Interview Advice Guide
Let’s nail the basics first. Because the process is so brief, interviewers are looking carefully at:
Appearance is important, but make sure you dress for the audience. More and more companies have dress down, smart casual, etc. If in doubt wear a suit, but if it’s through a recruitment agency (such as Be-IT!), consultants can easily advise you on what’s best.
Body language is something to consider. Before the interview, sit up straight in the waiting area, keeping your back straight and your chin parallel to the ground. Place your bag/briefcase/purse to the left side of your chair – this cuts out any awkward mix-ups when you have to shake someone’s hands and grab your personal items at the same time.
The handshake will most likely be your only moment of physical contact with the interviewer. Studies say that handshakes play a significant role in first impressions, so make it count! It should be neither bone-crushing, nor limp-fish. Aim for a firm handshake, and as you shake, make eye contact and smile. Simple…
During the interview try not to slump, keep your back straight. Lead forward slightly to indicate interest.
- Do not recline back into the chair fully: this can make you seem bored or disengaged.
- Avoid crossing your arms or placing items in your lap; these habits indicate defensiveness, nerves when what you’d really like to convey during the interview is confidence.
- Try not to fidget and remember to use your hands if you naturally do this when talking/giving answers.
- Eye contact is important during the interview, but don’t mistake that for a directive to make constant eye contact. This can come across disconcerting and aggressive. At the same time, avoiding eye contact can come across as untrustworthy and distant. Balance it out as if you were chatting to a friend.
There is rarely a “correct” answer to any interview question. The important thing to remember is that they are trying to find out if you have the qualities to fit in with their business and the skills to perform the job well.
A lot of companies now use competency-based interviews (CBI), or behavioral interviews, to ascertain if you’re the right person for the job. This style of interview offers insights into your style of working and helps the interviewer predict your likely behavior towards work situations, and involves asking for examples of situations when you have performed certain duties or achieved positive outcomes.
STAR – Situation, Task, Action, Result
Here’s an example of a CBI interview question and how to use the STAR method to answer it. It’s worth noting that it’s a useful approach to answering questions in other, less strcutured, interviews too. It is a quick and easy way for any employer to gauge your abilities.
Tell me about a time when you had to overcome a difficult situation? How did you handle the situation?
Situation: When I worked at Never Consultancy as a Junior Infrastructure Engineer, I was halfway through an overnight software upgrade project for a major client on site and the power to the office was cut off. Task: I had to complete the upgrade by 8am, when employees would arrive in the office. Action: I located a night duty Building Supervisor who gave me details of the emergency contact for the office. They helped me locate the electrical room, gain entry and check the fuse box. The breaker had been tripped, which I rectified. Result: Within 30 minutes, I had resumed the upgrade and successfully completed the work well in advance of the 8am deadline. Our client was extremely happy that they did not have to come in to the office in the middle of the night and that the upgrade was a success.
When considering your STAR answers:
- Choose examples where you can talk about what YOU did, not what WE did. The interviewer wants to hire you, not the team you worked in. They are interested in your circumstances, task, actions and – vitally – the direct outcomes of your work.
- Keep your answers succinct and relevant. Don’t describe situations in minute detail or go off on tangents and always choose examples that end in a positive result. Obviously, you should never be derogative about your current or previous employer. Nobody wants to hire someone who approaches their work with their glass half empty.
- Some interviewers do not have much experience interviewing candidates, so be prepared to leadthem in to your CV by discussing examples of work/ projects you have undertaken. Don’t wait for them to ask you or you could leave the interview feeling deflated and frustrated that you didn’t get the opportunity to discuss your skills in depth.
- Obviously you will have digested the job description ahead of the interview, but don’t forget to familiarise yourself with your own CV and have a copy with you. Before your interview, think about some difficult situations you have managed, your biggest achievements, challenges youface in yoru role and even biggest mistakes you’ve made. That way, you will have STAR answers ready to roll off your tongue and you won’t have to stumble around for answers
Sample questions to answer
Here are some questions you may be asked. Think about some positive key points you could make in advance, using the STAR method when appropriate.
• Can you give 3 adjectives that best describe you?
• How would your manager describe you?
What is your biggest achievement to date?
• What’s the biggest mistake you have made in a job?
