Interviews, Links & Tips

General Interview Tips 

With around 4.6% of the UK’s population of those over the age of 16 unemployed, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to land that all-important interview, never mind the job itself. In the event of getting an interview, you want to make sure you make no mistakes.

Many people say that the key to being successful is to put in the effort and hard work. At Alexander Hancock we believe that should you not prepare yourself properly for an interview, any experienced interviewer will notice and you could hinder the job hiring process.

There are many ways to ensure that you are well prepared for your interview.

Having a positive mental attitude is the best way to get yourself in the right frame of mind to be successful at your interview. By thinking back to any previous successes you have had, particularly job-related, you can effectively create a positive state of mind. Ensuring you are on time can also contribute to a positive mental attitude. Be sure to know exactly where you are going, leaving yourself plenty of time to get to the destination. Running late or flustered can make you feel flustered and somewhat panicky. Part of being prepared includes providing the interviewer(s) with a clean copy of your CV. Find out how many people you will be meeting with and make sure you take enough copies of your CV so that both you and they have one to hand. Should you be asked to bring any form of identification document, e.g. passport, ensure that you have these sorted in advance. Always take a copy of the job advert with you, including the job description, any research notes, etc. By taking this information and presenting it in a smart folder you will show both initiative and work ethic.
An interviewer scrutinises everything, including your appearance. It should go without saying that it is expected that you should enter an interview suitably presented. Should you show any lack in attention to detail this can be put against you at the deliberation process. Make sure everything is in place, we know it might sound silly but you should even give your shoes a clean.
First Impressions can be tough but the first 30 seconds of an interview is sometimes more important than the interview itself. For some employers, they make up their minds about an individual before they have even had a chance to sit down. Have a think about what you’d want to see as an interviewer and bring that to life.
Each job advert and the description includes a specification, and prospective employers will want to know that you have understood what they're looking for in a candidate. Make yourself stand out to the interviewers by matching yourself to the job spec. Make it clear that you have fully understood the role you are applying for. Explain to the interviewer why you and your skill set are suited to the role and this will give you a far better chance at being successful.
Asking for advice isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a well-known fact that many people view asking for help or advice as a sign of weakness and refrain from doing so. Give yourself a better chance by asking for advice for someone that might be able to help you. Ask about the company you are going to meet with or about the person that will be interviewing you, you can even ask about the job role and what it entails. Social channels like LinkedIn are an excellent platform for help like this. Join groups and interact in discussions to help you further understand anything you might be in doubt about.
You might find yourself asking why you need to read up on the company but in most, if not all cases an interviewer may dismiss a candidate who arrives at an interview none the wiser to what makes their company different to the next in their field. It's always wise to read up on some general facts about the company, e.g. how long they have been established for and any notable events that have taken place recently. Any of this information is good to drop into a conversation before the interview even begins. Besides reading up on the company it’s also beneficial to read up on the role you are applying for. It’s all well and good having experience in the role and reading the job spec and description off a piece of paper but finding specific details about the job you are going for can come as an advantage to you in your interview. Apply the knowledge you have of the company and job role to yourself in your interview and you’ll be sure to make a good impression.
If you think they may be looking for something that you don’t have, then don’t ignore it and hope for the best. Be proactive in thinking about how you might close the gap or perhaps minimise its’ importance, for example • Start reading up now on the area in question • Investigate courses that could help you bridge the gap quickly • Arrange relevant work experience • Identify transferable or complementary skills e.g. while you may not be familiar with a particular database, you may have used other similar ones in the past
Be absolutely clear about what you can do for the company you want to work for. Your focus should be ‘this is how I can help you’ rather than ‘what can the company do for me?’ – a mistake that many people make. Know how your values match those of the company and show that you really understand how that company works.
Know your worth and be confident about yourself and your abilities. Employers are much more likely to believe that you are capable of completing the job at hand if you are lively and believe in yourself. However, you must be careful not to cross the line between confidence and arrogance as employers also want someone who will work well alongside their existing team.

 

Difficult Interview Questions 

Interview questions may vary dependent on each interview you attend and the interviewer’s objective. In the majority interviewers are trying to establish the following:

  • Your skills and experience in the job at hand
  • Your enthusiasm and interest for the job
  • Whether you will fit in well with the current team at the company

It is best to answer all questions asked using real life examples which will allow you to illustrate your points, this will enable you to answer most if not all frequently asked questions.

