An interview with The Definitive Job Book's Anne Watson
- Anne Watson
- 2011-01-28 12:09:00.0
What is the absolutely number one top tip for a good interview?
The most important point for any interview is to be prepared in every sense. You must have done your research on the company and the people you are meeting. Not only that, you must be sure you are on time, looking smart, focussed on the job you want and then you must go in feeling confident and certain that this is the job for you and you are the person they are looking for. Act as if this is the only job you have applied for and the only job that you want. Make the right impact and make sure that your enthusiasm and commitment come through. Do not waffle but get your points across succinctly. You have only one chance to shine and it is up to you to do it, not for the interviewer to help you make the best of the opportunity. Do not interrupt, do not “overtalk” but make sure you have your say.
Remember that words are only 9% of communication so remember to get the body language right, to focus on building rapport with the people who are interviewing you and to create a good impression. Maintain good eye contact, smile and practise a firm handshake. Talking is good but listening is better so make sure you listen hard and respond intelligently.
What should your preparation process include?
Do as much background checking as possible on the company and the people who are interviewing. In this era of the Internet there is absolutely no excuse for not knowing about the company. Look at their website and find out about the directors of the business. As well as googling them, you could have a look at www.linkedin.com and see if you can track them down there.
Find out about what the company does. If it is a retailer, visit some of their shops so that you can offer an informed opinion about their stores, their products or their locations. If they are a manufacturer, see if you can find out more about their products in the marketplace. Not only that, discover who their competitors are and know something about them. If they have a call centre, ring it and form a view on their customer service. Remember that you are in a competitive situation and your job is to stand out, for all the right reasons. You need the interviewer to be impressed by your research and your determination.
Make sure you have worked out where the interview is going to be held and how you are going to get there. You don’t want to arrive flustered because you underestimated the journey time or because the building is not where you thought it was.
How important is it to bring along a copy of our CV?
Competent recruiters should already have a copy of your CV but why don’t you prepare a file that has all of the information about the job you are being interviewed for? You could put all your printouts in there as well as a copy of your CV. That way, if it is needed, you can produce one with a flourish. Check that the CV is perfect as nothing else will do. No spelling mistakes and no inaccuracies. People check dates on CVs and one lie, however small, will leave you firmly in the “reject” pile. The winner of The Apprentice may have got away with it but in my experience that normally would be the end of the line.
Include some blank pieces of paper and a pen so you can. If you like, take some notes but don’t scribble away. Find a balance in everything. A client of mine rejected an excellent candidate because he said he did not have a paper and pen with him and did not write down a single thing he said.
How much should you know about the firm and the people who are interviewing you?
See question 2 above. It is impossible to be over prepared. Although we all know that you have probably applied for dozens of jobs, your challenge is to make it look as though this interview is the one that you truly want and there is no better way of demonstrating it than by showing your thoroughness in preparation. Doing this shows that you are organised, thoughtful and diligent, all good qualities for any future employee!
What are the types of questions designed to throw an interviewee?
The questions you need to watch out for are the ones that are “off piste” and are meant to see how articulate you are. Make sure you have read the papers and are ready for questions relating to current events or hot topics. A question relating to economic melt down or credit crunch will be one that will test how up to date you are. One client of mine always asks “What is the last book you read?” In the adrenalin fuelled fear of the moment, it is easy for your mind to go blank so have something prepared that will create the right impression.
Make sure you have got examples prepared for the kind of question that is looking for you to pluck examples from your life to illustrate particular points. Eg
• Give me an example of a time when you demonstrated true leadership
• What are you most proud of in your life to date?
• What would you consider to be your greatest success?
• What would consider is your greatest failure?
• Describe a situation when you have turned potential failure into a success
• What are the three key qualities you will bring to a team?
• Who do you consider to be a role model?
• Name three people you admire and why?
• What would your best friend say about you?
• What would someone who disliked you say about you?
• If you had to pick an animal that you were like, what would it be?
What is the best answer for the question, "what is your worst trait?"
Be prepared for this one as it is inevitable. It is the question that you have to sidestep and you have to have prepared it in advance as you will be confessing to different weaknesses for different jobs. This is not the time for you to admit candidly that you are hopeless at getting up in the mornings or that you live in disorganised shambles. We don’t want to know that you never finish things off or that you have never been able to cope with being part of the team.
Look at the job role and work out what they are NOT looking for and confess that you don’t have it. For example, if you are applying to train as an accountant, it would be OK to say that you have never really got to grips with the artistic side of life. Conversely, if you are going for a job that has no need for numeracy, you can say that you have never managed to fathom the intricacies of Excel spreadsheets but you hope to conquer that in time.
You could say that you have a tendency to take on too much and therefore can get over loaded or you could say that you find you stick at things for too long when perhaps you should have moved on. This is the art of turning what is in fact a strength into a weakness. Work out what would be best for you. Maybe you could say that you have a big personal network and you find it hard to keep up with them. Perhaps you have to finish every book that you start, even when you have decided after two chapters that you don’t like it. Think about something small that is in fact irrelevant and own up to that.
How often do firms ask interviewees to do psychometric testing? and how do you get through?
Most companies now use psychometric testing as part of their interviewing process. This particularly true of graduates as they don’t have a long career history that can be discussed at interview.
There are two kinds of psychometric questionnaires, ability and personality. In order to gain the confidence you need to get through, make sure you do some precise papers for ability questionnaires before you embark on any interviews. They are likely to be in the categories of verbal, numerical and abstract and you can find lots of these on the Internet. These practice papers will show you what they are like and how you need to approach them. You will gain the experience you need in managing your time and getting your brain into the right gear to tackle them
Personality questionnaires are much more fun as they should truly reflect the kind of person that you are. It is pointless to practise although a heightened level of self awareness, something that you will gain from personality questionnaires, will be a huge help in your job search.
How do you impress if you are called back for a second interview?
You stand a much better chance if you are invited back for as second interview. You will have the confidence of knowing that you impressed first time round so use all other information you gained in that first interview to help you in the second. If you were asked questions that you found difficult, be ready for them this time round. If the dress code was a particular one, make sure you match it this time round. Do more research on the people and be better informed. Try to find someone who is currently working for the organisation and get some more data about the culture and the goals of the business.
At this second interview show that you are still enthusiastic and that you have done even more research. This, combined with the boost to your confidence of making it through the first round, will make sure that you impress. Do not rest on your laurels but keep working and researching.
What's the best way to stand out in a group interview situation?
This is your chance to show your leadership skills so make sure that you listen hard to other people in the group. Dominating the group is not what it is about. Make sure your voice is heard but be sure to let the assessors see that you are including the views of the group. Be the person who is summarising the situation and suggesting ways forward. Don’t shout people down and don’t be a wall flower. Assessors are not looking for someone who is the person with their “finger on the buzzer “ all the time. They are looking for reflectors who are inclusive in their approach so stay alert and be pleasant.