Job Interview Guide For 2021
Leigh Gillatt • Careers Advice
Job Interview Guide For 2021
If you've been invited to interview, it means you've passed the first part of the screening process. Well Done! Your CV must have demonstrated that you have the ideal experience for the role. The next stage is likely to be a face-to-face interview, and this is when it’s crucially important to plan and prepare for the interview to make sure you're successful.
Nothing is worse than looking back on the interview for the dream job you didn’t get and wishing you had been more prepared.
Here are Diverse Employment’s top job interview tips to make sure you get ahead of the game.
PREPARING BEFORE THE INTERVIEW
Preparation for an interview is a must-do and can be the difference between success and failure. Good preparation boosts your confidence and gives you an insight into the company you’ll be meeting.
PRINT OFF YOUR JOB APPLICATION
Take a copy of your application form, cover letter or CV and the original job specification so you can read over everything when travelling to the interview. Read and re-read the job spec and make sure you’re fully familiar with the detail. If you’re planning to take the documents into the meeting, make sure you put them into a professional folder – loose pieces of paper can give an impression of disorganisation.
RESEARCH THE COMPANY
Before your interview, make sure you spend some time looking at the company’s website (especially their news pages, press releases and annual report). The interviewer will expect you to know about their business, and it shows a genuine interest in their company if you can demonstrate your knowledge. It’s also beneficial to know who the company’s main competitors are, as this is a common question and can be a great talking point.
PLAN YOUR JOURNEY
The worst start to a job interview is arriving late and it can immediately make the interviewer discount you for the position. Half of recruiters won’t give a candidate a job if they are more than 10 minutes late for interview, regardless of how well they perform. Of course, there are always situations when unexpected circumstances affect your journey. In these cases, make sure you call either the interviewer or your Diverse Employment recruitment consultant no later than ten minutes before the start of your interview to let them know you’re delayed.
Plan your journey well in advance, especially if the interview’s in an area you’re not familiar with. If you can, print a map off or make sure your mobile phone is fully charged with Google Maps enabled. Work out how long it will take you to get there and – if you have time – do a practice run a few days before. You should aim to arrive at least ten minutes before the start of your interview. As well as looking professional, it’ll give you the opportunity to slightly relax once you arrive.
PRACTICE YOUR INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Make sure you’re confident answering typical interview questions. You can practice alone, or with a friend, and be ready for unexpected interview questions. Tricky questions like ‘How would your colleagues describe you?’ are popular with interviewers as they may throw you off balance. If the job spec you have details the required competencies for the role, you can focus on preparing your answers around these key areas (see Competency Interviewing below for more information).
We've also put together a helpful guide on the top 8 interview questions typically asked & how to answer them, click the button below to check it out:
CLARIFY THE TYPE OF INTERVIEW
Make sure you clarify what kind of interview you’re being invited to. There’s a big difference between competency and other kinds of interviews, and it’s useful to know what you need to prepare for.
Unless you’re specifically told otherwise, all interviews should be attended in formal business attire. Even a company with a dress-down policy will expect interviewees to be smartly presented, as it shows you’re taking the meeting seriously and supports your professional credibility. It’ll also help you to feel confident. Remember to dress comfortably and keep your appearance smart and uncluttered. For men, make sure you’re clean shaven and well groomed. For ladies, we advise tying back long hair and keeping make-up and accessories discreet. You don’t want to be in discomfort, or risk distracting the interviewer with a noisy piece of jewellery.
It’s obvious, but you should not drink alcohol before a job interview. The interviewers may smell it on you and it can affect your judgement. If you need to eat before the interview, then avoid anything smelly and chew some mints before you go in. If you chew gum, make sure you remember to throw it away before the interview. If you’re a smoker, avoid having a cigarette prior to the meeting. The smell of smoke can linger on your clothes and create a bad impression so. If you can, wait until after the interview.
Surveys show that having a mobile phone ring during an interview (or, worse, answering a mobile phone during an interview) is a common reason for employers to decline candidates. It shows a complete lack of professional courtesy and can be perceived as simply rude. Make sure you turn off your phone before going into the interview.
4 ESSENTIAL ITEMS YOU SHOULD BRING TO A JOB INTERVIEW
Here at our Employment Agency, I am often asked by shortlisted candidates prior to attending an interview, "But, what should I take with me?" Although there are potentially other items I would advise on a job by job basis, the following four items are what I would deem as the essentials.
1. EXTRA COPIES OF YOUR CV
Bring a handful of extra printed CVs with you to the interview - it shows that you're well prepared should there be multiple interviewers in attendance wanting to discuss a particular point on your CV, but only have one copy between them. On a plus side it can also double up as a handy reminder to yourself of what you had written in the CV, especially if you've written slightly different versions for other job applications you may have recently made.
2. NOTEPAD & PEN
Along with your extra CVs tucked nicely into your leather conference folder, slip an empty notepad and pen into it too, you may want to make notes so that you’re better prepared should there be a second interview.
3. WELL-RESEARCHED QUESTIONS
You will develop clever and engaging questions to ask the interviewer(s) by researching the company prior to the interview. Read their website and the LinkedIn profiles of their Founders/Directors - especially the Manager who will be your boss if you’re offered/take the job. Its quick and easy to Google search the company’s name and learn about what's happening in their industry.
Write your questions on the notepad tucked into your conference folder so you can easily refer to them during the interview. It's okay to take notes while your interviewer is talking, too! Just be sure to lift your head out of your notes frequently to make eye contact.
Still left questioning...
" What Questions Should I Ask In An Interview? "
We've put together a guide on our top picks and tips on questions you should ask in an interview. Click below:
4. THE DIVERSE EMPLOYMENT ‘INDISPENSABLE REASON THEORY’
The Diverse Employment ‘Indispensable Reason Theory’ is making an educated guess about the main reason the company is willing to invest money, currently and ongoing, by hiring someone. "Well... The former employee left" is not an “Indispensable Reason Theory” because it doesn't necessarily fully describe the reasons as to why there is a current open vacancy.
People leave their current jobs every day, most as a career move, but their companies don't always replace them, i.e. its dependent upon whether the company feels / has a reason, for needing to replace the employee.
Figure out the real indispensable reason they’re employing, i.e. what function isn’t being performed, and what could potentially go wrong within the company if it wasn’t done; what would be the underlying cost to the company.
A ‘traditional’ interview, (sometimes called unstructured interviews) is free-flowing and more like a conversation. An interviewer won’t have a particular script but will ask questions relevant to the job and will be trying to get an overall impression of what you’re like as a person, including what your strengths and weaknesses are.
A Competency Based Interview (CBI) is scripted and is based around the idea that past performance is an excellent indicator of future performance. Increasingly used as the standard for first stage interviews, competency interviews are based around structured scenario-based questions that require specific example answers. While the initial preparation can take some time, the standardisation of competency interview questions for the same kind of role means that candidates can re-use their preparation for every interview.
WHAT COMPETENCIES ARE SOUGHT AFTER?
The list of skills and competencies that will be tested will change depending on the post you’re applying for. Often job specs will list the competencies or key words in the body of the role profile, such as ‘communication’.
- Analytical competencies
These questions assess decision-making abilities and try to unearth innovation, analytical skills, problem solving, practical learning and attention to detail. A typical question would be “Tell me about a time when you identified a new approach to a problem”.
- Interpersonal competencies
These questions assess social competence. Many workplaces function on project teams, so the more collaborative a candidate is, the more likely they will thrive in the company. A typical question would be: "Describe a situation where you got people to work together”.
- Motivational competencies
These questions assess the level of drive and examine your energy, motivation, result orientation, initiative and quality focus. A typical question might be: “When did you work the hardest and feel the greatest sense of achievement?”
HOW DO I PREPARE?
Preparing for a competency based interview is straightforward.
Firstly, research all the likely questions around the competencies related to the job you are applying for. In some situations the competencies are listed on the job spec, but this isn’t standard. Go through your employment and personal history to find examples that show you’ve got the relevant skills and abilities for each competency and write them down.
