The letter has arrived with the offer of an interview. At first your amazed, then you’re delighted and then… terrified! Does this sound familiar?
Here are a few tips on how to prepare and cope with the stress of interviews.
Whether you have had lots of interviews or you are getting ready for your first, the key to success is good preparation.
You might be invited for an interview for:
Not all interviews are the same; they can range from an informal chat to a formal process which is made up of several stages that could take several hours and included practical or written tests.
You have an invitation to interview, time to start planning. If you have a letter or e-mail invitation, start by reading it carefully. Is there anything that you have to do before the interview date?
This might include:
Do some research on the course, college or company; there may be an interview question that tests your knowledge about what you might be studying or where you may work. You can use the internet for your research but you could also use personal contacts if you know someone who works/studies there. Don’t be afraid to contact them to ask for a company brochure or information.
You need to find out:
Plan how you will get to the interview (and if you were successful how you would get there each day).
Plan your journey to arrive between 15-20 minutes early which will give you a chance to re-read any notes that you have made or just take a few moments for yourself before the interview. You could also try out the journey in advance to make sure you are confident with it.
As a general rule, parents or carers should not attend the interview with you. However, if you have some extra learning needs they will have been involved in your Education Health and Care plan and may want to discuss this with support staff.
Check timetables for public transport at Traveline on 0871 2002233 or visit the Traveline website here.
What you wear can make a big impression at the interview so plan your outfit carefully. You want to make a really positive impression. As a minimum, you should choose clean smart clothes and shoes, even if the job requires you to dress casually.
Here are a few other tips:
There are a number of different styles of interview. You may not know until you have arrived what sort of interview you will have but it may be:
Re-read the information you have (job advert and company information). Also look at your application form or CV - as they will ask you about what you have written.
Think about the questions the may ask, you can prepare answers to some of the likely question types:
Demonstrate what you know about the employer questions
Provide examples to show your competence:
Think about what qualities you have that make you the right person for the job. If it helps, make notes that show how your skills relate to the job or course and be prepared to talk about them.
On the day of the interview, remember:
Interview questions are designed to explore your skills and abilities. They give you the opportunity to talk about yourself in a positive way. The interviewer will generally not try to trip you up with awkward or difficult questions.
You may be asked:
If you are asked a 'situational' or 'scenario based' question such as “Give me an example of when you had to deal with a difficult person and what do you do?"
They are looking for you to give a logical, well thought out answer. There is a technique which uses the acronym STAR to structure the answer:
Situation – what was the situation and why was it a problem?
Task – what needed to be done to work it out?
Action – what did you do to resolve the difficulty?
Result – What happened as a result of your action?
So, for example, if the question is:
“Tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult situation at work?”
The answer may be structured:
(Situation) One of our team was off on long-term sick but we had a deadline for a piece of work which was due.
(Task) We had to share out that person's work to make sure it was completed by the deadline.
(Action) We all agreed to take on 20% of the work and monitor the progress towards the deadline on a weekly basis.
(Result) The outcome was that we met the deadline but we had all pulled together to do so, it meant that we felt closer as a team.
The key to using this method is not to choose something too complicated as an issue, and not anything that shows you or your company in a negative light. Always make the result positive and a learning example.
At the end of most interviews, you will be given the opportunity to ask questions. This is your opportunity to clarify anything you want to about the job or get in any information that you have been able to before.
You could ask:
When the interview is over, thank the interviewers for their time and ask (if you have not been told already) when you will hear from them.
Presentations are a way of asking a candidate to answer a question in a practical way. You might be given a topic in advance to prepare your presentation; you can then undertake research and perhaps use technology such as PowerPoint to deliver the presentation. This approach may be used for roles where presenting, teaching or training is part of the job.
If the topic is in the form of a question, make sure that your presentation answers it, this sounds obvious but it is a common mistake. For example, if you are asked to do a presentation where you review a product or service and say how you would develop it; the presentation should focus less on the critical review and more on your role in development. Skills that a presentation can demonstrate include confidence, public speaking, research, problem-solving, creativity and IT skills.
Some employers and universities like to give group challenges, or tasks, to see how well applicants can work together as a team. This is often the case for jobs which have a focus on providing a service to the public or working closely with others.
These can be fun, like building a chair out of paper or making a bridge out of straws, or serious, such as planning a new shopping centre or discussing the care of an elderly person. The employer is looking for the way in which you gel with others as a team. People often take on natural roles in a group and this sort of task allows observers to see collaboration and cooperation in action.
Skills that group tasks highlight include:
Tests are used to allow you to show your skills and abilities in a controlled way. If, for example, you want to work in a clerical or administrative job you might be asked to take a typing test which determines how fast you type, but also how accurate you are. The armed forces use entrance tests to decide which role you are suited to. Some industries such as electrical installation or plumbing may use entrance tests as a requirement for work in that industry.
Work trials are used mainly in skills-based jobs, where you have to be good at practical tasks. For example, this may mean spending a day or two in a workshop being observed doing the job. Work trials can also be used in jobs providing a service to the public, for example, someone applying to become a social worker assistant may have to work alongside a social worker as part of the application process.