No matter how well qualified or suitable you are for a job, your performance at interview is crucial. Taking time to plan and prepare will help you to present yourself in the best possible way.
If you have impressed enough to secure an interview, make the most of this opportunity to showcase your skills and experience. The interview is an opportunity for both the company and you to gather specific information. The company will want to know if you have the skills, knowledge, self-confidence and motivation necessary for the job, in addition to giving them an opportunity to compare each applicant and their responses to a similar set of questions. This is the time when you can find out more detail on the role, the people you will be working alongside and the culture of the organisation too.
Before the Interview
- Prepare well, find out all you can about the organisation – and bring that knowledge into your interview answers if and when it is relevant and appropriate to do so. Familiarise yourself with the company by studying their website, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook pages and if possible download and read their accounts from Companies House.
- If available, study the job specification in detail and match it to your CV so you can provide evidence that you meet the job criteria.
- Be familiar with the contents of your CV. Practice talking about any bullet point on your CV for 20 – 30 seconds. Make sure you are familiar with everything in it.
Prepare your answers to some standard interview questions, such as:
- How would your previous experience apply to the job on offer?
- What do you like best/least in your current/last position?
- What do you consider to be your strengths/weaknesses?
- What motivates you to do well?
- In any previous roles, when have you had to make decisions?
- Describe an incident when you have had to work under pressure?
- How do you see your future? Or, what do you see yourself doing in five years’ time?
- What do you know about our company?
- What has been your greatest achievement (either personal or professional)?
- Do you prefer to work in a team or alone?
- What five words would you use to describe yourself?
- How would your colleagues describe you?
- What made you apply for this role?
- Why are you looking for a new job?
- Make sure you have some well thought out questions ready for your interviewer, perhaps based on your knowledge of the organisation or their Accounts.
- Make a list of points you want to make that will sell you to the company.
- Be prepared to talk about specific achievements.
- Think about your weaknesses. What would you be prepared to disclose as an area of your experience that is currently lacking? Think of a way of describing this as a positive.
- Prepare for competency based interviews (these are now standard practice for some organisations).
Many interviews now involve competency based questions – the idea of these is that past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour and all candidates are given equal opportunity to present their past experiences in line with the criteria for the position. Competencies are those behaviours that you demonstrate at work that make you effective. They are a mixture of knowledge, skills, motivation and personal characteristics. In demonstrating your competence you will be showing the skills and the background knowledge necessary for you to perform a particular task effectively, together with the motivation or drive to make things happen. Avoid making vague statements and always provide factual examples.
On the day
- Plan your journey and check routes, parking, train times etc. Download a map and take it with you. Don’t rely on your phone in case you can’t get a signal.
- Make sure you arrive on time, unhurried and relaxed. Regardless of how genuine the reason, a late arrival is usually viewed as a negative. Make sure you have a contact number for the interviewer - so that if a delay is unavoidable, at least you can call.
At the Interview
First impressions count! You never get a second chance to make a first impression – make sure you look smart and business-like and your shoes are polished. For men, make sure your top button is done up and tie knot is tight. Research shows that people form an impression of you in the first 3-4 minutes of meeting. In an interview situation remember that what you say contributes to only half of the overall impression your interviewer will gain during your meeting!
- Be courteous to everyone, from the receptionist to the interviewer and greet everyone with a smile – you never know who might influence the final decision. And on arrival, remember to switch off your mobile phone or put it on silent.
- Greet the interviewer with plenty of eye contact and a firm handshake, as well as a smile – these give the impression of confidence.
Tips to remember when in the interview
- Be positive and confident, speak clearly and assertively. Take a breath if you feel you are speaking too quickly.
- Maintain eye contact with your interviewer, especially when you’re being asked and answering questions.
- Look attentive by sitting up straight.
- Be positive and don’t allow any cynicism to creep in. Avoid saying anything negative about yourself, your current/previous colleagues and employers or the company you are talking to.
- Do not interrupt questions, think first about what the interviewer has asked and take your time before you answer. Give concise, but not too short, answers with examples wherever possible, keeping to the point and relating it directly to your experience.
- Listen carefully, show interest and use what you find out. Feed back to interviewers what they want and try to use the same key words and style of language that they use to demonstrate that you have listened and understood.
- Smile when appropriate – it helps you relax, appear approachable and breaks down any barriers.
- Be factual and honest about your strengths and weaknesses. Show that you recognize your weaknesses and that you are striving to improve them by giving examples.
- Remember to ask those thought-provoking questions you prepped beforehand.
- At the end of the interview, ask what the next stages might be. If you are interested in the role, let the interviewer know. Thank him/her for their time and again, shake hands firmly with plenty of eye contact.
Some questions to ask the interviewer:
- Why has the job become available?
- What kind of people have previously been successful in the company?
- What is the culture of the company?
- Why do you like working at the company?
- What future growth plans are there?
- Who will I be working with and what are their positions?
- What induction/training programmes are there?
- What are the prospects for promotion?
- Importantly, and if appropriate, as an Accountant you should ask 1 or 2 questions about the company’s business plans and accounts, eg. Balance sheets, projections, cash position, profitability, working capital and financing.
Types of interview to expect
Telephone or Initial interview: Some organisations use these to decide which applicants to invite for an initial interview, or to quickly assess interpersonal skills and background. An alternative is an initial interview that may be quite short, 30 minutes or so usually one on one.
Formal interview: This is the most common type and will be structured so that each applicant is evaluated against the same criteria. This more formal interview may be held with more than one person representing the organisation, for example an HR representative with your prospective line manager and/or colleagues too.
Group interview: A group meeting where the company can present the business and highlight the benefits of working for it to a number of applicants at the same time. You should be able to ask questions and may have an opportunity for one to one discussion, but bear in mind that you will be assessed during this process. This type of interview is followed by a more formal one at a later date.
Panel or board interview: Some organisations will interview with a panel or board of people present, a very formal situation. Don’t be intimidated – answer each question directly to the person who posed it.
Assessment centre: Larger companies use these, often if they are recruiting for a range of roles – perhaps for a new department or team. They normally consist of a presentation by the company and then a series of exercises for the applicants, such as prepared and unprepared presentations, group tests, role plays, informal or formal interviews and psychometric tests.
After the Interview:
- Assess your performance after each interview. Call Arlington Resource Management as soon as you can after the interview, preferably as you leave the building while your thoughts are fresh.
- If you did not answer any questions to the best of your ability, let us know, as we will try to speak to the interviewer about this.
If you are unsuccessful then use feedback positively to make sure you get it right next time.
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