The interview - The CUK 'Quick' Guide

Beforehand

• Ask for as much information on the role and the company as you can from the agency.

• Prepare for the interview as a business sales meeting. You are selling your time and skills and it is a two way process, so be clear on your requirements.

• Research the company to gain a better understanding of their working ethos and history, market place, operation and size etc (this should be standard procedure but one company's research indicated only 31 per cent of applicants doing this).

• Research the company to see if you can come up with any fresh ideas at the interview.

• Having got this far your skills on paper are likely to fit the bill so you now need to research and then demonstrate how your experience, values and approach will fit in with the company's culture and requirements.

• Your interviewer will ask questions to determine your values, attitudes, skills, and abilities. Look back at your working history to revisit examples that could help demonstrate your answers to these questions in these areas before the interview. Answers to questions such as "tell me how you've shown initiative in solving a problem" should then be on the tip of your tongue. Remind yourself of instances where you've taken initiative, how you've overcome challenges, created opportunities, identified a way of improving procedures, dealt with difficult people or situations, or other contributions to a previous company.

• Some other typical questions you may need to be prepared for:

- What type of decisions did you make in your last/current job? - How do you keep up to date with trends in your industry?
- How do you evaluate your own performance?
- How do you take direction? - Why were you out of work for so long?
- How do you handle rejection?
And of course, the all time favourite of:
- What do you consider to be your greatest weakness? How do you/have you overcome this?

• Answers to the interviewer's questions will be looked at from a "behavioural" point of view as well as proof of your abilities so bear this mind when selecting examples to demonstrate. So be ready to recall not only that you solved a problem, but how you solved it and what the resulting benefit of the solution was to your previous employer.

• Whilst it's impossible to predict every question you might be asked, going back through your work history and assigning such achievements under the titles of values, attitudes, skills and abilities should pull together a good repertoire to demonstrate your answers. Always be sure to have an answer ready to "Why do you want this job?" Having researched the company you will hopefully be able to bring the majority of answers directly back to how that would add value to the new role.

During

• First impressions last! The old adage means that it can often be difficult to "undo" the impression you make in the first few seconds before you even speak. Dress to fit in with the environment (always over- rather than under-dress) and ensure confidence is conveyed by your body language.

• Always seek clarification on questions you don't understand. Fully understanding the expectations of the role shows both your enthusiasm on the smaller details of the job and allows you to better demonstrate with selective relevant examples of past achievements.

• Have a good few questions of your own to ask. Try to ask questions throughout the interview to communicate your interest. Many recruiters will be swayed by the ability to think on your feet and ask relevant 'killer interview questions' at the end. Your worse possible answer to 'Do you have any questions' would be 'no'.
- How would you describe the culture of the company?
- Does the company have plans for expansion or reduction?
- What makes this company superior to its competitors?
- What do most people like about working here?
- What are the key requirements for the position?
- What do you see as the main challenges and objectives for someone filling this contract? - Which of those challenges and objectives have the highest priority?
- How do you evaluate performance? - Who will I be reporting to? What is their background?
- How would you describe that person's managerial style?
- What are the characteristics or traits of this company's top people?
- What achievements during this contracted period would tell you I had done a good job?
- How do my skills compare to your requirements for filling this role?
- What overall impact on the company will this project/contract have?

It is better to push the "what can your company do for me" type questions right to the end of the interview. Don't be afraid to jot down any questions whilst your researching the company, you can mentally check off those covered when you consult your list during the interview. Most interviewers will be pleased to see you've come prepared. This will show some preparation and systematic thinking.

You may like to establish when the employer expects to make the hiring decision at this stage. It is also a good time to make sure you have obtained the correct titles and names of all the people who interviewed you for the follow up letter. (Ideally, get each person's business card.)

• If you have attended interview via an agency, most would appreciate a feedback call as soon as possible. If you have attended on your own account then make sure you are aware of the next steps before leaving the interview so that you can act accordingly. The golden rules of job hunting etiquette say a follow up thank you letter is a must too.