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How to succeed at interviews.

[check] This checklist is for those who want to improve their performance, and ultimately their success, at selection interviews.


Interviews are formal face to face meetings between existing or potential employers and existing or potential employees. This checklist concentrates on selection interviews: those interviews which assess (or partly assess) an individual's suitability for a job either inside or outside their current organisation.

Action checklist

1. Clarify your objectives

Always clarify what you want from the interview--a job offer, more information on the job and the organisation, an opportunity to meet the decision makers. If your objective is unclear it will be difficult to hide this from the interviewers--and these people could be significant in your future.

2. Do your research

To succeed at interview, first undertake some research to find out as much as you can about the interview, the job and the organisation.

The Interview:

* how to get there

* who will interview you

* the format of the interview (group, one to one, tests, presentations).

The Job:

* extent of duties and reporting relationships

* history

* expectations

* conditions of employment and location of work.

The Organisation:

* history, ownership and products

* size, structure and location of sites

* stability, prosperity and financial strength

* reputation, strengths and weaknesses

* competitors.

3. Know yourself

You must make an impression that will bring attention to you as THE CANDIDATE for the job rather than just another runner. Understand what makes you special, what makes you fit the position, and what you can offer. Satisfy yourself that you know how to convey these messages to the interviewer.

4. Prepare yourself for success

Positive thinking is in preparation. Compare the thoughts: "I'm just here to make up the numbers" with "I've been chosen from a large number of other candidates". Relax mentally and physically beforehand.

5. Your appearance

First impressions count. An impression is made before you respond to any questions. Ensure that your appearance is smart:

* appropriate clothes are essential

* finer points including hair, nails and shoes, must not be forgotten

* avoid too much scent or after-shave

* avoid extremes of colour or pattern in clothes.

6. Prepare for questioning

Think about the questions you may be asked, prepare possible answers. Questions may include:

* Self-assessment: What can you do for us that someone else can't? Why should we appoint you? What are your strengths and what limits you? How would you describe your own personality? How do you react to pressure and deal with deadlines?

* Work history and experience: Tell me a little about yourself. Why are you leaving your present position? What have been your successes?

* Organisation: How much do you know about our organisation? How long would it take you to make a meaningful contribution to our organisation? What important trends do you see in our industry?

* Job: Why do you want to work for us? What do you find most attractive about this position? What seems least attractive to you? What do you look for in a job?

* Management style: What is your management style? Are you a good manager? What do you think is the most difficult thing about being a manager? If I spoke to your former boss, what would s\he say were your strengths and weaknesses?

* General interests and knowledge: What was the last book you read, film you saw, sporting event you attended? What do you do to relax?

7. At the interview

Before the interview begins, there are certain steps to take which will help you succeed.

* Arrive at your interview with sufficient time to enable you to relax a little beforehand.

* When meeting the interviewer(s), smile and use good eye contact.

* Use good body language (sit upright and lean slightly forward) convey an impression of interested alertness.

* Don't fidget with your hands or keep crossing and uncrossing your legs etc.

8. Answering questions

Questions at interviews help the interviewer learn about you and your suitability for the post. Listen attentively and answer succinctly. Remember you are interviewing the employer at the same time as they are interviewing you.

When replying to questions you should:

* keep to the point

* structure your answer so that it is logical and easily understood

* maintain good, but not obsessive, eye contact

* speak out with confidence and ensure you can be heard clearly

* look prepared and have appropriate information to hand

* project interest in the organisation and job, and be interesting in your replies and questions

* be honest: admit to limitations, don't exaggerate accomplishments.

Answer the questions in a way which demonstrates your qualities. Use statements which:

* are assertive

* begin "I am ...."

* show that you are proud of your achievements.

9. Prepare your own questions

Prepare in advance some questions for the interviewers relating these to the job or organisation. This helps demonstrate your interest. Don't relate them all to money or conditions of employment.

10. Deal positively with the closing moments of the interview

Last impressions are important. Thank the interviewers for their time, re-affirm interest in the position and state that you look forward to hearing from them in the near future.

Dos and don'ts for successful interviews


* Arrive in good time.

* Take time in answering questions and give concise answers.

* Speak up and speak clearly.

* Present information that will help your case.

* Be willing to affirm your viewpoint in an assertive way.

* Ask your own questions.

* Be relaxed and think positively.

* End on a confident, optimistic note and deal with the closing moments well.


* Interrupt, argue, overreact or get on your soap box.

* Be evasive, speak too quickly or give long, involved answers.

* Criticise third parties, or former employers.

* Become too familiar.

Useful reading

Ultimate interview book : make a great impression and get that job, Lynn Williams Kogan Page, London, 2005

How to pass professional level psychometric tests, 2nd ed, Sam Al-Jajjoka London, Kogan Page, 2004

Selection and recruitment: a critical text, Rosalind H Searle Milton Keynes, Palgrave MacMillan in association with the Open University, 2003

Rob Yeungs insider guide to successful interviews, Rob Yeung Oxford, How to Books, 2002

Handling tough job interviews : be prepared perform well get the job, Julie-Ann Amos Oxford, How to Books, 2001

How to succeed at an assessment centre: test taking advice from the experts Harry Tolley and Robert Wood London, Kogan Page, 2001

Complete Q and A job interview book, 3rd ed, Jeffrey G Allen Chichester: John Wiley, 2000

Useful addresses

If there are areas that you suspect, or are told, consistently let you down--seek help or a second opinion.

Investigate sources of help such as:

* colleges/adult education centres

* Learning and Skills Councils

* careers counsellors or local careers services

* professional institutes

Institute of Management, Management House,

Cottingham Road, Corby, Northants, NN17 1TT

Tel: 01536 204222

Thought starters

* You don't have the time to experiment with being interviewed--only poor performers get lots of interview practice.

* Don't be afraid to ask! Information helps to relieve the anxiety and trepidation we all feel approaching the unknown.
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Title Annotation:Checklist 033
Publication:Chartered Management Institute: Checklists: Personal Effectiveness and Development
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 1, 2005
Previous Article:Effective communications: preparing presentations.
Next Article:Stress management: self first.

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