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How to prepare for a successful interview.

Everyone approaches a job interview with some degree of apprehension. Nerves are perfectly natural; the trick is not to let them weigh you down. The main thing to remember is that the employer has asked to see you because they think you are capable of doing the job. Their time is precious and they will be hoping, just as fervently as you, that you are the perfect match to the vacancy.

At the interview, you do not want to be stuck for words, so it is important to think about what you are going to say, how you are going to say it and how you are going to act, beforehand.

Here are a few proven strategies that will help you take control of the interview and ensure that the whole process goes smoothly.

Do your homework...

Of course, your Manpower consultant will brief you fully about the company and the position being offered. But it's always worth 'going that extra mile' - you can never have too much information. Try logging on to the company's website, get hold of company literature and find out about competitors. If the opportunity to use this knowledge arises, you'll be able to demonstrate an impressive level of interest in the organisation.

Making a good first impression...

Look smart and professional. When it comes to dressing to impress, always err on the side of 'traditional' rather than 'trendy'. Take a copy of your CV with you. Even the most efficient companies can mislay or forget to bring a document. Plan your route and allow plenty of extra time to get to the interview. Be courteous, make good eye contact, smile and shake hands firmly.

Body language...

You may be superbly qualified for a job, but you must also look motivated and interested. The way you act, your posture, gestures and facial expressions, will reveal a lot about you. Look the interviewer in the eye and don't be afraid to smile when it is appropriate. If you are being interviewed by more than one person, always look at and address the person who posed the question, then glance at the others when you have finished your answer. Adopt a good posture. Don't cross your arms, fidget, tap your feet, sprawl or lean forward anxiously.

Sounding positive...

You must be ready to expand on, not simply regurgitate, the information presented on your CV and anticipate the route the interviewer might take. No one fits a job perfectly so emphasize your most relevant skills and slant answers to reassure the interviewer that any shortfall is not a problem. Don't use tentative language. Phrases such as 'I feel I could', 'I think I can'. 'Perhaps I would' - dilute the strength of your case. Don't confine your answers to monosyllabic yes and no's which make the interview more like an interrogation. Be enthusiastic but don't constantly interrupt. Practice makes perfect. Before the interview, test your fluency by talking out loud or presenting to partners and friends. Don't be evasive. Make a virtue of any career gaps on your CV.

Handling tough questions with confidence...

Employers will ask questions deliberately designed to see how you behave and react in certain situations. Giving a positive, fluent answer isn't as difficult as it might seem. With a little advance planning, it's perfectly possible to anticipate common general enquiries and prepare a coherent, effective response. In fact, you can turn these questions into an opportunity to take the initiative and 'sell' the exact message you want.

Never answer a question you don't understand with a knee-jerk response. Always seek clarification before answering and if you don't know an answer, its much better to admit this than guess.

Be prepared for the following questions:

  1. How would you describe yourself?
  2. How would your manager describe you?
  3. What is your career path for the future / where do you see yourself in 2 years time?
  4. What motivates you to be successful?
  5. How do you react when you are left to work without supervision?
  6. Give me an example of when you feel you have coped extremely well under pressure at work?
  7. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • This final question is particularly tricky. Obviously, you can't claim to have no weaknesses, but you don't want to stress anything too negative. The best solution is to admit to one weakness and then turn it around and show how you have constructively overcome it.

The interview is a two-way process...

At the end of the interview, the employer will usually ask if you have any questions about the job or company, so always prepare a few in advance. This is a good chance to clarify any points of doubt - after all, you need to make sure that the job is exactly what you expect and what you want.
Suggested questions to ask:
  1. What are the opportunities for career progression?
  2. What are the training opportunities?
  3. What are my precise responsibilities?
  4. How much travel is involved?
  5. What are the targets for the first 6 months?
  6. How long will it take you to make a final recruitment decision?

Closing on a confident note...

Leave the employer with a good final impression. Smile, thank them for their time, say you enjoyed discussing the job and that you look forward to hearing from them soon. Don't add any afterthoughts as you leave the room.

You are almost there...
Some people always seem to succeed at interviews. They're not lucky, their secret is careful preparation. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be and the more success you will have. And remember, when you go to an interview you have already beaten most candidates and the employer wants you to succeed.

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