Ultimate Interview Techniques Guide - Northern Ireland
Although the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland is lower than the 8.3% UK average, it is still far too high at 6.8%. There are currently 61,500 people claiming benefits in Northern Ireland as at April 20121. After spending hours crafting the perfect CV and cover letter, you have finally received that coveted job interview. The pressure can be intense, especially if you have been unemployed for any period of time.
Interviewees often feel overwhelmed and make crucial mistakes before, during and even after the interview. Of course, people who are already employed also look for new jobs and although the pressure is arguably less intense in their case, there is still a desire to receive a new job with better wages and benefits which carries a different kind of pressure. Below, we will discuss what must be done before, during and after a job interview. Hopefully, this new knowledge will increase your chances of landing the job.
Frankly, you have no excuse for a lack of preparation when you have the power of the internet at your disposal. First and foremost, you need to remember that there are likely to be dozens of rival candidates for this job who will certainly do their research. You should research the most likely interview questions you will be asked but you should also spend time reading about the company who are conducting the interview. A quick online search will probably reveal their corporate website. Look at their news page and annual report. You should also go to Google News and see if any important stories relating to the company have been printed recently. While you’re at it, research your own name to see if anything comes up because your interviewers will probably be doing the same thing.
As well as knowing the company, you also need familiarity with the industry. If you find that you are applying for an IT job for example, you must be up to date with the latest trends. Most importantly of all, know the job. Take some time to re-read the job specification. Bear in mind that it doesn’t just advertise the vacancy, it also clearly explains what the company are looking for (or at least it should!). Analyse the skills required which should include technical skills and so-called ‘soft’ skills which are comprised of teamwork, organisation etc. Write down examples of your experience or education that best relate to the skills required and be prepared to expand on this information during interview time.
Bear in mind that your interviewer(s) will have read a copy of your CV. Therefore, it is important to dig up a copy of your CV and go through it, making notes along the way. Look at what you have achieved throughout your career and pay close attention to the areas of your CV which specifically relate to the job in question. In effect, your CV should help you cover the achievements portion of the interview.
During every job interview, expect to be asked questions about you as a person as the company obviously wants to know the kind of individual you are. Prepare a concise answer for this question, being sure to keep away from religious and political affiliations. Focus on the aspects of your personality that are ideal for the job and avoid telling your entire life story.
Naturally, you should only bring necessary items because you don’t want to spend five minutes shuffling through your papers during the job interview. Keep everything organised and be ready to unleash it at the right time.
Remember that job interviewers in Northern Ireland will be scrutinising your personal image and dress. Don’t fall into the ‘casual’ trap. According to a survey published by Management Recruiters International, over 34% of executives are of the opinion that business dress has become overly casual which diminishes respect in their eyes 2. It is said that you should dress appropriate to your industry but there are some universally accepted truths about what you should wear during any job interview in Northern Ireland.
Acceptable clothing for men
- Charcoal or dark grey suit
- Plain coloured tie
- Black leather shoes
- Light coloured shirt
- Dark socks
Unacceptable clothing for men
- Bright shirts
- Leather jackets
- Polo shirts
Acceptable clothing for women
- High heels
- Mid-length skirt
- Long sleeved blouse or shirt
Unacceptable clothing for women
- Short skirt
- Ostentatious jewellery
- Large shoulder pads
- Shirts with plunging neckline
- Any outfit which leaves legs exposed
It should go without saying that all clothing should be neatly ironed and impeccably clean. A noticeable stain on your clothing says little for your attention to detail or personal hygiene. Hair should be neat and fingernails trimmed and clean. Women must avoid excessive makeup and men need to be clean shaven or have well trimmed and neat facial hair. Use small amounts of perfume/deodorant/aftershave as you don’t want to overwhelm the interview room with a powerful odour!
During The Interview
You should have your clothes and documents ready the night before. After having a relaxing shower, be sure to leave early to account for traffic or other unforeseen circumstances. It is important to plan your journey the day before and have a backup plan in case your car breaks down/public transport being cancelled etc.
Being late for an interview is one of the worst mistakes you can make and immediately puts you at a disadvantage. However, don’t feel as if you’ve failed the interview already by being late. It is still possible to salvage things if you wow the interviewers and have had the sense to phone them and explain why you will be late. Even if you only discover that you’ll be late a few minutes before the appointed time, it is common courtesy to let the interviewing panel know of your tardiness.
