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Before the Interview

INTERVIEW ADVICE

Different types of interviews and how to succeed.

An interview is a chance for an employer to see if you're the right person for the job. It’s your chance to make a good impression and show what you have to offer. You can also use it to help you decide if the job and the company are right for you.

Types of interviews

There are different kinds of interviews, including:

  • face-to-face with one person

  • panel interview - face-to-face, with 2 or more people and can include a presentation

  • telephone - often the first stage in recruitment and used when there are a lot of applicants

  • group discussion - usually part of an assessment centre day with other candidates - you'll have to show you can get along with people, put your ideas forward and be respectful of others

  • video interview - you’re sent interview questions in advance and you provide your answers in a video recording

  • online interview - you’re interviewed online, using an application like Skype


Types of interview questions

Employers use different types of questions when interviewing. They may be:

  • competency-based - the focus is on the things you can do, so you’ll be asked to give examples to show you have the skills needed for the job

  • strengths-based - these explore what you enjoy doing or do well and is used to check things like your practical or teamworking skills, or how you work under pressure

  • technical - for jobs in science, IT, engineering, finance or law - they test your job-related knowledge and understanding of work processes

  • situational judgement - test how you would react in typical work situations and check things like your ability to solve problems, make decisions or work with others

  • values-based - commonly used for health and care jobs, particularly in the NHS, to confirm that you share the values and understand the culture of the organisation

  • motivational - these help an employer to see what drives you and to make sure you’ll fit in with their company


Get ready for the interview

Prepare for your interview by following these tips:

  • read the job description and person specification carefully and be clear on the skills and qualities the employer is looking for

  • check the company website to find out more about its products or services and their plans for the future

  • go over your CV or application form and think about things the employer may ask you about

  • use the STAR method to prepare some examples that show you have the right skills, personal qualities and experience

  • practise your timings on presentations and keep a back-up copy

  • ask someone you trust to practise answering questions

  • write down 2 or 3 questions you can ask at the end of your interview, that show you’re enthusiastic about the job

  • prepare something suitable and comfortable to wear

  • check what time you need to arrive and the name of the person you need to see

  • make sure that you know how to get to where the interview is being held

  • if you have a disability and need adjustments to make the interview accessible.


At the interview

Before you go in:

  • make sure your phone's turned off

  • use breathing techniques to calm yourself - try to remember, a few nerves are normal

  • smile and greet your interviewer confidently

  • ask for some water if you need it


During the interview

In the interview, remember the following:

  • be polite and use the right language and tone for a formal situation

  • listen carefully to questions and think before you begin your answers

  • if you do not understand a question, ask the interviewer to repeat it or explain further

  • use the STAR method to answer questions about your skills, for instance talk about the Situation you were in, the Task you had to do, the Action you took, and the Result you achieved

  • be positive about your experiences - if you’ve faced difficult situations, show what you learned from them

  • tell the truth - do not exaggerate or come across as over-confident

  • ask a couple of questions when you’re invited to do so - choose questions that make you sound keen, like ‘What opportunities are there for training with your company?’, rather than ones about pay or holidays at this stage

  • at the end, thank the employer for their time and tell them that you are looking forward to hearing from them


After the interview

If you’re offered the job, let the company know in good time whether you want to accept the offer. You can also agree the start date and what to bring on the first day.

If you decide not to accept the job, decline it politely, as you may want to work for them in the future.

If you do not get offered the job:

  • be positive - this is a chance to learn from your experience

  • ask for feedback on your interview

  • think about the things that did not go so well and what you could do to improve next time

  • get some interview practice - you could ask friends, family, colleagues or a careers adviser to help

Interview Advice: Service
talking on phones

TELEPHONE INTERVIEWS

Prepare and succeed on telephone calls.

Telephone interviews take place in the early stages of the job selection process. Follow our tips to show an employer you are the best person for the job.

Schedule your telephone interview

When you're invited to have an interview, make sure to note down the:

  • date and time

  • name of the person who will be calling you

  • details of the organisation

  • details of the job role - this is important if you're applying for different jobs at the same time, as you could get them mixed up

You should also check that the company has the right telephone number to reach you on the day.


Do your research

Like a face to face interview the employer will want to see how enthusiastic you are about joining the company and getting this role. Make sure that you:

  • research the company and what's involved in the job-use the job description to help

  • look at the company website and get an understanding of their culture and values

  • go over your CV or application form


With this information, you can then plan how you will show that you have the skills and experience the employer wants. To help you plan, you could:

  • think about the sorts of questions the interviewer will ask

  • use the STAR method to plan your answers

  • make some prompt cards to have in front of you during the call


Think ahead

While planning what questions the interviewer will ask you, you should also prepare 2 or 3 questions you can ask the interviewer.


