Just hearing the word ‘interview’ can strike fear into even the strongest of hearts. After all, nobody enjoys a good grilling!

A great CV may help your get an interview, but it’s your performance at the interview that will help you to land that job!

I read a great article today in Business Insider about the toughest questions asked to candidates applying for jobs at retailer Target.  Some of the questions include:-

“Describe how you handled a situation where your manager had acted inappropriately, you had confronted him on his bad behaviour, and he threatened you in response.” – Assistant Retail Store Manager candidate.

“Tell me about a time when you had to make a decision quickly with no information.” – Executive team leader candidate.

So with this in mind, here are 5 sure-fire ways to help you prepare, present a positive impression and come across as a serious contender:-

1.Do your research

Commercial knowledge is key in the interview process. So make sure you come across as well informed about the business you’re being interviewed by.

For example: do you know their future strategic plans, their core values or how they’ve performed over the past few years? Who are their key competitors and how are they different?

What has the press said about the company and the industry?

Step back, think “bigger picture” and ask yourself what the organisation is currently doing and what they aren’t doing? What are the trends in the industry? Is it fairly stable or fast moving? What new developments are looming on the horizon?

Dig out some relevant facts about the company, for example their history, number of employees, locations, sales and profits, senior management team and so on.

2.Go in prepared

Go through the job description and highlight the key responsibilities of the role – maybe things like motivating staff members, solving problems, growing sales, managing a budget and so forth. Think of examples of when you’ve demonstrated these skills.

Be ready to talk about your knowledge, experience, abilities and skills. Have at least three strong points about yourself that you can directly relate to the company and in particular to the job on offer.

Knowing that you’ve done your homework and that your answers relate dot the role that your applying for will make a big difference to you appearing confident, switched on and professional.

Also, make a note of the questions that you want to ask the interviewer or any points you’d like clarified. YOU are also making a choice (if successful) about whether this job is the right one for you!

3.First impressions count

You never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Stand up, step forward to greet your interviewer along with a friendly smile, firm handshake and good eye contact. Try to make some small talk to break the ice a little during the walk from the reception are to the interview room. For example:

“How has your day/week been so far?”

“I hear we are expecting some nice weather this weekend?”

Remember you’ll have to sell yourself BEFORE you can sell anything else and those first 30 seconds are when the interviewer subconsciously makes decisions about whether they like you or not and whether you’ll fit into the team. People buy people not just their job experience!

4.Be yourself

To assess how well you might fit in at the company, the interviewer wants to see the ‘real’ you and get a feel for you as a person and your personality.

Your interviewer will be thinking about what it would be like to work with you, so the last thing they’ll want to hear is you moaning about an ex-boss or colleague behind their back. Interviewers want to meet people who are upbeat and positive.

Show energy and a sense of humour and smile. Remember that enthusiasm is contagious – however, so is a lack of it. If you don’t get excited about the job opportunity, the interviewer won’t be excited to hire you. It’s alright and good to communicate your interest in the position.

Start from the point that the interviewer knows nothing about you. Even if you’re going for an internal role, use the interview as a blank canvas to paint a picture of your skills, achievements and ‘fit’ for this role.

Don’t be afraid to highlight anything you feel is relevant to the role – this is opportunity to showcase what value you’d bring to them – don’t waste it by being overly modest or shy.

5.Be concise

Don’t waffle! Your preparation (Tip 2) should already have primed you to think about the questions you’re likely to be asked in relation to the job and how your experience matches with this, so make sure you have some concise and relevant answers ready.

The more time you waste with rambling answers, the more you’ll switch off the interviewer (lose rapport) and the less time they will have to really find out about you.

Expect the unexpected – your interviewer may try to catch you off guard with a ‘killer’ question. It’s impossible to plan for every difficult question, such as, “How would your colleagues describe you?” but try to appear relaxed and in control. Ask the interviewer to repeat their question if necessary, but do not evade it.

Answer questions succinctly and fully, even if you need a few moments’ silence to collect your thoughts. It’s always better to ask for a second to think about your answer, rather than to speak instantly and regret it afterwards.

Think twice before guessing! If you’re asked a question that you simply don’t know the answer to, be honest about it. The interviewer will appreciate your honesty and may even ask you to have a go at responding anyway.

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