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Career advice - How to sell yourself at a job interview!

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Congratulations – you’ve got through the application stage. Now you’ve got the opportunity to meet your potential employer face to face and show them that you’re the best person for the job.

If you’ve got this far, then it’s likely that you have shown the employer that you’ve got the skills, experience and qualifications that the employer is looking for and they will be using the interview process to confirm this but also to find out about your personality, style and compatibility with their organisation.

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Preparing for job interviews

The first part of any preparation for an interview is to do your research on the organisation you are applying to. You need to find out everything you can about the organisation and the industry or sector it operates in. You can find information of many different industry sectors right here on sector1.net.

Also, make sure you’ve double checked all the practicalities for the interview. Have you confirmed your attendance (this is often a great opportunity to get in touch with the organisation and ask any questions about the interview such as how long it will last, what the format of the interview will be and whether you are expected to do a presentation etc)? Do you know exactly where the location of the interview is (many large organisations have several buildings on the same site) and whether they have onsite parking? Have you planned your route by car or journey on public transport?

Don’t forget to re-read the job description, your CV or application form and any other materials you were sent through and start thinking about your skills and what you have to offer the organisation. Try and make a list of situations you have been in that have demonstrated several of your skills/abilities and have these fresh in your mind. As long as you give a different example for every question you are asked, you can often use this list to cover a range of questions that could be thrown at you. For example, if you have a story about how you coped when the production line broke down, you may well be able to use this story if you are asked a question about how well you work under pressure, how you solve problems, how you work as part of a team and how you motivate staff.

Lastly, a good interview should be a two-way process and a chance to find out whether you would actually want to work for the organisation you are applying to, so make sure you’ve got some questions to ask in mind.

At the interview

If you’ve prepared well, the interview itself should be the easy part. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep the night before and try and arrive for your interview relaxed and in plenty of time.

In interviews, first impressions really do count. There is a lot of evidence that says people are heavily influenced by the first few minutes of meeting someone, so make sure you smile, make eye contact, use a firm handshake and act positively as soon as you walk in. You need to be confident but not interrupt or dominate the interviewer(s) and keep your answers relevant but concise.

Some standard questions you may be asked are:

  • What do you know about our organisation?
  • Why do you want this job?
  • What were your roles and responsibilities in your last job?
  • Give examples of a time when you…solved a problem, managed a team, achieved results under pressure, managed change etc
  • What are your strengths/weaknesses?
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
  • What do you think about your last boss?
  • Tell me about yourself?
  • What are your hobbies or interests outside of work?
  • What makes you different from all the other candidates for the job?
  • What salary would you want?
  • What are your biggest career achievements to date?
  • Are you used to handling budgets?

Some questions you could ask the interviewer(s) include:

  • Can you describe how the role fits into the department/organisation?
  • Is this a new position?
  • How will my performance be measured?
  • Why did the last person in the role leave?
  • If I was offered the role, what would be the best preparation I could do before starting?
  • What are the long term opportunities for career progression/future promotion?
  • What is the working culture/style of the organisation?

When the interview is over, remember to thank the interviewer(s) and ask when you can expect to find out whether you have been successful or what the next stage of the process is?

After the Interview

Give yourself a ‘de-briefing’ as soon as you can after the interview. Think about what you feel you answered well and what you would have answered differently and make a note of it. There’s no point getting hung up about questions you would have answered better, but it makes sense to try and improve as much as possible for any future interviews.

Hopefully, within a few days you’ll have had notification that you’ve got the job, but it not, don’t worry. If you don’t get the job, write a follow up letter or make a phone call politely asking for feedback. Feedback from the people who interviewed you can be invaluable in helping you improve your future interview performance.

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