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Interview skills fact sheet

About interviews
Interviews are a fact of modern life and interview skills will be used by all of us many times throughout our lives. If you know how to generate a favourable impression, have an impact on others and present yourself as an interesting and valuable person, you will be a winner at more than just job interviews. An important interview can seem a difficult hurdle to face but you can exercise considerable control and influence over the way it is conducted, and more important, over the outcome.

What employers are looking for
Interviews are a way of comparing and contrasting different candidates for a job. If you have been invited to an interview, you have been successful in the selection process up to this point and there is no reason why you should not get the job.

Employers are only interested in which candidate will offer the most to the company or organisation. They are likely to concentrate on:

  • Your qualifications and skills – what you have studied and learnt and what you can do.
  • Your experience and work background – where you have worked and what you have achieved.
  • Your personality – who you are and what contribution you can make.

The most important one of these is the last. Skills can be taught and experience gained on the job, if necessary – but you cannot change your personality so easily. You need to spend time thinking about how your past has prepared you for this role, what you would do in the job and your vision of how the position could develop.

Qualities in great demand include:

  • flexibility
  • enjoying team work
  • looking presentable
  • having a caring and helpful attitude to clients, customers and colleagues
  • showing keenness to take on responsibility for organising people or projects
  • having a positive attitude in the face of difficulties or changes
  • displaying enthusiasm for the work
  • showing an interest in continual learning.

Planning, preparation and practice
Studying any information you have been sent and finding out all you can about the employer can make all the difference. You will need to provide evidence that you can fulfil the job description and meet the requirements of the person specification if there is one. Just making claims will not be enough. You need to give clear examples of how you have demonstrated certain skills or in which situation you gained relevant experience. The more your answers can ‘paint a picture’ to illustrate your suitability, the easier it will be for the interviewer to see you as the preferred candidate. Thinking about the likely areas of questioning and rehearsing your answers can help you to sound and feel more confident and will calm your nerves on the day.

Dos and don'ts

Dos

  • Do prepare properly – prior research and planning will pay dividends on the day.
  • Do let go! The interviewer wants to get to know who you are, so feel free to really be yourself.
  • Do mind the gap! Make a positive statement about things that would otherwise look negative.
  • Do take care with your appearance; consider every aspect of your personal presentation.
  • Do keep your answers simple and clear and rehearse them fully.
  • Do speak as you would normally; there is no need to put on an act.

Don'ts

  • Don’t lose your confidence; concentrate on the vacancy that interests you.
  • Don’t smoke or drink tea or coffee in the interview.
  • Don’t give just 'yes' or 'no' answers – an employer will want to know more than that.
  • Don’t use jargon or specialised terms without an explanation.
  • Don’t lie about yourself - you could face dismissal if you obtain a job under false pretences.
  • Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep applying for jobs that interest you.

Points to remember

  1. Speak up for yourself - you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Enthusiasm is a winner.
  2. Boast about your strengths and achievements - all the other candidates will be trying to make themselves look extra good too.
  3. Never assume that the interviewer knows what you are talking about – the things that you think are obvious may be unclear to others.
  4. Get over worrying about nerves - they do not show to other people nearly as much as you think they do.
  5. Be determined not to lose heart. If you do not get a job, it was probably not the right one for you and there will be a better opportunity just around the corner.

Successful Interview Skills 4th Edition
Adapted from "Successful interview skills" by Rebecca Corfield, 5th edition, published in 2009 ISBN No. 978-0-7494-5652-8

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