Career advice, insights & tips for HR professionals
How to keep your nerve at interview 24/07/2012
When there are fewer jobs but more candidates on the market, how do you ensure that not only do you keep your nerve up to and during the interview, but also stand out above the rest?
Click to jump to section
- Feeling daunted at interview?
- Telephone interview preparation
- How to communicate over the phone
- Face-to-face - a two way exchange
- Key preparation
- Action points
- Competency based interviews
- Showcase yourself
- Believe in yourself
- Build relationships with recruitment consultants
- Recommended reading
Feeling daunted at interview?
Preparing for an interview can often be as daunting as the interview itself, particularly if it has been a long time since you made your last move. During an economic downturn an interview can feel more daunting than ever.
You've got your foot through the door, your CV has caught the eye of the employer, and you are anxiously awaiting the first stage of the interview process. Here are top hints and tips to ensure you will be at your best when the big day finally comes.
Telephone interview preparation
Often, particularly with high volume recruitment, the first stage of the interview process will be a telephone interview. Sounds simple enough, but how will you wow the employer without your firm handshake and steady eye-contact?
- Find a quiet room where there will be no interruptions/distractions and where you can be for at least an hour if necessary (that includes switching off mobiles etc).
- Don’t forget the basics: keep a copy of your CV in front of you. This may sound simple but it is useful for referring to when answering questions, particularly if you are nervous.
- Look through your experience and highlight your key achievements on your CV, again this is useful as a point of reference.
How to communicate over the phone
- It's also useful to create prompt cards outlining in more detail your key achievements throughout your career. You won’t be using these in the interview (there is nothing worse than reading from a script – even over the phone it is clearly obvious), but they are useful for reading over beforehand.
- Keep your answers clear & concise. It's essential that over the phone you come across clearly, without body language and gestures, only your words (and tone, of course) can tell your story.
- Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer to repeat the question if you aren’t sure that you heard it correctly the first or even second (or third) time.
- Don’t be afraid to take your time to answer your question, a silence is rarely as awkward as you imagine it to be.
- Finally, take notes. Jot down the question as you are asked it, this will help focus your mind.
Face-to-face - a two way exchange
Meeting with your future employer face-to-face is your chance for a two-way exchange of information. ‘Two-way exchange’ being the key phrase here. It’s easy to think of an interview as the employer’s chance to find out all that they need to know about you, but it’s also your chance to find out a little more about the company that you may well be working for.
It's essential that the employer finds the ideal candidate, but don’t forget that it’s just as essential for you to find the ideal workplace.
- Research where you are going for interview well in advance, print off map directions etc and allow an extra c.15mins for unexpected travel delays.
- Dress the part: even if you know that the dress code is casual for employees it is still worth putting on your suit (or equivalent). It will make you feel smart and professional and, even more importantly, it will show your employer that you are smart and professional.
- Body language: the way that you present yourself is vital. Make eye contact, shake hands firmly and smile. They want to see that you’re excited to have this opportunity.
- Be yourself: it's painfully obvious when a candidate is trying to fit the mould. Cultural fit is key, and you will only truly find out if you gel with your future boss if you relax and be yourself.
- Research the company before the interview, as thoroughly as you can (through company website, trade press etc).
- Bring your CV to the interview. The interviewer will probably have a copy, but if they don’t it will show that you are prepared.
- Know where you are going and turn up on time. Never be late, but don’t turn up too early either – 10 or 15 minutes before the scheduled time is always enough.
Competency based interviews
Face-to-face meetings often take the form of a competency based interview: three dreaded words, particularly if you have never come across this type of meeting before. However, competency based interviews are simply a way for you to demonstrate that you are capable, competent and suited to the job by giving real-life, situational examples from your professional or personal experience.
You may not have any experience in a particular industry, but this doesn’t mean that you cannot demonstrate your transferable skills earned in the industry you are familiar with.
Always ensure that you are using the most relevant example for this competency, for example, if you are asked about a time that you have worked under pressure give an example of when you were under pressure but continued to succeed in your work. Remember; an interview is your chance to shine.
Never use the same example for more than one competency. This is your chance to show the breadth and depth of your experience.
- Be honest. If you are asked about a time when you have failed to achieve a goal, explain why you did not achieve your goal and what you would do differently in the future. A little humility can be a good thing, if it is prompted.
- Take your time and structure your answers. Explain what happened, why it happened, what you did about it and what the outcome was. If your answers are easy to follow then the interviewer will come away with a lot more knowledge of your capabilities.
- Ensure you use real-life answers. It will be blatantly obvious if you are making it up.
- Use ‘I’ and not ‘we’. The interviewer is interested in what you have done, not your colleagues.
Believe in yourself
Don’t forget to close to interview. We often spend so much time worrying about the interview itself that we don’t plan how to close it. Think about some questions that you would like to ask, but don’t ask them for the sake of it. If the interviewer has answered all of your questions before you have the chance to ask them explain this to them. Leave positively – express your interest in the role. Show that you are grateful for their time by thanking them for seeing you.
Interviews are a chance for you to gain experience, demonstrate your competence and potentially get the job of your dreams. Go in to an interview with a positive attitude and you are far more likely to succeed. Believe in yourself and be prepared, and don’t forget you wouldn’t have got to interview stage if there wasn’t something on your CV that made you stand out in the first place.
Build relationships with recruitment consultants
And finally…don’t forget that your recruitment consultant is there to help. They will have information about the client’s history and values which you can and should make the most of.
Building a strong relationship with your consultant will ensure that they recognize your skills and capabilities, as well as knowing where you will fit culturally. With that in mind, if your CV doesn’t quite fit the job spec, a clear knowledge of your personality might just help the consultant get you that interview you weren’t quite sure that you could get.
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BLT (Beament Leslie Thomas)
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