Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
How to perform well at interview during a downturn 05/10/2009
With daily reports of companies making staff redundant, the current economic climate has had a dramatic effect on recruitment and left many people feeling the hit of a struggling employment market. A lot of companies have had to make the difficult decision to let people go, leaving many talented individuals fighting it out for the best jobs in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
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- An interview is not an ordeal
- Prepare well in advance
- Making an impression during interview
- Asking interview questions
- Dress code
An interview is not an ordeal
Candidates are clamouring to apply for the jobs that are available and if you are lucky enough to receive an invitation to an interview it means you have passed the first hurdle of the selection process – well done.
It is an opportunity to demonstrate your skills, experience and attitude and, at the same time, learn more about the organisation and the role you are applying for. You may be eager to get a job, but the last thing you want to do is accept a role in a hurry only to regret it further down the line.
Prepare well in advance
Consider the type of questions you are likely to be asked. These can range from closed questions, requiring ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers, to direct questions to prompt straightforward, short answers for example ‘Where do you live?’. The critical part of the interview is however likely to consist of open questions and competency based questions, requiring a considered and descriptive answer.
Simple activities like finding out as much as you can about the organisation by looking at its website, the internet, and reading the business pages of the broadsheets are also beneficial. Nearer the time of the interview, ensure you are up to date on current affairs and well informed of any issues that may affect the organisation. You may well be asked your opinion on a newsworthy topic, or you may be asked: ‘Why do you want to work for us?’.
Making an impression during interview
On the day, remember the interview starts as soon as you walk into the building. Be punctual but please do not be too early. If you find you arrive at the building with half an hour to spare, go and come back with just five minutes to spare. Make sure you are friendly to reception and smile at everyone you meet.Watch your body language, make eye contact, look alert, enthusiastic and interested. With fewer jobs available, you may feel under a lot of pressure to succeed in the interview. This means you are likely to be nervous, but you need to overcome this. In most jobs you will be expected from time to time to work under pressure, so you should demonstrate this ability at an interview.
Asking interview questions
At the very end of the interview find out about timescale and the next stage of the selection. This is a very valid question – and it's important that you know. You may be fortunate enough to have other opportunities you are interviewing for and you need to manage the process.
Finally, although a lot of organisations operate a ‘smart casual’ dress code, I suggest you err on the side of ‘smart.’ If you turn up in a suit and everyone else is wearing jeans, you can always tell the interviewer that you normally wear jeans and joke that you feel as if you are standing out like a traffic cone. But if you turn up in jeans and everyone else is in a suit, you will feel an idiot.
Remember that interviews are a two-way process and you are in a good position if you have one confirmed. Current economic times have affected nearly all industries, so if you find yourself looking for a job, remember that the marketplace is more competitive. However, there are good roles out there and if you are determined you will succeed. Research, rehearse and do not forget to be yourself. It is your career we are talking about.