Every interviewer wants to know a bit about you, this question generally starts the interview off and should be answered confidently. Your answer should include some of the following points in order for you to really get across what you are like as a person. • Include areas of most relevance to the job in question and focus on them • Talk about any impressive achievements, such as improvements made • Be enthusiastic about the job • Avoid personal information
Use your pre-interview research to focus on what they are really looking for, no matter how small of a part you feel it might be in comparison to what you have been doing to date. In order to answer the question effectively, it’s wise to include the following: • Interpersonal Skills, e.g. handling conflict • Job-related Skills, e.g. project management • Management Skills, e.g. people and financial management • Personal Qualities, e.g. work ethic • Sector Experience, e.g. retail • Technical Knowledge, e.g. supply chain processes
As one of an interviewer’s favourite questions, you have to be careful not to fall into their trap. When an interviewer asks ‘What are your weaknesses?’, many candidates are a little too honest in confessing their worst failings. Be sure to prepare up to two or three answers to this in advance, just in case the interviewer really pushes you. A great answer would include a weakness that: • Doesn’t matter for the job you are applying for, e.g. languages • Is something that can be turned into a positive, e.g. being impatient and getting frustrated when something takes too long to be auctioned • Was previously a weakness but which you have improved upon, e.g. presentations • Is an area in which is notably a gap in what they are looking for. You can use this to your advantage by researching the market trends and discussing the area with key people within the sector allowing you to feel confident that you can get ‘up to speed’ in the role.
No matter how tempting you should never criticise a previous employer when answering this question. You should utilise this question and answer in a positive and upbeat manner, even if the circumstances were difficult.
This answer should be thought about carefully. Your answer should reiterate why you are such a good fit for the job in question and enforce your enthusiasm for the role. Ideal answers would convey that you are; • A good match for the role due to your skills and their requirements • Interested in the product, market and/or sector • Aware of the company’s excellent reputation and feel that it would be a good challenge, etc. Be careful not to say that you want the job because you ‘just need a job’, or because ‘it’s local’, no matter how true this may be.
This question can catch a candidate out if you’re not careful. The interviewer is looking to see whether you are likely to stay within the role or the company and if so, for how long. Reassure the employer of your career plans in that you are applying for this role as it fits your career plan and your longer term commitment to the company.
Our best advice for this question would be to try and avoid this at the interview stage. When talking about salary expectations, this is best left to the job offer stage. Should you have to answer this question, it is best that you reassure the employer that you feel that salary won't be an issue if you decide to work together.

 

Questions for you to ask them 

It is important to ask the interviewer if they would like you to clarify something or explain anything in more detail. Sometimes an interviewer can be so concerned with writing down your answers that they forget to ask you to clarify something you have said. Asking this question with allow them the chance to clear anything up should they feel they need to. It will also give you the opportunity to ensure they have no doubts about you.

It is important to ask the interviewer if they would like you to clarify something or explain anything in more detail. Sometimes an interviewer can be so concerned with writing down your answers that they forget to ask you to clarify something you have said. Asking this question will allow them the chance to clear anything up should they feel they need to. It will also give you the opportunity to ensure they have no doubts about you.
Asking this will allow the interviewer to go into more detail about what the post actually requires within the initial three months of working in the role. It is also a chance for you to be enthusiastic about the job in question and even showcase your skills in more detail.
Asking about the company’s future will show the interviewer that you are serious about staying with the company and forging a career path with them should you get the chance to work with them. An interviewer likes to hire someone who they think can grow and develop alongside the company.
This question shows you are willing to update your current skills to fit in with the company’s requirements. This is something that an interviewer loves as it divides those that are going to be a real success and those that perhaps won't be.
Finding out why the job vacancy has come up can give you an idea of whether this is a new role or whether the previous employee left and why.
Not only will this give you an opportunity to outline why you’d be perfect for the role, once the interviewer has answered the question, but it will also show the interviewer that you aware of the bigger picture.
If your role has many targets to meet then this question is one that you should definitely be asking. This question gives the interviewer an insight into the robust assessment measures you are used to and informs them that you have no problem being measured against company goals.
At the end of the interview, you should make sure that you ask the interviewer when you should expect to be hearing from them and thank them for seeing you.

 

Telephone Interviews

Many companies use telephone interviews as part of their recruitment process to whittle down a pile of CVs into a manageable interview shortlist. But many candidates fluff the opportunity to create a good impression and secure a face-to-face meeting because they fail to take telephone interviews seriously, and risk losing out as a result;

Do:

  • Prepare yourself for the call as you would for a face-to-face interview
  • Choose a quiet place to take the call, with no risk of interruption or background noise
  • Pay as much attention to listening as to speaking
  • Call from a landline to minimise the chance of interference or lost connection
  • Take things slowly – there is no need to rush

 Don’t:

  • Do something else while talking on the phone – give the call your full attention
  • Fail to take the interview seriously – it’s your opportunity to make a good impression
  • Forget to listen and respond to the interviewer’s questions
  • Portray a poor telephone manner – remember, you are trying to impress
  • Exhibit a lack of enthusiasm – the interviewer expects to hear that you want this job

 

Assessment Centres

There are many benefits of using assessment centres for both employers and employees. For potential employees alone the benefits include:

  • A deeper understanding of your potential employer’s business, allowing you to ensure the role is the right one for you.
  • Provides you with multiple opportunities to demonstrate the skills that you possess and clearly show why you are right for the role.
  • Gives you an insight into what it is like to work for that organisation.

