8 tips to mastering an interview

Written by Kathryn Hall

The Career Owl

Congratulations if you have an interview, be proud! Statistics today show that only about 2% of applicants receive an interview and making it this far is impressive.   

Are you sat there worrying about how you will demonstrate your skills, capability and experience to the interviewers? This blog will give you some hints and tips on how to show that you are the right person for the role. 

Photo by Alex Green from Pexels

#1 Research the Company

Often you will be asked what you know about the company, usually through a question such as “What do you know about the Company?”.  The interviewer is looking to see that you are curious about the company, ask the right questions, and know how to ask the right questions.

Photo by Wallace Chuck from Pexel
Tip 1: Look at the company values, mission statement, company news, board reports, and blog posts so you can demonstrate you are fully aware of what makes the company different and how you would apply your qualifications and interest not just to the job, but to the company as well.

#2 Research the Interviewer

Find out a little bit about the interviewer or hiring manager through LinkedIn.  Do you have any shared interests or connections?

Photo by George Milton from Pexel
Tip 2: Take a look at the profile prior to the interview but I would recommend holding off connecting until after.

#3 Review the Job Description prior to attending the interview

Look at the skills required – how do your skills align to these and think of some examples where you have excelled at this.

Photo by Ron Lach from Pexel
Tip 3 – Use the table below to assist you in reviewing the job description.      

#4 The length of your responses – remember to be concise

A general rule is to speak for no less than 30 seconds and no more than 2 minutes per answer.

  Tip 4: Consider using STAR (Situation, Task, Action, Result) and CARE (Challenge, Action, Result, Evidence)

#5 How to handle the introductory questions often asked

Tell me about yourself

Rather than giving a long-winded answer and risk rambling when asked this question, consider responding by saying “I’ve had a lot of different experiences in my career, where would you like me to start?”

Why did you apply for the role?

Remember your research on the company and job description. The interviewer wants to give you the opportunity to show your wisdom, insight and understanding about the job.  Ensure you show:

  • How you see the job
  • What you see the job needs
  • Something about yourself and your strengths
  • A summary of the above

What are your goals over the next 5 years?

Focus on the value this role has on your career: how it will help to develop your skills and how you are passionate about helping the company to achieve its objectives.

 Tip 5: Remember an interview is a 2-way process! When answering the question on your goals it is perfectly acceptable to ask the interviewer at the end of your response what growth path they see for the role.

#6 Owning the Interview

Start the interview as you mean to.  You need to show the interviewer why you are the best person for the job. 

Photo by Edmond Dantès from Pexel

Express your appreciation for the opportunity

For example, “I’ve been really looking forward to this meeting today.  I think that <insert company name> is doing great work in <insert particular field, work or project> and I am really excited by the prospect of being able to contribute”.

  • Prepare 3-5 key selling points in mind
  • Why do you want the job?
  • What interests you?
  • What rewards does it offer that you find valuable?
  • What abilities do you possess that would add value to the company?

Anticipate questions around gaps in your knowledge or experience

For example, “I know you may be thinking that I might not be the best fit for the position because (insert reservation) but you should know that (why they shouldn’t be overly concerned).

Pause before answering

What are they really looking for you to answer?  If you are not sure about a question it is perfectly fine to ask, “did you mean?” or “could you rephrase the question”.

Tip 6: You must sell yourself in creative ways and every answer you give should be tied with how it will benefit the company or the job.  

#7 Shifting your answers from operational responses to more strategic thinking if applying for management roles

This is very much about showing your ability to look forward, encompassing both internal and external factors and setting a course of action for the business to yield the best results. 

Think strategically

What is the environment that the business operates in? Does it operate in a growing or shrinking market? Think beyond individual projects and deadlines and see larger connections between projects, teams and business units. This will allow you to generate better solutions and accelerate results.

Talk strategically

How did you join the dots? Who did you get on board? What was the result? Put more emphasis on the Action and Results aspects of your answers to show how you previously handled a situation and how you would handle it in the future.

Influence

Who did you get on board? How did you do it? How did you build key relationships?

Be open to criticism

Be honest if things didn’t go well. What did you change and overcome to get to the end goal?

Tip 7: Rather than only thinking short-term and focusing on what’s right in front of you, consider long-term, big-picture questions. This will expand your thinking and help you gain a broader perspective. Inspire and direct your team to greater readiness and competitiveness. Add value to your organisation by understanding the needs of your customers. Anticipate, create and encourage change. Spot opportunities for successful strategic alliances

#8 Follow-up after the interview

Many people fall into the trap of thinking that your work is done once you leave an interview.  In a highly competitive recruitment market that exists in some sectors, it is important to stand out and demonstrate that you are serious about the role.  Send an email to the interviewers within 24 hours to re-iterate your passion for the role.

Tip 8: An example of what you could send:

Dear <name>,  

Re: Interview on <Date> at <Time>  

Thank you for your time < yesterday/date
of interview>. It was a pleasure speaking with you about <insert job title> role.  I am very excited about the opportunity to join <insert company> and making a difference in <insert details>.  

I particularly enjoyed learning more about <insert any specifics from the interview>.  I’m convinced that the position is a perfect fit for this stage in my career and that my experience, qualifications, and strengths will allow me to fulfil the job requirements effectively and support <company name> objectives.  

I look forward to receiving an update from you and please do ask any follow-up questions that may have come up since we last spoke.  

Kind regards  
Name  

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