USING THE CORRECT INTERVIEW TECHNIQUE
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Our 150-page in-depth ‘Interview Skills’ guide will provide you with lots of insider tips and advice on how to pass any job interview. It contains sample responses to 50 of the toughest interview questions!
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Hello, and welcome to Interview Expert Module 2 which covers the important subject of interview technique. That’s me there, Richard McMunn on the left- hand side of the screen. And during this module I’m going to teach you how to implement the correct technique when you attend your interview.
Now basically, interview technique is not just about how you present yourself during the interview, but it’s how you dress, how you communicate with the interview panel, and it is extremely important. And interviewer will form an opinion of you in about eight seconds of you entering the room. And during that first initial stage it is crucial that you demonstrate the right technique. You need to impress them straight away.
And that is done without actually saying anything. It’s how you walk into the interview room, how you greet them, shake their hand, looking at them in the eye when you’re shaking their hand, not sitting down in the interview chair until invited to do so, and also how you sit in the interview chair. So, let’s get into the heart of the module.
So, we’ve already covered the mindset for passing interviews, including the formula for success and we’ll summarize that in a second. We’re now on to interview techniques. We’re now starting to put the building blocks in place to assist you in successfully passing your interview.
Module 3 will cover research, and that’s research in relation to the job description or person specification, and also the company that you’re applying for. Module 4 is interview questions and answers, so we’ll have done everything that we need to and that is the final part of our success formula, and Module 5 consists of the mock interview.
So to summarise, in the first module we looked at adopting the correct mind-set, and that’s involved you having not only the self-belief that you can pass the interview, but also looking at the success formula. Your attitude and approach is that you can actually achieve this; providing you follow the information and advice and tips that I’m providing you during this five-set module.
And the importance of using an action plan, and don’t forget to use an action plan, stick it on your frig or on your cupboard door, because it will act as a timely reminder of what you need to do before your interview. And also the importance of following the successful formula of interview technique, which we’re onto now, research and predicting the type of questions you’re going to get asked and preparing sample responses for them and also demonstrating the right qualities at interviews.
So let’s just quickly go over those qualities and recap. Remember, you need to be confident. You need to be adaptable, so if the boss says to you, can you carry out these tasks, and you’re about to go home then you do. The importance of flexibility. You have a good sickness record, or if you do have a sickness, then you are able to explain what it was for during the interview.
You act as a positive role model for the company, and you have a positive attitude. So when you sit in the interview chair you’re not slouching, but you do have a positive attitude. You can cope under pressure. You’re hard working. You’re timely; you’re a good team worker, because you can work with everybody else on your team. And you generally get on well with everybody. You’re a good communicator and they will assess that during an interview. You’re customer focused, if that’s the kind of role that you’re applying for. You’re a trustworthy person, reliable, enthusiastic. You’re steady, so there are no major issues with you as a person. You’re approachable, so you help other people out. You take on responsibility. You have the ability to learn, and take on large amounts of job-related information.
You show willingness and a sense of urgency when required. You’re organized, professional, loyal, and stable. So again, and I’ve put these up. I did it in the first module, but I’ve put them up again during this module because I believe they’re very important. So, if they were to say to you, what kind of qualities do you think you need in this role, and then you should be able to take some from that list? And also think of examples when you’re demonstrated all of them.
Interview technique; let’s take a look at this person who is sitting in front of us in the chair. What do you think of him? If he was to walk into the interview room and sit down, what would you think? Even before he said anything I would not give this person the job. Even if he responded to the questions well I would not give him the position in my company. I wouldn’t, because it just shows laziness. It shows a level of arrogance. He looks cocky. And he just doesn’t look like he interested. To me, I don’t think he’s made much of an effort in his appearance.
So, he appears to be too relaxed, and he’s too casual for the interview. His legs are crossed and his feet are not resting on the floor. This displays a relaxed and casual manner. His elbow–look at it. He’s resting it on the top left-hand corner of the chair. And he’s wearing jeans, and he’s just too casually dressed for me. I would say that whether you’re male or female you should dress smart for the interview, unless told to do otherwise. I’ve been at interviews before and people have turned up in jeans and trainers. Now I’m not saying that you should go out and buy an expensive suit, because there’s no need to. You don’t have to spend a fortune on a suit. But if you go to some stores, like I don’t know, [Tesco’s, Marks & Spencer] you can get a suit for relatively cheap price. Or if you can’t afford it, go and borrow a suit from a friend or a family relative. Wear a tie; make sure you look smart.
Also in relation to your shoes, make sure they are clean. And in terms of the gents, a tie. I’d wear a tie. Some people have said to me in the past, you know Richard, do I need to power dress. Do I need to wear a brightly coloured tie? Is that important, or a brightly coloured shirt? My response is just dress appropriately for the type of job that you’re going for.
