Doing Well at Your Interview

  • How to prepare for difficult questions
  • How to make a good first impression
  • How to get a rapport with the interviewers
  • How to present yourself as the ideal candidate.

Ability, Visibility and Image

Recent research has uncovered three main factors that affect your career progression. First, is your ability; second is your ‘visibility’ or your ‘word of mouth’ reputation i.e. the extent to which your ability is already known to your prospective employers. You can influence your visibility by visiting your prospective employer for ‘a chat and a look round the place’ before you even apply for a job. Third, and the most significant factor, is your ‘image’, i.e. whether you look the part when you turn up at the interview. It is perhaps regarding your personal presentation that the ‘plus one’ rule might apply. You should dress as if you are currently employed or as if you are applying for a job that is one higher than the one you have now. The statistics are sobering. In a world where you only get one chance to make a first impression:

  • Your ability is important to 10% of prospective employers
  • Your visibility is important to 25% of prospective employers
  • Your image is important to 65% of prospective employers.

Preparing for interview questions

First, you should prepare yourself thoroughly to answer any interview questions that arise from statements you have made or gaps you have left in your CV. Next, even though you may not be asked them all you should rehearse concise answers - until you sound confident and natural - to the following ten questions:

  1. How was your journey?
  2. Tell me about yourself
  3. Why did you apply for this job?
  4. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  5. Why do you want to leave your current job?
  6. What did you learn on your college course that could be used in this job?
  7. Give me some examples that show that you are resilient/resourceful/punctual etc.
  8. What sort of problems have you faced at work?
  9. What do you know about our club?
  10. Do you have any questions?

Whilst some of these questions may seem a bit intimidating, you will find, as you start to ponder and rehearse some answers they will begin to seem less fearsome. An experienced interviewer will want to probe you to answer some of the questions in more depth, or in greater detail, e.g. ‘How did you handle that particular problem?’ or ‘What happened then?’

Aggressive interview questions

Some inexperienced and unprofessional interviewers may ask you questions that are designed to unsettle you. You should try and prepare answers to questions (if asked) like:

  1. Tell me why I should employ a person like you
  2. What is the worst mistake you have ever made at work?
  3. What makes you think you are better qualified than others for this job?
  4. What do you see yourself doing in 10 years time?
  5. What sort of money were you thinking of?

This ‘money’ question is a tricky one because it implies that the selection may be being made largely on the grounds of cost. It may be best to say that you would ‘be happy to talk about your salary after an offer, subject to agreement, has been made’.

Please note that these are types of general questions that either open an interview or open up a new topic for discussion.

Nerves, body language and rapport

Upon entering the premises and the interview room you should stride purposely forward, make direct eye contact and give your name clearly e.g. ‘Good morning (smiling), I’m John Smith, how do you do?’

Listen carefully to the names people give you and try to use them occasionally when you answer questions, this will help build a rapport, as will nodding at the interviewers as they speak or explain things to you.

Sit in an upright position and lean forward slightly to show that you are keen to answer their questions. Be prepared to use paper and a pen to draw diagrams etc. to help you give more meaningful answers. Good interviewers will understand that you may be nervous at the beginning of the interview and will make allowances. They will take you from topics that you should find it easy to talk about through to topics that are of real interest to them. For example before getting into your reasons for applying, they may ‘warm you up’ with an easy (rapport) question like ‘How was your journey?’ They might then ask a (transition) question like ‘Tell me about your current job’ and after that they may start on their areas of specific interest with questions like: ‘What experience do you have of preparing for tournament play?’

The ideal candidate

The ideal candidate for the job will have specific skills and personality traits that are listed on a document called the ‘employee specification’. You should ask for a copy of it before you apply for the job because you ‘don’t want to waste their time’. If the employer does not have the document then ask the employer in advance, preferably on a visit, ‘What sort of person are you looking for?’ Their specific answers can then inform all of your answers at the interview and you will be able to present yourself as the ideal candidate.

A positive attitude and a cheerful disposition

In general, most employers offer jobs to people with a positive attitude and a cheerful disposition. You should try and reflect these qualities in all your dealings with your prospective employers.

In summary then you will need to:

  • do some research, preferably by visiting your prospective employer
  • prepare for a wide range of good questions, and some bad ones, and expect to be probed
  • rehearse concise answers until you start to sound confident and natural
  • ‘look the part’ and present yourself as cheerful and positive.

The author is Frank Newberry, who offers further information on the following link: http://www.franknewberry.com/request.shtml .This link enables members to request CV Samples, Interview Advice and Negotiating Tips.