Tips for Job Interviews and Presentations
Interviews can be the stumbling block for many applicants. You have written a brilliant CV and cover letter, referring to relevant skills and work experience. That lands you a face to face interview but then you stumble over a difficult question, or simply haven’t prepared enough. It is with this in mind that we have put together a guide and a range of interview tips to help your prepare.
In some interviews you may be asked to prepare a presentation and present to a panel. This can often be seen as even more overwhelming and nerve wracking than a standard interview, but in reality it is actually an opportunity for you to prepare thoroughly and showcase your experience, skills and achievements. By having an opportunity to present to the Interviewer(s) you have a golden opportunity to stand out from the crowd.
In this article we will give you a range of interview tips, as well as some of the most frequently asked interviews questions so you aren’t caught short.
THE RULE OF THREE
Everything you say about yourself must be touched upon in terms of what it will mean for the employer. You must prepare and present everything about yourself so that you are irresistibly relevant to the needs, aims and challenges of the organisation.
Below is a guideline on how to structure your presentation:
- Introduction and aims
- The points you want to make
- Summary – and ideally an impressive memorable finishing statement
Make sure your introduction is short and sweet. Utilise bullet points to highlight key information. What you say is the most important aspect, and most people find it almost impossible to read and listen at the same time. Too many people make the mistake of simply reading from their slides.
Pick a few key points to cover. Again make sure the slides contain key information, maybe a graph or image to back up what you are saying.
In the summary cover the main points and leave them with something memorable.
Being one of the UK’s leading recruitment agencies we have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the common interview questions that employers ask. An interview is not just an opportunity for someone to see how well your experience fits the role, it also a chance for them to see how you react under pressure and if you can think on your toes. Our team have broken these tough questions down into three ‘pressure categories’…
- Failure Questions
- Blame Questions
- Prove It Questions
As a competent interviewee you should be prepared and able to answer these questions, using them as a chance to highlight how you have overcome difficulties and learnt from your mistakes. Remember everyone (even the people interviewing you) is human and will have made a mistake in their life. It is how you respond and learn from those mistakes that is important.
Tell me about your failures? / What are your greatest weaknesses?
If you haven’t prepared for this line of questions you can quickly be caught short and become flustered. No one wants to talk about when they did something wrong, you have come to this interview to sell yourself as the perfect candidate! But as we mentioned above, everyone is human and mistakes will happen.
One of the biggest mistakes here is to try too hard to turn this into a positive. Phrases like – “As a perfectionist I never make a mistake” or “my biggest weakness has to be that I work too hard”. Believe us when we say employers have heard all these before and know they aren’t true. What they are looking for is an honest reflection of yourself, your abilities and experience.
Pick a weakness that is true but isn’t something that will raise a red flag. If you said, for example, that time keeping and being late was a weakness you might blow your chances right there and then. Think about your previous role and the job description of this new one. Maybe choose something like public speaking. Mention it isn’t something you had to do in your last role, but you know that to move forward and progress you would need to be confident standing up and presenting. Go on to say how you would love to opportunity to develop this and even ask if this is something they would look to support you with.
You can even take this a step further, and talk about a skill that used to be a weakness but one that you have already highlighted and begun to work on improving.
If you are talking about a failure follow a similar route. Don’t talk about a catastrophic issue, one that might have led you to be looking for a new job, instead talk about a smaller target or project you were involved in. Whatever you decided to talk about, make sure you have prepared to talk about what you did to resolve it.
In an interview a failure question is to see how you can adapt and learn. If you were running a marketing campaign, for example, that didn’t hit the targets set talk about what you did. Did you look at the data and realise you had missed something, did you go back and redesign it, target a new audience or chance the approach? Being able to step back, assess and improve is a fantastic skill, and one that all employers would love you to demonstrate.
Why did you leave your last job? / What are your thoughts on your last employer? / Why have you had so many jobs?
If asked about previous jobs at no point should you look to discredit your previous employers, generally speaking people don’t want to hire those who are happy to speak ill of others. If you take the course of action of blaming others you risk being seen as someone who fails to take responsibility for your own actions and decisions.
Employers are looking for someone who takes decisive action, takes responsibility, demonstrates initiative and comes up with answers, not problems.