For example, if you’re going for something as a customer service assistant then just dress smart; just dress neutral, go for neutral colours. I’ve seen people turn up for interviews and they might have a Mickey Mouse tie, or a Bart Simpson tie, or even multi-coloured socks. And I’m not saying that you won’t get the interview if you dress like that, but I just think I would say, go conservative, looking formal, but just go for neutral colours, because generally, you can’t go wrong then.
First impressions and I’ll talk about walking into the interview room in a few minutes. But basically, first impressions are what the panel think of you when you walk into the room, so you walk in there, you’re standing up straight and you introduce yourself, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Richard.” Smiling, walk along there. I’m presented smartly.
I don’t sit down in the interview chair until they invite me to do so. So, don’t just barge in, sit down in the interview chair, hello, I’m here. I wait for them to invite me to do so. I sit upright in the chair. I’ll probably shake their hands before I sit down, and when I do I’ll give them a firm handshake, and I’ll look them in the eye. I won’t stare them out aggressively, but I’ll look them in the eye, shake their hand and say, “Hello, nice to meet you. I’m Richard.” I’ll shake their hand, they’ll say, “Okay, nice to meet you.” Sit down in the chair. I sit down in the interview chair and I don’t slouch or fidget.
I’m polite and respectful toward the interview panel. Now it depends on the kind of interview that you’re going for. The types of interviews that I’ve gone for in the past have been predominantly in a disciplined environment, so I would call the panel members sir or ma’am. You probably won’t have to do that in your interview. But they will normally give you some kind of indication as to what they want you to address them as. Smile and be confident, and don’t use slang or waffle or abbreviations. So good, positive technique. You can see there that this candidate is dressed smartly, he’s smiling, and he portrays a confident but not over confident manner. You’ll see that his hands are in a stable position, and he could also place his hands palms face downwards on the top of his knees. And it just gives a really good impression.
He’s dressed smart, and it’s clear that he’s made an effort. He’s had his hair cut. He looks like he needs his eyebrows trimmed, but he’s had his hair cut, and he just looks smart. He’s sitting upright in the chair. And that to me, I’ve not heard this person speak, but he to me looks like the kind of person who I would take seriously.
Remember, they’re looking for potential. They’re going to train you up in the job so they’re looking for potential. Remember the qualities that I’ve already spoken about. Asking questions at the end of the interview, now this can trip a lot of people up. I’ve seen people before be interviewed and they’re fantastic, and then they ask silly questions at the end. Now I’m not going to go into these just yet. I’ve got a number at the end of this module which I’ll talk about. But think about a number of really good positive questions that you can ask. And also, final impressions. At just about every interview that I’ve been to I always leave them with a final statement, and it will be something along the lines of, “I just want to say thank you very much for interviewing me today. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the job and about your company, and I’ve been very impressed. If I am successful, then I promise you that I’ll work really hard and I’ll become a competent professional member of your team. Thank you very much for interviewing me.”
And that’s it. That’s what I say. I’m going to cover this again at the end so you’ll get a chance to write it down. But I think that’s a really powerful statement, because when you leave that interview room they’re probably going to start discussing you. And what you said last to them will stick in their mind. So consider saying something positive. Now, arriving at the interview location; so you’ve got your date for you interview. I always plan ahead and make sure that I know where I’m going. Don’t just take the chance, and what you might want to do is do a trial run before you go to the interview, unless it’s hundreds of miles away. Why not drive to the interview location and make sure you know where you’re parking, because the last thing you want to do is get lost and be late for the interview.
Because if you’re late, even if you ring up and say I’m sorry I’m going to be late, then you’re starting off on the wrong foot. Unless something disastrous has happened, or there has been a major problem at home or something, if you are late then you’ve got an uphill battle ahead of you. So plan ahead, and know where you’re going.
Check the traffic early in the morning. Make sure there’s no problem, no accidents. Just go on the Internet, have a look at the free traffic information. Now I recommend you arrive at least 20 minutes before your interview allocated time. And just sit in your car or in the reception area, try and relax, and read the person specifications, or read something else. Take deep breaths when you sit down in your car and just compose yourself. Get yourself ready for this interview. It’s a big occasion and you want to get it. There’s a lot of competition in the job, so make sure that you’re relaxed before you go in.
Then go into the interview building about five or ten minutes before you’re allocated time. And make sure you’re polite and respectful to other members of staff and also the reception team, if there is one. Now the reason for this, these people aren’t going to be interviewing you, probably, but information can get back to the person who is interviewing you about what you’re like.
I’ve done this before interviews. I’ve asked somebody to sit down with the people who are going to interviewed in reception, just make them feel welcome, and to get a feel of what the person is like. Okay, I’ve done that before and I know many employees do that. So always be polite, be respectful, and smile and look positive. So, don’t have your hands in your pockets; just go in there, sit in reception, if there is a reception, and make sure that you look smart and relaxed.
Okay, so then it’s time for you to go into the interview room, and we’re still on technique here. This is all very important. So you get called up to go to the interview, and you walk into the room. Stand up straight, smile, and be confident. Now you’re not going to be marching into the interview room, but just stand up straight, make sure you’re looking smart, smile, be confident; walk into the room and introduce yourself in a positive manner. Now what I do when I walk in, as soon as I walk in I say, hello, pleased to meet you; my name is Richard. And I shake hands with the panel. I’ll give a firm hand shake, but it won’t be overly firm, because you don’t want to come across as being too aggressive, but you should have a firm hand shake, look them in the eye. Don’t stare them out, but just say, nice to meet you; shake their hand, and then stand by the interview chair. They may already say when you walk in, come in and take a seat, which if that’s the case that’s absolutely fine. But if they don’t, then I would just stand by the chair and wait for them to say, okay, thank you, sit down.
And then sit upright in the interview chair; that’s important. Once you’ve finished answering every question, then sit upright in the chair and adjust yourself, palms resting on your knees, and don’t fidget. And first impressions are very crucial. So that’s just the first part of it. Going in the interview room, you can practice this at home. I will talk about a mock interview later on, but first impressions are crucial. Now interview technique also covers the subject of communicating to the panel. You’ll hopefully see that while I’m talking to you I speak in a clear and concise manner. And that’s just come from practice. But when you’re communicating with the panel try and do it in a way that they can easily understand you. And that includes avoiding all forms of waffle, and the only way that you can avoid waffle is to try and practice a mock interview before you go to the real one.
Avoid slang, any forms of swearing. Don’t use abbreviations unless you’re guaranteed to know that they understand exactly what you’re talking about. And that will usually only happen during internal company interviews. But also avoid hesitations. There’s nothing worse than somebody being interviewed and the panel says to you, okay, give me an example of where you’ve worked as part of a team. And I respond by saying, “Um, yeah, I’ve worked as part, um, as part of a team, um, before um, a few months ago, and um.” That just shows I’m not confident in my response and I’ve not prepared myself effectively enough.
So try and avoid hesitations, and the only way that you’ll get around that is to obviously try out a mock interview, which I’ve put there as a third point. Good communication only comes through mock interview practice. Now take your time in responding to the questions, and I don’t mean be really slow, because obviously they got lots of people to interview. You don’t want to waste their time, but don’t get in the interview chair and think like a lot of people do, I can’t wait to get out of here. This is your chance to shine. You have to sell yourself. And the chances are you probably won’t answer every single question correctly. You won’t. Don’t worry about that.
If you think about taking a driving test, you have the chance to make a few minor errors, and it’s the same in an interview. You don’t have to get everything absolutely perfect. And you don’t know what the interview candidates have been like, so if you start off with the first question and it goes wrong, don’t worry. Be positive; take your time when responding, think about what you’re saying.
Now, people sometimes say to me, now Richard, how long do I have to respond for? And I say talk enough; talk enough about the question, and give them plenty of information. What you probably want is for them to turn around to you and say, okay, thank you; we’ve heard enough there. We’ll move on to the next question. Now of course you don’t want to be going on and on, but if they say to you, okay, tell us a little bit about yourself. That’s probably a common opening interview question. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and you go, “Um, yeah, well, you know, I’m 38 years old. I like to keep fit, and I work really hard.” Now you don’t want to say that. What you should be saying is, “My name’s Richard; I’m 38 years old. I enjoy keeping fit. I’m a positive person. I’m a family person who comes from a stable background. I’m a really good team worker. I’ve got lots of experience working in teams. All of my previous jobs have been focused around team working. And I’ve got lots of experience in a customer-focused role. I think the customer is very important.”
So that’s the kind of thing that you want to be going down. You’re saying plenty of information, giving them lots of information. Try and avoid really short answers unless they specifically ask for that. Now try to use a logical and concise approach when answering questions that are situational based. Interview questions vary in nature. You get different types of motivational questions, for example, tell us about yourself. Why do you want this post? What can you bring to the job? You know, these are simple, basic questions that you should be able to answer easily once you’ve done your research.
But there are a number of situational questions, such as; can you give an example of where you’ve carried out really good customer service? Can you give an example of where you’ve solved a difficult problem? And those are situational interview questions. They want to see experiences that you’ve already had in the workplace. And I’ll talk about how you can make them into a logical and concise manner in a second. So, look at each member of the panel when answering the questions. Let’s
say there are three people on the interview panel. Look at each one of them. One of them is going to ask you questions at a time, but look at all of them when responding. And look them in the eye, don’t stare them out aggressively, but look them in the eye, and look at one of them when responding.
