Interview Preparation & Technique Blog

How to prepare for a job interview - The Ultimate Guide September 11 2016, 0 Comments

how to prepare for a job interview - the ultimate guide

Being selected for interview is a great result… but the interview process can be tough and even a bit scary.

However, good preparation will make any job interview 10 times easier.

In fact, I would say that interview success is 90% down to preparation.

So how exactly do you prepare for an interview?

Drawing on my years of experience in the recruitment industry, I’ve compiled the most comprehensive interview preparation guide on the web.

This guide shows you step-by-step, how to prepare for any interview; from the day of the interview request – to the moment you walk into the interview room.


Guide Contents

A few days before the interview

The night before the interview

On the day of the interview

Before I delve into the full details of the guide, this infographic gives an overview of the process you will need to cover in order give yourself the very best chance of landing the job.

Guide continued below

How to prepare for an interview

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Intro - You’ve been selected for interview

Selected for interview

So you’ve made it through to interview stage, which means you’ve already beaten hundreds of other candidates and the employer sees potential you.

The interviewer already suspects that you can do the job - all you have to do is prove them right when you meet.

That’s obviously a lot easier said than done, but if you prepare properly, then there should be no reason why you can’t land that job offer.


When you receive the interview request, do 2 things straight away.

  1. Send the requestor an email thanking them for the invite, and confirming you will be attending. This is small touch, but will show that you are professional and will start to build a good impression before you even attend.
  1. Book the necessary time off. Whether it’s getting the time off work, or booking in childcare, get your time freed up ASAP so that you can focus your full attention on preparing for the interview.


Now the preparation begins…



A few days before the interview

Most employers will give you at least 2 days’ notice for an interview, but in the rare case that they don’t, you’ll just have to squeeze this section in a little earlier.

The few days in the build up to the interview is where most of the hard work lies. It’s where you will be doing the bulk of your research and preparation.

The work is split into the following categories:


Understand the company

Research the company

If you want the interviewer to take you seriously as a candidate, you will need to have at least a basic understanding of what their organisation does.

It will also help you to make your decision as to whether or not the role is right for you.

So what exactly do you need to know?


  • What services/products/solutions they offer
  • Who their customers/clients are
  • Who their competitors are
  • Which markets/areas/countries they operate in
  • Recent news or achievements
  • Company culture and values
  • Key people in the business


If you are applying to a fairly small company, then it will be enough to simply research the company as a whole – but if you are applying to a big organisation, then you will need to research more specifically into the area or team you are applying for.


Where can you find this information?


The company website

Your first port of call should be the company website, which should at least give you a general idea of their offerings and the markets they operate in, along with any key figures in the business.

Many companies will also have a blog which will give you an insight into some of their recent work and company culture.


News & industry websites

In order to find about the firm’s current affairs you can try scanning through some relevant industry publications online, or even running a News Search on Google – like below.

Google News Search


Social media

Social media can give you some big insights into a firms recent campaigns and even how they interact with customers sometimes.

Search them on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and scan through some of their recent activity and even check out some of their employee profiles if you can find them.


Ask the recruiter

If you’re vacancy is being managed by a recruiter (either internal or agency) then don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask them about the company you are interviewing at – you may acquire some insider knowledge that you aren’t able to find on the internet.


Check your LinkedIn connections

It’s a slightly long shot, but search your LinkedIn connections for employees of the firm. If you can find a friendly face who already works there, you can pick up some great information.


There are no hard and fast rules on how long you should spend researching and revising this information, but just ensure that you can remember enough to speak confidently about the company on interview day.


Quick tip: Search for the interviewer on LinkedIn and see if you can find out a little bit about their role and background – this may reveal some insights into your team/area. Don’t add the interviewer as a connection at this stage though, this could be seen as a little forward.



Understand the role

research the role

Employers will not offer a job to someone who reaches interview stage and doesn’t seem to grasp the role – so make sure that you fully understand the job being offered.

Familiarise yourself with the job description thoroughly and be sure to ask for one if you haven’t already received it.

If the job spec is missing any information that you need, speak to the recruiter and ask them to fill in the gaps for you.


In order to fully understand the role you should be able to cover most of the points below fairly confidently:


  • What the overall goal of the role is
  • Which area/team you will be working in and who you will be reporting to and/or managing
  • People you are required to interact with (customers, suppliers, regulators etc.)
  • Tools and software packages you will be using
  • Product or service knowledge required
  • Work you will be producing (depending on your industry this could be anything from reports, design work and web applications, through to physical products like cars or buildings)
  • Environments you will be working in (e.g. busy sales floor, high profile government building etc.)



