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Top Tips for Interviews – An interviewer’s point of view

I’ve actually lost count as to how many people I’ve interviewed in the past, but I think I’m reaching the triple figure mark. My previous article which was based on interviews was for interviewers. This article is written for those people who are looking for jobs. It’s a purely personal article i.e. what I feel as an interviewer, and I’m sure that many other interviewers will disagree with what I say. However, I don’t really care, as there are just as many interviewers who are like me, and it always pays to be prepared!

1. Forget everything to do with the interview for now, and concentrate on the application. If it is a competency-based application, clearly demonstrate how you meet both the essential and desirable competencies. If you don’t do that, you’re going straight into the bin.

Check your grammar and spelling and please, for the love of God, if you say you pride yourself on accurate typing skills and spelling ….. PROOF READ AND SPELL CHECK BEFORE YOU SEND IT IN. I’ve lost count of the number of people who say that, only to make a mistake in either the statement or the paragraphs bracketing it.

Once you think you’ve finished the application, get a couple of friends, or even a manager to look it over before you send it off. They will always have something to say, mistakes to find, and ways that you can improve it. Whether you agree with what they have to say, you will always get feedback that you can learn from.

2. On the ‘please state why you think you’re worthy of our time’ section, aka the Supporting Statement, this is the opportunity to truly sell yourself. As I’ve stated above, you need to make sure that you match it to the competencies or skill areas specified in the job description. Use at least one example for every heading and make sure that you go into enough depth that the sifter can see just how amazing you are, without having to read an essay.

Statements such as ‘Please refer to my CV’ will get you nowhere if you’re applying on a form that states it will be used in place of a CV. It demonstrated a certain lack of detail.

The whole point of form-based applications is that they are geared to;

A) saving time and resources on sifting through applications
B) ensuring that the information supplied is as job-specific as it can be

Therefore, referring to a CV that is generic is pointless and will you being sifted right away.

3. Moving on to the interview stage. There are some very simple things to remember before the actual interview starts.

Polish your shoes, iron your shirt, tie your tie with the top button of your freshly ironed shirt done up. Wash and comb your hair, and don’t have a smoke just before the interview. If you can’t make an effort to look smart for one day, for a job that you’ve applied for, how can the interviewer believe that you will stay focused and committed to quality? People DO judge on looks and personal hygiene. Most people form an idea i.e. LIKE or DISLIKE, in under five seconds. Whether you agree with that doesn’t matter one bit if the interviewer does.

A personal peeve of mine is people who wear ‘fashion’ shirts and ties. I’m not looking for someone who knows how to dress to go on the pull, I’m looking for someone who I can develop, work with, and hopefully take to meet potential customers. Dress smart, but at the same time dress down. ‘Funny’ ties just aren’t.

When people greet you, look them in the eyes and for God’s sake don’t shake their hands as if you’re worried they might have leprosy. You need to be affirmative without being arrogant.

4. Research the role. Quite often a question will arise where the interviewer asks ‘what do you know about us, our services and our products?’ if you haven’t bothered to learn anything, this will cause a very awkward silence that is filled by the interviewer making careful note of the fact that you couldn’t be arsed to do a bit of research.

Not only does this display an amazing lack of initiative – yes, you can actually be scored on this!- it’s bloody rude and crass ignorance. Don’t waste the interviewer’s time. If they’re anything like me, they’ll have been interviewing for two or more days straight, and having people not even bother to learn a bit about the company is annoying.

If you’re stuck for research on the Internet, have a look around their reception, you nearly always find a bit of gumph about the company and there products. I’ve actually seen candidates set next to leaflets that over all of the services we offer, and stare vacantly into space.

5. If you’re given a tour of the premises make the most of the time to ask pertinent questions and get any further knowledge of the company you have out. I guarantee that when you’re gone, the way you behaved on the tour and anything you said will be fed back to the panel. We’re sneaky like that!

6. Look at the skills or competencies listed in the job specification and ensure that you have at least one example that you can use to demonstrate your ability in this area. Don’t use the same example multiple times, keep it fresh and keep the interviewer interested. Remember that this is your chance to sell yourself and if the interviewer has to dig for the answers too much, you’re going to lose points.

7. Make notes during the interview, especially of the questions asked, and make sure that you cross off any questions you might have had if they get answered.

That way, if you’re unsuccessful the first time, you can always improve for the second! Seriously though, the reason for this is that whilst you’re writing you’re internalising the question and getting a better idea of what’s being asked.

The second benefit of doing this is that you can use the time taken to write the question as a way of slowing the interview down and formulating an answer at the same time.

8. Whether you are an outgoing or verbose person or not, single sentence – or indeed monosyllabic – answers don’t cut the mustard. I’m looking for people that can fit into my team – for example – and having to work to get the answers that I’m looking for is going to sway me towards a big fat NO when it comes to scoring.

Interviewers are looking for people that are smart, bright, interesting and who will slot into the existing team as smoothly as possible. You only have yourself to blame if you don’t get the job.

9. Finally, if you don’t get the job, ask for proper feedback. Find out where they believe you let yourself down, and see if you can work out a better response for next time. It if was an internal job, ask the head of the interview panel for more details as to where you actually lost points, and even ask for an example as to what sort of answer you could give.

About mattsylvester

Father of two beautiful daughters and married to the beautiful Karen, Matthew has been reading and writing fantasy and science fiction since he first read the Hobbit at the age of 7.


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