Answers should be structured using the STAR technique: Situation, Task, Action and Result. It’s effectively like telling a short, concise story with a beginning, middle and end. Use a sentence to describe each of the STAR sections and remember the result or outcome is the most important part. It should have a positive outcome that can either be a successful result or a practical lesson you learned for next time.
WHY IS THE STAR METHOD USEFUL?
A structured STAR answer clearly shows how you demonstrated a skill in a particular context, so the potential employer can imagine how you might operate in their workplace. Make sure answers are concise and that you talk about ‘I’ (what you did) rather than ‘we’ (what your team or department did).
ST: Situation and Task
Describe the situation that you were in, or the task that you needed to accomplish. Give enough detail so that an interviewer can understand your scenario.
Describe the actions that you took. Focus on what you did, even if you were working in a team. Be specific and present your information in a logical manner. For example:
- What action or actions did you take? Why did you decided on those actions?
- How did you go about putting them into action?
- What you were thinking at the time? How did you feel?
Describe the results. What happened? What was the result? Remember this should relate back to the situation.
HOW COMPETENCY QUESTIONS ARE MARKED
- Positive indicators
Demonstrates a positive approach towards a problem
Considers the wider need of the situation
- Negative indicators
Perceives challenges as problems
Attempts unsuccessfully to deal with a situation alone
EXAMPLE QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES
Q: “Describe a situation in which you led a team.”
Outline the situation, your role and the task of the group overall. Describe any problems which arose and how they were tackled. Say what the result was and what you learned from it.
Q: “What has been your greatest achievement?”
Reciting academic or obvious work achievements are not the best answers – they won’t distinguish you from the crowd. Instead, say something that will set you apart, that speaks about your aspirations and values.
Q: “How do you cope in adversity?”
This is a clever question that opens up further conversation. Whatever you choose to talk about, employers will be looking at your coping mechanisms and at how robust you are. Did you learn from it, and build on the experience for future?
3. COMPETENCY-BASED INTERVIEW TIPS
- Think of at least one example to illustrate each of the critical capabilities/competencies relating to the role.
- Be specific and detailed in your response – but don’t waffle!
- Talk in the past tense. Say ‘I did this’, not ‘I would do this’.
- Talk about your actions and behaviour. Say ‘I did this’, not ‘we did this’.
- Use recent examples where possible (the past two years), unless you have older examples that are more relevant to the role you’re applying for.
- Spend about 70% of your time describing the actions that you took and the behaviour that you displayed (i.e. the “A” part of the STAR).
- Listen to the interviewer – make sure they have finished asking the question before you answer and make sure you answer exactly what they’re asking. Clarify the question if you need to.
- Take your time. It’s better to think of a good example before you start talking rather than give an ineffective answer.
- Take your cues from the interviewer. If they’re probing for more detail, give further information. If they’re hurrying you along, give briefer responses.
- Ask for a drink of water. If you get stuck for something to say when asked a difficult question, or you find your mouth is getting irritably dry, it’s a good excuse to take a sip. While it doesn’t buy you a great deal of time, it does give you chance to pause and reflect on the question a few moments before you give an answer.
- You can take notes into an interview if they are presented in a professional business folder. But only use them for reference rather than reading your answers from the sheet, as this undermines your credibility.
WHAT NOT TO DO IN A JOB INTERVIEW
- Put your coat or bag on the desk
- Don't talk too much
- Don't be too familiar
- Chew gum during your interview
- Interrupt the interviewer while he or she is talking
- Ask about salary and benefits at the first interview, unless prompted
- Talk negatively or criticise previous roles and employers
Following these interview tips should help in giving you a good chance of remaining as a strong candidate in your interviewer's mind.
Not been able to the interview stage yet? It could be your CV letting you down, read our definitive guide to writing a CV
Leigh, a CPD Level 2 CV writer, is a co-founder and careers advice writer at Diverse Employment. Legh works closely with our team of recruitment consultants working on the frontline of the labour market, to ensure that all the latest employment trends and the most effective job-hunting strategies are maintained within our resources; providing you with the most up to date advice for managing your careers.