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Interview Preparation: The Key to Success

  • Publish Date: Posted almost 3 years ago
  • Author:by MERJE

​For many people, the interview process can be daunting. Even as standard methods have changed in recent times and phone / video-based interviews have become more common, the nerves can still kick in.

In either case, the content and aims of the interviews remain largely the same, so as long as you go into them with the right mind-set, plenty of research and having prepared yourself, you shouldn’t have any issues. This will not only help you to make a great impression, it will also ensure that your next career move is within reach.

We’ve broken down the interview process and provided some helpful advice for each stage so you can optimise your chances of impressing your potential employer.

First Round

First stage interviews tend to involve a broader overview of the business, the role, your suitability for the position you’re applying to and your overall career aspirations. To prepare, it is important to:

  • Research the organisation, its history, products or services, culture, ethos, recent news, social media, etc.

  • Thoroughly read through the job description and ensure you understand what the job is

  • Prepare examples of your relevant experience for the role

  • Practise answers to some typical interview questions, such as ‘why do you want to work for us?’ or ‘why are you looking to leave your current business?’

  • Prepare some questions to ask during the interview

Doing these key things will put you in a great position to ace the first interview. Doing your research shows that you are genuinely interested in the opportunity and take the time to prepare yourself for situations, an important approach to any role.

Furthermore, interviewers nearly always ask ‘why do you want to work for us?’ or ‘what do you like about this role?’, so it is imperative to have a strong answer to this question. Referring back to the company’s values or explaining that their charity work aligns with your passion will strengthen your position in the application process.

Good sources for information about businesses include their website, Glassdoor, news articles, LinkedIn, social media and any current / previous employees that you may know.

Aim to devise pertinent examples around how your skills match the responsibilities on job description, but don't lose heart if you feel that you’re lacking in some areas. If you have secured that all-important first interview, it means the company has seen something in you that they like and you have the opportunity to show that you are keen to learn and pick up any skills that may be needed in the role.

Speak about your versatile skill-set and your ability to adapt to business needs. Also think about how your other skills, experience, education and hobbies can help to add value to the role. Address the requirements in more inventive ways.

Go on to express your career aspirations and what you are hoping to achieve from a career move, be it an opportunity to work for a global company, management experience, exposure to particular projects, the chance to work for a well-respected brand or an entirely new sector or an improved work-life balance.

Make sure you know your CV inside out and avoid over exaggerating your achievements as any gaps in your knowledge or skills will be spotted further down the line.

Overall, it is important to convey your story and what motivates you clearly, concisely and honestly. Showing your personality, giving relevant answers to questions and appearing enthusiastic, engaged and prepared will set you up for success.

Competency-based Interviews

Competencies are the skills, behaviours and knowledge that you’ll be required to bring into the role. In competency-based or behavioural interviews, employers use open ended questions to discover real-life scenarios where you have had to use certain skills or working methods. This affords you the chance to demonstrate how and why you used your competencies to best effect.

Essentially, competency questions help employers understand how you’ve previously dealt with particular situations, tasks or people and they focus on finding specific skills which are vital to the position being applied for.

To be prepared, it’s key to memorise some competency examples that you can adapt, based on the question asked. If the employer doesn’t say that they are about to ask competency questions, you can usually recognise by the way the question is phrased.

Competency questions tend towards describing a situation and task. For example, an employer may start the question by saying:

  • Tell me about a time when…

  • Give an example of when…

  • Describe a time when…

When preparing for a competency-based interview, try following these steps:

  • Find out which competencies the employer is looking for

  • Identify competency question examples

  • Develop a story for each competency and ensure the tone is positive

  • At the interview, pick the right story for the right question

To prepare, make sure that you scrutinise the job description and make a list of the criteria the employer is likely to focus on. Aim to match the employer’s wish list against examples of where you’ve demonstrated the skills in your life so far.

Typical competencies that interviewers look to assess are working under pressure or to tight timescales, prioritising workloads, communication, team work, ability to focus, efficiency, flexibility, attention to detail or management and leadership abilities.

Make a list of your past experiences and successes which highlight the list of competencies, skills, and attributes you’ve devised from the job specification. Come up with concise, relevant anecdotes that address the question and showcase your abilities.

Another way to prepare for future job interviews is to look back at past performance appraisals and notes to help you identify your achievements and previous examples of personal improvement.

It is recommended to structure each example using the STAR technique, which stands for: Situation, Task, Action, Result.

(S) ituation:Set the scene, a specific event or situation.

(T) ask:What were you aiming to achieve? Describe your exact role and responsibilities.

(A) ction:What did you do in order to reach the goal? What specific steps did you take, what was your contribution to achieving the desired outcome?

(R) esult:What was the outcome? What did you accomplish? Was the result different from what you set out to achieve? If so, what did you learn and what would you do differently next time?

To score highly, you’ll need to show the following:

  • You deal with problems and challenges positively

  • You can adapt

  • You’re willing to learn

  • You’re aware of your own limitations

  • You can handle pressure

You should avoid giving the impression that you:

  • See challenges as problems

  • Try to solve problems alone and fail

  • Crack under pressure

  • Are negative about solutions suggested by others

Final Interview

The final job interview is your last chance to make a strong impression and showcase your suitability for the role.

Depending on the level of the position, your final interview might be conducted by a member of the senior leadership team, as a final sign off for the business.

It’s during this stage that you’re most likely to meet prospective colleagues and be given a tour of the workplace.

While you should be proud that you've made it this far along the interview process, don’t make the mistake of assuming you’ve got the job and that this meeting is merely a formality.

You still need to present yourself as the best person for the job so treat this interview with the same professionalism as you did for the previous meetings, even if the environment and interviewer seem more relaxed.

Think about what you've already addressed in previous interviews and have those details to hand. The interviewer may bring up topics from your prior conversations and, if you can respond effectively, it demonstrates your attention to detail and affords you the chance to elaborate or improve upon what you’ve said before.

Remind yourself of the company’s strategic goals and achievements, the problems they’re trying to solve and what you can bring to the table to assist with this.

Reiterate your genuine interest in the business by asking additional questions about the company and position and take the opportunity to clarify any additional final points which you require clarity around.

Don't expect to hear back straight away and don't panic if you're not contacted immediately after the interview. It takes time for companies to make final decisions and put together an offer package for the chosen candidate.

If you would like further advice on how to nail the interview process, please get in touch with the MERJE team and we’ll be happy to assist: