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What is an interview?

Job Interviews Defined

Rod Cornwell (International Director, Thomas International) gives expert video advice on: How should I behave in an interview?; What questions should I ask in an interview?; Should I mention salary in the interview? and more...

What is an interview?

The whole idea of a job interview is to get you face to face with your potential employer. What they will do through the course of the interview is take you through a series of questions that they need to ask you, relevent to the job. Then, they will give you the opportunity to sell yourself by giving the answers to the interview questions. More importantly, you have the opportunity to ask them questions about the job as well. The primary idea of a job interview is to get you to communicate with an employer.

What will be expected of me in an interview?

What you need to expect in a job interview is a series of questions which will be both job-related and company-related. What the interviewer wants to see here is the fact that you've done your homework, you've done your research, you've been on the web site, you know quite a lot about the company and where it's going, and maybe even about the individual that's interviewing you for the job. Secondly, they're going to think about what your expectations of the role are. During the job interview, you can expect that they will ask you about how you would perform certain tasks within that role that they're specifying. Thirdly, the interview provides you with an opportunity to ask questions back, but you've also got the opportunity to sell yourself within their interview process.

What are the typical stages to an interview?

The first stage to a job interview is the icebreaker. This is where, once you've walked in, signed in and gone through reception, you're taken up to see your interviewer, who will sit down for this first interview stage and ask you a very light question about the weather, for example, or how your trip was there. Then the whole process becomes rather more formalised. Normally in a very good interview, the interviewer will say to you, "These are the stages of the interview process, of the meeting that we're having now. I'm going to ask you questions, then for the next stage I'd like you to ask me any questions about the role, and then we'll make a decision somewhere further down." What these people are trying to do is manage your expectations of their interview process and make you feel a little bit more comfortable by breaking it down into stages. The first step is to think about the icebreaker, what you need to say about that and how you say it. All they're going to do is talk in generalisms. The second stage is focusing you on what they expect from the interview process, and then the last stage is your opportunity to come back with questions at the end of the interview process.

What should I wear to an interview?

One of the most difficult things to consider when going to a job interview is what to wear. Well, it depends on the environment you're working in. Sometimes you may go to a professional organisation that requires you to wear a suit and tie. Other times you may go to a rather more modern media or IT company for an interview where they expect you to wear smart casual clothes. Other times, jeans and t-shirt are acceptable to wear to a job interview. What you have to consider is the type of industry you're seeking a job in, and you have to get a good feel for what is acceptable to wear. It's not a bad idea, when you're invited to go for a job interview, to ask what the dress code is.

What time should I arrive?

Quite often you're very excited about going to an interview and you want to get there early to make a good impression. Don't. The earliest you should arrive on the premises is a maximum of ten minutes before your interview starts. If you arrive late, that's another statement. The best thing you can do is not hover around the building and not have a cigarette outside because you're nervous. Make sure you're on those premises a maximum of ten minutes before the interview is to start.

Do I always have to wear a suit to an interview?

When you're considering what to wear to a job interview, quite often you don't need to wear a suit and tie. What you need to consider is the type of industry that you'll be working in and indeed the dress code that that company adopts. It's not a bad thing to actually phone up or e-mail and say, "What will I be expected to wear at the job interview?" You want to get it right.

What's the best way to sell myself in an interview?

By far the best way to sell yourself at a job interview is by doing your research prior to the interview. Be very well prepared. Have specific questions. Sell yourself by making sure you are showing evidence that you've looked at the website and spent a lot of time preparing for the job interview process. You will score a lot of points with your potential employer.

What sort of questions will I be asked in an interview?

Aside from the standard job interview questions about your employment history and your education, quite often the interviewer will want to ask questions that are related to the type of role that you're applying for. Don't be surprised if they ask you to give an example of a time in the past when you've behaved in a certain way. "How would you motivate somebody who is a stubborn employee?" for example, would be a very good job interview question. "How do you get on with other people?" "Give me an example of that." "Why would you say that?" Often you'll find in a job interview that one question leads to a very much deeper one underneath, so be prepared.

What are role play questions?