Know why you are a good fit for the role

Tick all the boxes

Once you understand the company and the role, this part should be fairly easy.

You just need to match your skills and knowledge up to the job responsibilities.

Look at each requirement on the job description and make notes on how you meet them with your skills and experience. Doing this should prepare you for most questions the interviewer asks you around your suitability.

Much of the interview process is based around proving why you are suitable for the role; so having it mapped out like this is really helpful.

Go over these notes a few times in the build up to your interview in order to properly familiarise yourself with them.



Know your weaknesses

know your weaknesses

Now that you know your strengths, it’s important to know your weaknesses – as interviewers will usually ask you about them.

There are likely to be some elements of the job where your skills don’t quite match up to the employers expectations… but that’s OK. How you handle those shortcomings is what matters.

The idea is to recognise your weaknesses and have a plan of how you will combat them in the workplace to ensure you perform well in your job.

For example, you may be applying for a job where you tick most of the boxes except one qualification.


In case you are asked about this, you should have a rough answer prepared along the lines of:

“Although I don’t have the technical qualification, I feel that my 5 years of experience has given me the knowledge to deal with any situation in this area. I am also working towards the qualification this year.”

Knowing your weaknesses like this will reassure the interviewer that you they will not stop you from doing a good job.

Showing that you are looking to improve your skills in that area with training or study will also get you some brownie points tooo.



Plan the journey

If you’re travelling a significant distance to your job interview, then plan your route well in advance.

Whether you’re driving or taking public transport, learn your route and even a backup alternative in case of travel disruptions.

Essentially, do whatever you can to avoid being late.

If you are not familiar with the area of the building, it may be worth making a practice journey if you have the time – it will alleviate some of the pressure on the day.



Prepare anything you need to take

pack interview bag

You’ll need to take a few interview essentials with you on the day along with anything you’ve been asked to bring specifically by the employer.

Make sure you have all of these items ready well in advance – you don’t want to be rushing around trying to locate them at the last minute on the day.

What you need to take

  1. Multiple copies of your CV to ensure you have a copy for everyone you meet – print them off nice and early to avoid any printer mishap issues
  2. A pen and pad to take notes
  3. Some prepared questions – I cover this in more detail here
  4. The job description (including your notes) – handy to revise on your journey
  5. The interview details (either saved to your phone or printed)
  6. Relevant certificates or anything the interviewer has asked you to bring specifically
  7. Examples of your work - If you are in a creative industry such as graphic design then you may have a portfolio of your work to take with you. Non creative professionals need to think outside the box a little and use things like sales figures, awards and client testimonials.
  8. A smart folder or bag to put everything in will help you to stay organised and look professional.
  9. You also need to make sure that anything you are planning to wear is clean and ready to wear



Practice common interview questions

Common interview questions

Although you can never predict every question that’s going to be asked at an interview, you can be sure that some of the more common interview questions will arise in some form or another.

Questions like:


Why do you want this job?

Why should we hire you?

Why are you leaving your current job?


You need to know how you will answer these 3 questions in particular, well before you walk into the interview.

To help you plan your answers to these questions and more, check out our list of 20 common interview questions and how to answer them.

If possible, practice answering the questions with a friend or at least reading the answers out loud to yourself – it just helps to get you in the habit of reeling them off naturally.



Prepare questions to ask the interviewer

There will likely be a point in the interview where you will be asked if you have any questions, so it’s good to have some prepared.

Asking the right questions can make you appear keen and diligent, which will impress the interviewer.

You may already have some questions about the role, but if not – try to ask something on the subject of progression and development; to let the interview know that you are looking to work hard and make a commitment.

Ask questions like;


What opportunities are there for career progression?

Do you offer training and development?

Where could I expect to be after a year in this role?


Avoid asking questions about holiday and lunch breaks at this stage, it’s a little too early to be asking for time off :)



The night before the interview

The night before your interview should be fairly relaxed evening, you don’t want to be doing anything too stressful.

You’ve done most of the hard work in the previous few days, there are just a few final bits of preparation left.



Prepare your outfit

prepare interview outfit

To save any last minute panic on the morning of the interview, pick out what you are going to wear the night before.

Make sure that clothes are clean and ironed, shoes are polished, and everything is laid out ready to put on in the morning.

Work dress code has changed in recent times with many offices now promoting a more casual style, but when it comes to interview stage, it’s always a safe bet to go smart.

For guys you can’t go wrong with a full suit and tie with a smart pair of polished shoes. For ladies, a smart skirt with a collared shirt and blazer will work.


Go over your preparation

So over the past few days you will have:


  • Researched the company
  • Studied the job spec and made notes on your suitability
  • Noted how you will overcome your weaknesses
  • Practiced some common interview questions
  • Prepared some questions to ask the interviewer


So just spend about 30 minutes to an hour re-visiting all of your preparation to keep everything fresh in your mind for the big day.


