Tips for a successful interview

Job interviews can be nerve-racking however preparation is the key. Make sure you know:

  • What it says on your CV.
  • Dates of past jobs and valid reasons for leaving those jobs.
  • Research the hiring organisation and use some of this in the interview.  It shows you are interested and are well prepared.
  • Understand the job description and make sure you can demonstrate why you are a good fit for the role.

The interview is your opportunity to sell yourself. Hopefully your interviewer will be well prepared with a list of questions. They will ask every candidate some of the same questions and this provides the primary selection criteria. It sounds obvious, but who gave the best answers? Make sure you give full rounded answers to questions but do not waffle. If you are unsure about your answer, you can always add “does that answer your question or would you like more information?” This potentially gives you a second bite at the same question. The interviewer may give you a steer on what else they want, enabling you to answer the question again, and therefore getting a better ‘score’ for that question.

Competency based questions

Typical questions include: "Can you give me an example of your leadership skills?" or "Explain a way in which you have developed a creative solution to a problem." The purpose of competency based questions is to analyse your past behaviours with specific competencies which are required for the position.

Behavioural questions

Typical questions include: “Can you give me an example of how you have managed to get stakeholder buy in for your recommendations?” and “What were the steps you followed to achieve that?” The purpose of behavioural questions is to predict your future behaviours based upon previous behaviours.

Apart from the competency and behavioural questions you can also expect to be questioned on the content of your CV and about your suitability for the role. Make sure you can therefore match the requirements of the role against your past experience as much as possible.

General interview tips

  • Make sure you know where you are going and if time permits, do a test run. Allow yourself extra time for traffic and public transport problems. 
  • Being late for an interview, particularly one relating to project management is a really poor way to start. Get there early and go to a nearby coffee shop. Arrive calmly 15 minutes before your interview time and check your appearance in a mirror.
  • First impressions are very important so dress smartly and have some mints before you get there!
  • Always be pleasant to any staff that meet and greet you. It’s not unusual for interviewers to ask those staff for their opinion of candidates.
  • Shake hands and make eye contact with the interviewer when you meet him or her.
  • Take at least two copies of your CV with you in case they are required.
  • Inevitably you will be asked if you have any questions at the end of the interview, go in to the interview with a list of three to five questions prepared. This will prevent your mind going blank if other questions do not arise as a result of the interview.
  • Take a nice smart folder with you for your qualification certificates, your passport (or other suitable legal form of identification, and any references. 
  • Top tip: Prior to getting up to leave the interview, confirm your interest in the job [if you are] and state your confidence in your ability to do the role well [without being arrogant] and ask the interviewer if they have any concerns or issues with your abilities. This is a great opportunity for you to overcome any objections they may have in offering you a job and this may set you apart from other candidates.
  • In order to overcome any objections you need to have prepared answers to potential issues you may expect to encounter, i.e. [issue/concern] “You don’t have any experience in this sector” – [answer] “That is true, however I do possess considerable experience as a project manager and I have worked in x number of sectors and bring with me transferable skills.”
  • As a general rule ask the interviewer if they have other candidates to interview and when you can expect to hear from them
  • On your way out shake hands and thank the interviewer for seeing you.
  • You may be asked for your notice period so make sure you have checked your employment contract. For most people this is 30 days but it does vary.
  • If the job is some travel distance from your home this may be questioned. Make sure you provide a confident answer that demonstrates you have researched the route and are happy with the commute.
  • Do not criticise former employers or colleagues or hold them responsible for any difficulties you might have experienced.
  • Do not share confidential information about past employers. This makes you look untrustworthy, let alone being a likely breach of your employment contract.

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