Category Archive Interview advice

Top interview tip: Everyone matters

As a senior recruiter, I recall being bemused by candidates who were personable and friendly toward me as the interviewer, yet were dismissive or cold with junior team members or support staff they encountered.

When you are involved in an interview process, remember that everyone you encounter can have an influence on whether you secure the role.  From the assistant who arranges your appointment to the receptionist who greets you on arrival, all these members of the organisation are forming an impression of you.

Hiring managers often like to know what other people think of a candidate, especially if it is small company or if there are several comparable candidates available. Recruiters will also discuss their impression with other team members if they need a second opinion.

Being charming and affable will also show an employer that you are happy to be there and genuinely want the job. Remember to be courteous, smile, and make good eye contact with all those you encounter.

Dressing for success: Interview presentation

Personal presentation and grooming when attending an interview is sometimes overlooked by candidates. While interviewers are primarily focused on skills, education, and experience, a candidate’s personal appearance is undoubtedly influential in their decision about which candidate they want on their team. Imagine you have two candidates in front of you for an office role who are equally matched in terms of skills and experience. One is wearing a crisp suit, shirt and tie, is well scrubbed and groomed, while the other is poorly groomed and dressed casually. Who would you choose?

Looking clean, tidy, and professional shows an employer you value the opportunity of meeting them and you want the job because you have made every effort to impress. Good presentation can have a genuine impact on your chances of success, particularly where others have made less effort. It is particularly important for roles where there is a strong client-facing aspect to the job.

There are two common situations where candidates regularly miss an opportunity by not making enough effort in their presentation. One occurs when often younger candidates apply for casual work in fields such as retail and customer service and they may feel it is not necessary to attend the interview ‘suited and booted’. However, it is common to see a candidate beat the competition because they were the only one who went the extra mile and wore a suit or shirt and tie.

Another common situation occurs when recruitment agencies interview candidates. Candidates may feel it is not necessary to make as much effort because they are not meeting the employer directly. However, recruiters are assessing you on behalf of the employer and are just as likely to be influenced by your presentation and shortlist you accordingly.

Losing out on a position due to personal presentation issues is very easy to avoid. Some of the basics when attending an interview include:

  • Dress professionally and appropriately to the workplace (e.g. business attire for office roles)
  • Wash, clean shave or trim beards, and tidy hair
  • Smell pleasant, but avoid overly strong perfumes or aftershaves
  • Jewellery is acceptable but keep it to a minimum
  • Handbags should be modest in size and neutral in appearance
  • Shoes should be clean, polished and appropriate to the work environment

 

 

The Competency Interview

Examples. Examples. Examples.

Competency interviews can be a daunting prospect if you have never encountered them before. However, with a bit of preparation and lots of examples in mind they are very manageable.

Competency interviews can be entirely focused on a role’s competencies or employers may include them along with other more standard interview questions. Either way the focus will be on the key skills and abilities required for the position. Employers find them useful as it allows them to use your past performance to predict your likely future performance in the role they are hiring for. It also make it easier for them to directly compare various candidates. Rather than asking you specific questions, you may simply be asked to describe an example of an occasion where you displayed a particular competency. For example, an interviewer might say:

‘I am now going to move on to the competency component of the interview. The first competency I would like you to deal with is problem solving

In order to answer this type of question it is necessary to describe in detail an example of a time when you displayed the relevant competency. Preparation is really important for competency questions. If you prepare your competency examples in advance you will have a much better chance of dealing with them effectively on the day. Remember that employers are not looking to hear general statements such as ‘I am great at solving problems’. Instead, they want to hear a real example of a time you showed that skill and what you actually did.

Occasionally, interviewers will provide a list of competencies in advance. However, they can mostly be found within the candidate requirements of the job specification. Study this section carefully as it will help you understand what the employer is looking for.

The STAR technique

One of the most useful ways of preparing for a competency-based interview is to consider the STAR technique. STAR stands for:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

When using this method you need to describe the situation that occurred, what task you carried out, what action you took, and the result or outcome.

Here is a simple example for the competency problem solving:

The situation: ‘I had just taken on a new position as office manager when I noticed that staff were spending a lot of time dealing with slow and poorly performing computers.’

The task: ‘I set about pricing a range of new computers and worked out how much productivity would increase from the enhanced performance of new machines.’

The action: ‘I presented the information to the managing director and we purchased the new equipment.’

The result: ‘Staff were more productive as they were able to do their work more rapidly and there was less downtime due to IT problems.’

There are a wide range of competencies for any given position so prepare lots of examples and remember the STAR technique. It will help structure your examples and stay focused.

Some common competencies are:

    • Teamwork
    • Initiative
    • Organising & planning
    • Communication
    • Decision making
    • Motivation
    • Resilience
    • Conflict management
    • Problem solving
    • Customer-focus
    • Commercial awareness
    • Leadership
    • Adaptability
    • Analytical thinking
    • Listening
    • Influencing
    • Results/target orientation
    • Developing others
    • Relationship management

Practice your Performance: Interview Questions

Imagine giving a pitch to a business or a presentation to a class without preparing any material. Most of us would find ourselves struggling for ideas and find it difficult to give a structured presentation in a coherent and focused manner. The same principle applies to job interviews. Being prepared and knowing how you will answer a question is vitally important.

One of the best things you can do before an interview is to practice answering interview questions out loud. While it may seem strange at first, it will help you formulate your answers and think of examples. It will also help you feel more confident and relaxed going into your interview. While it is impossible to predict exactly what you will be asked, most interviewers commonly ask at least some of the following questions.

Sample interview questions:

    • What made you apply for this position?
    • Why are you interested in working with us?
    • What motivates you to work in this career?
    • Tell me about yourself.
    • How would a friend or former employer describe you?
    • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    • Tell me about a problem you encountered in a previous role, how you went about resolving it and whether or not you were successful?
    • Have you ever been involved in implementing a new system or procedure?
    • How would you deal with a difficult client/customer?
    • Do you have experience managing competing priorities?
    • Do you prefer to work in a team or alone?
    • Tell me about an occasion where there was a conflict in your team. How was it resolved?
    • Describe a time when you used your initiative.
    • How do you organise your working day?
    • This is a high-pressure job. How will you cope with that?
    • Tell me about a time you worked towards a tight deadline.
    • What is your greatest achievement?
    • Where do you see yourself in five years from now?
    • Describe your dream job.
    • What qualities can you bring to this role?
    • What do you do in your spare time?
    • If I gave you a million euro, what would you do?
    • Sell me this pen.
    • If you could be any fruit, which one would you be?
    • Why should I choose you instead of another candidate?
    • You’re overqualified for this job, aren’t you?
    • What are the qualities of a good manager?