Pack your bag or folder

Once you’ve finished up your preparation, pack your bag or folder with everything you need to take to the interview.

As I mentioned earlier, this includes:


  • A few copies of your CV
  • The job description (with your notes on)
  • A pen and pad
  • Relevant qualifications
  • Examples of your work if possible
  • Questions you have prepared
  • The interview details (if you’ve written them down as opposed to saving them on your phone)


With your things packed and outfit ready, you will save lots of valuable time in the morning and avoid any last minute worries.


Quick tip: Check the travel news for the next day – make sure that your route is still in operation



Get a good night’s sleep

good night sleep before interview

Spend some time relaxing before getting off to bed nice and early – you will function much better after a good night’s sleep. In fact most adults need between 7.5 and 9 hours of sleep to perform at their best.


Set a couple of alarms for the morning if you can – you don’t want to wake up late.



On the day of the interview

When the interview day arrives, there are only a few more things left to do in order to give yourself the best chance of success.



Aim to arrive in the area 30 minutes early

When you set off, check the travel news again and aim to arrive in the general vicinity of the interview building around 30 minutes before it starts.


There are 2 reason for setting off in this time:


  1. If you have any unexpected travel disruptions, the extra time should hopefully mean you still arrive on time.


  1. Hopefully you should arrive to the area with time to spare and you can do the following:
    1. Find the entrance to the building (do this first!)
    2. Find the nearest coffee shop or café
    3. Grab a drink whilst you go over your notes again one last time


Do not actually arrive to the interview 30 minutes early though – you don’t want to be sitting awkwardly in their reception for half an hour. Arriving 5-10 minutes early is perfect.



Start a conversation with a stranger on the way

Social warm up

Like any skills, social skills get better with practice. And it’s good to get some practice in on the day of your interview.

On your journey to the interview, give your social muscles a warm-up by starting a conversation with a stranger.

This simple act will help you to become more comfortable talking to people that you’ve not met before, and can be a great way to shake pre-interview nerves.

Approaching random people in the street could be perceived as slightly odd, so the easiest way to do this is pop into a shop for a pack of chewing gum and simply ask the person on the till how they are.



And lastly, a couple of confidence boosters

If you suffer from nerves or just need a little confidence boost, remember the following 2 things…


  1. The employer invited you in for the interview! So you must have impressed them already. Having interviewed lots of people myself, I can tell you that I wouldn’t drag somebody in if I wasn’t interested in placing/hiring them.The interviewer has already shown faith in you by inviting you in… so just prove to them that they made the right choice.


  1. It’s just another interview… If you managed to land this interview then it’s likely you will be able to land more. So yes, take it seriously, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t get that particular job – there are lots out there.



How to prepare for a job interview - Conclusion

Hopefully this guide has given you everything you need to prepare for your upcoming interview. Essentially you just need to understand why you are the best candidate for the job, and present this case to the interviewer in a professional manner.

If you follow all the steps above then you will walk into the interview with 90% of the work already done.

Good luck!

Don’t forget to take a look out our guide to answering the 20 most common interview questions.

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Interview coaching

What to take to a job interview August 29 2016, 0 Comments

We all know that Interview preparation is crucial if you want to land your next big career move - but it doesn't stop once you've researched the company and role.

You can massively improve chances of landing the job by equipping yourself with a few things that will aid your preparation and ensure you look the part.

So what exactly do you need to take with you to a job interview in 2016?

We've laid out the 8 most crucial items that you need if you want to be well-organised, look professional and nail the interview.



1. Multiple copies of your CV

Copies of CV for interview

In this day and age, it’s easy to assume that the interviewer will have your CV to hand once you reach interview stage... After all they must have it on file right? 

However you shouldn’t leave the responsibility with them - you are there to impress them, not rely on them to do the work for you,

Turning up with no CV not only makes you look unprepared but can also cause issues if the interviewer doesn't have a copy.

Printers can break and emails can get lost so there is always a chance that they will not have your CV to hand.

Be pro-active and take multiple printed copies of your CV to the interview.

A candidate who has plenty of CVs to hand out to everyone they meet, will be much more favoured than a candidate who turns up empty handed saying, "Sorry, I thought you had it".



2. A smart folder or bag

Smart interview folder or bag

In order to look professional and stay organised, invest in a smart folder or bag to store your CV and other interview essentials.

Turning up with a plastic supermarket bag or producing a crumpled CV from your pocket will not create a great first impression.

A nice smart folder will allow you to store a few copies of your CV along with all your other essentials and still allow you to travel fairly lightly.

