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How to ace an interview

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So, you've landed yourself a job interview for that dream role - well done. The good news is that by getting to this stage you already fit some of your potential employer's criteria, but knowing this doesn't always make the interview itself seem any less intimidating.

In order to ease your anxiety, we've quizzed John Lees, author of Job Interviews: Top Answers To Tough Questions (McGraw-Hill, £8.99), who says that the interview stage is usually about chemistry, working out if you'd fit in with the team and proving the skills and experience you have on your CV. Here's his top eight tips for achieving this and winning the role:

1. First impressions

Be aware that an interviewer is making a decision about you in the first 30 seconds. The way you dress, sound, and move are all taken as indicators of your job performance. Read the dress and behaviour codes of the organisation; try to look and sound as if you already work there.

2. See from the recruiter’s perspective

Do your homework: scrutinise the job advertisement; read through company literature - ring the press office and ask for recent press releases. Look at the big picture: what problem is the job there to solve? Learn about company culture from websites and press articles, or find someone who can tell you the inside story.

3. Analyse the job

Take an A4 pad and draw a line down the middle. On one side write out all the requirements of the job, trying to work out what is really on an employer’s shopping list. In the right hand column, write down your matching experience and achievements.

4. Focus on your message

Think about your overall message: what does your CV, your application letter, and your interview performance say about you? Work out a clear, upbeat answer to the question, ‘Why are you interested in working here?’

5. Prepare your evidence

In an interview this means you have to offer convincing mini-narratives. Provide evidence of achievements around key skill areas – team working, goal orientation, IT awareness, communication and negotiation. Begin with a situation – a time, place and context where you used a particular skill. It doesn’t have to be an earth-shattering event. Talk about your individual contribution. If your contribution was part of a team, how effectively did you fulfil your team role? Then talk about the outcome.

6. Pick up the clues

The snippets of information the interviewer gives you about the job, the questions that are asked – all these things give you clues about the job, but also tell you what language to use. If the questions are all about targets and performance, your language can shift to take the same emphasis. Do the same thing with questions about people, ideas, planning – feed the interviewer with the key words she expects to hear. Panel interviews are particularly tuned in to a checklist approach, so showing that you are aware of up-to-date issues can get boxes ticked very quickly.

7. Prepare for killer questions

There’s some evidence that interviewers are increasingly using ‘sudden death’ interview techniques. Even fairly standard questions like ‘where do you want to be in 5 years’ time?’ or ‘why do you want this job?’ can stop you in your tracks. Worse still, questions about your weak points. Everyone likes to talk about winning experiences at interview, but a good interviewer will ask you to talk about failures and near-misses. Emphasise what you learned and would do differently. Even more difficult to handle are ‘off-the-wall’ questions such as ‘If you were an animal in the jungle, what kind of animal would you be?’ Quick wit and a light touch are your only hope when up against such oddities.

8. Have your own questions ready

What you say right at the end may be remembered far more than anything else. Don’t ask no-brainer questions about the company background (study the website). Don’t ask how much the job pays – (you should try to discuss money only when you are offered a job). Use this chance to ask questions about the future of the job - questions which help to create a firm picture of you in the role. Create that picture strongly enough, and the recruiter quickly gets to ‘we must have this person’ before you have left the room.

For more career tips visit johnleescareers.com.

Picture credit: Getty Images

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