Whether you’re a recent graduate from university or college looking for your first job or you’ve been without work for a while and you’re looking to get back into the workplace. No matter your situation, it can be tough getting onto the career ladder. No matter how confident or un-confident you might be, carrying out the right preparation and research prior to an interview can give your success rate a huge boost and even land you the job.
What is a Job Interview?
Job Interview – Noun – A formal meeting in which an applicant is asked questions to determine their suitability for a particular job.
The idea of a job interview is to allow your potential employer to ask you questions about your career, personality, and life in order to learn more about you, and ultimately decide whether they believe you to be a good fit for the job. There are three main types of a job interview, and you can expect any one of them (You’ll usually be told which to expect though), these are;
- One-to-one interview – This is the most common type of job interview – You are interviewed by a singular person (this is usually the boss) and the interview usually consists of simple questions and answer session.
- Panel Interview – This is where you’re interviewed by a few people at one time (this will usually be the boss, HR manager and maybe one or two other senior business members). Once again this will still consist of a simple questions and answers session… Just a little more intimidating.
- Competency Interview – This is one of the more ‘advanced’ interview types. In this interview you’ll be given real-life situations, asked how you’d deal with the said situation and judged based on your answer.
A pre-interview is the process you’ll go through before actually attending your interview. During this phase, you’ll have sent your potential employer a cover letter, your CV and any other material required for your application. In many cases you may have already had a phone call with a member of the business you’re applying to; usually inviting you to a formal in-person interview.
This phone call allows the person calling you to gauge a bit about your background and qualifications as they will likely touch on these subjects during your phone call. One thing to remember is, if you’re invited to an interview, you should be confident, as they must believe you to be a good fit for their business.
CV (Curriculum Vitae) – What to Include?
CV stands for “Curriculum Vitae” and roughly translates to [the] course of [my] life. A CV is a written overview of a person’s experience and other qualifications, usually tailored to meet the requirements of a certain job opportunity.
Your CV is going to be the first thing a potential employer will read about yourself in detail, so it pays to know what should and shouldn’t be included in your CV. You should always aim to include the following in your CV:
- Contact Details: This should be obvious, but always remember to include your contact details. Include your address, main contact number, and even an email address. Make it easy for employers to get in touch with you if they wish to. Always ensure your email address is professional (For Example. John.Doe@…).
- Employment History: Include your previous employment history, along with tasks and responsibilities that show off your skills and strengths. When choosing which skills to show off, ensure they’re relevant to the job being applied for.
- Education & Qualifications: Include your qualifications and education history, once again, include skills and knowledge you developed during this time, and even try to highlight key achievements that might relate to the job you’re applying to.
- Experience: This doesn’t always have to be work experience. If this is the first job you’re applying to, you’re not likely to have any work experience. Instead, include other things you’ve been involved in such as school clubs, work experience in high school and even volunteering – This is all still experience.
- Honesty: Be honest in your CV. Don’t lie about your qualifications and experience, you’re just setting yourself up to get caught out when they ask you about your qualifications and experience during your interview.
- References: You don’t have to include your references on your CV but you should have them ready to send if an employer does request them. Instead, state that your references are available on request.
- Language: When writing your CV, use active language. For example, “I completed” instead of “the task was completed”. Keep your language positive and keep sentences short.
- Layout: Aim to keep your CV to no more than two sides of A4, this is short enough for an employer to scan, while remaining long enough to include all your information – Using bullet points can make your CV even easier to read.
- Styling: If you’re applying for a job that doesn’t require design to be a skill then avoid using fancy fonts, borders, tables, and graphics – These can be distracting to employers. If you happen to be applying for a job as a graphic designer (Or any job similar) we’d recommend making your CV creative and showing off your skills.
- Spelling & Punctuation: Always ensure you have someone check through your CV in order to avoid spelling and punctuation mistakes. Don’t rely on your computer’s spell-check to fix every error.
Cover Letter – What to Include?
A cover letter is usually a single-page letter that should be included with your CV in most job applications unless the job ad states otherwise. The main purpose of a cover letter is to introduce yourself to your employer and explain your suitability for the position being applied for. Within your cover letter you should look to include the following:
- Contact Details: Once again, this should be obvious, but ensure you include all your contact details. Include your address, phone number and email address (Again, make sure it’s professional). Make it easy for them to contact you.
- Their Contact Details: In a cover letter, you should also include the contact details of the person you’re writing to. Including their name, position, and basic contact details.
- Job Position: At the start of your cover letter you should briefly talk about and explain the position you’re applying for.
- Skills and Experience: Within your cover letter you should also include a brief summary of your skills and experiences, and why they make you a suitable candidate for the position you’re applying for. Don’t forget to mention how you used your skills, don’t just list them out.
