Preparing for a job interview, and responding to the questions you’re asked has a lot in common with giving both media interviews and presentations.
We run job interview skills workshops on behalf of our client the Institute of Conservation. These are delivered by our team member – and BBC presenter – Martine Croxall.
The workshops cover the two key stages in getting a new job – writing the application and doing a good interview.
Here are some of Martine’s key tips.
Completing your application
- Create a checklist of things to do for every application, to make sure you don’t miss anything.
- As many of the criteria for roles will be the same at every employer, create a document to keep all your answers and evidence together, rather than start from scratch for each application.
- The job advert, job description and person specification should give you all the information you need to apply, so make sure you have these before you start. This should include the hours, the location, the rewards and benefits, whether it is remote or in the office, and if it is full or part-time.
- If you don’t have the job ad, description and person spec, or any information is missing, call the company to ask for it. This shows initiative and enthusiasm.
- Find out as much as you can about the employer – follow it on social media, familiarise yourself with the website, and if it is an option, visit.
- Whether you have to complete an application or submit a CV, customise it to the role you’re applying for.
- Respond specifically to every element of the person specification showing how you meet it. Use stories and evidence to back up what you say. The more interesting and colourful your stories, the more memorable you will be as a candidate.
- Repeat keywords from the job descriptions and company website. This shows you understand the company, and what they are looking for. As some big employers scan applications by computer, you may be automatically rejected if you don’t include keywords.
- Remember your transferable skills are relevant as well as your work experience. Have you volunteered as a school governor? Done amateur dramatics? Had a related hobby? What skills do you use in these that can show you meet the person specification?
- Even if you don’t fulfil all the criteria, it is worth applying, because there may be a future job that is perfect for you, and you’ll be on the company’s radar.
- If possible, get your application in early, as this shows you are keen.
Find out more: our training courses.
- Get the logistics right – do a dummy run to the interview location, so you know how to get there and how long it will take. You don’t want to be late or arrive flustered.
- Find out who is on the interview panel and the format of the interview. How long will it last? Will you be expected to complete a task?
- What is the company’s dress code – you want to fit in, so will you be expected to wear formal or casual clothes?
- Don’t leave your preparation until the last minute; do it over several days, giving you time to learn your answers.
- Familiarise yourself with the company mission statement – and if you can, speak to someone who already works there to give an insight into what it is like working there.
- Your application and the job description will be the basis of your interview preparation.
- Use this to work out the questions you might be asked. These will probably be based on the “Who, what, where, when, why and how” formula. What is the worst question you might be asked?
- Work out how to answer these questions – for each answer, show how you fulfil the requirements, giving evidence, and a story to help bring your answer to life.
- When you’re preparing, it may help to have a structure to how your frame your answers and present evidence of your abilities: that might be CAR – Context Actions Results, or STAR – Situation Tasks Actions Results.
- If you can, seed answers to draw your interviewers in and take control of the interview. For example, “of course my biggest challenge was when I was asked to do Future of the Company project”, so the interviewer then asks you about that challenge.
- Ask a friend to rehearse the interview with you – and record this. It will help you get used to dealing with questions and repeating your stories. If you get to know them so well they become muscle memory, it will help you avoid brain freeze.
- There is nothing wrong with taking a notepad or card with keywords on it as a prompt in the interview. It can demonstrate you have taken the job interview seriously and prepared. If you’re applying for a creative role, take photos with you to show evidence of what you can do.
- At the end of the interview, ask if there is anything in your application or answers which the panel are hesitant about or you can address, and, if there is something which hasn’t been covered, say “can I just tell you about xyz ..” as this helps you leave a strong impression.
Martine’s final message is to be bold, be brave, be memorable and take the initiative.