Interviews – how to make yours a success

People can be unsuccessful on interview for many reasons, and often their ability to do the job is irrelevant to the outcome. Research shows that interviewers make a mental decision as to whether or not they want to employ candidates within 30 – 60 seconds of meeting them, often before the candidates have even had a chance to introduce themselves, let alone explain why they are the perfect person for the job!

This page is a step-by-step guide to help you make your interviews successful.

Preparation

To ‘fail to plan’ is to ‘plan to fail’!

Time invested in planning your interviews will reap rewards in the long run.

Who are you?

Think about your skills, competencies, qualifications and experience. Write them down, and think of ways to bring them into discussion during the interview.

How are you perceived?

Talk to friends, family and particularly work colleagues. Ask them to be honest with you and to describe how they perceive you. Get them to tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are, whether you have any annoying habits or traits you should be aware of, and what changes you may need to make to come across well in a face to face meeting.

What is your objective?

What type of job are you looking for, at what level and in what field or discipline? Where do you want to be located geographically, and how much money do you want/need to earn? Take advice on this too. Getting to an interview is not the objective, just part of it.

Who are your targets?

Are you going to apply for jobs directly, or use a specialist recruitment agency? If you are going to use an agency, we suggest you select a member of the REC (Like Property Personnel). We have agreed to abide by Codes of Practice and are subject to stringent membership criteria ensuring you will receive the highest standards of professionalism and service.
Property Personnel have access to vacancies that have not been advertised, will market your skills widely and give you accurate advice on job-finding techniques and/or improving your CV.

Make sure you are being realistic in your expectations. Are you really capable of doing the job you are applying for? Do you fit the company culture? Be honest with yourself, and ideally take advice!

Prior to the interview

Once you have been offered an interview, we suggest you need to know the following about the company you are going to see:

  • How long have they been established?
  • How many offices do they have and where are they?
  • What market do they deal in?
  • What is their reputation as an employer?
  • Who owns the organisation?
  • What is the person like who is going to interview you?

If we have introduced you to the company we will provide you with all of this information and more. You can also visit the company website, or telephone them to see whether they have a brochure they could send you.

Read a good book on body language, so you strengthen your good signals, and curb the weak ones.

Prepare a list of potential questions that you can ask on the day. (Examples are listed further down this page.)

Think about answers you will give to the stereotypical interview questions. (Examples of these questions are listed further down this page.)

On the day

Personal

Give yourself plenty of time to get ready as first impressions count. Are you well-groomed with tidy hair, shoes and clothing? Make sure you have all the things you need. This could include exam certificates, National Record of Achievement, driving licence, proof of past achievements, current CV, photograph, etc. If you are taking papers to the interview, put them in a suitable case or folder, not a carrier bag!

Presentation

Are you suitably dressed, in a way that matches the culture of the employer you are meeting? If in doubt, be conservative. (We will be able to give you advice on what to wear.)

  • Always wear a business suit, and keep the jacket on, even in the middle of a heat wave.
  • Avoid that ‘Mickey Mouse’ tie and the brightly coloured socks!
  • Make sure your shoes are polished and your hands and fingernails are clean.
  • Do not wear too much jewellery.
  • Men should not wear earrings, and only a wedding or signet ring.
  • Do not wear overpowering perfume or after-shave.
  • Pay attention to personal hygiene. Do not smoke or drink alcohol prior to the interview. Fresh breath and clothing is essential.

Timing

Plan a reliable way of getting to the interview; one which allows you to be a few minutes early, even in the rush hour. The rule is that you are better to be an hour early than a minute late! However, if you do arrive at the building early do not walk in until about 5-10 minutes before your appointment. Do not walk in at the time you are due as this could mean you getting delayed in reception, or walking round their buildings.
N.B. Switch off your mobile phone before you enter the building!