This process is always about expressing positive reasons and answers when faced with question that may have negative connotations. Remember that no one stays in one job for ever, and that aspiring to improve your skills, knowledge and ultimately your career are positive attributes. You can praise past employers, saying how they gave you an opportunity, that they allowed you to take on extra responsibilities or helped you develop new skills. You can say that you just ultimately reached a point where you couldn’t develop further, and that is why you are applying for this new job. Keep your praise and observations credible, realistic and relevant.
To tackle this line of questions you might like to use these answers:
“I was ready for more challenges within my professional career”
“Each job offered me different opportunities to improve both my technical knowledge and skill set as well as furthering my career”
“I wanted to broaden my experience as quickly as possible before really looking for a serious career, which is why I’m here”
Prove It Questions
Have you any experience in ‘such-and-such’? / Have you ever dealt with ‘x’ product before? / Have you used Excel sheets? / Have you ever led change in an organisation?
Remember the interviewer is looking for much more than a yes or no answer. They are wanting you to expand on this, highlight your experience and expertise, and show them why you are a great choice for the role.
Before the interview read though the job description, the required skills and responsibilities listed. Write down occasions when you have demonstrated a skill or used a piece of software. Again use these questions to highlight your experience, maybe talk about how you improved a process or took a course to develop your ability using software.
You can even take papers or evidence material with you to show, having hard evidence, and the fact that you’ve thought to prepare it, greatly impresses Interviewers.
If you don’t have the example required, ensure that you don’t bluff. Convince them that you are able to grasp new concepts and processes quickly. Here you should have example prepared that can demonstrate this from your experiences. Give an example of where previously you’ve taken on a responsibility without previous experience or full capability, and made a success, by virtue of using other people’s expertise, or fast-tracking your own development, knowledge or ability.
You should be able to deal with any of these style questions by ensuring that you carry out thorough research and preparation. The key in these situations is to keep control, take time to think for yourself – don’t be intimidated or led anywhere you don’t want to go. Express every answer in positive terms.
Good Questions to ask the Interviewer
One of the worst mistakes candidates make when they come in for an interview is not preparing questions to ask. Asking the interviewer questions shows that you have researched the company, the role and are genuinely interested in the job.
Through years of experience within the recruitment market our team have accumulated a list good questions to ask.
Avoid yes or no questions and avoid questions that are so broad that they are difficult to answer. You don’t want to stump the Interviewer when you’re trying to make a good impression and develop rapport.
This section of the Interview provides the Interviewee with the following opportunity…
- To demonstrate that they have listened carefully and understood what has been discussed
- Show they have researched the Company and the industry
- Express to the Interviewer a genuine interest in the opportunity available
- To build rapport with the Interviewer (Decision Maker)
- Can open up further opportunities to explain why they would be suitable for the vacancy
The following example questions are a guide, designed to get you thinking about appropriate questions that are relevant to the role requirements. These questions are appropriate for junior-to-middle ranking roles. If you are Interviewing for more strategic roles with executive responsibilities, you will need to raise more challenging questions that encompass the strategic and operational responsibilities of the position sought.
Can you tell me more about the day-to-day responsibilities of this job?
By learning more about the day-to-day tasks, you will gain a greater insight into what specific skills and strengths needed and you can address any topics that haven’t already been covered. It is essential that you clearly understand your role and the tasks that you would be expected to undertake. It is easy to make assumptions and get the wrong impression of what the work would be so it is vital for both sides that there is clarity in what is expected of you.
What do you think are the most important qualities for someone to excel in this role?
This question can often lead to valuable information that’s not in the job description. It can help you learn about the Company culture and expectations, so you can show that you are a good fit.
What are your expectations for this role during the first 30 days, 60 days, and year?
Find out what your employer’s expectations are for the person in this position. This will allow you to once again sell your experience of how you would handle these expectations (Positively)
Could you describe the culture of the Company for me?
Are you a good fit for this particular organisation? Make sure you are comfortable with the culture and the dynamics of the Company. Here you are signalling that you want to be able to operate at your optimum and understand that for this you require a positive environment. In turn, this can indicate that you are a good self-manager who is aware of how to get the best out of yourself.
Where do you see the Company headed in the next 5 years?
If you plan to be in this role for several years, make sure the Company is growing so you can grow with the Company. This question also shows that you are thinking ahead and can only be seen as positive as it is demonstrating you are actively interested in the business direction as a whole.
Who do you consider your top competitor, and why?
