With the right techniques, you can become an expert at sharing your value with potential employers.
Although interviews can be a minefield, it is also your best opportunity of presenting yourself effectively and securing the role you want.
Although interviewing for a job can be nerve-wracking, it is a skill that you can learn. With the right techniques and plenty of preparation, you can project yourself as the sort of person the interviewer wants to hire.
So, you’ve created a winning CV and secured an interview, but this is not a time to rest on your laurels. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you'll be and the better you will come across, whether that is face-to-face or by Skype.
Knowledge is power. The more you can demonstrate your understanding of the company: its history, the disciplines it offers, ethos and future plans, and the role you are applying for, the better. There are many sources for this information:
- Trust or company website
- Newspapers or industry magazines
- Your recruitment consultant - who will have an ongoing relationship with the company
Make relevant notes which can be used if you are asked any questions relating to the company or sector, and on the other hand, that you can use to ask pertinent questions yourself. Ask your consultant what type of questions you are likely to be asked.
Ultimately, the interviewer will be buying into you as a person, so first impressions are important.
There are a few simple things you should always bear in mind when attending an interview:
- Arrive on time – if you are going to be unavoidably late then speak to your consultant and, if possible, the company interviewer/HR direct
- Appear smart and professional, regardless of the company dress code. If you are being interviewed by Skype, it is just as important to look smart, as you need to be as prepared and well-presented as you would be for a face-to-face interview.
- Be polite to everyone you meet, you never know who they might be or what relationships they have
- Always shake hands and do so firmly and positively, there is no place for either limp, or bone-crushing handshakes
- Smile and thank them for meeting you – smiling is what most people forget to do due to nerves, but it's memorable to the interviewer
Body language and attitude are very important, whether you’re being interviewed face-to-face or by Skype. The interviewer will be prepared and will pick up on any perceived negativity, so be positive and enthusiastic at all times.
Always look at your interviewer and, to avoid any misunderstandings, listen carefully to what is being said. Speak clearly at all times and make your answers considered and relevant.
The line of questioning will depend on whether they want to test your character or technical knowledge, but there will also be some more generic questions, such as:
- What are you looking for in a new role?
- What are your long-term motivations?
- Why do you want to work in this Trust/organisation?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- Why do you feel you are suited to this particular role?
- What differentiates you from other candidates with similar experience?
- Where have you experienced frustration in the workplace and how did you handle it?
With regard to more specific questions, the following are typical ones you may encounter if they wish to test your character:
- What are your main strengths and weaknesses?
Where possible talk about strengths that satisfy the selection criteria, and reference weaknesses that are irrelevant to the role
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Use your research to pitch your aspirations at a realistic but confident level
Describe the skills and experience you’ve gained that qualify you to fulfil the role you are applying for
- What is your greatest achievement to date?
Out of all your achievements, talk about the one that most closely reflects the skill set that the interviewer will be interested in from the selection criteria
The answer is ‘Yes’ - but you will need to provide evidence through an example you have prepared beforehand
- Do you have any questions for us?
Again ‘Yes’ - use this opportunity to build rapport by referring back to and developing a key point in the interview, or asking something interesting or useful about the company or role
It’s worth preparing for and rehearsing your answers to these and similar questions – your consultant can help you here, but you can prepare yourself by asking the following questions:
- What do you think the Trust/organisation is looking for?
- What do you think you can bring to this role?
One way of showing your enthusiasm, and redirecting the pressure from you to the interviewer, is to ask intelligent and relevant questions. Typical areas that you can ask questions on include:
- Your career path within the Trust/organisation; perhaps an illustrative example of someone who’s done the job before
- The training and career development opportunities you would receive or that will be open to you, and any support structure/sponsorship for professional qualifications
- Recent developments within the Trust/organisation; where does it see itself in five years?
- Why did your interviewer join the Trust/organisation?
Salary and package discussions are normally negotiated by your consultant on your behalf and with your full agreement, so it’s best to keep away from this area with the employer.
You should do the same level of preparation as you would for a face-to-face interview, such as researching the company, thinking about the questions you are going to ask and making sure you dress appropriately.
As Skype can be a little disorientating, particularly as you can see your own face, it can help to practice interviewing with a friend beforehand. This is especially helpful if you have never used Skype before as you can get used to seeing yourself on screen and familiarise yourself with talking and learning how to adjust the volume. A good tip is to look at the camera whilst talking and not at the screen as it will help simulate eye-contact.
As part of the practice, do a quick background check to ensure that the person interviewing you wouldn’t be looking out onto a messy room. If possible, position your computer so the background is a blank wall.
No matter how much you prepare, you have no control over the internet going down, so ensure you have the interviewer’s phone number and email address in case you lose connection or encounter a technical hitch during the Skype interview.
In all other respects treat the interview as you would a face-to-face one.
Whilst first impressions are critical, last impressions are equally important. As you leave the interview room or finish the Skype call, ensure that you finish on an upbeat note. Asking when you should expect a decision can elicit some indication of how the interview went and is seen as a positive thing. If you have any misgivings these should be kept to yourself until you’ve had a chance to discuss them with your consultant.