As written by Robert Walters
Preparation for the interview
Preparation is the first essential step towards conducting a successful interview. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be.
Ensure that you know the following things:
- The exact time and location of the interview, route, parking etc and how long it will take to get there.
- The interviewer's correct title and pronunciation of his or her full name.
- Specific facts about the company; its history, financial position, competitors, products and services. Research the company's web site in full.
- Facts and figures about your present or former employer. Refresh your memory on this because you will be expected to know a lot about a company for which you have previously worked.
- Prepare some questions to ask the interviewer. Remember that an interview is a two way street. The interviewer will try to determine through questioning whether you are the right person for a specific job. Likewise, you must determine through questioning whether this potential employer will provide the opportunity for career development that you seek.
During the interview, you will be assessed for your strengths and weaknesses/areas for development. In addition to this, specific personal characteristics will be examined, such as attitude, aptitude, stability, motivation and maturity.
Some interview dos and don’ts follow:
- DO arrive on time or a few minutes early. Late arrival for a job interview is never excusable.
- DO greet the interviewer by his or her title and surname. If you are not sure of the name pronunciation, ask the interviewer to repeat it.
- DO shake hands firmly.
- DO wait until you are offered a chair before sitting. Sit upright in your chair and look alert and interested at all times.
- DO be as charismatic as possible; it is very important that you demonstrate your interpersonal skills during the interview.
- DO be a good listener as well as a good talker.
- DO smile.
- DO look the interviewer in the eye.
- DO follow the interviewer's leads. Try, however, to obtain a full description of the position and duties it incorporates at an early stage so that you can relay your appropriate background and skills accordingly.
- DO make sure that your good points get across to the interviewer in a concise, factual and sincere manner. Waffle will get you nowhere. Bear in mind that only you can sell yourself and make the interviewer aware of the benefits that you can offer to the organisation.
- DO always conduct yourself as if you are determined to get the job you are discussing. Never close the door on opportunity. It is better to be in a position where you can choose from a number of offers - rather than only one.
- DON'T answer questions with a simple 'yes' or 'no'. Explain yourself whenever possible. Describe those things about yourself that relate to the position on offer.
- DON'T lie. Answer questions truthfully, frankly and as close to the point as possible.
- DON'T make derogatory remarks about your present or former employers.
- DON'T enquire about salary, holidays, bonuses etc, at the initial interview unless you are positive that the interviewer wants to hire you. You should, however, know your market value and be prepared to specify your required salary or range.
Be prepared to answer questions such as:
- Why did you choose a career in accountancy/IT/tax/banking?
- What kind of job are you seeking?
- What is your technical experience?
- Why would you like to work for our company?
- What do you want to be doing in your career five years from now?
- When was your last salary review?
- What style of management gets the best from you?
- What interests you about our product/service?
- What have you learned from some of the jobs you have held?
- Which job did you enjoy the most and why?
- What have you done that shows initiative in your career?
- What are your major weaknesses and what are your strengths?
- What do you think determines a person's progress in a good company?
- Are you willing to relocate?
- What are your hobbies?
- What does 'teamwork' mean to you?
Closing the interview
- If you are interested in the position enquire about the next interview stage. If the interview offers the position to you and you want it, accept on the spot. If you wish for some time to think it over, be courteous and tactful in asking for that time. Set a definite date on which you can provide an answer.
- Don't be too discouraged if no definite offer is made nor a specific salary discussed. The interviewer will probably want to consult colleagues or interview other candidates (or both) before making a decision.
- If you get the impression that the interview is not going very well and you have already been rejected, don't let your discouragement show. Once in a while an interviewer who is genuinely interested in your possibilities may intend to discourage you in order to test your reaction.
- Thank the interviewer for the time spent with you.
After the interview
Lastly, and most importantly, call your consultant immediately after the interview to explain what happened. The consultant will want to speak with you before the interviewer calls.
For further interview advice and some examples of competency based questions, please download our full interview guide.
Your CV is a tool with one purpose: to win an interview. It should present you in the best possible light and convince a prospective employer that you have what it takes to be successful in this specific position or career. You don't have much time to impress with your CV — research shows that employers scan, rather than read, CVs — so to make sure it stimulates interest, follow these basic tips:
- Avoid coloured paper or type, fancy fonts, photographs or clever delivery approaches
- Be truthful and don't be afraid to sell your skills
- Keep the look simple and make your point quickly
- Use the past tense and choose strong action verbs
- Avoid speaking about yourself in the third person
- Avoid jargon and acronyms that other people might not understand
- Tailor your resume for each specific application
- Include the company profile of the organisations that you have worked for
- Make your CV results oriented: give proof to back up your capability statements.
- Personal information: Include your name, full address, telephone numbers (day/evening/mobile) and email address.
- Qualifications: List both academic and non-academic qualifications in chronological order, giving grades. Do not include irrelevant information.
- Employment history: Beginning with your most recent job, include your responsibilities, duration of employment and reasons for leaving. Do not omit any period of employment for whatever reason, as this may prove awkward at interview.
- Personal interests: Listing your interests is important, but do not generalise. For example, instead of simply saying 'football', you could expand and say that you have played for a local club for the last four years and are now publicity officer for the committee (but only if this is true).
- Check: Before submitting your CV/resumé, make sure you check it thoroughly, not just for spelling mistakes, but also to make sure that it is a clear representation of you, that it is relevant and that it will encourage the employer to contact you to find out more. Ask a friend to check it, too. Someone who works in the industry for which you are applying would be particularly beneficial.
Frequently asked questions
Should I put my referees on my resume?
These need not be included on your CV. However, before Robert Walters can place you, we will need to carry out detailed reference checks for your most recent five years of employment history, so it is useful to have these at the ready.
How much personal information should I include?
Generally, you should avoid too much personal information on your resume. Remember the employer is looking for an overview of your skills, think about what is relevant.
Should I put my photo on my resume?
You should try and avoid inserting any photographs or graphics onto your resume.
Should I put my hobbies / interests on my resume?
It is fine to include hobbies and interests on your resume but always consider if they are likely to add or detract from your resume. Remember not everyone enjoys the same pastimes.
Should I include academic or extra curricular achievements on my resume?
Definitely, such achievements as school prefect or captain may show leadership skills and any involvement in extra mural activity will be well received by an employer looking for staff who demonstrate a work/life balance.
Should I put my work email address on my resume?
You should avoid using your work contact details when applying for other positions unless you have clarified this with your current employer. If you are going to set up a hotmail address or something similar, be sure it is an appropriate address and avoid using nicknames as this could give a negative impression to a future employer.
How long should my resume be?
We would recommend that a resume be no longer than four to five pages, this is ample space to include all relevant career history and information.
Should I include a cover letter?
Cover letters are only useful if they are specifically tailored to the role. Don't use a generic cover letter as it looks as though you haven't put in any effort. If you are going to use a cover letter, use it to clearly outline where your skills and experience match those required in the role and ensure that it is correctly addressed.