Consider using the STAR method when answering the situational interview questions. So, this is a star method. Situation: explain what the situation was, the task; explain what the task was that basically had to be done. A for action, explain what action you took and also what action other people took. And then R is result; explain what the result was following your actions. And always try and make the result positive as a result of what you did.
Now what I usually do when I’m preparing for the interview questions is I’ll get out a sheet a paper. Let’s say this is a sheet of paper. I’ll write the situational question across the top of the paper there, and then I will have S-T-A-R, and I will write what the situation was. I’ll write what the task was that had to be done. I’ll write what action I took and others took, and then I’ll write out what the results were, making it positive. That’s a really good way to score high on communication during an interview, because you’re keeping your response in a logical manner. Okay, the end of the interview, in relation to technique, ask questions that are positive. Now the chances are the interview panel will say to you, “Okay, Richard, we’ve come to the end of the interview. Do you have any questions?” Now, I’ve seen people fall down at this point. Try and think of positive questions, and I’ll talk about negative ones in a minute. Some of them are quite funny, but if you want to really interview, then you should ask them.
These are positive questions; yeah, just a quick question. Is there anything that I can read in order to improve my knowledge of the company while I’m waiting to hear back on whether I’m successful or not? That just shows that you’re really keen on joining this company. And you’re prepared to go away and read some documentation while you’re waiting to find out if you’re successful. And I think that just demonstrates enthusiasm, and a level of motivation.
Next question: if I am successful, how long would it be until I start? This shows determination, and again, enthusiasm. You’re motivated, you want to get on with it.
Next question: Will there be any opportunity to develop and progress within the company, and also to learn new skills? That shows that you’re not content with just sitting there doing nothing, you want to develop yourself and also learn things.
Other kinds of questions can involve you in your research, going on the website of the company that you’re applying for, finding out about what they’re doing, and then asking questions about some kind of, I don’t know, some kind of project or thing that the company might have going on. It might be a project, or it might be an offer that’s been going on in the company. And you can say, I’m doing my research. I’ve found that you were giving away this software at the moment, and has that been successful? So you’re showing a level of interest in their company, which is good.
Let’s take a look at negative interview questions. Okay, I’ve had people ask this of me before during an interview, and I can’t believe it. I say, okay, thank you. We’ve come to the end; do you have any questions? And some people have said, yeah, I have; how have I done? Have I passed the interview? They want to know there and then whether they’ve passed the interview. Now obviously that’s not good; you’re putting the interviewer and the interview panel under pressure. Obviously, I wouldn’t tell the person how they’d done, but some people might say that shows keenness. I think it shows a little level of arrogance. I would avoid that.
Another question that I’ve been asked; how much leave will I get? Well, you should know that before you apply for the job. And also in relation to salary, you don’t want to be saying how much salary will I get unless they say to you, what kind of salary are you after. In which case, if there is a salary band, and let’s say it’s between 18,000 and 24,000, the higher band is 24,000, if you’re going to ask for 24,000 pounds, then make sure you can back it up with reasons why. So don’t just go, oh, I want 24,000 pounds. You need to say I want 24,000 pounds because I believe I’m worth it because I’ve got these experiences, etc., etc. Conversely, you don’t want to go too low and say, well, I haven’t got much experience. I’ll be happy to settle at 18,000, because, yes, you might get the job because it will be cheaper for the company. But you need to determine exactly the level of salary that you want.
Okay, another negative question: I’ve got a holiday booked next month; will I be allowed to take time off for this if I am successful? Avoid that; wait until you get in the position. Wait until you get the job, and then go the boss and say, look, just to let you know I’ve got this holiday booked; can I take time off? But sometimes interview panels will say, look, have you got any leave booked for the next few months? And in which case, you might have to tell them, but I would try and make your diary as free as possible for starting, and also for, you know, any training that you’ll be required to do when you first come to the company.
Now I mentioned earlier about the final statement. I recommend you try this. So, when they say to you, okay, that’s finished. Have you got anything you’d like to say? Yes, just quickly; thank you very much for taking the time to interview me. I’ve learned a tremendous amount about the job and about your company, and I’ve been very impressed. I just want to say that if I am successful, then I’ll not let you down. I’ll work very hard to become a competent professional member of your team. Many thanks. And you’ve got to genuinely mean it. Obviously you can’t just come out with that and say rigid or parrot-fashion in a robotic style. You’ve got to actually genuinely mean it. And if you do, then it will come across in a positive manner.
And obviously at the end when you get up out of the chair, shake their hands again and make sure it’s firm. Shake the hand of each member of the panel. Thank them for their time, and also look them in the eye. Okay, so that’s covering interview technique. So, we’ve now covered Module 1, the Mindset for Passing Interviews, including the formula for success. Module 2, we’ve covered interview technique. We’ll now take a look at Module 3, which is that of researching the company.