Interview Success: Five Top Tips


Research the organisation until you know it as well as that Katy Perry song you can't get out of your head. It's your job to get clued up, my friend. Yes, that means stalking the company website for days on end until you crack the secret code that will enable you to show the interviewer why you're perfect for the job using simply a look. Well, not quite like that - that might be taking it a bit too far.

Okay, so here's what you've got to do. Look at the organisation or company's website and really explore it fully. You'll find it's packed full of information. As a rule of thumb, make sure you understand what their goals are, the type of work they do, and how your job might contribute to the success of the company. You don’t need to have memorised anything by heart, but you do need to be able to tell an interviewer what you know about their company. It's important to pinpoint specific pieces of information that might be relevant to the job you're interested in, as well as some general points.

You might think that researching the company is an obvious one, but time and time again employers cite a lack of research as the number one thing that sets candidates apart. Therefore, having a strong research game might just be the thing that will enable you to gain the edge over your competitors. Perhaps have a dig around to find at least one piece of interesting information about the company that another candidate might not have found so easily. This may involve looking at company’s aims for the year ahead, the outcome of their latest report, or seeing whether any of their work has been touched on in the media lately. You're going to research that company until you're able to repeat the facts louder than a lion. 'Cos you are a champion.

Prep, prep, prep: Now that you've done your research, your next step is to prepare for possible questions that might come up. Have a look at the job specification which outlines the skills, qualities and experiences that the successful candidate must demonstrate in order to succeed in the position. Don’t worry if you don’t meet all the requirements, so long as you can show that you're strong in other areas, and can learn fast. After all, you've made the shortlist and scored an interview so they've obviously seen something about you that they like (ahem, your super CV).

A good idea would be to look at the criteria and prepare some practice questions that might be asked in the interview. Try to come up with at least one or two questions for each of the criteria listed. For example, criterion might include being able to work in a team towards a positive result. An example question might ask you to: "tell us about a time you worked in a team before, and what made you successful". Drawing questions like this will enable you prepare for the interview, and ensure that you're ready for potential questions that might be asked. Now, on to the next point.

Tell a story using STAR: Interviews tend to be based around competency questions. Employers will ask questions that allow them to assess whether you have the skills and qualities necessary to succeed in the role. Competency questions are often based on the criteria listed in the job specification, and require you to use real-life examples in your answer. A competency question may ask you to "tell me about a time in which you demonstrated excellent customer service skills in order to achieve a positive result". Now, to answer the question, you might use the STAR approach. STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action, Result. It allows you to structure your responses so that you hit the key target of using specific examples to highlight both your skills and achievements.

Q: Give an example of a time when you used excellent customer service skills to achieve a positive result.

Situation:

I am really good at giving great customer service. I like to go the extra mile to meet the customer's needs.

Task:

For instance, last month I was working with a customer who had a complaint about an online delivery she'd received, since she'd been delivered the wrong parcel. My task was to try and find out why this error had been made, and to try and correct it for the customer.

Action:

I apologised to the customer and assured her that I would do everything that I could to ensure she received the items she had initially ordered. Through looking at the delivery records, it was clear that the delivery team had made a mistake. I took action by giving the customer a full refund and sent the correct items to her home, free of charge. I also informed the manager of the mistake, to try and ensure that such an error would not occur again.

Result:

The result was that the customer was happy with the way that I handled the situation. She thanked me for the refund, as well as free delivery to home, as this is something that we do not usually offer. This is a good illustration of my commitment to providing excellent customer service.

Using STAR is recommended as it enables you to answer each question using a story that draws upon relevant examples from your experiences to date, to show the employer that you have the qualities they're looking for. You'll also notice that the answer makes use of the pronoun "I", not "we". This is an important feature of STAR answers. Employers want to see what you are capable of, and not someone you once worked with ages ago, so show it.

Practice and repeat: Remember, you might be a brilliant fit for the job, with the skills and experiences to match. Heck, you might even be a cracking communicator with whip-smart humour and your presentation prowess on fire. However, if you don't get this across during your interview, the recruiters aren't to know. Therefore, it’s up to you prepare for the questions that might appear, and to practice answering them using STAR. Repeat your answers aloud, in a clear and confident voice, just as you might use in the interview. Remember to talk slowly to allow you pace yourself and keep calm. You can practice giving your answers aloud either to a friend, by yourself, or recording yourself. Ask your friend to provide you with feedback on tone and clarity. Or, you can use the recordings to test yourself and make your own judgements.

Stay cool: The final tip is just that – stay cool! That means doing whatever you need to keep your peace of mind in check. You want to enter that interview room as cool as a cucumber, not a hot mess. Wear an outfit that you’re comfortable in, with shoes you can walk in. Oh, and don’t spend the night prior worrying yourself into a right sorry state. Netflix and chill is probably the way to go. In the morning, try visualising yourself entering the interview room, greeting the panel with your best smile, and a nice warm handshake. See? Nothing to worry about here. Chill please, you’ve got this.


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