If you are going to opt for a bag, make sure it's not to big and cumbersome - opt for something that's easy to carry.

Shop CV folders here



3. A pen and notepad

Pen and paper

You will probably cover a lot of important details throughout the course of the interview and it will be impossible to remember them all.

Take a pen and pad along with you to the interview just in case there is anything you need to jot down for future reference.

When it comes to making follow up emails and comparing offers, notes can come in very handy indeed.



4. Some pre-prepared questions

Interview questions

You will naturally have some questions about the job you are interviewing for; so ensure you cover them all by writing them down and taking them with you.

As well as helping to jog your memory, it will also make you look like a well-prepared candidate if you can produce them at the right moment.

It's better to ask questions about positive subjects such as career progression and training opportunities as opposed to questions about tea breaks and holidays, which could make you seem a little too eager to be getting time off.



5. The job description

Job description

To ensure that you’ve fully familiarised yourself with the role, make some notes on the job description and take it with you.

Ideally you should make notes on how your experience and skills match the job requirements.

This will help you to really familiarise yourself with the job in the minutes that lead up to the interview.

On the day of the interview, it's wise to arrive to the area, 30 minutes early and grab a coffee whilst you revise the job details for one last time before heading in.



6. The interview details

Interview details

Don’t rely on your mobile's email to view your interview details, because internet access is not always guaranteed.

There's nothing worse than being stranded in an unfamiliar area, struggling to get phone signal while you're lost and your interview is fast approaching.

Save the important details to your phone or write them down – especially the address and name of the interviewer.



7. Relevant certificates


If the job you are applying for requires certain qualifications then it’s best to take some proof that you have them.

You won’t always be asked to show them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

You can take photo-copies if it is not possible to take the originals.



8. Examples of your work


Taking examples of your work can be a great way to prove your worth at interview stage - although it is easier for some industries than others.

If you are in a creative industry such as graphic design then you may have a portfolio of your work to take with you.

Non creative professionals need to think outside the box a little and use things like sales figures, awards and client testimonials.


Interview coaching


More Interview Tips...

Plan your journey well in advance - If you are making a substantial journey or travelling somewhere you have never been to before, make sure you know how to get there and how long it will take. Don't leave it until the day of the interview and then discover the journey is longer than you guessed, or there are severe travel disruptions that will make you late.

Pack the night before - To make sure that you are fully prepared and to give yourself a peaceful night sleep, pack all your things the night before. This ensures that you have time to find anything you may be missing and will give you more free minutes in the morning. If you have the time, it may even be a good idea to make a practice journey so that you know exactly where the front door of the building is.

Practice common interview questions - Every interview will be different, but there are some questions that will always arise in one form or another; such as, "why should we hire you?" or "why do you want this job?". Be sure you know how you will answer such questions so you can respond with confidence.

Check out our 20 common interview questions and answers for more help.


What to take with you to a job interview
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20 Common Interview Questions December 10 2015, 0 Comments

20 common interview questions and how to answer them

Although every interview will be different, there are certain questions that are almost guaranteed to arise in one form or another during every interview. 

It will help you to understand the motives behind these questions, and what employers expect to hear in your answers

From my experience as a recruiter and interviewer, I have compiled the 20 most common interview questions and will show you how to answer them.

Browse through them and think about how you could adapt each answer in preparation for your next interview.


1. Why do you want this job?

Businesses want to hire ambitious people who are enthusiastic about their brand; so this is what you need to convey when answering this question.  

Firstly you need to make sure you’ve familiarised yourself with the job description and researched the company in order to answer this question with any substance.  

Your answer should include some responsibilities from the job description along with reasons why you would enjoy them and more importantly why you would be good at them.  

You should also show an interest in the type of work the firm does and stress that you want to progress within that industry.  

You can also flatter them slightly by praising the firm’s reputation as somewhere that is a coveted place to work.

Do Say: “I want this job because I really enjoy the sales element of the role which I’ve previously performed well in at past companies due to my outgoing and persistent nature. I’ve also heard great things about working here, especially the opportunities to progress and the challenging work available”

Don’t Say: “I just need a job after being sacked from my last one”


2. Why are you leaving your current job?

The key to answering this question is to speak highly of your current firm, discuss what you’ve achieved there and explain that they can’t offer you what you need in the stage of your career.  

Never badmouth a current or previous employer in an interview; (even if they are terrible!) it’s extremely unprofessional and will often leave the interviewer with the impression that you could be difficult to work with.

Do Say: “I’ve enjoyed my time with them and worked with some great people but they just can’t offer me enough progression within the field I want to specialise in”

Don’t Say: “The boss is a slave driver and the pay’s rubbish”

3. Give me an example of a task you found challenging

Challenging task interview question

Interviewers do not ask this to literally find out which tasks you find challenging.