The interview

  • Always be extremely polite and friendly to any support staff you meet. This could include the receptionist or the interviewer’s secretary. These people may be more important than you realise, and may influence a decision in your favour, or not!
  • If you are asked to wait in reception, always remain standing even if offered a seat. It will make the receptionist feel uncomfortable if you are kept waiting and this will invariably lead to a gentle chase call to the interviewer. When meeting the interviewer, it also puts you at their level as they will obviously already be standing. This will give you a distinct psychological advantage over someone who remains seated.
  • When you meet the interviewer look him/her in the eye, smile, and shake hands firmly and briefly. Greet him/her with a ‘Good Morning/Afternoon’, and if possible use his/her name. Do not take a seat until you have been offered, and never remove your jacket without permission.
  • Do not be over familiar with the interviewer.
  • Tell the truth. Be yourself, or you will get found out!
  • Always appear to be interested in what the interviewer is saying. Do this by sitting upright in your chair, pointing your body directly towards the interviewer and keep good eye-to-eye contact.
  • Never smoke, even if the interviewer does, and it is probably safer not to accept tea or coffee as it can get in the way, or in the worst case scenario get spilt! Do not chew gum.
  • Try not to monopolise the meeting. Never interrupt or talk over the interviewer. It shows you are not a good listener, and in any case it is rude.
  • Answer all questions in a fluent and confident (but not over-confident) manner, and do not wander from what the interviewer wants to know. Offer positive information – don’t offer negative information unless asked. Keep your replies simple.
  • Don’t harp on about problems, and never criticise previous employers.
  • Try to show, without being contrived, that you have done some research.
  • Avoid too much self-opinion.
  • Make sure the employer is fully aware of the benefits of employing you, even if they haven’t given you the opportunity during the interview.

Close

  • If there is time ask the interviewer if there is anything else he/she needs to know about you, and if you feel comfortable ask him/her whether you are the type of person he/she is looking to employ. This will demonstrate your confidence and selling skills, and also offer you the opportunity to overcome any objections the employer may have to employing you.
  • Ask the interviewer what is the next stage.
  • Thank the interviewer and smile when you leave.

Typical questions you may be asked:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Why do you want to work in this field?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What is more important to you, the salary or the job?
  • What achievement has given you the most satisfaction, and why?
  • What contributions could you make to this job?
  • How have you handled a major crisis or problem in the past?
  • What would you say are your main downfalls?
  • What would you say are your main attributes?
  • What do you like doing in your spare time?
  • What are your salary expectations?
  • How did you like your last job, and why did you leave?
  • What is your ideal position, and career path?
  • How do you work with others as part of a team?
  • Have you got any questions? (always have some prepared)
  • Why do you think you are right for this job?

Questions to ask on interview:

  • What are the opportunities in this job?
  • To whom would I be reporting?
  • Who are the key people I would be working with?
  • How long has this position been open for?
  • Why did this position become available?
  • How long has this company been established?
  • What training, if any, would I be given?
  • What are the future plans for the company?
  • Am I the sort of person you are looking to employ?
  • Is there a specific dress code for this role?

Interview mistakes:

  • Poor personal appearance, hygiene or inappropriate attire
  • Know it all, rude or arrogant attitude
  • Asking no questions about the job or the company
  • Lack of interest, maturity or courtesy
  • Poor language and inability to express yourself clearly
  • Mention of salary, benefits and holiday too soon
  • Lateness for interview
  • Poor eye contact, lack of confidence
  • Putting hand over mouth when answering a question-implies you are lying
  • Dishonesty
  • Lack of professionalism
  • Leaving mobile phone switched on during the interview

Follow up

  • If Property Personnel arranged the interview, phone us immediately after with your feedback. We will then phone our client, get their feedback, and contact you to discuss the next stage, or any action that needs to be taken.
  • If there is anything else you want to mention to the interviewer, it may pay to telephone him/her, particularly if your role is going to involve lots of telephone work, as is often the case.
  • If there is no action after the date you expect to hear, follow us up or if you have arranged the interview directly, chase the employer yourself.

Negotiation

Everything is negotiable. If the final offer is not what you had hoped for, ask us to go back to the client. Explain that the job is for you, but that the package is not up to your expectations, and is there any way they can alter the package, either now or after a probation period has been completed.

Good luck!