You’re through the first hurdle. You’ve secured an interview – now what? Stay calm, follow these simple steps and you’ll be sailing straight into a job offer before you know it.
Things to do before an interview
Before you dust off your outfit, there’s plenty of work to be done in advance. Knowledge is power, and you can never underestimate the confidence you will get from learning more about the company, its values and the specific roles etc. If you visit the website of most large employers you will be able to gather a treasure chest of information to help you. For example a quick look at Sainsbury’s and you can find their values, their vision, what they are looking for, and even some tips from them on how to increase your chances of success. All of this is in addition to the information provided on a basic job spec about the role you are applying for.
Whether or not Sainsbury’s is the right employer for you, most companies make this information freely available on their website and therefore expect you to have done some homework. You should expect to be asked ‘why do you want the job?’ or ‘why you want to work for us?’. So it’s helpful to use the information available on a company’s website to boost your confidence and help you prepare some strong responses.
The big day has arrived and you’re on the way to the interview. One of the most important things you can do is be positive. Its infectious. Positive people radiate energy and others want to be around them. They also want to work with them.
Think of positive outcomes, think about how you’re going to charm the person on the other side of the table. Some people find listening to their favourite music on the way to the interview can help put them in a positive frame of mind, others prefer to sit quietly and conserve their energy for the interview.
One important advantage you have being slightly older, is that you know yourself. Use this to your advantage and do what you know you need to in order to put you in the best frame of mind walking into that room as possible.
Tell them why you want the job – specifically THIS job at THIS Company
People like a compliment, and there’s no better one than being told you’re clever and made a smart decision. The person on the other side of that table has clearly chosen to work for the company you have applied for. Whether they’ve been there for 1 week, or 15 years, they have made the decision to commit a large amount of their time and energy to the Company. They believe in it.
So they want to work with people who feel the same, and it’s nice for them to have their decision validated by others. They don’t want to know that you’re applying because there is nothing else available. They certainly don’t want to know that you can’t find another job. They want to believe that you can get any job you want, but that you want THIS job, working with them.
The important thing to remember is that it’s got to be credible and personal to you. Which is why it’s often helpful to do research on the company and role in advance to understand more about the company and why the role appeals to you as an individual.
Whatever the role, from being a Marketing Director, to working on a construction site, it is always about how well you communicate. It’s one of the defining features in the success of our species – the ability to communicate with one another, work together and make things happen that we couldn’t do as individuals. Nowhere is this more important than when you’re working as part of a team in the workplace. A single breakdown in communication can be hugely costly, damage customer reputation and preventing hundreds of other people from doing their jobs so it’s not surprising that companies focus on this aspect so much.
But the hidden ingredient is not ‘what you say’ or ‘how you say it’ – it’s all about what you don’t say. It’s about listening. People will forgive you for using the wrong words or going off point (a little) – what they won’t forgive is not being listened too, or being talked at for 15 minutes solidly. If you don’t listen to them in an interview, then why would you listen to them in the job? Too often I’ve seen bright, experienced candidates talk themselves out of a job by simply talking too much and not letting the interviewer speak or ask the questions they need to.
Interviewers typically have a number of things that they are looking for in a job interview. They are also used to leading you in a way that gives you the opportunity to say what they need to hear. So if you follow their lead, and stop to listen or ask questions regularly, they will most likely walk you towards the answers that they want to hear.
Know your strengths, weaknesses and have some great examples prepared
Many employers these days will ask you competency based questions – these can be along the lines of ‘tell me about a time you did this’ or ‘give me an example of where you went over and above for a customer’.
The reason they do this is that they believe an evidence based approach of what you have done is better than asking what you would hypothetically do in the future. Many of us will be able to give a better example of what we would do, rather than what we have actually done – which is exactly why they ask the more difficult question!
But how can you prepare examples for every possible question? The short answer is you can’t, however you can create the conditions for success. My own trick here is to flip it round and rather than prepare answers to an unlimited set of questions – I think about some really good examples of my work and outside projects that I am proud of, and remind myself of the details.
If you’re particularly proud of something, whether it was in the workplace or not, it’s likely that you demonstrated a number of positive working behaviours to achieve it. It is also likely that this same example can be used to demonstrate a whole range of positive behaviours from taking the initiative or influencing other people, to going above and beyond to meet a deadline.
By switching it round to focus on your achievements, rather than worrying about what questions you could be asked, it puts you back in control. This allows you to prepare in a meaningful way, but importantly, it also boosts your confidence by remembering the great things you have done.
If you’ve been told that you’ll have to sit a short numeracy and literacy test then be sure to prepare
Nowadays it’s common for employers to ask candidates to sit a short literacy and numeracy tests as part of a job interview. If this is the case, then the company interviewing you will usually inform about the tests when they give you an interview date and time.
These tests are usually quite basic, and are designed to test your logical reasoning and written communication skills. If your employer informs you that you will have to take a literacy and/or numeracy test, then it’s always a good idea to ask which test publisher they are using, so that you can visit their website, where you’ll be able to find out more about the format of the tests, and might even be able to find example questions. The questions on the test will usually differ depending on what line of work you’re going in to.
Each test will usually be timed, but make sure that you don’t rush, and that you read all questions carefully. If you find yourself with extra time at the end, then it’s always a good idea to go over your test, and check that you’ve answered each question to the best of your ability. This can help you pick up on any small mistakes that you might have made. If you’re ever in doubt about an answer, then it’s always best to take a guess, rather than leaving it blank – as a guess could be right, but a blank answer definitely won’t score you any extra marks.
Tests can often feel scarier than they actually are, because they take us back to our school days! But it’s important to remind yourself of how much life experience you’ve acquired since then. Take a few deep breaths, and remember that you’ve got this!
Be your ‘best you’
We all have good days and bad days. Days where we think we really ‘nailed it’, and days where we know we didn’t quite hit the mark. We can’t eliminate the bad days, but you can use your knowledge of yourself to create the best possible conditions for success. Arrive early so you’re not hot or flustered when you get there. Take a book, some interview notes or even some headphones to get you in the right frame of mind for the interview – only you will know what works for you. Finally, be well prepared – not only does this help you answer specific questions but it will give you a strong sense of confidence going into the interview.
While you obviously want to be your ‘best you’, it’s important to be just that – yourself. You need to be authentic so people feel they can trust you. While the robots may be coming someday, today we still have people, and people like people, quirks and all. Sometimes it’s those little bits of character, that creep out around the edges of a well delivered interview, that make people remember us over other candidates.