It is said that some 75% of interviews are ‘failed’ within the first three minutes 3. Most Northern Ireland applicants seem to think that what they say is the most important aspect of the job interview. In fact, non-verbal communication is even more vital. According to a survey of 2,000 UK bosses, the following are common interview mistakes:
- Lack of eye contact
- Not smiling
- Weak handshake
- Poor posture
- Folding arms over chest
- Too much movement during interview
According to the above survey, one third of bosses claimed they knew within 90 seconds if they were going to hire someone. This is astonishing when you consider that the average length of a job interview in the UK is 40 minutes. 4
When you enter the room, smile, make eye contact and offer a firm and confident handshake. Look like you actually want to be there! However, be polite and wait until you are offered a seat before sitting down. Northern Ireland job interviewers glean their opinion of you from their first impressions and generally spend the rest of the interview confirming these impressions of your likeability, trustworthiness, professionalism and ambitiousness.
It is important to remember that Northern Ireland job interviewers are hoping you are the right candidate. The mere fact that they even called you for the interview suggests that they have confidence in your abilities. Rather than seeing a job interview as an interrogation, look upon it as an opportunity to show the recruiting panel that their faith in you was justified. Ensure that you look confident and assured throughout the process, allowing the interviewer to ask questions and resisting the urge to interrupt. Here are some of the most common interview questions:
- Tell me about yourself
- What do you know about us?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What is your ideal working environment?
- How did you increase sales/reduce costs/help your previous employers?
- Can you work under pressure?
- What are your salary expectations?
- What are your strengths?
- What is the most difficult employment related decision you have ever made?
The key to answering these questions is to be concise and confident. Some interviewees find it difficult to answer questions related to salary. In this instance, you need to have a figure in mind and confidently express it. It is likely to be close to their figure and in any case, most Northern Ireland companies will pay slightly extra if they see you as the ideal candidate.
Questions to Ask
Remember, it is you who is being interviewed so the company doesn’t want a candidate who just sits there and answer a few questions. The most impressive applicants are those who take the time to research a company and have relevant questions at the ready. Don’t fall into the trap of asking meaningless questions just to fill in the void. Ensure that your queries relate to the scope of the job and the organisation. If you can think of ways which would improve the efficiency/productivity of the company, feel free to openly air your views. Naturally, the most incisive questions should relate directly to the role and will vary depending on the job. However, here are a few basic questions you can ask:
- What aspects of the job appeal most to successful individuals?
- What skills will be gained during the job?
- What promotion opportunities are on offer?
- How important is this role in relation to the organisation?
- How is performance measured and reviewed?
- Are there any issues that will affect the company in future?
- How would you describe the working environment at this company?
- Do you have any doubts relating to my suitability for this role?
Ending the interview
When the interview draws to a conclusion, you have a final chance to impress the recruiting panel. Don’t leave the room without getting the names and employment titles of the entire panel. Never assume that one individual is more important than another because you have no idea how the company works. Be sure to ask what the next steps in the interview process are. Don’t be afraid to ask them when the hiring decision is being made.
After acquiring this information, ask the interviewing group for permission to contact them if you haven’t heard from them within a few days. Although permission is patently unnecessary, gaining it will make you more likely to follow up. Finally, be brave and ask if the company feels that you are a suitable candidate. Although a positive answer doesn’t mean you will be hired, it does wonders for your confidence. If they express reservations, you have the chance to ease their worries before you leave the room. Most Northern Ireland job interviewers will be extremely impressed if you show the ability to accept constructive criticism, think on your feet and allay their fears.
Instead of conducting a post mortem, be positive and send a ‘thank you’ note to the interviewing team. Ensure that this note arrives when you think the hiring decision is about to be made. Such a note is polite and also serves as a reminder for the hiring panel. After the interview, you should have made a few notes which can be used to mention a topic covered in the interview. Hopefully, you will have done enough to get the job.
Here are five quick tips which should help you avoid a job interview catastrophe:
- Don’t lie on your CV, prudent employers will always uncover these fabrications.
- If an interviewer says something that you find demeaning, don’t lose your temper.
- Don’t allow a question to bewilder you. If you don’t understand at first, take a few seconds to consider the question. If you are still unsure, ask for it to be repeated or rephrased.
- If things don’t seem to be going your way, remain cheerful and relaxed. If you look unhappy or depressed, you have practically blown your chances.
- Be energetic and enthusiastic right from the start.
- Thorough research of the company, job and relevant industry
- Bring copies of your CV, the job interview invite, a portfolio and a notepad
- Dress in formal attire with suits, dress shoes and plain colours preferred
- Arrive at least 10 minutes early
- Have positive language from the beginning of the interview
- Offer a firm handshake and a smile for each member of the recruiting panel
- Be prepared for certain questions
- Have your own list of questions to ask
- Ask the interviewing team for more information when the process is complete
- Send a thank you note and follow up after the interview
- ‘Wing it’ and turn up unprepared
- Forget to bring additional documents
- Wear ostentatious outfits, stained clothing or overpowering perfume/cologne
- Be even a second late
- Appear nervous as you enter the room
- Fail to make yourself heard
- Answer questions with a single word or expression
- Have no extra questions prepared
- Leave without getting the contact information of the interviewers
- Forget about following up