Though interviews can seem daunting, just remember you have got this far in the application process because the company regard you as a genuine prospect. The following information, gathered from a range of interviewers and candidates, should help you prepare for both formal and informal job discussions, and give you every chance of presenting your prospective employers with a strong case for offering you the post.
Thorough preparation is key
In addition to the employer information provided by the recruitment consultant, make yourself thoroughly familiar with the company background. Knowing an organisation's ethos, history, team structure, current status and paramount concerns, will allow you to contribute positively to the dialogue and also demonstrates your commitment. Furthermore, having a good understanding of the context really does help your confidence, shows the interviewer you have a genuine 'presence', and helps you to relax and display your true potential.
An interview is a two-way street, so when appropriate, grasp the opportunity to illustrate how your attributes and previous experience would benefit the company. Be prepared to ask your own questions too – for example, what career pathways would be open to the successful applicant?
Focus on the job description
Prepare to fully explain the areas where you match, or exceed, the skills and experience required. Likewise, be open about any areas where your abilities are more limited, whilst signalling you would be keen to learn, if possible reinforcing this with evidence of how you responded to the challenge of acquiring fresh skills in the past. You should also mention any additional expertise, or industry experience, you have which the employer may be hoping to see, including any further abilities you know will enhance or complement the role. Be sure you can support your claims and detail how each would be advantageous to the organisation.
Keep your answers to the point
When you are anxious to impress, it is all too easy to stray off course or to give a vague rambling answer when you may perhaps have missed the point. A machine-gun response is not expected, and a proper pause for thought is sensible and perfectly acceptable. Similarly, if you are not clear about the question, ask for clarification so that you can supply your interviewer with accurate and relevant information.
Build a positive impression
Your interview allows you to outline your career progress, and in the process you will have ample opportunity to create a positive impression. Therefore, you must think about how you put across the detail in a constructive and favourable light. If you quit a previous job because you couldn't stand the dictatorial manager, your explanation will have to use a subtle combination of diplomacy and honesty. Whilst it is not really acceptable to criticise individuals and companies, you could talk positively about looking for a new challenge where you could contribute to outcomes and share responsibilities in a team atmosphere. Periods away from the job market, perhaps through redundancy or unemployment, also require a nuanced response. A good strategy is to detail any positive gains: a rare chance to reflect upon where your career was leading, a golden opportunity to travel and expand your horizons, or perhaps the time and space to learn new skills.
Show your imagination
In today's competitive job market, employers expect competence but are often looking for exceptional candidates. That is why 'curveball' questions such as 'How many bricks are there in the world?' crop up at interview. These are designed to test poise, creativity, and quick thinking, and invite you to be ultra-inventive in your response. You can't get such questions 'wrong' – there is no brick inventory for this planet – so giving free rein to your creative imagination is the best way to make a really positive impact.