Coping with interviews Leaflet March 2011

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1 Coping with interviews Leaflet March 2011 You may have been offered an interview for a place on a course, for an Apprenticeship programme or with an employer for a job. Whatever the situation, this leaflet gives you some basic advice, to make sure that you make the most of yourself during your interview. Most people feel nervous before interviews. This is natural, but doing some preparation beforehand will help to increase your confidence. You will usually have at least a few days' notice, so make good use of that time. An interview can also be a great opportunity to find out more about a particular role or course, and whether the organisation/college would suit you. Here are some things you should think about in order to help you succeed. Give your confidence a boost If you weren't suitable for the course, training or job on paper at least you wouldn't have been offered an interview. You may have been short-listed from dozens of applicants. You're doing very well to have got this far! If you feel confident about yourself and your abilities, the interviewer will notice this. However, try not to appear pushy and over-confident! Be prepared for anything! The purpose of any interview is for the interviewer to find out more about you. However, interviews can vary tremendously. Finding yourself in an interview situation you hadn't expected can easily put you off. You will probably have some idea in advance of what form the interview will take but, even so, it's best to be ready for anything! The interview may be extremely casual and relaxed, or very formal and structured. You may be faced by a panel of interviewers, ranging in number from two to five or more people! You may go through a series of interviews with different people all on the same day. You may be asked to prepare material or to make a presentation. Make sure you practise the presentation on friends or relatives beforehand. You could be asked to take a test on the day of the interview. It might be a test of intelligence, keyboard and/or ICT skills, arithmetic, literacy, personality, dexterity or fitness. Tests help the interviewer to find out about your skills, knowledge and/or aptitude for a certain type of work. You may be expected to take part in group activities or role-play situations with other candidates, perhaps to test your teamwork or leadership skills. You could be offered the chance to look around the organisation and to ask students, trainees or employees questions. For some jobs, you have to attend an assessment centre for interviews, presentations, group sessions and individual tasks! Almost certainly, you'll be asked why you have applied. It's very useful to practise your answers to likely interview questions such as: What do you feel you can bring to this job? Why did you choose this particular course? What are your long-term ambitions? Try to be flexible the questions may not be put in quite the way you expect. You could ask a friend or relative to role play an interview with you. Get yourself organised Page 1

2 Find out where the organisation is located. If you're uncertain, and it's local, make a visit beforehand. Decide how you will get to the interview, and find out how long the journey is likely to take on the day. Make sure you know exactly where the interview is to be held in a large complex, it's easy to go to the wrong department. Dig out any relevant examples of your work, certificates etc. Discover as much as you can about the opportunity for which you are applying. If it's a course, find out about teaching and assessment methods etc. If it's a job or Apprenticeship, find out as much as possible about the type of work you will be doing and the organisation. Most employers and colleges have websites. Make a good first impression People start to make judgements about you from the moment you walk in the room! You don't have to wear something new or expensive, or clothes that make you look like someone you're not, but make sure you're smart, clean and tidy. Whatever the interview situation, this shows that you've made an effort, and may give you the edge over another candidate. It's a good idea to try on your whole outfit to make sure you've got no buttons missing, or hems coming down. Try walking, sitting and standing to make sure your clothes are suitable and comfortable! Making sure your shoes are clean and your hair is tidy is common sense, but such details make a difference. Looking good is likely to make you feel good and that, again, will boost your self-confidence. Body language is important too. The way you walk into the room, smile, make eye contact and shake hands can set the tone for the interview. Be ready on the day Give yourself enough time to get ready. Make sure that you've got your exam certificates, testimonials, examples of work etc to give evidence of your abilities and achievements. Take the invitation letter and any maps telling you where to go, who to ask for etc. Don't go cluttered up with bags or anything unnecessary. Remind yourself of what you wrote by reading through a copy of your application form or CV. Set off in plenty of time, so that you arrive about ten minutes early. This will give you a moment to gather your thoughts, and to visit the loo and tidy your hair, if necessary. Have some coins or a mobile phone with you, so that if anything outside your control does happen to make you late, you can call to explain. (Make sure your mobile is turned off during the interview though!) As soon as you arrive, give your name to the receptionist if there is one. Most candidates get nervous. Experienced interviewers will make allowances for this and will try to make you feel at ease. An inexperienced interviewer may be as nervous as you are! Try to stay calm and look confident, however nervous you are feeling inside! Take a few deep breaths before you go in. Make sure you find out roughly when you'll be informed of the outcome of the interview. Sometimes you'll get a phone call on the same day; sometimes you'll get a letter or a few days later. Don't forget to thank the interviewer for his or her time when you leave. Present a positive image Remember, this may be your one and only chance to take advantage of this particular opportunity. So, use the interview to 'sell' yourself. Don't exaggerate, but make sure you make the interviewer aware of your strengths and enthusiasm. Good manners are important. Page 2

