions

Remember: "You never get a second chance to make a first impression"! Don't underestimate the importance of making an impact in the first few minutes of meeting your interviewer. Remember that your first impression may also be to the receptionist or other staff - in fact, all the people you meet when going for interviews will be assessing how well you would fit in their company. So here are some general guidelines to help you make the right impression at the right time.

  • Make sure you know the correct name and title of the person interviewing you. If you are unsure about pronunciation, ask your McCarthy consultant for verification - and save yourself from an embarrassing mistake.
  • The smell of stale smoke can be off-putting, so if you are a smoker try not to smoke just before the interview - no matter how nervous you may feel
  • Dress to impress and dress appropriately. Research the dress code of the company and ask your McCarthy consultant for advice. Then, whether you opt for casual or smart business attire, you will make the right impression - and it shows you’ve done your homework.
  • Whatever the dress code, ensure your clothes are clean and well ironed - and pay attention to your personal grooming too. Dirty nails and unkempt hair will be noticed by the interviewer, for example, as will any problem with personal freshness. And no matter how stressful the interview, you don’t want to get yourself noticed for the wrong reasons.
  • If you want to convey confidence, keep an eye on your body language throughout the interview. Start with a firm handshake, sit comfortably but avoid slouching, place your hands on your knees - and remember to smile.

Interview Approach

  • A crucial way to have a successful interview is by ensuring your manner is positive and that you are polite, bright and enthusiastic throughout the interview. You need to demonstrate that you are a motivated individual and one who can show passion for the role and company that you are applying to.
  • Be natural - ensure you maintain good eye contact throughout the interview. Look interested, listen actively and give the occasional nod of agreement or understanding - and remember to say please and thank you wherever it is appropriate.
  • Make sure that if you are being interviewed by a number of interviewers, you address the whole of the room whilst focusing the answer on the individual who asked the question.
  • Build a relationship with the interviewer, use the time for you to ask questions to ask them why they enjoy working for the company, try to identify your potential manager and develop a connection with them.
  • Sell yourself - this is your opportunity to explain what you have achieved in your career, so ensure you are factual and concise in your answers and always back achievements up with solid examples.
  • Listen to the questions and if you need further clarification ask for them to repeat it, then take a deep breath and think about what you are going to say. It is far better to take time to answer a question, than to waffle on or miss the point altogether. Remember to answer the questions you are asked, rather than answer to your own agenda.
  • Try to avoid talking about salary and benefits; if you have questions regarding this talk to your McCarthy consultant who will know the answers. This will save you appearing to the interviewer as though this is your main focus rather than the opportunity. Use the interview time to demonstrate what you can offer, rather than putting emphasis on what package the company can offer to you.
  • Don’t be negative about your current or previous employer. If you are asked why you want to leave your current role, talk about the reasons why you want to join their company and avoid the temptation to be critical. In short, remain professional at all times.

Interview Questions

You will be asked many different questions at your interview. Some will be standard questions you can easily predict - but other questions may be more unexpected. However, the better you prepare, the better your position - and the greater your confidence. So, focus your preparation around what you and your McCarthy consultant believe to be the key competencies and skills of the job for which you are applying.

Write down some of the questions and think about how you would approach the answers. Try rehearsing with your friends or family, but don’t fall into the trap of repeating your answers in parrot fashion. Keep it natural. Try writing out your answers too as this will help you commit the information to memory.

Frequently asked Interview Questions

There are many different kinds of questions you could be asked at your interview, covering topics such as your career, personality and motivation. Below you will find a list of the most frequently asked questions to help you in your preparation.

Career Questions:

  • Why did you move from Employer X to Employer Y
    (It is important for you to be able to explain why you have moved to different jobs, but you do not want to appear a job hopper. The company will be looking to invest heavily in your training and development, so they will be wary if you seem to have moved companies on a regular basis. They want to be confident you will stay with them, so be prepared to discuss and explain your reasons for leaving and don’t be evasive).
  • Describe your career history to date and your achievements.
  • What are your career aspirations?
  • What were your responsibilities in each role?
  • Why do you want to join our company?
  • What kind of people do you like working with?
  • What kind of people do you find most difficult to work with? Why?
  • What are your current KPIs and how are you performing against them?
  • Who would you say are our competitors?
  • How do you schedule your time? Are you good at setting priorities?
  • How do you measure customer service?

Personality Questions:

  • How would you describe your management style?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would your friends and colleagues describe you?
  • How do you deal with pressure?
  • What would you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?
  • What is the toughest decision you have had to make, whilst at your present company?

Motivation Questions:

  • What motivates you to be successful?
  • What has been your greatest achievement?
  • Give some instances in which you have anticipated problems or influenced new direction

Open Question?

  • Tell me about yourself
    (If asked this question, be prepared to talk openly about yourself. Don’t be tempted to waffle - be open about yourself to enable the interviewer to get to know you, but make sure you answer in a structured manner)

Competency Based Questions:

A competency or behavioral interview question is one whereby you are asked to provide an example of a past situation to demonstrate you have a particular skill. Interviewers seek to obtain information about your past behaviour as they believe this is the best predictor to future behaviour.

Interviewers will be looking for you to provide specific examples about exactly what you did in such situations, not what others did or what you would do hypothetically. You will be asked to discuss your answer in detail, you will often be probed on the example and you will need to ensure you can qualify your answer - interviewers are often particularly interested in the outcome of the situation. Examples of competency questions include:

Leadership

  • Can you give me an example of an occasion where you have been required to show resilience in order to overcome a difficult situation or tough trading conditions?
  • Can you tell me about a time when you have empowered your team or an individual in order to gain commitment for completing a task?

Teamwork

  • Can you give me an example when you have had to launch a new business initiative to the team. How did you launch it? How did you ensure everyone understood the benefit of the launch?
  • Can you give me an example where you have taken over a new team and you have improved team morale? What steps did you take to understand your team and how did you measure your success?
  • Tell me about a time when you have worked efficiently as part of a team?

Customer Service

  • Can you give me an example of when you have exceeded a customer’s expectations?
  • What actions have you taken in the past to improve customer service?
  • Describe an occasion when you have received praise relating to the levels of customer service that you have delivered.

Planning and Organising

  • Describe a time when you had to take on extra work at short notice, talk to me about how you prioritised tasks and what the outcome was?
  • How do you monitor the progress of tasks or projects?
  • How do you manage your time and objectives?

End of Interview:

Be prepared to ask a number of questions, as most interviewers will give you an opportunity for this at the end of your interview. You can plan your questions in advance with your McCarthy consultant and whilst researching the company. Asking informed questions at this point shows you have a genuine interest in the position for which you are being interviewed. Remember not to be negative and try to ask open questions, which enable the interviewer to open up and discuss the organisation with you. Examples of the questions you might ask include:-

  • What are the opportunities for training and development?
  • What are the organisation’s future plans?
  • Could you tell me about your experience in the company?

If you feel confident and you have built a good rapport with the interviewer, ask them when the next stage of the recruitment process will be. Don’t be afraid to say you have enjoyed meeting them and make sure you thank the interviewer for their time - then smile and leave with a strong hand shake and good eye contact.