The real motive behind the question is to find out how you deal with challenging situations.  

The idea here is to give an example of a challenge you’ve faced in work previously and show what actions you took to meet the challenge and turn it into a positive situation.

Do Say: “In my previous role I was faced with a disruptive team who were unmotivated and not very customer focused which was damaging our sales figures.  I introduced new customer service incentives and gave a series of one-to-one training sessions which saw a huge improvement in team morale and sales”

Don’t Say: “I had a really bad team once” 

4. What are your weaknesses?

This question is similar to the previous one as the interviewer really wants to know how you deal with your weaknesses as opposed to simply what they are.  

It’s best to mention a fairly minor weakness and then demonstrate how you overcome it to ensure it doesn’t affect your work and also what are you doing to strengthen your skills in that area.

Do Say: “My Excel skills could be stronger so I always get somebody to check my spreadsheets before sending them out to the whole company.  I’m currently doing some online training to improve my skills here”

Don’t Say: “I'm no good with Excel, don't expect any spreadsheets from me”

5. Why should we hire you?

This is probably the most important question and one that will almost certainly be asked in every single interview you attend, so you need to have the answer ready for this one.

It’s important to focus the answer around what you can offer the client – not what you want from them.  

Essentially you need to explain how your skills and experience match the requirements on the job description and how that will ultimately benefit the organisation.

Prepare by making notes on the job description around how you meet the requirements and how you can benefit the company by being there.

Do Say: “I have 5 years experience in accounts and excellent client relationship management skills, I am also very confident with all of your software packages so I feel I could perform well in the role and also look to pursue further opportunities with customers in order to grow sales”

Don’t Say: “Because I need a job”


6. What motivates you?

Motivation interview question

This question can be quite tough to answer and often throws a lot of candidates off due to its open ended nature, but it actually gives a great opportunity to show how ambitious you are.

Ideally you should demonstrate how the role will tie in with your motivations and how you hope to grow in the role in order to achieve your long term goals.

If you are looking for a long term position then it’s best to go with motives that will make you appear stable and dependable like financial security, learning more about your industry, career progression etc.

Try to give a good expansive answer that looks like you’ve really thought it through

Do Say: “At the moment I’m really motivated by a desire to learn more about online marketing because it’s an area I’m extremely keen to progress I really want to become an expert in the field. I also know that the financial rewards can be really good at senior levels so that’s another key motivation for me”

Don’t Say: “Money, holidays and cars”


7. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

This is another question where the interviewer is looking to gauge your levels of ambition but is also looking for a degree of realism and knowledge of the industry.

Your answer should be ambitious but realistic to show that you’re driven but you have an understanding of the speed of career progression and a degree of modesty.

You should also look to tie the job vacancy into your answer to show how it will help you progress to where you want to be.

Do Say: “In 5 years I’d quite like to be settled in to a mid-management level role and ideally have a small team working within the education sector. I really think this position would give me the opportunity to build up my  knowledge and client base to allow me to work towards this goal.”

Don’t Say: “CEO of the company”

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8. What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?

Everybody makes mistakes; it’s nothing to be ashamed of.

But how you handle your mistakes is what can really set you apart from other candidates.

When answering this question you need to pick a fairly minor work related mistake and describe exactly how you acted to rectify it and what you have consequently learnt from it.

Do Say: “In a previous job I once forgot to email some event confirmation details to a big client which resulted in the client missing the event – something they were quite upset about. So afterwards I pestered my boss for extra budget to take them to a private event and also made sure we did more to automate our event confirmation from then. Afterwards the client were really happy about the extra effort I had made to rectify the mistake and our new processes ensured that it didn’t happen again”

Don’t Say: “I lost £100k of company funds which haven’t been recovered to this day”


9. How do you handle difficult colleagues?

Disagree with line manager interview question

Most jobs will involve you working closely with one or more people, so it’s understandable that employers will want to know how you interact with others.

In an ideal world, everybody in a team would get along but sometimes colleagues can display disruptive behaviour that threatens the completion of tasks, so it’s important you can show how you deal with them in order to get the job done.

Your answer should ideally be example based and explain how the colleague’s actions were having a negative impact on the job at hand, and how you acted diplomatically to alter the person’s behaviour and get the team back on track.

Do Say: “I was working on a project last year and one the team members was constantly interrupting progress meetings with questions and comments that most people found irrelevant and were causing the meeting to run over time. I had a quiet word with the person outside of the meeting and changed the format of the meeting so that questions could only be asked at the end. This helped us get through the meetings more efficiently”

Don’t Say: “I confront them instantly”


10. Do you ever disagree with your line manager?

A potential employer will be keen to know how you are likely to interact with them and this question should hopefully allow you to shed some light in that area.