The whole idea of role-play questions in a job interview is for the prospective employer to actually look at how you might behave in a particular scenario that they are familiar with. You may be asked to role-play a customer service situation. For example, the interviewer may ask you to pretend to be receiving a call from a stranger where you're asked lots of challenging questions that are relevant to the role you may have to perform in. Role-play is drama. Role-play is all about looking at how you're likely to respond if when put into that type of scenario. Remember that a job interview is make-believe. Role-play is kind of getting underneath that make-believe and making it a bit more real and a bit more relevant to the interviewer and the job itself.

What questions should I ask in an interview?

Your employer, or prospective employer, will be expecting you to ask plenty of questions in a job interview. Those questions should be relevant to the role, relevant to the industry and sometimes even relevant to the person who's going to be managing you. So, don't feel afraid of asking in a interview, "What would my typical day look like?" Or don't be afraid of asking, "Can I go and have a look at where I might be working if you take me onboard?" These are all questions that show your interest in a job. They are looking for you to have done your homework and be taking the job interview process seriously.

What questions shouldn't I ask in an interview?

I've sat on many job interview panels over many years, covering various types of questions. Some of the worst examples of questions asked by potential employees during a job interview are things like, "How many paid sick days do I get per year? " or "What time do I have to finish on Fridays?" or "Do I have to be in at nine o'clock every morning?" These questions display too much attitude and totally the wrong sort of questions to ask during a job interview. You should be asking questions that inspire confidence in your future employer,

Should I mention salary in the interview?

Quite often, people are reluctant to actually ask in a job interview what salary they're going to receive, or what sort of pension benefits or fringe benefits (BUPA etc) that you can receive in addition to a salary. There is nothing wrong with asking how much your salary would be in a job interview, and indeed, when you'd get paid it. Employers don't look at it as a bad question.

Should I lie in an interview to get the job?

Under no circumstances should you ever lie, or even extend the truth when you're in a job interview. You will be caught out. It's guaranteed. C.V. companies, C.V. clinics will actually go through your C.V. anyway and look at the history. Employers will find out if you are trying to fraudulently obtain the job, so do not lie in a job interview.

Should I just be myself in an interview?

When you're face to face with people in a job interview, you really want to shine; you really want to do your very, very best. My best recommendation to you is try to be relaxed and really try to be yourself, because employers don't want to see this veneer in a job interview; they don't want to see this super person in front of them. What they want to see is the real person that they could be working with for some length of time. So, just be yourself.

What are the golden rules to surviving an interview?

One of the best things you can do in order to survive a job interview is to be prepared. What I mean by that specifically is survive by knowing exactly where you're going for the interview. Do you need change for parking? Do they have free car parking? Will you be travelling to the job interview by train or tube? Do you know how long it's going to take you to sign in? If it's a big organisation in a big building, it can often take you five or ten minutes just to get through security, and thus to survive the interview you will need to allow extra time. You need to know who is going to be interviewing you. A golden rule to survive is to make sure you remember their names. Look them up on the website prior to the job interview. Know what their roles are about. Know what your potential role is going to be all about. Make sure you've done your homework on the company. Make sure you have questions ready. Make sure that there are no unexpected surprises for you, and you will be able to survive a job interview.

How long will an interview take?

Typically, a first interview should take anywhere between thirty minutes and an hour. An interview is somebody getting to know you - and you getting to know them - and deciding whether you like the look of the role and whether they think you're suitable. If somebody considers you for an assessment centre, then it could take anything from half a day to a day, typically. If it's a panel interview or a second interview, you're probably looking at least an hour, because they're trying to find out more about you and whether you're suitable in the process.

Do I need to make notes during an interview?

It's important that you make notes during a job interview, be it the first or second, or a panel interview. Sometimes it is very difficult to make notes during the interview, especially if you are doing a presentation for somebody, so always ask "Is it ok for me to make notes as i go along?" Normally the interviewer or interviewers will say yes.

Do I need to make notes after the interview?

It's always a good idea after the interview to before you get in your car, drive up the road, etc. to make a few notes while everything is still fresh in your mind. Quite often when we nervous, hurried or not as prepared as we wanted to be in a job interview, we may forget to ask certain questions. If you get invited back for a second interview the notes you take after the first job interview might be questions that you want to address when you return.