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Preparing for a Job Interview

A good application will gain you access to the interview room, but from then on it’s important to make sure you measure up to your aspirations.

Think of yourself as a brand” (Frances Boddington, the president of the Federation of Image Consultants). In addition to exploring your experience and abilities, interviewers are judging your values, which you can demonstrate through your appearance, behaviour and communication skills; preparation and timekeeping are essential.

Preparation

Research the sector and the company, make sure you are up to speed with the context of the role you are applying for and update yourself regarding the latest developments.

Think about what you may be asked and prepare your answers in advance. You may also want to prepare some questions of your own for the panel.

Plan your journey, leave yourself plenty of time and don’t get caught out; you can always spend a little time going through your notes if you arrive early. Make sure you have a contact number with you so that if you are unavoidably delayed you can call ahead. Switch your mobile off before you enter the room.

Not all of the impression you make at interview will be based on what you say. More than you might expect depends on how you say it and on your appearance. Dressing for the job you aspire to can help people picture you in the role.

In the Interview

Body language

From the moment you walk into the room you begin to create an impression about what sort of person you are and what kind of employee you would make. Even when you are not speaking, you are still communicating.

Top tips:

  • Even though your knees may be knocking, try to enter at your normal pace.
  • When it comes to shaking hands, ‘firm but friendly’; nobody likes a limp handshake, but avoid bone crunching, which can denote arrogance, aggression or overcompensation for lack of confidence.
  • Eye contact is vital, but don’t overdo it. Avoid staring. In a panel situation take care to address everyone in the room.
  • Smiling helps you to relax and makes you appear approachable; it can also help to put an enthusiastic expression into your voice.
  • Sitting up makes you look attentive; leaning forward a little can indicate an active interest.
  • Physical gestures should be minimal but open. Palms up and open suggest honesty. Avoid pointing or banging fists on the table to emphasise a point.
  • An interview is a two-way process. When responding or presenting, read your interviewer’s body language. Folded arms and leaning away could mean you are losing their interest.

Questions

Most interviews take a structured route. Each of the panel members will have a number of questions to ask. You should remember that the interview is a two way process designed to get the best from the applicant, so don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if you don’t understand what you are being asked.

Keep your answers to the point, expand to demonstrate experience and above all be honest. If you do not have experience of a situation say so but add what you would do faced with the situation, or think of a similar example to demonstrate your ability or behaviour.

The salary will have been advertised with the vacancy and should not therefore need to be discussed at this point. However, if for example your last role was more senior than the one on offer the interviewer will want to understand why you have decided to take this step, so be prepared to talk about it.

The interview presents an opportunity for you to discover more about the company and the role. For example, you may want to ask who you would report to, why the situation is vacant and what the promotion prospects are.

After the interview

Analyse your interview performance, and try to remember the questions and your responses as you may be able to improve on your performance in the future. Whether you are successful or not, ask for feedback so you can learn from the experience and prepare for the next step. If you are not successful this time you may want to apply again so remember that feedback is not obligatory but discretionary, and use it constructively as a means of improving, not as a reason to argue with the hiring manager.

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