This guide has been put together as a general guide. Some people will get more from this than others but it is always worthwhile making sure that you have covered everything and are well prepared for an interview so read the guide and make it part of your interview preparation.
Congratulations, you've got an interview.
Now all you need to do is convince them that you're the right person for the job. This could be one of the most important conversations of your life so make sure that you have prepared for it. You wouldn’t go to a sales meeting without preparing so make sure you are prepared to sell yourself.
Being properly prepared for the interview will give you confidence and improve your chances.
Study and know your CV
Be ready to answer questions about yourself. Your CV is only a summary of your career and is not everything that there is to know about you. We will have told the interviewer as much as possible, but they will want to know more.
Be ready to talk about targets, achievements, bonuses, KPI’s etc. Sales people live and die by their figures, make sure you are prepared to talk about them.
As a salesperson it is essential to demonstrate good listening skills. Be conscious of this, make sure you listen and take the lead from the interviewer. A good sales person is able to listen and read signs and then sell to the customer’s needs. This is no different.
Be aware that gaps between jobs, changes in career direction are all things that will need explaining. Reasons for leaving previous employers should always be positive. Never say anything derogatory about a previous job or company.
Think about what you are going to say in advance. Anyone can make mistakes in their career but make sure that when you speak about them that they are a thing of the past that you have learnt from and become a stronger person as a result of them.
Think about your answers in advance, plan what you want to say, but remember to show some personality on the day. Being prepared and having thought about your answers shouldn't stop you from coming across as someone that they would want to work with.
First impressions Count.
It has long been accepted that we all make our minds up about someone within thirty seconds of meeting them. Interviewers try very hard not to by having prepared questions and a structure to their interview process but inevitably they are human and will have first impressions.
Dress to Impress
First impressions do count. A classic suit is best. Traditional is better than fashionable. Be smart but comfortable and take pride in your appearance. Remember that companies, like schools have uniforms. Some people may have preconceived ideas about things like excessive jewellery or make-up, tattoos or facial piercings. Strong perfume or even a loud tie may take the attention away from what you are saying.
Attention to detail pays off.
Make sure that your shoes are clean and that your clothes are well pressed. Most interviewers will assume that if you take pride in your appearance then you will take pride in your work. They will also assume the opposite.
If you are someone who could be going out and meeting their clients then it be even more important for you to be dressed appropriately.
You need to be yourself and be comfortable with your appearance, but at the same time you are trying to impress someone whose tastes are completely unknown to you. Generally speaking, play it safe.
When you are being interviewed it's important to give out the right signals. Always greet people with a firm handshake. It may seem strange but if you aren't sure then practice with friends and family. Always try to look attentive in the interview. Maintain eye contact with the person who is talking to you. Don't slouch. Watch your posture. Avoid telling lies as your body language will probably give you away. Classic giveaway signals include scratching your nose or not looking directly at the person you are speaking to. Above all, smile (but don't grin like an idiot).
Research the company
Before your interview find out as much as you can about the company. Some companies will send out information packs, practically all companies will have a web-site. If you know someone who already works there, ask them about it. Google the company, look them up on LinkedIn. Take an interest.
Don't just browse the company website, look elsewhere for news articles, events attended, exhibitions. Just regurgitating information from their own website will look lazy and disinterested.
Think about your questions.
Interviews these days are a two way process. You don't want to talk your way into a job only to find that you the company culture is not right for you. So think about the things that you want to know. What are the prospects, how will the job role develop. What are the company's plans for the future? Can you have a look around?
Believe in yourself.
If you've done the research and the preparation it will make this step so much easier. You can have all the skills in the world and the most relevant work experience but if you come across as negative then you may as well stay at home. Smile and be confident. Sell yourself. Now is not the time to hide your light under a bushel.
Leave plenty of time to get to the interview. You may be delayed by traffic or for other reasons and starting an interview on a bad note simply makes you nervous, and all your preparation pointless. If possible, do a practice run so that you know how long it takes to get there? Try to arrive around five minutes early.
No matter how many mints you eat or how much chewing gum you chew, if you have smoked a cigarette anything up to half an hour before your interview, you will smell like an ashtray. A lot of companies these days will always choose a non-smoking candidate when given a choice. Tell them the bad news after the job offer comes through.
And finally remember to leave the interview on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for their time; ask them what the next step in the interview process is. They will then start to picture you as a natural choice for that step.
These tips will not get you the job. What they will do is improve your chances and make sure that you don't lose the job you deserve through a careless mistake. You may be working for forty years or more. It is worth an hour or two in preparation and research to make sure that you end up doing a job that you enjoy for a company that treats you the way that you want to be treated.
Some Possible Questions
Here are some of the more frequently asked questions and possible responses, but remember, on the day, don't be rushed into giving an immediate answer. Take time to think. Use delaying tactics to buy you time. 'That's a very good question' is a phrase that can buy you valuable seconds to think up an answer.
Why do you want this job? / Why do you want to work for this company?
Always stress the positive answers. Think about why you want to join this company rather than why you want to leave the last one. For example, the company invests heavily in training and development, there is a definite career path, but avoid anything like shorter working hours or longer holidays.
What qualities do you think you will need to do this job?
Think about the ones that aren't in the job description. Good analytical skills, problem solving, leadership, communication skills.
What can you contribute to the role?
Don't be shy. This is your chance to sing your own praises. Talk about some of the things that you have achieved in the past, things that you did at your last job. Be factual and make sure you can back up everything that you say.
What do you know about this company?
This is when all your research pays off. If you haven't taken the time to learn about the company they will hardly take your interest in the job seriously. You can’t blame anyone else for not knowing, modern technology means that information is readily available.
Where do you want to be in five years time?
Avoid the 'doing your job answer'. Think about what you really want to achieve and talk in general terms. For example, I'd like to be managing a team, have a degree of autonomy, have my own department.
Why are you looking to leave your present employer?
Don't run down your present employer. If you bad-mouth your current employer your interviewer will simply be wondering what you'll say about them should you ever move on.
Think about an answer which shows you in a positive light. 'I feel ready for the next step in my career and there are no opportunities at my present firm unless someone leaves.'
What would your ideal job be?
Remember that you’re at an interview and don't shoot yourself in the foot. Describe a role that fits in with the company but demonstrates ambition or the desire to learn. 'I'd like to be a department head once I've got a little more experience' 'I would like to take on more responsibility'
What are your strengths?
Don't be shy, but think of ones that are relevant to the job but also add value. I'm cool under pressure. I'm a good time manager. Be prepared to back these up with examples.
What are your weaknesses?
Don't give the whole list! Think of one that you can admit to that can be turned into a strength. For example; I'm not so good at delegating, because if I do things myself I know that they are being done to the best standard.'
Do you work well with others or are you a loner?
Remember that some jobs need a team player whilst others require you to work alone. Answer depending on the job but remember to leave it open. No-one likes extremes so a team player who can work alone or someone who is happy to work alone or in a team is a safe answer.
Have you any questions for us?
This is the question that usually makes interviewees heart sink! They have answered every question that you have prepared, you know that saying this sounds poor so what do you do?
Remember that most people like talking about themselves so try asking questions about them, how long have you been with the company? How have you progressed with the company?
You get one chance to shine at an interview. Think about the role you are going for and what the company will be looking for. Think about the questions and possible answers. Make notes, swot up on the day. If you have prepared properly, you are far more likely to be confident on the day.
If you have prepared properly then you can walk away after the interview knowing that you have done the best you can.
It is important to remember that an interview is a two way process. You need to make sure that this is the company for you as well as you being the candidate for them.
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