How to make interviews work for you: Having the upper hand as the interviewee

The interview process is one that can slip up even the most suitable candidate for the job. It is the first point of contact between you and a potential employer which witnesses the transformation from a candidate on paper to a candidate in person. This is the single most important aspect of an interview, whether it is on the phone or face to face; it is a process to meet and assess you.

It is easier to compartmentalise the interview process, allowing attention to be given respectively to before, during and after an interview.

If you are serious about an interview then it is imperative to prepare; this falls into the ‘before’ category. It cannot be emphasised enough that the correct preparation is the best possible way to secure the job you want. A good place to start is by assessing the job description in comparison to your curriculum vitae and cover note. The employer has already made a connection between what they want and what you are offering so make the same connection; is it your previous experience, is it your qualifications? By doing this you are identifying your own strengths for the position.

It is also important to do your research, this means looking into the company: what do they do, who are their clients, how do they operate, do they have a company ethos? Understanding the company is important for two reasons; primarily it shows the employer that you are interested and have taken the time and initiative to learn about the company. Secondly it can help you understand what you can bring to the business as an employee, you are thereby better able to answer typical interview questions such as: What can you bring to this role/company? Why should I hire you? What are your strengths?

As previously mentioned the interview process is about meeting you, preparation should therefore not be limited to online and written research. Practising speaking and answering mock questions is the only way you can ensure you will make a great first impression. An employer is looking to see the candidate they chose on paper come to life; your verbal communication, body language and appearance are all important factors in this.

We are now entering the ‘during’ interview phase. Confidence is key, but often misunderstood, make sure you enter an interview with the right kind of attitude. An employer is not looking for a candidate who is brazen and obnoxious, the confidence they are looking for is that you yourself know why you are the right person for the job. You are hence confident in your own ability and recognise that you are a strong contender for the job on offer. This will help assure the employer they have found what they are looking for.

It is essential to stay engaged- listen and respond appropriately. It is only natural to feel nervous in an interview but the more composed you are, the more able you will be to listen, understand and reply appropriately to what the interviewer is asking. For example if an employer asks the reason you left your last job, it is not an opportunity to complain about all the things wrong in your last position. Instead the employer is assessing if you are worth hiring, will you quit in a couple of months for a similar reason. Hence, using the same example, you need to turn a negative reason into a positive response, for example: ‘the last job didn’t offer the long term career path that is available in this company’, or ‘job location is important to me and I would find this business far more accessible as I am local’. Stay engaged in what your interviewer has to say and is asking, and be engaging as an interviewee- you want them to remember you, so really consider your answers.

Finally ‘after’ the interview, the hard part is now over but is important to remember to be contactable. Check your emails, phone, voicemails or any form of communication they may try you on. This is of course important if you are successfully chosen, however it is just as important if you are unsuccessful. Many employers now offer the opportunity for interview feedback, learning and improving on your interview technique will only increase your chances of future success.

An interview is an opportunity, make sure to make the best it.

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