Many people wrongly assume that an employer is looking for somebody who will agree with everything they say; but they would actually prefer somebody who can bring fresh opinions to the team and push back to management when needed.

So your answer should really try to highlight that on occasions where you do disagree with your line manager; that you handle it with tact, reason and diplomacy in order to reach a solution that benefits your organisation.

Do Say: “Sometimes I don’t agree with some of the supply chain processes that our team manager puts in place for us to follow, as they can sometimes take up too much of the junior staff’s time in admin duties. I will usually bring the points up in our 1-to-1 meetings by suggesting some more effective processes we can use and talking through them together, rather than just directly criticising her ideas in front of other staff members”

Don’t Say: “I never disagree with my manager”


11. How would your current boss describe you?

This is a fairly open ended question that can be tricky to answer, but the key point to remember is that employers generally hire staff to help them in the running of their business.

So when answering the question you need to describe yourself as somebody who is so helpful that you are quite literally critical to the running of the business.

Do Say: “I think my manager would describe me as somebody who can re relied up on to constantly achieve the results he needs in the team. Also he would probably say that I pro-actively reach out to relieve him from some of his service and admin responsibilities to allow him to focus more on business development when he needs to.”

Don’t Say: “As a nice person”


12. Are you currently pursuing any other job opportunities?

Opportunity question

Some candidates think that they should avoid revealing details of other jobs they are applying for in an attempt to appear loyal to the interviewer’s firm – however that is the complete wrong approach to take with this question.

You should be transparent about your other opportunities for 2 reasons:

1) Somebody with lots of interviews elsewhere and interest form other companies is attractive to an employer because someone who is in demand is usually good.

2) Having more opportunities gives you more leverage to negotiate with when it comes to offer time. If an interviewer knows that you are about to interview with one of their competitors; then they may offer you a higher salary to try and tempt you away from the rival firm.

Do Say: “Yes I’ve made quite a few applications for similar roles with a number of firms and I’ve got a first stage interview with Company X tomorrow afternoon”

Don’t Say: “No it’s just your job at the moment”


13. Tell me about yourself

A seemingly simple question but the answer actually requires quite a lot of thought and structure.

Try to keep your answer mainly work focused, discuss your background and then a bit about your career aspirations in a manner that ties in with vacancy in question.

You can include a bit about your life outside of work if you like but keep it brief.

Do Say: “I studied law at university, became especially interested in corporate law and joined Company Z where I worked for a senior lawyer carrying out legal support work which I’ve enjoyed quite a lot. I’ve built up a lot of experience in the field so I really want to start taking on my own clients but there just isn’t any opportunity to do so at Company Z so I ‘m looking for a role where I can grow and take on more responsibility.”

Don’t Say: “I’m a bit of a character”


14. What are your salary requirements?

Although I would never suggest bringing up salary requirements in an interview without being prompted, it’s perfectly fine to discuss salary if the interviewer asks about it directly.

The key to answering this question is to research market rates beforehand and have a clear idea of the salary you can command - you will not impress anybody by providing a wild guess.

Looking through job websites and speaking to recruitment consultants should give you a rough idea of the salary you can achieve. It’s up to each individual to decide where they want to pitch their salary requirements but make sure you are realistic and stay within any pre-mentioned range.

Do Say: “From doing a bit of research into my current value I’m looking to achieve around £30K which I believe is within the budget mentioned on the job advert”

Don’t Say: “I’m looking for a 250% increase on my current salary”

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15. Are there any elements of your current/previous job that you dislike?

It’s quite natural that you will dislike certain elements of previous jobs – but employers really want to know more about how you deal with those dislikes to maintain good performance in the role.

Ideally you should pick a fairly common and minor dislike to demonstrate how you work around it and make sure it doesn’t have a negative effect on you or the business.

Do Say: “In my previous sales role I wasn’t hugely keen on keeping weekly sales records but I just made sure that I recorded everything in note form and spent just 20 minutes every day updating the database. Most of my colleagues spent an hour at the end of each week doing it, but that felt like too much in one sitting for me so I broke it up over the week to make it easier”

Don’t Say: “I don’t really like administration so I usually just avoid doing it”


16. Can you explain this gap/short-role in your CV?

Gap interview question

Two things that are quite hard to hide in your CV (without lying) are gaps and short roles.

Employers don’t like them because they can sometimes indicate that candidates have been fired from a role or have taken a lot of time out of work.

