By Hannah Reid – Executive Assistant
An interview should be a dream situation for the narcissists inside of us: the chance to talk about yourself and why you are awesome, to people who have never met you before, and have no preconceptions about you. It’s easy in principle, but we’ve all been there (plenty of times!) when you let your nerves get the better of you, or you get your morning caffeine intake wrong, or you just can’t seem to string your thoughts into an intelligible sentence. We speak to plenty of candidates who really struggle at this crucial stage of the job application process, and unfortunately there’s just no getting around the fact that with interviews, there are no second chances…
Carry on reading for my checklist of interview essentials, based upon real-life feedback from consultants, clients and candidates of BOWER. I hope you find it useful, informative or at the very least, a helpful reminder for how to tackle your interviews like a champ.
Interviews are all about making a great first impression. It’s just not possible for your interviewer to tell in an hour what you will be like on the job. Instead, they want to see how well you can talk about the two areas that you are an expert in – your job and yourself!
You need to have answers ready for key questions about your career, such as:
– Why are you leaving your current job?
– Why do you want this job?
– What are your strengths and weaknesses?
– How do you handle pressure/heavy workloads?
– Where do you see yourself in 5 / 10 years time?
– Why should we hire you?
The STAR method is an absolute must for interviews and is an especially useful tool if your personality type (like my own) has a tendency to babble away when feeling nervous or uncomfortable. STAR is a handy acronym to help you structure your responses in a way that is useful and digestible to your interviewer:
Situation – describe a recent challenge or situation you found yourself in.
Task – what were you being asked to do? What was expected of you?
Action – what did you do? Why did you do it?
Result – What was the outcome of your actions? Did you achieve your target?
Hint – keep a bank of examples in your head that you can turn to if you find it hard to think on the spot.
Don’t forget, even if you are meeting in Costa over a coffee, you still need to be professional and take the interview seriously. Whilst it might feel like you are having a chat with a mate – you still need to provide good examples of your previous work and experience.
You must research the company you will be interviewing with. Think about it from the interviewer’s point of view – they want to see a candidate who is keen to join their company, and is engaged in the business. You can portray this in your interview by asking them specific questions about the business, or mentioning that you’ve seen ‘x’ in the news/press/on their website, etc. Don’t underestimate the power this one small bit of prep will have in your interview! Bear in mind that even if they think you are wrong for the job, a keen interest in their company can only aid your chances, and perhaps they will consider you for another role.
Learn the job description (if provided). Carefully go through the requirements for the role, and think of situations in your career where you have exampled them. Use STAR format to help you structure this. Whilst you are doing this, jot down any questions you have about the role, and try to remember to bring them up in your interview.
Research your interviewers. If you haven’t been told who you will be interviewing with, try to find out in advance. Look them up on the company website and LinkedIn to see what their background is, and whether you have any common interests.
Hint: try not to come across as a stalker.
Make sure you turn up to your interview on time. This means 5-10 minutes early. Not half an hour early (too keen, and very inconvenient – what are they supposed to do with you for 25 minutes?) and not on the dot (if you arrive on the dot, you will already start your interview late).Make sure that you don’t leave your prep until the last minute. It’s a good idea to do your research and prep a couple of days in advance (if possible), and then use the night before as a revision session. This will help you feel more prepared and calm your nerves.
Hint: make sure you have everything ready the night before – outfit, directions, CV etc.
Find out as much info about the dress code from your recruiter as possible. Unless you have specifically been told by the company that they are OK with you turning up in casual wear, NEVER go to an interview in jeans! Even if you know that it’s a fairly relaxed office environment, the dress code does not extend to you until you have secured a place at the company.
In any case, it’s always better to overdress than underdress.
Don’t badmouth your current/previous employer. I can’t emphasise enough how important this is, especially if you are interviewing for a PA position! Your interviewer is assessing you for your attitude and discretion, so bitching about your awful current job isn’t going to score you any points. Even if your boss is Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, you don’t want your potential employer to be sat there thinking: “will they say this about me in the future?”.Hint: slap on a smile and fake it.
This is the most important of them all! Your interviewer won’t just want to see ‘interview you’, they want to see that personality shine through too. It’s completely OK to mention your passions and interests, show them your quirks (within reason!) and try to click with your interviewer. Try to remember that you have already passed the qualifying rounds, and your interviewer wants to like you. They are hoping that you will fit in with their company culture and get on with the team. Take a deep breath, and just be yourself! Chances are, if they don’t think you are a personality match, then you’ll probably agree.Good luck!