Congratulations! You scored yourself an interview and you are one step closer to securing a job. However, selling your skills face-to-face or on the phone is very different from writing a CV. Here are eight steps to help you think on your feet and prepare you for all eventualities.
Find out what kind of interview you’ll face
Graduate employers use different types of interviews at different stages of the recruitment process.
- Telephone interviews are often used at an early stage to check that candidates meet the basic requirements and to filter out those who aren’t serious about the job.
- Competency-based interviews, on the other hand, requires you to match your existing skills to those needed for the role, eg, communication skills, problem solving skills and teamwork.
- Panel interviews – in which candidates are interviewed by several people such as the HR staff and department managers – are common as the last interview phase. If you passed the tests above, your potential employers would want to meet you in person and have a ‘little chat’ to gauge your suitability in the organisation.
Take note: some organisations would skip the phone interview and assessments, but instead, call you in directly for a face-to-face interview with the HR director or panel of interviewers.
TOP TIP: If the recruiter hasn’t already told you what kind of interview you’ll be doing, contact them to find out. Once you’ve established what to expect, you’ll be able to prepare for potential questions and scenarios during the interview.
Recruiters want to hear about the unique skills that you can bring to the company.
Research the employer, again!
Return to the employer research that you did when you first started applying for the job, and build on it. This will go a long way in reminding you of your initial attraction to the job, and will help you anticipate interview questions.
Take the time and effort to visit the organisation’s website for details of recent projects, and think about how you could contribute to the employer’s cause.
Think about yourself
Recruiters want to hear about the unique skills that you can bring to the company. Think through your experiences, skills, and interests, and tie these in to the job and area of work.
To be more specific, list out your achievements and activities, and make notes on the skills you’ve learned from them. Mention also how you’ve applied these skills in different situations.
TOP TIP: Review your CV or application form before heading for the interview. Think about how you can expand and highlight on specific experiences and skills. Which examples would be the best ones to feature for the particular job?
Recruiters will expect you to show a keen interest in their organisation, so put your research to good use and think up at least three questions about the employer and the job, respectively.
If you still have access to your university's career services centre, see if you can book a mock interview session or practise any tests that might be part of the interview day. Most careers services will be happy to provide you with all the resources (books, DVDs, etc.) that you need to succeed.
Plan your day
Good first impressions count for a lot. Make sure that you are dressed appropriately and you know your route to the office beforehand . If need be, book your travel tickets in advance. Also, charge your mobile phone and leave yourself time to read through your application again carefully.
Print out a fresh copy of your CV and your application form to take with you, and don’t forget the supporting documents!
Be in control of yourself in the interview
It’s natural to be nervous in an interview, but if you know that some of your reactions might jeopardise your chances, then do think ahead and come prepared.
In the interview, remember that it’s fine to pause and gather your thoughts before responding to questions, and that if you’re unsure about anything, there’s nothing wrong with clarifying.
TOP TIP: Use your CV or application as a prompt if you dry up. Take a copy with you into the interview and use it to choose good examples of your skills.
Stay professional to the end
Although it can be tempting to run screaming from a bad interview or to skip joyously from a good one, recruiters will expect you to remain professional throughout your session, including after you’ve left the interview room itself.
If you’re shown around the office or are given the chance to chat with trainees or other members of staff, remember that their feedback may count towards the organisation’s overall evaluation of you, so don’t say or do anything that you wouldn’t in a formal interview situation.
TOP TIP: Need to let off steam or sing for joy? Make sure that you are at least a couple of blocks away from the employer's office before you let rip - you never know who is watching!
Learn from the experience
If you did not get the job offer, do not fret away! Instead, spend some time after your interview to reflect on the experience. Make some notes for yourself before moving on. This will help bring to light the mistakes you have made, and allow you to prepare better for other interview opportunities.
Feedback from unsuccessful interviews can be invaluable, and most recruiters are happy to provide it, so don’t be shy to ask for feedback.