Facing any interview is a nerve-wrecking experience for most people particularly when you are interviewing for a job that you really want to get.
Regardless of the outcome, attending interviews is a great learning curve and you will definitely get better at them with experience. By preparing well for each interview, putting in the best effort possible in terms of performance, doing some post-interview analysis and seeking feedback you will greatly improve on your interview techniques and your chance of getting your dream job. Although the setting is very different for virtual interviews, for example via Skype or Zoom, the general guiding principles are the same. Be confident in yourself – you have gotten to interview stage, now you just need to show the employer that you are the person for the job!
Before the interview
As mentioned in the previous article be clear on the type of interview you are attending, know what is in store. Know your CV or application form well, the interviewers will be looking for you to expand further on the important aspects so make sure you can stand over and give plenty evidence of all the details you have included about yourself, your work experience and education. Know the job specification and description well so that all the answers you give reflect how well your skills and qualities suit the role and company.
Research the company by checking out their website and their social media. Pay particular attention to LinkedIn for information on the company and employees and search the media for any recent articles on how the company is performing, any new products they have launched or awards they have received and keep an eye out for any links they have to community, environmental or social responsibility initiatives. Talk to anyone you know who works with the company or organisation. Find out as much as you possibly can. Prepare and practice question out loud (see suggestions below), record yourself on your phone and listen back.
Dress appropriately depending on the level of the position and the working environment. You may not need a suit but you certainly need to look smart and professional. Arrive in plenty of time and give yourself enough head space to be ready to perform well. Nerves are perfectly normal and in fact help to keep you alert and focused. They usually subside after the first couple of minutes once you settle into the atmosphere of the interview room. Get some fresh air before you go in, it helps to clear your head and settle the nerves. Use breathing exercises to relax if needed. When introduced to the interview board greet each one individually with a nod and a smile – no handshakes due to COVID-19.
During the interview
Focus on and try to maintain eye contact with the interviewer who has asked the question. Generally interviewers will start by asking you to tell them about yourself. This is to settle you in. Prepare this in advance so that you don’t waffle on and concentrate on the important things they need to know about you professionally – your experience, education, key skills and qualities – but keep it brief! The wording of other questions varies but essentially all employers want to know why you want to work for them, why you applied for the job, what key skills, qualities and competencies you have that make you suitable for the job and what makes you stand out from other applicants, basically why they should hire you.
Prepare these answers in advance by looking closely at the job specification and highlighting the keywords. Use them in your answers. When answering, try to keep a structure on your answer particularly when asked for evidence of your skills and competencies such as teamwork, problem-solving, effective communication. Use the STAR format – Describe the Situation (background or context), the Task (give specifics), the Actions you took (use ‘I’ statements) and the Result (include what you learned from it).
Make sure you get the opportunity to give them your Unique Selling Point (USP) – what makes you stand out from others, and don’t be shy about talking positively about yourself professionally. It can be effective to use this at the end if they ask you if you have anything to add.
After the interview
Breathe a sigh of relief and congratulate yourself on getting through it! Jot down all the questions you were asked or as many as you can remember and make note of what you felt you did well in and areas for improvement in future interviews. Relax and wait for a result.
Niamh Dwyer is a Guidance Counsellor in Scoil Phobail Sliabh Luachra, Rathmore & PRO of Kerry Branch of Guidance Counsellors. She can be contacted on email@example.com