Putting yourself under the microscope

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Throughout the recruitment process, recruitment specialists Langton Howarth will give you realistic, informed advice, feedback and coaching to help you develop both personally and professionally. The biggest hurdle for many is the interview but, with good preparation, even that can be a much less gruelling and perplexing experience.

Here is Langton Howarth's interview advice to ensure that when you're under the interview microscope, you project a perfect image every time and get the result you want - a job offer.


Before the interview

Be prepared

You should treat each interview as if it is your first and prepare thoroughly beforehand. Interview nerves are caused by fear of the unknown, so find out as much as possible about the company, its culture and the job you're applying for ahead of the interview. Plan your journey so you arrive about ten minutes early. Don't arrive hot, flustered and late. Check the weather forecast so you don't arrive dripping wet! On the day of the interview, don't drink alcohol, don't smoke and try to avoid any foods that are likely to stay on your breath. As public speakers know, avoid coffee and tea, as diuretics they tend to make your throat dry. It's also a good idea to take a comb or hairbrush and perhaps some make-up so you can tidy yourself up whilst waiting for your appointment time. Prepare a list of questions you wish to ask the person who will interview you but remember that your focus should be on the company, its products and services. If you appear to focus more on the employee benefits, such as what kind of company mobile phone you might be given, you will be giving the wrong impression.

Style council

Unless you're told otherwise, wear a suit. We start to make up our minds about people in less than seven seconds of seeing them; there is no second chance to make a first impression. So be clean, smart and professional in your appearance. Check how you look in the mirror before you leave home or your office. Be honest with yourself - does what you're wearing give the message that you're a great candidate?

Ladies can choose to wear a trouser suit. If you prefer a skirt, then be aware of the length - it must not be too short. A clean and ironed plain white or blue shirt or blouse is typically right on the money.

And remember, no matter how expensive your clothes, if they don't fit or are dirty, you won't feel comfortable or look good in them. Your jeans may be by Armani but they are still jeans. Dress to impress - not to make a fashion statement.

Head to toe

Hair should be clean and tidy. Men with long hair should tie it back in a neat ponytail. Facial make-up should be professional and fresh. Men should be well shaved and free of stubble. If you have a beard, make sure it's trimmed and tidy. Remove any visible piercings and be careful with your choice of earrings, don't go for the flamboyant look!

Give your shoes a good polish. For the ladies we suggest court shoes if you are wearing a skirt and boots or smart shoes if you have chosen a trouser suit.

And don't forget your nails. Make sure they are short and well manicured. If you are wearing nail varnish, choose a conservative colour and ensure it is freshly applied and not chipped.

Final countdown

Turn off your mobile phone and if you are chewing gum - dispose of it before you enter the building. When you arrive, introduce yourself at the reception and explain that you have an appointment, giving the name of the person you have been told to report to. If you're kept waiting and there is some company literature in reception, read it. It is further research and can help you to focus.

When you first meet your interviewer, shake their hand firmly, but not tightly. Smile and ensure eye contact. Don't allow any pre-interview chat to become over familiar and avoid any questionable jokes - they could be regarded as offensive.

Talk talk

Your interview isn't a grilling. It's a two-way conversation to help you and your prospective employer find out more about each other. Be positive and try to give an honest impression of yourself and what you are really like.

Once in the room, don't sit down until you are invited to do so. Try to look relaxed but don't slouch. Don't fidget. Keep a good level of eye contact and always look interested in what the interviewer is saying.

Make the most of your pre-interview preparation. Think before you speak, don't waffle and, if you don't understand the question, ask your interviewer to clarify.

Be assertive, but not aggressive or arrogant. Don't 'knock' previous employers, it's far better to be positive about your own future and how you can help the company to succeed. Don't knock the company's competitors and under no circumstances indulge in gossip about current colleagues; if you have nothing good to say, say nothing.

Under the microscope

During the interview you will be asked some questions to ascertain your suitability for the job. Whilst we can't predict exactly what they'll be, our experience suggests that the following may well come up:

Q: Tell me about yourself
Stick to your qualifications, career to date and the skills you have for the job. If you have a passion for sport, the arts or a particular hobby outside work you might want to introduce it here.

Q: What's your greatest achievement?
Your answer doesn't have to be work related, but if you choose something outside work make sure it shows you're an achiever.

Q:Strengths
What the interviewer is looking for here are personal attributes that could benefit the company. You've got to be honest with yourself and don't be tempted to over hype your strengths. If you get the job you'll soon be found out!

Q:Weaknesses
Honesty is the best policy. But ahead of the interview think how a strength could be turned in to a weakness. For instance, if you feel you may be a little inexperienced for the role, this is something that could be overcome by training.

Q: How do you think other people see you?
Don't ramble here. Stick to short descriptive adjectives such as fun, sporty, loyal, determined etc...

Q: Why do you think you are suitable for the role?
Ahead of the interview, you will already have seen a job description and checked off your skills and attributes against it. All you have to do is reiterate them, explaining how your skills and experience fit with the description.

Q: Where do you see yourself in five years' time?
Probably best not to be over-specific or arrogant here. Use the job for which you're applying to show how you see that role helping you develop your career. Suggest that you see yourself as successful with a role that is worthwhile, stimulating, challenging and enjoyable. You may like to say that you would welcome any opportunities the company would consider for you.

And finally

Unless you're asked about money, don't introduce the subject at this stage. Round off the interview by thanking the interviewer for their time and reiterating your interest in working for their company. You could ask if they have any reservations about you. This could be your last chance to address them.

Shake hands and remember that you're still in view until you're out of sight of the company's building.

And, if this interview doesn't prove to be a success, learn from your mistakes, discuss them with your Langton Howarth recruitment consultant and ensure that your next job interview is a winner!

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