Try to think of ones that make you sound well motivated, like:

  • how the interviewer found their own career path to the company

  • what kind of training or development opportunities will be available to you


Plan where to take the call

You’ll need somewhere quiet without any distractions. If you live in a shared space you may need to ask your housemates or family to be quiet during your interview.

If you have caring responsibilities, get help if you can, so you can focus. You should organise everything well in advance.


Get some practice

Practising with a mock telephone interview may help to calm your nerves, boost your confidence and help you perform better on the day.

You could get help from:

  • your university careers service, school or college careers adviser 

  • an adviser from the Jobcentre

  • a friend or family member willing to call and ask you some interview questions


If you don’t have anyone to help, you could record yourself and then play back your recording to make sure:

  • your voice is clear

  • you are speaking at the right pace – try not to talk too fast if you are nervous

  • you sound keen and engaged


Try smiling while you talk – it makes you sound friendly and upbeat, even if the interviewer can’t see you.


On the interview day

The advantage of a telephone interview is that the recruiter can’t see you, so you can have:

  • pen and paper to write down any notes

  • our interview advice to help you

  • your CV and application form with you

  • cards to prompt - if you have these


Make a few final checks, like:

  • if you’re using a mobile phone, make sure it’s charged well

  • find and use earphones if you have them

  • if you’re using a landline turn off your mobile so it doesn’t go off during the call

  • make sure your environment is quiet and you have no distractions

During the call

Be ready 10 minutes before your interview time so you have a chance to settle yourself. Take some deep breaths and try to stay calm.

When you’re on the call you should:

  • be polite and professional

  • if the line is bad or you’re struggling to hear, let the interviewer know

  • do not eat, drink, chew gum or sound bored during a telephone interview

  • listen to the questions and pause before giving your answer - this gives them time to finish speaking and stops you talking over each other

  • be clear and confident when you reply

  • be comfortable enough to ask the interviewer to repeat a question if you are unsure


After the interview

At the end of the interview, you should thank the employer for their time. It’s okay to ask when to expect to hear the outcome of your interview.

When you have hung up, write down 2 or 3 things that you think went well and 2 or 3 that you think you could improve next time, this will help you prepare for your next interview.

Be positive! Even if you don’t get through to the next stage, there are always things to learn from the experience.

Interview Advice: Service
Video Conference

DO WELL ON VIDEO INTERVIEWS

How to do well on live and pre-recorded interviews.

Prepare for your video interview

Once you have found out which type of video interview you are being asked to do, make sure you:

  • make a note of important times and deadline dates

  • double check the contact details for sending your recording back

  • spend some time on practice questions if you are sent any - they will help you become familiar with the format and understand what to expect


Like all interviews you’ll need to prepare well. Make sure that you:

  • research the company and what’s involved in the job

  • look at the company website and get an understanding of their culture and values

  • read through any guidance notes from the recruiter and follow their instructions

  • go through your CV or application form and prepare examples to show you have the skills and experience the employer wants.

  • make presentation slides that you can have on screen as a prompt

  • prepare some answers to common interview questions and have some questions of your own


Get your location ready

You’ll need a quiet room with no interruptions. If you live in a shared house you may need to warn others to be quiet.

Find somewhere you can sit in front of a plain background that will not be distracting. Make sure you have good natural light, or use a lamp so that the interviewer can see you well on screen.

If you can, use a computer or laptop rather than a tablet or mobile phone. Position it so the camera is at eye level. Headphones will improve your sound quality.

You could split your screen and have your prompt cards on one half and the interview on the other.


Before you start you should test your microphone and make sure you know how to use the software, like how to:

  • start and end the session

  • mute your microphone or turn off your camera

  • share your screen – you may have to do a practical task during the interview


Prepare yourself

Wear smart clothes that look professional. Go for something plain that does not look distracting on camera.

Keep jewellery to a minimum and try to avoid anything that could distract you and be noisy when you move.

You should do some practice runs, by recording yourself and watching the recording back. Make sure that when you are talking to camera you:

  • speak clearly

  • do not talk too fast

  • pause at the end of a question so that you don’t talk over the interviewer (there is a slight delay online)

  • smile and look interested

  • sit up straight and have good body language

  • keep up good eye contact – look at your camera rather than at the screen


On the day of your interview

Make sure you plug in or charge your equipment and that your internet connection is good. Log in with at least half an hour to spare so that you can check everything is working well.

