You made it! After hours of working on your cover letter and CV you succeed in getting an interview with the company you are longing to work for. You are one step closer to securing a graduate offer. Now it is time to start preparing yourself for the interview.
Do your homework… in the most effective way
Surely you have heard this one many times, however it is truly impossible to stress enough how crucial it is to come to your interview knowing your company of interest really well.
Now, how do you actually go about it in the most effective way?
Your probably know already that you research should start with the company. But when looking at their website, go beyond looking for what they offer and what their clients say about them. Pay attention to less obvious aspects, for example where else their offices are in the world, and what achievements or awards they won. Knowing this will help you demonstrate that you did more than just quickly familiarized yourself with the website.
Next step – culture, culture, and culture. The trend of building the life of the company around its core values is only getting stronger, and to ensure that the new employees are going to be the best fit for the company, your employer will want to know if and how you will fit in.
Tip: When researching the company’s culture, do not hesitate to get in touch with the company’s current employees to learn more about the environment you will be working in if you secure an offer at this company – contact them on LinkedIn and after a short and polite introduction ask them the question. For this purpose, it is best to speak to speak to more junior employees, rather than aim to contact senior executives.
Prepare your answers in advance
We can guarantee you are going to feel a lot more confident if you have a few well-thought, prepared answers up your sleeve. Knowing exactly how to answer some of the questions in advance will leave you with more time and energy to answer some of the less obvious questions.
Did you know that there are some standard questions most recruiters will ask?
A) Introductory Questions: These questions aim to understand candidates better and the reasons why they applied for the role. They also aim to help you expand on what you referred to on your CV. Usually they are structured in a specific way. Examples of these questions are: ‘Why did you apply for this role?’ ‘What skills can you bring to the company?’ ‘Tell us a little bit about yourself.’ This is your opportunity to demonstrate to your recruiter all your skills that are relevant to the role.
B) Behavioural questions: These questions help your recruiter understand how you applied your skills to previous roles. Usually these questions start as ‘Tell us about a time where you managed to…’, ‘Give us an example of…’, ‘Describe a situation where…’ . They are asking you to share a story of the thinking process you followed when you encountered a challenge. You need to be cohesive and precise so that you keep the interest of your listener and clearly demonstrate your skills. To succeed in this a good idea is to follow the STAR technique. The letters are indications of the following:
Situation: explain briefly the circumstances you found yourself into. Illustrate the place, the period and the people who were involved.
Task: It is time to expand on the task that you were asked to complete. Give details on what it was about, the deadline and any other information that will help your listener understand what you were asked to complete.
Action: Now this is the most important part of your story. You need to address what actions you took to accomplish your tasks. You need to structure them in order of importance and clearly underline how your initiatives helped to accomplish the task.
Result: It is the end of your story and you need to show how your actions helped you end there. Give a clear overview of the results and always end in a positive tone.
Practice, practice, practice
Now that you have a better idea of the questions you might be asked, start drafting them. Your next step: organize a mock interview with a friend or a family member. Lots of people make the mistake of skipping this step. Running your interview in a test mode can not only help you recite the answers you already know, but also reveal some blinds spots you might not realise you have.
Simple hacks that might save you a lot of mistakes during an interview:
- Do not be afraid to ask for a timeout!
Many don’t realize that it is actually ok to ask the interviewer to give you a minute to think your answer through. Do not assume that you are expected to have all answers to all questions ready. In fact, it makes the conversation look more natural and genuine, rather than rehearsed. In addition, having a quick moment to gather your thoughts will save you from just rushing through an unprepared answer.
Same goes for asking to repeat a question, asking to clarify the question, etc!
- Don’t get stuck trying to answer a question you don’t have an answer for – offer an alternative!
It might seem like the job provider wants you to be able to demonstrate a very particular skill or experience, but do not despair if you do not have it – suggest to talk about something that you think might be a different but related matter. Bear in mind that sometimes the interviewer actually wants to see your ability to think laterally, perform under pressure, or demonstrate creativity within a short space of time.
- Swap places with your interviewer!
When asked whether you have any questions at the end of the interview, do not hesitate to ask the person who interviewed you a couple of questions about their experience with this job/company. Often candidates do not take advantage of this opportunity. It is actually a great way not only to learn more about the company itself, but also to demonstrate your genuine interest in this place. Not doing so might work against you.
And last but not least – aim to be memorable.
We already mentioned in a previous post (add link’’ CV: What NOT to include) recruiters will interview 4-6 applicants for the role out of the 250 applications they received. You managed to stand out during the first phase but now is your moment to shine. It is important to do or say something that will differentiate you from the crowd. For example, notice your environment and if there is something in the office of your interviewer that interests you, bring it up as a way to break the ice and start a casual conversation. People tend to like more people who share the same interests. This tip is the one you might want to use with caution as you have to bare in mind that this is still a formal environment, but done right it can really make a difference to your application in the long term.
We hope you find our tips valuable and are now one step closer to feeling confident during interviews. Stay tuned for ‘What you really need to know about interviews – part II’ where we share with you more insight from our experienced team.
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