As assessment centres also benefit the employers, they allow the employer to see you in a realistic setting and they can determine how well you act to certain situations and how well you fit with what they are looking for.

There are many benefits of using assessment centres for both employers and employees. For potential employees alone the benefits include: • A deeper understanding of your potential employer's business, allowing you to ensure the role is the right one for you. • Provides you with multiple opportunities to demonstrate the skills that you possess and clearly show why you are right for the role. • Gives you an insight into what it is like to work for that organisation. As assessment centres also benefit the employers, they allow the employer to see you in a realistic setting and they can determine how well you act to certain situations and how well you fit with what they are looking for.
Assessment centres generally include several exercises. These may include interviews, ability tests, role-plays, group exercises or presentations. Some assessment centres also use in-tray exercises, analysis presentations or fact-find exercises. Because you have the chance to participate in several exercises, there are several opportunities for you to demonstrate your skills. What’s more you are likely to be seen by a number of assessors during the event, making the whole process fairer to you.
Assessment centres are the ideal situation for employers to observe how you behave when interacting in different settings. As each role is different, each assessor looks for something different too. The behaviours being assessed will vary from role to role and can include things like communication, e.g. listening to others. The behaviours being assessed will be determined by the job role in question and you generally receive information about this prior to the assessment day itself.
Before your assessment day, you generally receive information about what to expect on the day itself. At the majority of assessment centres, you will only be assessed during specific tasks or exercises. If you are not sure about this it is advised you ask for more information from the assessor or the company itself.
Some people like to be prepared in every event but unfortunately, an assessment day is not something that you can prepare for. Assessors want to see you acting naturally as you would in work which means that before the day you won’t be able to prepare for many of the exercises you will take part in. On the day, you will be allowed preparation time before the exercises and will also be provided with any information the company may deem necessary. Should you be aware that you are going to be involved in any mathematical or verbal reasoning tests we would suggest that it is wise for you to refresh yourself with basic calculations or different types of texts. Generally speaking, you will have information about the areas an employer will be looking at before you attend the assessment. In all of the assessments, you should try and link your answers to situations you have been in and how you behaved in that situation. Many tests are now competency-based meaning that assessors are looking for specific examples.
In order to be successful on your assessment day, Alexander Hancock has provided a list of assessment tips we think are best to follow: • Appear engaged at all times and listen to others whilst they are speaking. • Look interested in others when they are presenting. • Don’t try and evaluate what the HR team are thinking. • Make sure that you understand the core values of the company and feedback to them what you have found from your research. • Research what they do, their values and keywords. • Ask for others opinions and listen to what they have to say whilst also getting your own point across. • Try not to be nervous, keep smiling through your presentation and act confidently whether you feel it or not.

 

Behavioural Interviewing/Competency Based Interviews

Competency-based interviews, otherwise known as behaviour based, you are asked to provide specific examples of when you have demonstrated particular skills in the past. To give an effective answer you must be specific, employers aren’t looking for general answers about behaviour. You must describe a particular event, project or experience and how you dealt with the situation in as much detail as possible.

Behavioural Interview questions can include:

  • Describe a time you were faced with a problem at work that tested you. What did you do to cope with this?
  • Give an example of a time you had to work to meet a goal that had been set. How did you measure your progress in reaching that goal?
  • Give an example of a problem that you have faced in a previous role and what you did to resolve it.
  • Give an example of a time you had to show strong leadership.
  • If a customer or co-worker is upset, how would you deal with this? Give an example.

 

List of typical behaviours that employers might be trying to get at from this type of interview:

  • Adaptability
  • Analysis
  • Attention to detail
  • Decisiveness
  • Delegation
  • Fact finding
  • Flexibility
  • Independence
  • Initiative
  • Judgement
  • Listening
  • Motivation
  • Negotiation
  • Oral and Written
  • Planning and organisation
  • Presentation skills
  • Professionalism
  • Rapport building
  • Sales ability
  • Team Work
  • Tenacity

 

Responding to these types of questions:

When responding to these types of questions you must ensure that you are specific and not in anyway vague. You should briefly describe the situation, the specific action you took and the result or outcome.

You must not describe how you would behave. Describe exactly how you behaved in the situation and if applicable, explain why you should have behaved differently as the employer will be able to see what you have learned from your experience.

Much like an assessment day, it is extremely difficult to prepare for a competency-based interview. The best way to feel prepared is to identify a few examples of situations from your past experience which you can adapt to multiple behavioural questions.

 

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I am so happy to have met with you, and I will keep in touch, “thank you” just doesn’t seem anywhere near enough for what you all at Alexander Hancock, and you especially Natalie, have given me, it just so special, a great new life for me and not just a job, thank you so so much

Jacqui