ADVICE FOR GRADS: Interviews

When it comes to interviews, many people will agree that it can be pretty nerve wracking. The thought of having to sell yourself for an hour or sometimes more to complete strangers and convince them that you are the best person for the job, is indeed daunting. Trying to secure a job is so much more than just having a qualification or a certain skill and being available to fill a vacancy; a luxury that may once existed 15 or so years ago. In summary, the application process is long and stressful. However, there are so many things you can do to give yourself the best chance in progressing in the interview process. So just as it says on the tin, I am sharing with you some tips for interviews that I have gathered along the way of my (very) early career!

The application process:

This is by far the longest part as you have to fill out all the admin and ensure your CV is up to date and strong, and you may also be required to write a cover letter. Nonetheless this first step is crucial to hook a company in, so get a friend or a colleague to look at your CV and gain vital feedback. Make sure your name and contact details stand out, that any grammar mistakes are corrected and that each of the jobs or work experience you have had, demonstrate that you are a qualified candidate for the role. If you are applying for various different roles, do vary your CV accordingly to fit the position (and attach the correct one to the application… I once had an embarrassing conversation with a recruiter regarding a job I applied for, with my CV stating my passion for a completely different sector… awkward.) 

Do not wait until the end of closing date to apply for the job, it is not unusual for job adverts to close early if they have had a lot of interest from candidates. That being said, take your time with the application to not make silly mistakes such as saying that you’re conscientious but fail to spot your spelling mistakes (or sending in the wrong CV- oops). You may also have to answer some screening questions or take part in a test, ensure that you are in a quiet environment and are focused.

Congratulations, you have been invited to a telephone interview:

You meet the relevant criteria and will be having a telephone interview with someone in HR or maybe a future colleague/manager. My best tip would be prepare how you would for a face to face interview, that means:

– Have some background information about the company
– Know a bit about the role
– Be clear about why you are applying for the role and why you should be hired

This sounds like a lot of information, but the length of a telephone interview is really determined by the extent of your knowledge and what you want to get out of it. Use this to your advantage and make notes! Prepare answers to questions beforehand and write them out just the way you would answer it- in a professional but conversational tone.
The most common telephone interview questions I have been asked include:

Q- So tell me about yourself?
A- Discuss your current role or maybe you have just graduated, in that case state your degree and aspects or topics that you enjoy about it. Whether it is a qualification or your current job, make this your link as to why you are applying for the role, and what you hope to achieve in the future.

Q- What do you know about the company?
A- Research current articles or new initiatives the company have implemented. Prepare as much as you can but make sure you understand what it is the company does. There isn’t much point regurgitating Wikipedia if it means nothing to you. Rewrite what it is the company aims to do/ who their audience or market are, in a way that makes sense to you. Also be honest. If you have gone blank or only know a little bit about the company, then that is fine. Keep your answers short and concise. Often you will receive a lot more information about the company during this conversation which you should note down throughout; this will be very useful for referal.

Q- How do you describe yourself?
A- What three skills do you have, that are important in this role. Say the skill, pick an example of when you demonstrated this, and relate the importance of this to the role. Make sure that the traits you list are positive and work in your favour. You are selling yourself!

My best tip for this part of the process would be to smile when you talk to the interviewer. This will put you at ease and will translate to the interviewer on the phone. General house rules would include that you hold the telephone interview in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed and that you stick to your scheduled telephone appointment, i.e. make sure that you don’t book your interview when you know you will be busy!

Face to face interview!

You’ve made it to the face-to-face to interview. Prior to attending it, you can do the following things.

– To calm yourself down and to feel more confident, stand in a power pose (think superman pose, hands on hips, legs shoulder width a part, chin up and chest out) standing like this for two minutes. Studies have shown that power poses evoke feelings of power in an individual, and those who stand in these poses compared to those who don’t before the interview, are more likely to be successful in being  chosen for the role.
– Practice your responses in the mirror and read aloud your answers.
– Practice shaking hands; you want a firm handshake that shows you are strong and confident.
– Plan your travel route before you leave and factor in at least an extra 30 minutes for delays.
– Dress smart or accordingly to the role. You should be told (or you can ask) if it is smart business dress, or if it is smart casual. Always be certain that whatever the dress, that your shoes * are clean, your shirt is ironed and an umbrella is packed- we are in England, after all.
*This is a big must for me, presentation is unfortunately a big part in forming a good first impression, along with punctuality, preparation and understanding and fit of the role.
– Bring in your notes and anything else you have prepared and read over them beforehand.
– Arrive at least 10 minutes early to the interview location. This will help calm your nerves, show that you are timely, and give you a chance to examine the workplace as you take in the atmosphere.
– Do prepare questions to ask the interviewer. You want to show your enthusiasm and that you are interested in whether this place is the right company and environment for YOU. Ask about the office culture, how your boss likes to manage their staff, what they are looking for in the role, what their pain points are and anything else you feel would help to make your decision and determine your suitability for the organization, the team and ultimately the role. I also often ask a question about a current event relating to the company. Perhaps they were recently in the press celebrating an achievement or overcoming a challenge- engage in a conversation to show your interest and knowledge of the company. Lastly remember to ask about any final steps or second interviews you may be required to attend, along with a timescale.

After the interview:

Do send a thank you letter to the person you interviewed or the recruiter. This will reaffirm your interest in the role. Then all you have to do is sit and wait patiently for feedback. Whether this feedback is negative or positive, do try to take in as much as you can to better yourself and your interview skills for the future. If you are lucky enough to be offered the job, well done you! Take some time to make your decision, and think carefully about what you want to do. If you wish to accept the role, be clear about your expectations and negotiate where you see fit.  Once all is signed and sealed, pop the prosecco and celebrate!

 

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