10 Things I Learnt About: Job Interviews (as an interviewer and interviewee)

1. When writing the personal statement in the application, address all the essential and desirable criteria in the order they appear in the job specification. Usually the HR department and then the interviewers match the personal statement to the job spec when they score candidates. Make this straight forward for them by using the same headings ie 'Skills and Knowledge - Essential'.

In order to get an interview you will most likely have to match all the essential criteria and if there are a large number of applicants all the desirable criteria. If you can't match some of the desirable criteria, write in a strategy of how you could fullfill that criteria. However do not fill inadequacies with your life story and how you won a badge in the scouts... this will mostly be irrelevant.

2. If you have an interview you met the job criteria and you are almost there... well done!

3. Before an interview make sure you know what the job you've applied for actually entails, don't just go by the job description and spec. If someone already has that role, call them up and have a chat about what they do. If this is a new role call the department lead for a chat. This strategy works two-fold.

  • You find out information about the role not in the public domain, from that conversation you can think about your experience and how it tallies with the role in advance of the interview. You may even find that this job is not for you, I certainly have especially when salary is to be negotiated.
  • You have made yourself known to the department, this gives them a sense of you before the interview, which could give you an advantage over other candidates.
4. Before the interview read the strategic documents of the organisation. What are their big achievements? What are their future strategic goals?  Now think about your skills and experience and how they fit with the organisation's proposed future. How can you help them achieve their goals if you were part of the team? Have a few thoughts about this, as they are good to drop in when answering questions in the interview. They are also good as the basis of a question when you are inevidently asked at the end of the interview, 'Do you have any questions for us?'

5. Research the interview panel. Find out about them. Once when I was on an interview panel interviewing a group of people for a large freelance project, they had researched all the panel members and asked us specific things about our interests. It made them look really thorough and very engaged with the organisation. They got the job.

6. Before the interview thoroughly go through your personal statement and keep it in the top of your memory. Now think of other examples of when you met that criteria, this will be useful in the interview.

7. Over dress for the interview. Be much smarter than you think the people already working in the organisation dress. I have been on a panel with someone wearing shorts, moan about a candidate not wearing a tie.

8. Be 15 minutes early for the interview. It will settle your nerves and give you time to run though your application and the job specification and get your presentation ready (if applicable). It really doesn't look good if you walk in flustered because you only just got to the interview venue, or worse you are late and make the panel wait.

9. If you have to make a presentation check which presentation software fits with the organisation and if there will be WIFI if you need to use that. I advise not to do a presentation that needs WIFI as it will inevitably not be available just as you need it. I also advise sending the presentation in advance so the panel have a copy, bringing it along to the interview on a USB stick and printing out copies of the presentation for the panel in case technology isn't working. Practice your presentation so it fills the alloted time, do not run over as doing so will cut the time available for your interview.

10. If you can't fully answer a question but then later in the interview think of a better answer, pipe up and tell them and say it.

I haven't mentioned things like not swearing, not talking over panel members, not arguing with panel members, not talking badly of current colleagues, not lying about your experience, refusing to stop doing your presentation because you've gone on too long... because they are obvious things not to do... right? 

The key thing is that if you demonstrate that you more than match the criteria and look engaged with the organisation and its future objectives you've given yourself a really good chance of getting the job.... Good luck!


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