So where possible, try to avoid gaps by adding details of what you were doing between the roles (maybe you went travelling or completed a personal project) and if you have a very short role (a few weeks etc.) that doesn’t add any value to the CV, then maybe consider omitting it.

However if you can’t avoid this question then try to come up with a good positive explanation that makes you look proactive and competent like the below.

Do Say: “The reason I was only in that role for 2 months is because it was a short contract role to provide cover during a busy period. The firm knew that I would still be looking for a more permanent role so it wasn’t a shock to them when I moved to the next company.”


“During that gap I was actually travelling through America which is something I’ve always wanted to do”

Don’t Say: “I was just looking for work for during that 11 month gap”


“I was let go after 2 weeks in the role for bad performance”


17. Describe a time when you’ve dealt with a difficult customer/client

This is a fairly typical question for candidates applying to customer facing roles and one you will need to answer well in order to show your abilities in turning negative situations around and keeping your customers happy.

Ideally you should explain a time when a customer was irate or behaving rudely towards you (ideally the root of the problem should have been caused by someone other than yourself to avoid looking incompetent).

Then describe how you reassured the customer and rectified the situation by delivering a good service or product sale etc.

Do Say: “I once had a client who was really upset by price rises implemented to his account that were outside of my control. I empathised a lot with him and took the time to meet with him to see if there was anything that I could do to rectify the situation. After meeting with him, it actually transpired that he needed a lot more of our services and I was able to upgrade his service at a discounted rate which meant more revenue for the company and a much happier customer who ended up saving a lot more money”

Don’t Say: “Once I messed up a customer’s order and he shouted at me so I apologised and said somebody else would call him back”


18. Describe a time when you’ve had to make a difficult decision

Your decision making process is crucial to your success in the workplace and sometimes your decisions can have a big impact on your employers, colleagues and clients.

So you need to show that you can think on your feet and have a methodical thought process when making big decisions.

Ideally the result of your decision should provide a positive outcome for your employer to show that your decision making is effective.

Do Say: “In my current job I was faced with a situation where a very important client wanted a refund for some project work that had gone wrong due to some errors by the delivery team. Providing a refund would have meant quite a big loss of revenue for the firm but not providing a refund could mean a very upset client and potential lack of future business from them. So after much discussion with my director and team members I decided not to refund the work but to provide the next project free of charge. This did cost the firm initially but it allowed us to salvage our reputation with the client and secure further work from them in the long run.

Don’t Say: “A made a decision to hire staff once”


19. How do you respond to criticism?

Managing staff can often be a difficult task for employers so your answer to this question should show that you are easy to work with and that you take negative feedback on board.

Preferably your answer should demonstrate the fact that you not only do you handle criticism well, but you use it to improve yourself and build your skill set.

Do Say: “I try to avoid criticism where possible but I listen whenever I receive it and make sure I improve in those areas to avoid receiving the same criticism again”

Don’t Say: “I am never criticised”


20. If you were an animal… which animal would you be?

Although this is quite an unusual question, it is quite well known amongst hiring managers so it could crop up.

The actual animal you decide upon isn’t really relevant – the question is just designed to throw you off track a bit and make you think on your feet.

So pick any animal and describe why its qualities match yours in a way that relates to the job you are applying for in a well-structured manner.

Do Say: “I would be a shark because I’m good at hunting down opportunities and surviving in tough environments”

Don’t Say: “I would be a squirrel because I quite like squirrels”




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How to Master the Telephone Interview January 11 2015, 0 Comments

How to master the telephone interview

Due to the large numbers of applications per vacancy in the UK, hiring managers will often use telephone interviews as a quick way of screening multiple candidates to whittle down large short lists in minimal time.  

If you want to nail the telephone interview and make it through to the face-to-face stage, there a few basic steps you need to cover.


Don’t think it will be informal

A lot of candidates make the mistake of thinking that a telephone interview will just be an “informal chat” but this is rarely the case.

The interviewer will be taking it seriously, so you should too.

You need to carry out all of the research and preparation you would for a face-to-face interview, such as studying the job spec and learning about the company.

You need to be professional at all times and ensure that you are giving well-structured and intelligent answers to all questions.


Arrange a suitable place to take the call

To eliminate distractions, interruptions and inappropriate background noise, make sure that you secure a quiet spot where nobody is likely to bother you; and do so well in advance.

This could involve booking a meeting room, popping out to your car, or even booking a morning off work.

You need to assimilate the manner in which you would deal with a customer or senior colleague; so don’t be that candidate who took the call in McDonalds or a coffee shop with constant interruptions and distractions going on in the background. 


Be in front of a computer or similar device

The main benefit of not being visible to the interviewer is that you can have as many supporting documents and websites open in front of you as you like.

