Career Moves: Interview Tips

Sarah Taylor, Recruitment and Sales Manager at OSL Consulting, has over 20 years’ experience in recruiting both contract and permanent roles within the engineering sector. Actively involved in the engineering community, Sarah has hosted workshops and supported many engineers seeking employment. In her penultimate article she discusses the interview process, from research and preparation to posture and body language.

Once you’ve got to this stage, you’ve aced the application and you’ve impressed on paper – but there’s still a way to go. Any interview is daunting but thorough planning can help you to be successful. I’ve interviewed many candidates and something which always impresses is a person’s ability to showcase their soft skills alongside their professional competence. Someone with outstanding technical experience may be bested by a candidate with the right attitude, know-how and hunger to develop.

The run-up

Perhaps one of the most important parts of the interview process is preparation. It’s essential that you research the company and are up to speed on its mission, values, markets and services. A well-prepared candidate never fails to impress; however, it is surprising how many skimp on this stage. Don’t miss the opportunity to show that you have taken the time to do your research, it could put you ahead of the competition.

Another top tip, if you can, is to research those who will be conducting the interview. Know your audience – a simple search on LinkedIn will give you an idea of their expertise, interests and tenure with the company.

Some employers may provide a person specification and if they don’t, give them a call and ask for one. This gives you a clear idea of the type of person they are looking for; an invaluable guide for your interview preparation. In addition, the job description is also very useful – save a copy from the original application.

Next up, you’ll need to review your CV and ensure you know it inside out. Compare points on your CV to the person specification and job description and be prepared to talk around how you are aligned to the role. It is also useful to think about typical interview questions you may be asked. Have examples you can draw on about how you embrace opportunities, build strong relationships, manage change, diffuse conflict and embrace innovative thinking.

Don’t lose sleep the night before. Make sure you’ve prepared your outfit and planned your travel route or arrangements. Be sure to set off early – first impressions count, and it is always better to be a little early than running late!

The main event

So, you’ve spent time preparing, you’ve researched the company and you’re all geared up to go. Once you arrive, you’ll need to create a rapport, ensure you’re polite and friendly to all members of staff; from the office clerk that calls you in, to the assistant that offers you a drink. It’s been said that interviews are judged only 7% on what you say, the other 93% is judged on how you look, behave and present yourself.

During the interview try to relax, take a deep breath and take time to answer any questions. Mirror your interviewer's body language, the speed in which they are talking and the tone; it’s a great way to create rapport and build trust. Remember to use positive body language and be conscious of all people in the room, make eye contact with each, and answer questions slowly and methodically.

Negative body language can be a real turn off during the interview process, so try not to touch your nose, slouch or overuse hand gestures. If at any point you get stuck or aren’t sure of the question, ask for clarity. We’re all human and asking for help or an example is much better than rambling aimlessly.

Asking questions at the end of an interview is a sure-fire way to find out more about the organisation and to reinforce your interest. Ask about the work culture, the job role and development opportunities. At this stage, I’d advise not to question salary, this might give the impression that you’re all about the money. However, you might like to understand more about the staff benefits they offer or probe more on why it is a great place to work. If you find it hard to think on the spot, you can always bring a notebook with some questions written down.

Leave the interview with a smile and firm handshake, thanking the interviewers for their time. Whether you get the role or not you know that you’ve given it your all and gained experience along the way. If you feel it didn’t go so well, write down a few notes on how you can improve for next time.

Heed my advice and you’ll be one step closer to success – but what do you do during those painful days before the decision is made? And what about salary negotiation? Don’t worry all will be answered next time, so keep your eyes peeled for the latest update, and in the meantime, keep focussed on the job search.

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