6 Tips to ace your Interview



Welcome back to the HappyJobsNI blog. As part of our New Year stories we have been looking to help job seekers. For our first entry of 2021 we took you behind the scenes of the software in the recruitment process.


Following on from this we gave you tips on how to structure your CV.


This week it seemed logical to move onto the next step of the process and winning at interviews.


1. Breathing

It is only natural to be nervous prior to your meeting with a future employer. For many years we conducted these meetings in person, unless circumstances precluded this from happening. I remember doing a telephone call before I got a dream job in late 2011 as both parties were in different countries. COVID has flipping this process on its head and many companies switched from face-to-face to virtual interviews overnight as lockdowns kicked in.


Breath in, hold and breath out.


So, our first tip is around breathing to help relax you. This YouTube video was suggested to me by the founder of Dash & Splash last Autumn and I have found it useful and wanted to share with you. Practice breathing techniques, ones obviously that are safe and comfortable for you, to help you to relax.


2. First Impressions

Dress for the job you want to have. I heard about a friend who was going for an interview for a tech start-up recently and they put on business shirt, blazer and formal trousers. The interviewer was a C-level executive dressed in a t-shirt, mildly embarrassed for not dressing up, but very impressed at the candidate making an effort. Your first impression lasts and you only get to make it once, so make an effort.


3. Research, Research, Research

As experienced recruiters, we would always advise you do your due diligence with future employers. Read their website to have an understanding about what they do, what they sell, who are the key people/founders.


Check out their blogs and see who the publicly facing employees are and what they are talking about. Another section to pay close attention to is their company culture. Which values do they talk about? Do these company values match your personal aspirations and characteristics?


If you don't know anyone personally that works there, ask your network if they know the company, what are they like to work? What is the work culture, the managerial style? If you have a young family, perhaps you don’t want to be available for evening conference calls with US colleagues 3-4 times a week when it clashes with bath time. Make notes and review the points to ensure you are a good match for them.


Lastly on the research tip, look up your interview panel to get an understanding of their professional background(s). It is a useful exercise to try to identify any gaps in skill sets that can be met by you and your experience. Sometimes an interviewer will be very open about what they can't do, don't have time for and need help with, in other instances this information may not be forthcoming.


4. Practice

A Google search will often display a list of questions related to specific jobs giving you an idea of what could be asked on the day. Figure out your answers to these, remaining truthful and make them interesting and interspersed with figures, where relevant. Practice with housemates, parents, colleagues or mentors.


If you have never done am interview over video, set one up with a friend and do a dry run through. Take the feedback and act on the points. If you talk to fast, try and slow down. Avoid talking in a monotone, remember you are selling yourself! You are interesting, having done and achieved interesting things. Watch for excessive hand and arm movements and remember, the interviewer could be as nervous as you!


5. STAR

Many interviews now take the form of competency tests, especially if this is a multi-step process. If you have 3 interviews, the competency step will be in the middle, either side of the HR sanity check and a final chat with a senior manager or colleague.


STAR is an acronym that stands for:


  • Situation – set the scene for the panel

  • Task – outline your responsibility in this example.

  • Action – explain the steps/process that you took to achieve "X"

  • Result – was this a success? Were you on-budget, on-time? Did the customer buy again? Share the outcomes from this story


Here are some example questions that will test a candidate as part of this behavioural metric.

  1. Tell me/us about a time when you overcome an objection in work.

  2. Have you ever...

  3. Describe a situation when you had too much work, how did you prioritise this?

  4. Can you outline a time when you had conflict within a team. How did you resolve it?

  5. Talk about a time when you really exceeded customer expectations.

  6. What are you most proud of in your career?

Practice your answers to these questions, again examples can be found online.


6. Follow-up

So, you made it through the interview, if you have followed the other steps you should have been successful. Now you need to polite and courteous and email the hiring manager to thank them again for their time and outline what you can do in the first week/30 days in the job. If you can relate to a story around the interview to remind them of you, to stay memorable. Remind them of the immediate value you can bring to the role. Follow up with the recruitment team is also good, to show how keen you are and to thank them for their part in the process.


Good luck!