My job interview
If you're invited to an interview, you should take the opportunity to get up to speed with the company's key metrics, products and strategies (see "My Dream Company").
Additional steps towards your dream job:
Preparing for your interview
However individual an interview may seem, there are certain things that are common to them all. The applicant introduces himself, the company introduces itself, questions are asked of the applicant and the applicant asks questions of the company. These are all points that can be practised in advance by the applicant with a friend or acquaintance.
Firstly, this forces you to firmly compose your thoughts and responses and secondly, you have the opportunity to experience what an interview is actually like in advance, which has been shown to reduce stress levels during a real interview. Your "interviewer" can then give you tips on where you can improve and also provide you with an assessment of how you performed in certain areas. Take constructive criticism seriously and work on the points raised. Remember, good preparation is the first step to success.
An increasing number of companies now carry out a pre-selection telephone interview. So, if you get a call to do a telephone interview, that's a good thing: You've cleared the first hurdle and are now through to the next (and more selective) round of applicants.
A telephone interview can cover the entire canon of questions you're likely to face in a traditional face-to-face interview. Technical questions, however, tend to play a secondary role. The roles between the participants also tend to be more pronounced, because a telephone interview has a stronger structure: The company representative asks the questions and you answer.
Most telephone interviews last about 30 to 40 minutes. Some are longer. You also don't have to take part in an interview without some sort of prior notice. Most HR professionals will give you a choice of dates and times when arranging a telephone interview. You should have the job ad, application and information about your potential employer as well as something to write with to hand. You should also take the telephone interview just as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview. Also, be sure to find a quiet place to take the call so that you can ensure you won't be disturbed.
When it comes to interviews, you are your own goodwill ambassador. Therefore, you should – and must – present yourself in your best light.
The general procedure for an interview is as follows: After exchanging greetings and some brief small talk, you may well wonder who should introduce himself first. Usually, the HR representative will begin and then invite you to speak a bit about yourself and your career to date. You should then explain what attracts you to the job and why you consider yourself to be the right individual for the position. Particularly in larger corporate groups personal interviews are very structured, which will be evident by the interviewer making notes after each of your responses.
Typical questions will relate to your work experience, your strengths and weaknesses, why you're wanting to change jobs, what attracts you to the current position, difficult or tricky situations you have successfully overcome in the past and how you dealt with them. The interviewer, for his part, will introduce the company to you and expand on the requirements of the job. It's at this point you should ask your own questions.
Topics such as pay or your earliest possible starting date will be taken up towards the end of the interview. A well-prepared interviewer will also give you feedback on your interview. If the interviewer doesn't do this, you can politely request feedback ("What sort of impression of me will you take away from our meeting?") and ask when you might expect a response from the company. If your interviewer doesn't address the conditions of employment, you can always ask.
If you are offered an opportunity to take a tour of the company, you should definitely accept. On the one hand, it will show you are truly interested in the job and, on the other, you can gain an initial impression of what it's like to work there: For instance, do the employees interact well with each other? Is there an eerie silence in the office or do you see people laughing at times? Do the offices or equipment seem old or run-down? There's also no reason why you shouldn't politely ask your interviewer for a short tour should no invitation be immediately forthcoming.
For some interviews, you may have two people sitting opposite you: a representative of the HR department and a representative of the department looking to fill the position. Be sure to make eye contact with both parties when answering questions. If you're invited to a second interview where a new interviewer is present, don't assume this person will be informed and up-to-date regarding everything you said in your initial interview. Therefore, it is a very good idea to make notes of what you were told during your previous interview for just such an eventuality.
Make sure you arrive on time – that is, about 10 minutes before your interview appointment. You should also be dressed in a way that is appropriate for what will hopefully be you future job. Try to remain authentic in spite of your nervousness. Look your interviewer in the eye when you speak to him. A firm handshake and a smile can work wonders. Do not be afraid to bring notes you've prepared in advance for your job interview. One further tip: Be sure to print out a copy of your complete application (cover letter, CV, certificates) and have this with you. This will demonstrate that you are professional and well prepared.
Attending the assesment centre
Applicants for a trainee programme or a team leader position with a large company will most likely go through an assessment centre. Here, your prospective employer will simulate real world job situations and will attempt to find out how applicants behave in their everyday work. An assessment centre can last up to three days and consists of various exercises in which the participants are confronted with a variety of tasks and problems. The participants are observed by several members of management who will then privately give them feedback on how they have done. The focus will be on the following areas: What role does the candidate assume in the group? Do others listen to him? Does he value the opinions of others? Can he cooperate with others? How does he react in stressful situations? How committed and effective is he? How quickly does he become frustrated? Is he relaxed and authentic? Humorous without being silly?
Dealing with rejections
At the end of the day, only one candidate will be successful. And if you ask the HR representative why you didn't get the job, you won't always get an answer. Firstly, for workload reasons, the HR department is usually not able to give a detailed answer to such a question. Secondly, companies must also avoid a number of legal pitfalls in such situations and so, will often not provide any justification for a rejection letter. One exception, however, might be when you are one of the last three candidates for a role or when your application was handled via a recruitment agency and you at least were able to speak with a representative of the company.
Should you find that you've been turned down for a number of jobs after going to interview, but don't know the reason why, you might want to consider discussing your situation with a coach or recruitment consultant. Having a view from the outside will help you to fundamentally re-evaluate your situation. But remember: Companies themselves are now finding they have to actively seek out new employees, so it's all a matter of give and take.
You can get Word templates for your CV as well as checklists for your application documents and job interview in our download area.