Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

In a nutshell

1. Why interviewing is important

Most organisations use interviewing as part of their selection process. Usually they ask candidates to submit a CV and/or application form and then use this as a basis to select candidates to interview.

The initial selection interview is clearly critical, so getting good at interviews is key to getting through a candidate selection process.

  • You are unable to achieve positions you want
  • You feel frustrated at being trapped where you are, unable to move on
  • You lose confidence in your abilities as others fail to see what you are really capable of
  • You spend a lot of time applying for jobs and/or attending interviews for no return
  • Current managers may start to question your capabilities if you can not move on.


2. Constructing your application

You should be able to use the advertisement to help you

  • Decide if the job is really for you at all
  • Decide who to address the letter to
  • Include a heading (‘Re: customer service manager position’, for example)
  • Check the spellings of names of individuals and organisations
  • Get the application in well before any closing deadlines
  • Tailor your letter and CV to the specific post.

You should also ask yourself

  • What key qualities do you think the role may require?
  • What experience do you have that is relevant to the post?
  • How can you show in your covering letter and application that you have the required skills and experience?


3. A good covering letter

Most interviewers will give a covering letter a cursory glance and little more. Nevertheless, it is important to spend time on the letter so it does not raise any ‘red flag’ concerns about you. A good covering letter should ideally be

  • Neat and tidy
  • Typed, rather than hand written
  • No more than one page long
  • On paper of a reasonable quality
  • Spell checked before being sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent to check for remaining errors
  • Tailored to the position and organisation
  • Referenced to the position being applied for
  • Reasonably formal in structure
  • Clear about any disability or special needs
  • Addressed to the right person.


4. Your CV or application form

If there are many people applying for the position, an interviewer may only spend a minute or two on your application. To make sure your CV stands out, it should be

  • Neat and tidy
  • Accurate and well structured, with clear headings
  • Logical
  • Easy to glance through and pick out key points
  • Typed , rather than hand written
  • No more than two sides of A4 long
  • Spell checked before being sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent, to check for remaining errors
  • Tailored to the position and organisation and to the key qualities you think they are looking for.

Your CV should also contain

  • Your address details
  • A brief summary of your education
  • Relevant qualifications
  • A summary of your work experience
  • Experience of a similar job
  • A brief summary of interesting hobbies
  • References.

In general, the same points also apply to an application form.


5. Being invited for interview

Once the deadline has passed for applications, be prepared in case the organisation telephones you rather than writing to invite you for interview. If you get neither a telephone call nor letter within a month of the closing date, do follow up and ask for feedback.

A good interview invitation letter should be specific about the next step. If it unclear, you may wish to telephone to check the details.

  • Try to make the specified time, but if you cannot, ring at the earliest opportunity and ask if there is an alternative.
  • If you do get a rejection letter, read it carefully and, if you would like further feedback, ring up and ask politely for more information.


6. The interview

An effective interview aims to ensure the right person is selected for the right position. This means that both parties (interviewer and interviewee) should be able to ask key questions to help them decide whether the fit is right. The interviewer should

  • Expand on information in the advertising to give a clear picture of the responsibilities and tasks the job involves
  • Uncover relevant qualities/experience
  • Address any queries raised when reading the application
  • Benchmark you against other candidates to get a clear view as to who has which skills.

The interview is likely to follow a fairly standard process from introduction through to close.

Note that some interviews may be held over the telephone. All the main ponts of this topic are still valid for a phone interview.


7. The qualities of a good interviewee

A good interviewee will be many things, including

  • Well prepared
  • Reasonably confident
  • Enthusiastic and positive about the company and role


8. Preparation

Many interviews are unsuccessful because enough time has not been put into this vital stage. Here are just a few things to prepare:

  • Check the details on when and where the interview is to be held
  • Check whether you are supposed to bring anything with you
  • Research the company
  • Research the job
  • Think about questions you may be asked and plan your answers, perhaps rehearsing them with a friend
  • Think about some questions to ask at the interview
  • Work out travel times – with extra to spare
  • Take copies of your CV and application form to remind you what you said

When you arrive

  • Make sure you park in the right space
  • A trip to the toilet may be a good idea
  • Be prepared for your interview not to start on time
  • If you bump into a rival interviewee, ensure you act professionally.


9. Handling nerves

Being nervous at interview is perfectly understandable and most people experience a few jitters. Here are a few tips on handling nerves:

  • Be well prepared
  • Arrive in plenty of good time
  • Keep items to carry to a minimum
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Visualise positive outcomes
  • Find a song that makes you feel strong, positive and confident
  • Use the ‘fake it until you make it’ technique.


10. Making a positive first impression

You will be being assessed – possibly as soon as you set foot on the premises. In turn you will be assessing the interviewer and the organisation. Here are some things that help make a positive first impression:

  • Be punctual
  • If you are going to be late, ring and apologise in advance, explaining clearly what has caused the problem
  • Smile
  • Make eye contact
  • Shake hands warmly
  • Be careful how you pronounce the interviewer’s name
  • Use social pleasantries to build rapport


11. Answering questions effectively

When answering questions, try to keep your answers concise without appearing too guarded.

  • Be honest, open and warm. Many interviewers select only those candidates they warm to – particularly if they are going to work alongside them every day!
  • Make sure your answers demonstrate some of your skills, your ersonal qualities and the results you have achieved.
  • If you are asked about weaknesses, don’t give the glib ‘working too hard’ type of answer.
  • Let the interviewer fully ask the question before you jump in.
  • Don’t be frightened to pause briefly before answering a question – it shows maturity and that you are not afraid of thinking about things carefully.
  • If you don’t understand a question – ask for clarification. It’s better than waffling on for five minutes hoping somehow your answer will make sense.
  • Practise your answers to ‘standard’ questions.


12. Questions that should not be asked

There are some questions a good interviewer should not ask. However, as there are many less-than-perfect interviewers out there, it might be useful to prepare yourself for these questions just in case, making sure that your answers are realistic and. Where possible, refer back to real situations you have dealt with. Questions that should not be asked include

  • Leading questions, which tell you the answer they are looking for
  • Hypothetical questions
  • Why questions
  • Discriminatory questions.


13. What interviewers look for

In general, a candidate will be rated positively if they

  • Show that they have prepared for the interview
  • Listen actively and patiently while being asked questions
  • Make good eye contact (not looking away, but not too intense either)
  • Show interest through their expression
  • Exhibit an active, enthusiastic body state
  • Probe for clarification if they are unsure how to answer your question
  • Have prepared some questions (not just about rates of pay!)
  • Ask intelligent, well informed questions and show genuine interest in the job and organisation


14. Closing and follow up

When the interview is coming to an end, you should be advised as to what happens from here – how and when you will be notified and what the next stage is if you are successful.

After an interview, the interviewer should assess candidates against each other.

  • They may ask other people, such as receptionists, what impressions they formed about you, the candidate.
  • The organisation may decide to check references at this stage or wait until after the next part of the selection process.
  • The interviewer should keep notes on how the decision was reached and keep paperwork for the specified time


15. Common pitfalls

The most common pitfalls interviewees fall into are

  • Not knowing how to write a good application form
  • Sending CVs that are overly long
  • Not tailoring a covering letter or CV to the position
  • Lack of preparation
  • Giving a poor first impression
  • Missing visual (body language) clues
  • Giving unexciting answers to questions
  • Not having any good questions prepared.