You should already have an idea of the Company’s major competitors, but it can be useful to ask your Interviewer for their thoughts. Naturally, they will be able to give you an insight that you can’t find anywhere else. If in the question you mention one of the competitors, it shows the Interviewer that you have carried out your research.
What are the Company’s / Department’s biggest opportunities right now?
This question shows your drive to seize opportunity and may help you learn more about where the Company will be focusing over the coming months.
What are the biggest challenges facing the Company/department right now?
On the flip side, you may want to ask about challenges. This question can help you uncover trends and issues in the industry and perhaps identify areas where your skills could save the day. This sort of question takes the Interview away from the detail and towards strategic issues. It allows to you see and discuss the bigger picture. It can lead to interesting discussions that can show you in a good light, especially if you have done some intelligent preparation. Where appropriate you can follow up this question with some questions about the objectives of the department and the manager who is interviewing you.
Ask the Interviewer when did they join the Company? What attracted them to the Company? What do they like best about working for this Company?
Ask about your Interviewer’s personal experience for additional insight into the Company’s culture. This is a great question as you should get an honest insight and you should be able to judge how much the Company actually invests in their staff. People like to discuss their successes and allows you to build rapport with the Interviewer.
What are the opportunities for training and career advancement?
This question serves two purposes. It helps you to understand where the job might lead and what skills you might acquire and also signals that you are ambitious and thinking ahead.
You mentioned there will be a lot of presenting, researching and liaising; what do your most successful people find most satisfying about this part of the role?
This question can serve two purposes. Firstly, it demonstrates your listening skills and secondly, it can associate you with being successful in the role and finding it satisfying.
Can you please tell me how the role relates to the overall structure of the organisation?
With this question you are drawing attention to a preference for teamwork. It looks as though you want to know where you would fit in and how your contribution would affect the rest of the Company.
May I tell you a little more about my particular interest in communicating with clients/developing new ideas/implementing better systems?
Okay, so this is a cheeky and obvious way of getting permission to blow your own trumpet but then that’s what this Interview is all about.
How many people work in this office / department?
Shows the Interviewer that you are thinking ahead and allows you to understand if it is the right sized environment in which you enjoy working within and could flourish.
What are the next steps in the Interview process?
This question shows that you are eager to move forward in the process.
Questions Not to Ask at an Interview
While not having any questions to ask the interviewer is bad, asking some of the questions below is worse! This is the final hurdle in the interview process, and you are so close to landing this job, but then you ask a question that presents red flags and maybe even undermines things you said on your CV or during your presentation.
How many weeks holiday do I get?
This can make it look like you are more interested in holiday rather than the role. While you are entitled to take holiday, it shouldn’t be seen as a priority. An employer is looking for someone who is going to come in and make an instant impact, not already be planning to take a break.
When would I get a pay-rise?
You could come across as only being interest in monetary gain, rather than the job itself. Talking about having aspirations to develop and move up the ladder is a positive subject to talk about, but not the money itself (well certainly not at this stage).
How soon before I could get promoted?
Linked to the point above, this is something that worded correctly can demonstrate your drive to develop and progress within in the company. Asked in a basic manner can come across as unprofessional.
What are the lunch times?
This will be provided when you are offered the job and has no relevance to the interview process.
What sort of car do I get?
Another question that makes it look like you are only interested in the financial side of the role.
What other perks are there?
While this is important to know, asking this can come across as unprofessional. Most job listings now list the perks, so if you have read that carefully you will already know this.
What are the pension arrangements?
As with the point above, this is an important topic to find out more about, but when you have been offered the role.
Do you have a grievance procedure?
This may be a red flag as it could indicate that you have had issues in the past.
When does the working day finish?
It is important to know your working hours, but this will be covered in your contract if you are offered the role.
When am I entitled to paid sick leave?
Another questions which isn’t suitable for this stage of the interview and recruitment process. This is something to talk about when and if a contact is offered.
What does this Company do?
Do your research ahead of time!
Can I change my schedule if I get the job?
If you need to figure out the logistics of getting to work don’t mention it now…
Did I get the job?
Don’t be impatient. They’ll let you know.
What is the salary you are offering?
Another point which is very important, but not appropriate for this stage of the process. The salary will have been listed on the job description when you applied and is another point to talk about in the contract stage.
You should now be set to ace your job interview. If you feel you need some more help and tips we have a range of tools to aid you, or if you want to try out these new skills then you can have a look at our jobs: