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Interview advice

A little preparation can go a long way

Do your homework

Few things impress an interviewer more than someone who has done their background research. This doesn’t mean just having a quick look at the role description. Make sure you:

  • Look through the company website in detail – the ‘about’ and ‘news’ pages can be particularly useful.
  • Put the company name into a search engine and see what comes up; you may find additional news or press releases.
  • Download the latest company accounts and reports from the relevant State agency. Financial research goes down particularly well with those recruiting for accountancy & finance roles.
  • Research the industry, particularly if it’s one you’re not already working in. Search online for latest industry news.
  • Research the interviewers. Look them up on LinkedIn. It will give you some insight into them. You may have shared ex-employers, acquaintances or interests – information which can be used to build rapport at the interview.
  • Assess your strengths and weaknesses for the role. Look through the role description and person specification in detail, thinking about where you can demonstrate the skills and attributes the employer is looking for – in particular, think of specific examples of where you have demonstrated these attributes in the workplace. Where you lack necessary experience, think about how you will answer if asked about these areas; can you demonstrate ‘transferable skills’?
  • Use your consultant!  If going for a role via a recruitment consultancy, your consultant should be able to give you additional background on the role, the business and what their client will be are looking for at interview.  At Butler Rose, for instance, we meet all of our clients; so we can add a lot of value to our candidates’ interview preparation.

First impressions

  • Dress to impress – even if a company has a casual dress code, wear a business suit.
  • Arrive 5 minutes early.
  • When your interviewer comes to greet you, look them confidently in the eye, shake their hand firmly - and remember to smile. 
  • On the typical walk from reception to the interview area, break the ice and make conversation.  This will help you to build rapport.

Most people suffer from interview nerves, but remember, everyone is human and people generally want to work with others that not only can do the job in hand, but that they also warm to as a person.  Therefore, try not to be too stiff or formal. Remember to smile and let your personality shine through.

Use examples

If you are in a competency based interview, you will be asked to give examples of where you have demonstrated specific skills.  But even when not asked, you should back up your answers with work-based experience or achievements wherever possible – which is where the pre-interview preparation will really help you. Using specific examples will give your answers depth and will prove you have the necessary skills the employer is looking for.

If asked to give an example in an interview, don’t feel the need to rush straight into the first story that comes to mind. There’s no harm in asking for a few seconds to think - and then delivering the best answer possible.

Turn weaknesses into positives

Many interviewers still ask ‘what are your weaknesses?’ If asked, never give examples such as ‘I struggle to get into work on time’ or ‘I miss deadlines’ – these are likely to mean you don’t get the job! Instead, use examples that can be construed as a positive as well.  For example: ‘I can be a bit of a perfectionist, as I like to make sure everything I do is completed to the best of my ability, but I’ve learnt to make sure this doesn’t slow me down’.

Ask lots of questions

When you get to that age-old final interview question… ‘Do you have any questions?' make sure you have some prepared. It demonstrates that you are genuinely interested in the role - and candidates that say ‘no’ are usually rejected.

  • There’s no harm in writing down some questions beforehand and taking them with you - just in case your mind goes blank. This demonstrates the fact that you have prepared.  Just be careful not to ask questions to which the answers have already been covered during the interview!
  • Try not to focus on questions around salary and holiday entitlement – in fact, you should generally avoid questions around these areas altogether, particularly at a first interview. Instead, ask questions designed to show an interest in the organisation and the role.
  • You can really utilise your research, again demonstrating that you are serious about working for the employer. For instance: “I noticed when I was looking at your company accounts that your turnover increased by 12% last year; out of interest, what are you forecasting for this year?” would be a great question.
  • Ask the interviewer what the next step in the process is and when you are likely to hear back – again, this shows that you are keen.
  • Tell them that you enjoyed meeting them and that you are very interested in the role.
  • Give another strong handshake and a smile when you leave!

For any additional interview tips, speak to your Butler Rose consultant.

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