3 Smile pleasantly and look interested. Speak up! Whatever the situation, the interviewer will want to find out: how keen you are whether you have suitable skills, aptitudes and personal qualities about your career ambitions. Coping with questions Listen to each question carefully. Try to avoid simple 'yes' and 'no' answers. They're conversation stoppers! In answer to each question, you should try to give as much relevant information as you can. Don't talk too much and end up discussing things you were never asked in the first place. Be honest. Lies and exaggerations always get found out, eventually. If you're not asked about something that seems relevant and important, make sure you find an opportunity to bring it up (politely, of course). Be prepared for questions about your weaknesses and disappointments as well as your strengths and successes. Be brief but honest, and try to turn the question around to a more positive note. Don't make lengthy confessions or blame somebody else! When you're given the chance to ask questions, first ask something to demonstrate your enthusiasm and interest. If you're applying for a job or Apprenticeship, you could ask about training, the people you'd work with and the role itself. If there's anything you want to clarify about pay and conditions, ask this last. If you are applying for a course or training opportunity, you could find out more about how you are assessed, the destinations of previous learners etc. It may help to write questions down beforehand, in case your mind goes blank! Competency-based interviews are now commonly used, particularly by large organisations. You are usually sent a list of competencies (i.e. things you should be able to do) relevant for the job, or a detailed job description, so you should be able to do some thinking in advance. You will be asked to give examples of how you have dealt with different situations and tasks in the past, e.g. you may be asked how you coped with a difficult customer. In your response, you should outline the context of your example, describe what you did and state the end result. An example is given in leaflet in this series. Advice for particular kinds of interviews The advice given so far in this leaflet applies to any interview. There are some extra points to think about for particular kinds of interviews. Interview for an Apprenticeship If the interview is for an Apprenticeship or other work-based learning opportunity, the interview is likely to be aimed at finding out as much as possible about you. The whole selection process could last between one and three hours, and may take the form of three parts although not necessarily all on the same day. The organisation will usually tell you more about the training it offers, where and how training takes place, and the qualifications you will be aiming for. You may be asked to take a short assessment or aptitude test. A personal interview you are likely to be asked how you see your future developing, and what you expect to gain from the opportunity. Interview for a further education course Page 3

4 The interview is likely to be informal and relaxed, with time for you to ask questions. The interviewer will want you to talk about yourself, your career ideas, your interests and your study habits not just your exam grades. Don't be surprised if the person interviewing suggests other courses; staff will want to find the best programme for you. Interviewers are likely to ask you more about the things you put in your application. Whatever the course you are applying for, be sure you have well-prepared answers to these questions: Why this subject or course? Why this college? What do you hope to do after completing the course? Interview for a job You have probably already been selected from a number of applicants so, from your application form, you seem suitable for the job. Besides particular questions about your experience and abilities, the employer will be looking at: evidence that you really want to work for, and have taken the trouble to find out about, their organisation how suitable you are for the job how well you would fit into their organisation and the team with whom you would work. Be safe! The vast majority of interviews are straightforward, and everything goes well. However, there are a few simple DOs and DON'Ts for your own safety, particularly if you are going for a job interview. Do: tell a friend or a relative where you are going and what time you expect to be back make sure you can get home safely if the interview is being held outside normal working hours, try to arrange a lift make sure that the interview is being held on the organisation's premises or in some other public or official place. Don't: agree to be interviewed over drinks or a meal, or in a car park let the interviewer drive you home feel you have to answer personal questions that have nothing to do with what you have applied for. Afterwards... Well, now you wait for the outcome. If you don't hear anything by the time you expect to, you could contact the organisation and ask very tactfully whether a decision has been made. Let's hope you're successful. But nearly everyone gets a disappointment somewhere along the line. If you weren't successful, try to work out why. Think through what you said, and how you could have better answered some questions. You could also ask the organisation; some employers or course providers are willing to give you feedback and an idea of why you were not selected. This is usually a valuable learning experience. Connexions/careers service staff will be able to give you further advice. Try not to take failure too personally. There may simply have been a better-qualified or more suitably experienced candidate. Page 4

5 If you're job hunting, getting turned down can be disheartening, but don't let it affect you too much. For the sake of your morale, find other areas of your life where you can be successful: music, sports or other interests from repairing bikes to jewellery making. Why not do some voluntary work, take a class or even get a weekend job? Not only will these kinds of activities develop your skills and experience but, next time you go for an interview, you can tell the interviewer how constructively you spend your time. Good luck! Further Information There are many books on coping with interviews just a few are listed here. Some of them are aimed at job changers, but school- and college-leavers may find them useful too. Books on job hunting and interviews can be found in school, college, Connexions/careers centre and public libraries. Excel at Interviews from Lifetime Publishing, Great Answers to Tough Interview Questions, 8.99, Ultimate Interview, 9.99 and Successful Interview Skills, 7.99 all published by Kogan Page. Brilliant Answers to Tough Interview Questions, The Interview Bookand Brilliant Interview all published by Pearson Education, 9.99 each. Some job-search websites carry tips on going for interviews. The Directgov website also contains useful information about interview techniques click on 'Employment', 'Jobseekers' and then 'Help and advice when applying for jobs'. Copyright 2009, All rights reserved - Nord Anglia Lifetime Development SW Ltd Other leaflets that may be of interest CV writing for school- and college-leavers - Leaflet CV writing for job changers - Leaflet How to find a job - Leaflet Job applications - Leaflet Jobseekers' checklist - Leaflet Page 5

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