You want a new job. You are desperate for a change. You’ve spent days (weeks?) getting your CV or resume the way you want it. Maybe we’ve written it for you. Then you get the email you’ve been longing for: you are invited for an interview! The initial feelings of elation are quickly replaced with those of anxiety, nervousness, and sometimes even dread. Why is it that something many of us do multiple times in our lives can create so much stress?
So often we overthink what we’re going to be asked, trying to second guess questions and panicking that we won’t say the right thing. It is impossible to know exactly what someone is going to ask, we can only prepare ourselves thoroughly and be confident in our experience and abilities. Alongside solid research into a company’s culture, structure and ethos, self-belief, positivity, and confidence are at the centre of all successful interviews.
However, wouldn’t it be nice if we did know the questions before we walked into the room? We’ve done the hard work for you by speaking to some of the people on the interview front line. They told us the questions they like to ask and even listed some valuable no-no’s.
Jo Jones is an HR Business Partner at Charles Taylor, London https://www.charlestaylor.com/en/, a Global Insurance Solutions, Claims and Technology company with 1300 employees.
David Charles is HR Manager at Goodenough College, https://www.goodenough.ac.uk/about-us/, London and has spent his career specialising in the charitable and not-for-profit sector.
Alexandra Coleman is an HR Business Partner at an International FMCG Organisation with 50,000+ employees globally.
What interview preparation advice can you give?
(JJ) List out your strengths, achievements, relevant experience ahead of the interview. Not only will this help you remember key things to mention to respective employers, but it will serve as a confidence boost and reminder of your abilities ahead of the interview.
(DC) Work on your non-verbal communication. This goes from dress-code, to engagement (eye-contact), to all sorts of body language. It is so important as it can lose an interview before you have even spoken.
(AC) Do your research! Check the Company’s website, make sure you’ve fully read the job description, even search out your interviewers – if you know their names – on LinkedIn to get to understand a little about their current job role/career and maybe prepare some questions for them. It shows interest and initiative.
What interview mistakes veto a candidate from progressing to the next stage?
(DC) Interrupting. It is bad manners, can be interpreted as ‘unable to listen’, and you might not hear the full question. Take a breath first, it helps formulate your answers.
(AC) Bad preparation – shows a lack of interest/passion, as well as a potential ‘last-minute’ work ethic.
(JJ) Being late, without a valid excuse.
How has the switch to telephone and online interviewing during the Covid-19 pandemic changed your approach to hiring and to the way a candidate needs to interact during and prepare for an interview?
(JJ) Very little. I would still expect a candidate to be on time, dressed professionally, be engaging, be prepared. There is more acceptance of personal circumstances, so if children, dogs are in the background that’s fine. But my advice would be to manage that so you don’t get distracted.
(AC ) In many ways, it’s changed very little. However, positively, it has allowed greater flexibility for candidates – they can interview on their lunch-break for example without being late ‘back to the office’, or they can interview at relatively short notice without needing to be geographically close/available. I think it allows the market to be faster- moving.
What should a candidate include to create a stand-out CV or resume?
(AC) Make it easy to read – there can be hundreds of CVs to sift through depending on the position, so anything that the recruiter has to work hard to understand may risk falling by the wayside, simply through lack of understanding what the CV is saying.
(JJ) A succinct, relevant list of experience. Not an essay.
What is the most commonly asked interview question? Which is your favourite?
(AC) ‘What is your biggest mistake?’ – The great thing about this question is HOW people answer. We all make mistakes, so I’m not expecting – wanting even – someone to say they’ve no examples to give. I want to hear the pivotal moments people have learnt from, perhaps the turning points in someone’s career, even just something small that shows they are somebody that hit a roadblock, learnt from it and moved on.
(DC) I use scenario [situational] questions for every role, it aims to find out how they would work in a particular situation and if they can think on their feet.
(JJ) ‘Why do you want this role?’ It’s simple but shows me they have thought about the actual role, the Company, what they could add, what they could learn from it.