• Describe a time when you have had to overcome a difficult situation? How did you handle it?
• How much do you know about our company and this role?
• What appeals to you the most about this role?
• What are your strongest skills for this role?
• What motivates you most in a job?
• What your greatest strengths?
• Can you name some weaknesses?
• How do you cope with stressful situations?
• Describe a time when you have had to convince a colleague or client to your way of thinking?
• What do you enjoy most about your current role? What do you least enjoy about your current role?
• Do you prefer to work on your own or as part of a team? Why?
• Can you work on several assignments at once?
• Are you considering other roles at the moment?
• What hobbies/interests do you have outside work?
• What are your long-term career goals?
Sample questions to ask
Asking some intelligent questions during the interview suggests you are genuinely interested in the role and the company.The interviewer will realise that you have taken the time to prepare properly for your interview and have given the role considerable thought. We suggest that you prepare a few relevant questions to ask during the interview, or to have up your sleeve at the end. Here are some examples of questions you may want to ask, although we suggest you prepare a few of your own that are more relevant to the role in question.
• How long do you expect it will take to become fully operational in the role?
• What kind of projects might I expect in the first year?
• How does this role fit in to the company structure?
• Does your company encourage or provide training?
• How often are performance reviews given?
• What products are in the development stage now?
• Does the company have any plans for expansion?
• What characteristics do the high achievers in this company seem to share?
- Know where you’re going and make su re your mobile is charged and you have our telephone number in your phone in case you need to call us.
- If you drive to the interview, be aware that you may be in view of the person interviewing you from the car park. Take coins for parking, just in case.
- As soon as you step in to reception, you are being interviewed. Receptionists are often asked for their impression of candidates.
- Be prepared. Conduct thorough research on the company and your interviewers (e.g. via LinkedIn) and take the job description and your CV with you.
- On route to the interview room you may want to discuss how easy it was to find the office, ask if the interviewer if they have had a busy day, or reiterate how grateful you are that they have taken time out to meet with you. Small talk at this time is acceptable. Don’t talk about salary unless invited to. We’ve already advised them of your salary expectation.
- If you are feeling anxious during the interview, some discrete deep breathing will help oxygenate the brain and allow you to think more clearly. It works!
- Be professional, confident and above all else, be yourself. The interviewer wants to see the person you are and not the person you think they want to see. Be authentic.
- Be enthusiastic about the company and the role.
- When the interview is drawing to a close, offer your thanks for their time again and if you are interested in the role, let them know why by briefly summarising your most applicable skills and why you think you are well suited. This is a gentle way of asking for the job and shows you are keen.
You have under 7 minutes to make an impression:
- Holding eye contact, a firm handshake and, if relevant, makeup are all significant factors in the six minutes and 25 seconds that you have to impress a perspective employer during an interview.
- Research from Monster.co.uk has shown interviewers take just 385 seconds to decide if a candidate is right for the role – first impressions really do make the ultimate difference.
- The study of interview experiences from more than 273 managers and 3,280 employees revealed that half of interviewers said they judge a candidate based on a handshake.
- 60% of bosses say an candidate’s dress sense affects whether they are seen as employable and more than two thirds said they are immediately put off by tattoos.
- The majority of bosses (82%) want candidates to be able to hold eye contact during conversation, and 60% are influenced by the quality or small talk, 70% also make their first impression on the way a candidate applies makeup.
- Most employers, however, still rank a candidate’s work experience as their most important attribute (36%), ahead of first impressions (24%) and their education (12%).
- However, on the opposite side of the table, 70% of candidates are also swayed by first impressions, with 60% deciding whether to accept the job based on the interviewer’s handshake and 50% based on dress sense.
Top 10 most common interview mistakes
1. Failing to do research (51%) 2. Showing off (31%) 3. Asking no questions (31%) 4. Not acting engaged with the interviewer (30%) 5. Making up answers (30%) 6. Lying about achievements (29%) 7. Dressing inappropriately (26%) 8. Rambling on (24%) 9. Can’t explain what they will bring to the role (23%) 10. Moaning about a past or current employer (19%)
To secure an interview you have already put in a lot of effort. We want you to succeed in getting the job so if you have any questions prior to your interview, we are always here to help guide you through the process. Any one of our Consultants would be glad to help – please ask!