- Spelling and Punctuation: Ensure you proofread your cover letter, looking for any spelling and punctuation errors. Don’t just rely on spell-check to catch everything – Have someone else read through your cover letter to double check.
- Language: Use appropriate language and terminology in your cover letter, and ensure it’s used in the correct context.
The Interview Phase
So, you’ve done it. You’ve landed yourself an interview. Now what? Well, next you need to consider what to wear to your interview.
What Should I Wear?
Interviews are a formal occasion and so your choice of clothing should aim to reflect this. You should always base what you wear to an interview on formality unless you know the company you’re taking an interview at has a specific dress code.
What Will Your Interviewers Be Wearing?
If you know what your interviewers will be wearing, then aim to match their outfits. If they’re wearing suits and you turn up in jeans and a t-shirt you’re going to seem well out of place, and maybe even slightly uncomfortable. You can try and get an understanding of what might be appropriate by looking at what employees of the business are wearing in their LinkedIn profiles.
Your interview clothes should make you feel confident and comfortable, so wearing a brand new outfit isn’t the best way to go. If you’ve never worn an outfit before, then you don’t know how it behaves when you’re wearing it; does it crease? Is it itchy? Does it restrict your arm movement? Is it too hot?
Instead of wearing a brand new outfit, wear something you’ve worn before, something smart and professional looking, but that you also know is comfortable and fits correctly.
The Interview Phase: Questions You Can Expect?
In just about any interview, you can expect a couple of questions about yourself. When an interviewer asks questions about you, they’re likely trying to get to know you as a person, and determine if you’re a good fit for the company or job role. These questions will help the interviewer determine whether your personality fits the company culture etc.
The best way to answer such questions is, to be honest, don’t try to be someone else in order to please the interviewer, but while being honest, and always keep the company and job in mind when you answer. A few questions you might be asked about yourself are:
- Tell me about yourself.
- Tell me something that’s not on your CV.
- What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?
- Why do you want this job?
- Do you work well with other people?
- What’re your goals for the next 5-10 years?
About Your Qualifications
The purpose of a job interview is to demonstrate why you’re the right person for the available role. The best way for you to do this is to show the interviewer you have the required skills, education and qualifications – So, naturally, they’re going to ask you a few questions about your qualifications and education history.
A few questions you might be asked about your qualifications might include:
- Did you enjoy university?
- Why do you believe you’re the most qualified candidate for this position?
- What do you bring to the table that other candidates don’t?
- Why did you choose your degree subject?
- What qualifications do you have that will make you successful in this role?
About Your Ability to Be Effective in the Work Environment
If you’re applying for a job, it’s vital for your interviewer to establish whether or not you’ll make a good addition to their team, and whether or not you’ll be effective in your role.
A few questions you might get asked regarding your effectiveness in the work environment are:
- Have you ever had difficulty working with a manager?
- Have you ever had difficulty working as part of a team?
- What strategies would you use to motivate your team?
- How would you describe yourself?
- What are your pet peeves?
- What would you say people criticise most about you?
About Your Career Goals
During an interview you may be asked questions about your career plans and aspirations, this helps your employer and interviewer to see whether or not you plan to stay at the company long-term or if you hope to move on from their company quickly.
A couple of questions surrounding your career goals and aspirations might include:
- Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
- What are your goals for the future?
- What are you looking for in your next role?
Post Interview Phase
You survived your interview, and hopefully, you made a good impression – You might even land the job!
This post-interview phase usually lasts a few days, and within this time you’ll be told whether or not you got the job you applied for. However, your part isn’t over just yet. While you might have made a great impression during the interview, how you handle the post-interview phase is just as important.
During this phase, the interviewer, along with other members of the business, will review everything they’ve learned from you, along with your qualifications and CV in order to determine whether they think you’ll be a good fit for the job position available.
While you’re waiting to hear back from the business in relation to your interview, it’s always a good idea to follow up your interviews with a thank you letter, call or even email. While it might be a small gesture, it shows your enthusiasm for the position and allows you to express your gratitude for the opportunity.
If your interviews went well, the business may give you a job offer; this is them inviting you to work for the company. You should always look to get this sent to you in writing, including all details such as salary, start date, location and any other specific details. Depending on the position and company, your job offer may be contingent upon you passing a background check or even a drug screening.
Now it’s back to you. You’ve received a job offer, and you clearly shone and stood out at your interview. Take this time to weigh up the pros and cons of the company you’re being offered a position at, think about the management and staff, think about the impression you got from them during the interview etc. Always ensure you understand all details before accepting a job offer, and if you’re happy with the details, go ahead and take the offer.
Congratulations, you now have a job. Hopefully, you thought extensively about your decision and you enjoy your time working at the company that has decided to hire you. Onwards and upwards.
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