To avoid distractions, close down any other windows on your computer and turn off your mobile phone.


At the interview

Take some deep breaths and try to stay calm.

Try to enjoy the experience and show the employer you are a good fit for their company.

After the interview, you should write down:

  • 2 or 3 things that you think went well

  • 2 or 3 that you think you could improve next time

If you feel you need help to build your confidence in video interviews, talk to us at SKILLS Ltd.

Live online interview tips

A live video interview is like a face-to-face interview. You'll have an interviewer or a panel of interviewers ask you questions in real time. It will be on a service like:

  • Skype

  • Facetime

  • Google Hangouts

  • Zoom


In a live video interview, if you have any technical problems, let the interviewer know. Don’t try to muddle through. It’s better to stop and restart than pretend everything is okay.


Pre-recorded video interview tips

Pre-recorded interviews usually open at a set time and stay open for a few days. You record your answers during this time and send them back to the interviewer to watch later.

You usually watch a video and have a set amount of time to record your answers. The questions will either appear on the screen or the employer records themselves asking the questions.


In a pre-recorded interview you will not be speaking to anyone. You will not have any visual clues from an interviewer to encourage you. To help try to imagine you are talking to a real person. You could practice in front of a mirror or with a friend to help.


You should:

  • read the questions well before answering

  • use any practice questions to check out if you can stop or re-record any of your answers if something goes wrong

Interview Advice: Service
Job Interview

COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

Answer interview questions confidently whilst making a good impression

Companies have different interviewing styles. You could have an interview that's:

  • face-to-face

  • over the phone

  • on webchat

  • with a panel


Whichever interview method is used, the best way to make a good impression is to prepare well. This means doing your research, having good examples and practising your answers.


Questions about the employer

Employers want to see that you have a genuine interest in working for them by asking questions like:

  • what do you know about our company?

  • why do you think you're a good fit for our company?

  • why do you want to work for us?

To prepare for questions about the employer, you need to research the company. You should look at their website and 'about us' pages to find out more about their products, services and values.


Questions about you

Employers will want to get to know you and may ask things like:

  • what do you do in your spare time?

  • what are your hobbies and interests?


Your answers should show what kind of personal qualities, interests and skills you have.

If the job requires certain skills, you should demonstrate these in your examples.

Questions about your work history

Employers usually base interview questions around your work history to give you the chance to talk about your experience. For instance, they might ask:

  • when have you faced a challenging situation?

  • can you tell us about a personal achievement at work?

  • have you ever taken the initiative?

  • have you ever failed at a task?


Your answers should reflect the skills the employer wants. Be positive and tailor your examples to the job description.


If your work history is limited, you can use examples from outside of work. You can also use examples from volunteering experience.

Questions about your strengths

The strengths employers look for will depend on the job role. You may be asked questions like:

  • what are your main strengths?

  • why should we hire you?


Along with specific examples, you can also highlight your personal qualities as strengths, for instance:

  • communication shows you get on with others

  • problem solving shows you can find solutions

  • enthusiasm shows you have a positive attitude to work

  • flexibility shows you can adapt to different ways of working


Plan your answers around 2 or 3 examples that are relevant to the job. You can back these up with qualifications or training you've done.


Questions about your weaknesses

You should answer questions on weaknesses honestly and say how you're working to improve them.


Example

Question - Do you have any weaknesses?

Answer - I struggle with time management on projects. I'm working on improving this by creating a timetable of steps at the start of each project and making sure I follow it.


Questions you can ask

At the end of a job interview, employers will usually ask if you have any questions for them. This is a good chance to show your interest in the company and your enthusiasm for the job.

For example, you could ask:

  • what's it like to work here?

  • what does a typical day involve?

  • how do you see the company developing over the next few years?

  • will there be any training opportunities after I start?


Questions on why you left your last job

You may be asked questions about leaving your last job.

If you've been out of work for a long time, explain why. Talk about the positive things you've done while away from work. For example, networking, retraining, volunteering or keeping fit.


Use our advice to plan your answers.


Left by choice

If you left your job by choice:

  • be positive about why you left and why you want a new job

  • describe why their company suits you better


Redundancy

If you were made redundant:

  • explain the situation

  • describe how you've responded positively since


Fired for misconduct or poor performance

If you were fired because of misconduct or poor performance, explain:

  • why your standards had dropped

  • what you've learned

  • how you've improved since the experience


You now have the tools for to take on the different types of questions, have a fantastic interviewing experience.

Interview Advice: Service
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