Take full advantage of this.

As a minimum you should have your CV, the job spec and the company website (relevant pages) open to cover most of the topics likely to be discussed.

It’s also a good idea to have some extra notes on your achievements; for example if you’re in sales you may be asked about your recent sales figures.

If you’re in Marketing you may be asked about success rates of your recent campaigns.

If you have the exact figures in front of you it will be a lot easier to reel the numbers off and sound confident doing so.


Know your diary

If the telephone interview goes well then the interviewer may well invite you in for a face-to-face interview there and then.

If this happens it pays to know your diary.

You don’t want to keep them hanging on the phone awkwardly while you riffle through your calendar; and you certainly don’t want to be calling them back later to find other candidates have stolen your slots.

You need to get your interview booked in ASAP and be first in the door.


Push for the face-to-face invite (subtly)

The previous tip is only useful if the interviewer makes an invite of course; but getting one isn’t always easy.

Even when impressed, interviewers will not always make an invite during the telephone interview for a number of reasons:

They may have a recruiter who usually handles all of the interview arrangements, they may wish to speak to all candidates before deciding who gets invited, they may need to confer with other decision makers in the business… The list goes on.

However if the interview is going well and you’re picking up positive signals from the interviewer then you can ask some leading questions at the close, to tease an invite out of them:

“When should I expect feedback?”

“What would the next stage be for successful candidates?”

I stress to only use these questions when the interview is going well and remain tactful and unassuming; you don’t want to come across someone who thinks they’ve got it in the bag.

This will not always work but it’s a great way to secure a face-to-face interview and get ahead of the competition.

Do you have any telephone interview tips or questions? Comment below


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6 Ways to deal with a tough interviewer December 07 2014, 0 Comments

How to deal with a tough interviewer

So you’ve received great feedback from your CV, passed the telephone screening with flying colours and been rightfully selected for a face-to-face interview.

You’re fully prepared and on time but there’s one thing that could stand to ruin everything...

A stone-faced, difficult and seemingly obnoxious interviewer who seems hell bent on forcing you to make mistakes.

Personally I don’t see any benefit from this interview technique as it simply discourages applicants from joining the firm and creates an unnatural atmosphere.

Whilst I do think there should be an element of pressure in every job interview; I feel this should come from challenging interview questions rather than a negative or overbearing attitude from the interviewer.

So here are 6 tips on dealing with the tough interviewer.


Don’t Bite

As tempting as it may be; do not rise to any of their underhanded comments or sly digs during the interview.

Stay cool and combat them with friendly and constructive answers.

If they say something like, “oh you didn’t bother to get a degree… most of our employees have them”.

Simply reply “well unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to attend university but I’ve gained 3 years valuable industry experience which I feel has given me the ability to perform my job extremely well”.

Keep it professional and turn every negative into a positive.


Know Your Value

You’ve been selected for interview because the company believe you have the relevant skills and knowledge to perform the job; it’s that simple.

A bad interviewer doesn’t change that.

So don’t get flustered or rush your answers when they try to rock you.

Continue to provide audible, fluent, articulate answers and show them you that you know your stuff, regardless of the conditions.


Be Charming

It’s difficult to stay angry at somebody who is being consistently friendly and complimentary to you, so use this to your advantage with a tough interviewer.

Open doors, compliment their business or department and thank them for their time.

You may well find them bringing their guard down.


Show an Interest in Them

The Tough interview technique is often an ego thing; the person in question wants to show you how important they are and how difficult their job is etc.

Ask them questions about your role that will allow them to boast about themselves a bit, e.g. If they are the manager of the team you are applying to get into; ask them, “How many people in your team?”, “How much money does the team bill”.

These questions will not only give you an insight into the role, but also give the tough interviewer a chance to speak about their favourite subject… themselves.

This will help you to connect with them more on a personal level and also leave them feeling positive when they leave your interview.


Be Sure to Send a Follow Up Email

If your interview was really tough, then it’s likely other candidates may have been put off from pursuing the role all together.

Sometimes the tough interviewer is trying to see how you deal under pressure, so a polite follow up email shows that you weren’t scared off by the interview and you’re still keen to land the role, when many others aren’t.


Make Your Own Decisions

I always say that an interview is as much of an opportunity for the interviewer to assess your suitability for the role; as it is an opportunity for you to assess the company’s suitability for your career.

Maybe the tough interviewer is just putting on a bit of an act to see how you cope under pressure; or maybe they actually have an overbearing personality and will be difficult to work with in the long run.

You need to make your own decision based on personal judgement and any research you may be able to do around the individual or company.

Do you have any tips or questions on dealing with tough interviewers? Comment below


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