The Interview: A Step by Step Guide

Thorough preparation and planning will make the difference between a good interview and an excellent interview. Here we offer some pointers:

First Step: Understanding the Interview Process

The more you prepare for your interview, the more in control you will be of the situation, making it less likely for your nerves to take over.

Typically, you should expect at least two interviews in the recruitment process; however, this can vary. We’ve known applicants who’ve had to undergo several stages, whereas others have had just one interview before being given a job offer.

Usually, the first interview is an overall assessment of skills, motivations and ability, sometimes combined with competency assessments and a face to face meeting. (Take a look at our blog articles on different styles of interview for more information.)

The second stage of the process involves fewer applicants, with sometimes just one candidate shortlisted to meet individuals in the team.
The initial first interview could take place in varying formats. It could be a face to face meeting, google hangout, telephone or SKYPE interview. Whichever method used, the objectives are usually very similar: to understand your background and experience, how you communicate, as well as understand your motivations and consider how well you might fit in, both skills-wise and culturally. It may also give the interviewer a chance to explain a bit more about the background to the role and what they need, so do prepare some questions to show your interest.

The second stage often involves an assessment or presentation for more senior-level positions. It’s also an opportunity to meet team members who were not part of the original process; allowing them the chance to consider any questions they may have about the applicant and to assess their skills in more detail.

During the whole interview process, you should be clear, honest and open, while communicating your abilities, skills and company interest in an engaging way.

Set of sticky notes with reminders of what to do

Second Step: Preparing for the Interview

Our role

Your recruitment consultant will know their clients well. They will be able to advise you on key aspects of the process, including the structure and selection panel. They will give you essential information about the company, culture, and what they’re looking to achieve with this hire.

They will be able to advise you on where they feel your strengths are and offer advice on how to present and overcome any concerns or potential gaps in your knowledge or experience.

Your role

Background research is most important to a successful interview. There’s no excuse for not being able to answer the “So what do you know about…?” question.

Websites and social channels offer invaluable information on companies, their employees, their clients and their culture. Set aside some time to find out what you can, identifying two or three interesting topics that may be useful to refer to in your interview.

Go through the job description, ensuring you’re clear on what you’re applying for and how that fits into the business. How do your skills match what they need and have listed on the spec?

Typical Interview Questions

If you review the job description as well as your CV, you’ll probably be able to anticipate some of the questions an interviewer may have. These may be skills-based, motivational or competency-based questions. (Link to Competency-based Interview Article)

Questions can include:

Why did you choose to study XYZ?

What made you follow the career path that you have chosen?

What qualifications or experience do you have that would be most relevant to the job?

What jobs have you enjoyed the most/the least?

What strengths can you bring to the role and what are the challenges that you see for yourself in this role?

Tell us about our last role, and why are you leaving?

What is the most significant success or sense of achievement you have experienced in your career to date?

Give me an example of a time when you have changed a way of doing things?

Why did you want to change things, and how did you go about implementing this?

Let’s Talk Money

Many candidates feel uncomfortable broaching the subject of money; deciding when is the right time to mention it and to whom you can discuss this personal subject, can be complicated.

Our advice is to be clear with your recruiter from the start about your expectations and needs, ensuring they have a total and accurate breakdown of your salary and benefits package. Details should include forthcoming reviews, bonus including conditions and payment dates.

Recruiters have access to many companies’ salary structures, therefore can quickly offer you industry benchmark salary information. They are working in your interests to secure the role and will be able to represent your goals not only in terms of career prospects but also for financial reward.

We will help you formulate a plan of how you want to pitch your salary expectations and when you should discuss this. In most instances, we will notify the client of what your salary expectation is at the outset. However, should the parameters of the job or responsibilities change, then you will need to work together to communicate with the client what your expectations are.

Person writing in a note pad

Other General Tips

Remember that the company will assess you from the moment you turn up. The impression you give everyone you meet there, including the receptionist, can influence the final decision, so it’s always essential to make a good impression from the start.

Aim to arrive a few minutes early and try not to be late, so plan your journey. There can always be transport delays, so it’s worth looking at a contingency plan too. Take the number of the company and put it in your phone so you can let them know in advance of any delays.

When you meet your interviewer, give a firm handshake and a smile; it shows confidence.

Good eye contact is tremendously important; it creates trust and also helps build rapport with colleagues and clients.
During the interview, make sure you sit up straight and try and avoid any nervous fidgeting – you do not want to distract the interviewer from what you’re saying.

Make sure your answers are relevant and try to avoid one-worded answers. Instead, qualify your answers by explaining your reasons with two or three sentences.

Remember, if you have had a bad experience at work, it’s ok. Be honest, but try not to be too negative when you discuss it in an interview. Talk about the positive aspects of your experience as well, what you gained from the situation. You want people to think you’re a positive person whom they’d enjoy working with rather than someone who focusses on what went wrong.

Ask lots of questions. It not only gives you the chance to show what you know about the role but also allows you to find out more about the company or position.

Whatever you do, don’t just have questions about remuneration or working hours. Asking about projects, teams, awards, clients, challenges or even about the interviewer themselves, is much more helpful. It shows that you are genuinely interested in what they do.

If you feel brave enough at the end, do ask the interviewer what they think about your application. It gives them the chance to tell you what reservations they may have about your suitability for the role. As a result, it will help you manage expectations by being more informed about what they are seeking.

Third Step: After the Interview

Contact your consultant to feedback your thoughts as soon as possible. It’s important to give your impressions of the interview and the company, explaining why you are or aren’t interested in the role.

Please be honest. Let your consultant know about any reservations or concerns you may have, and do give feedback on the actual process itself. Does the job meet your expectations? Did you have a good rapport with the interviewer? Do you have any reservations now you have been to the company and met with the Hiring Manager? Would you accept the role if offered?

Employers always like to hear what people thought about them and the process as soon as they can. We recommend, especially if the feedback is positive, that you try and call your consultant straight after the interview. You might still want time to think about it before making a firm decision, but initial impressions are helpful. If you are keen but very slow in getting back to your consultant, the company might be inclined to feel the job isn’t as interesting or important to you as it might be to other applicants.

We appreciate there will always be other elements worth considering, throughout the whole process, which is specific to the role you are applying to – this is where your consultant comes in. Ask as many questions as you need to. After all, that’s why we are here.

We work hard to build up an excellent understanding of what makes our clients tick and what they look for in job applications. We know what works well and what doesn’t. It is a team effort, and nothing gives us greater pleasure than finding the perfect role for our candidates.

Read our tips on planning for Competency-Based Interviews here