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Improve your interview technique

In the third of our new series of articles on careers Hays Civil & Structural director Greg Lettington sets out how to improve your interview technique.


I am getting lots of interviews but do not seem to get the jobs. What’s going wrong?


The interview is your chance to shine. Whatever your confidence levels, you can develop and work on the skills required to make the interview process more bearable.

Interviews allow employers to search for clues to see if you have, a) the right skills or competencies for the job; b) done your homework and researched their company and job; and c) the right personality to fit into their team. Like exams, thorough preparation is the key to success. From analysing the job description and person specification to researching the company, you will need to do your homework.

It is crucial to remember that first impressions count. Make sure you turn up on time, and look presentable. Remember that you’re making an impression as soon as you walk through the door. Open body language is also important: make eye contact, speak slowly and don’t fidget.

Competency-based interviewing (CBI) is the most popular interview approach, based on the premise that future performance can be predicted by past behaviour – do your skills match the job criteria? If you meet the competencies laid out in the job specification, chances are you’ll be a good match for the job. 

So, what’s the best way to prepare for CBIs? Re-visit the job description and person specification before your interview and ensure that you have covered off all bases, including tasks and responsibilities, and ensure that you can comfortably provide an example for each competency. It is a good idea to memorise examples and to be able to reel these off: describe the particular scenario, the actions you took and the impact on the business. Depending on the role applied for, more specific competencies will be tested: at director level, business development skills will be tested, while examples of leadership and project management will need to be demonstrated for a mid-level civil & structural role.

During the interview difficult or awkward questions could come your way. The intention is not to catch you out but test how you operate under pressure. Ask for more time and request to come back to the question at the end if you can’t think of a suitable answer.

Take advantage of the final minutes of the interview to ask relevant questions. Choose your topics wisely in advance and show that you are passionate about the job and company. Make sure you are clear as to the next stage and when you can expect to hear back from them.

Most employers will inform you of the outcome either by letter or phone call. If you haven’t heard back, your application may have been unsuccessful. Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback, as your willingness to learn and improve will pay dividends. 

You may have to do it all again at second interview stage or at an assessment centre. Make the most of the opportunities to leave a positive lasting impression, particularly if you are introduced to co-workers. The stakes are now higher, so give it your best shot.

At the end, thank your interviewer for his or her time and shake hands, remember to say a personal goodbye to each person you talked to and do not forget to acknowledge the receptionist as you leave, particularly if you have been looked after while waiting.

Most importantly try to relax and enjoy the experience. Don’t take rejection personally and make sure you persevere.”

There will be more careers advice next week

Hays now offers an outplacement service so that organisations can help employees through the redundancy transition. Specialist consultants have extensive sector-specific knowledge and are best placed to help your staff deal with the change in circumstances and equipping them with new skills to find work. For further information contact Gaelle Blake atHays on 07775706282.

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