Top interviewing tips: Part 8 - how to handle your first interview

Top interviewing tips...

Top interviewing tips from Lisa Jobson (pictured), director of talent at Harvey Nash:

First interviews tend to be biographically focused; a walk through of your CV to gain a better understanding of your experience to date and career progression. They can take a number of formats, so being prepared for each potential scenario will eliminate any stumbling blocks on the day.

Phone interview

This is generally used as a pre-interview screening exercise, so always take it seriously, as this is when the interviewer makes an initial selection.

  • Give yourself time to prepare for it as you would a traditional interview.
  • Try not to phone from outdoors or in a busy place. Find a quiet room and make sure that you have all the time you need to conduct the interview properly.
  • Use a fixed phone if possible to avoid network problems or running out of battery power.
  • Find out more about the person you are talking to if they do not introduce themselves spontaneously.
  • Be direct and succinct, use action verbs and short sentences.
  • Don't speak too quickly or for too long, and listen carefully.
  • Never rush things, and smile while you're speaking.

The interview panel

This usually includes an HR manager and the hiring manager plus a team member.

  • Identify exactly who is who and their position in the company.
  • Do not be thrown if someone interrupts you and answer all the questions in turn without losing your concentration.
  • Address and make eye contact with everyone, even if one person seems to be leading the panel.

The group interview

This is where several applicants are interviewed at the same time so the client can assess their teamwork skills and how well they interact. Your behaviour during the different exercises is considered predictive of your behaviour once working for the company. Exercises vary from talking about yourself, your skills and your reasons for applying, to more complex role-play type situations.

  • Try not to come across as aggressive or intimidated by the other candidates.
  • Listen carefully to the others to develop a good argument.
  • Be natural and attentive to how you express yourself, taking care not to get carried away.
  • Stay within the frame of the exercise and remain coherent.
  • It is better to speak when you have a valid point to make rather than to speak just for the sake of speaking.

The multiple interview

You may be asked to attend several interviews over the course of the day, so remain focused, even if you have the impression that you are repeating yourself. The aim is to test your resistance and your ability to adapt, and to get different points of view. Later on, they will check to see if everyone has the same opinion about you.

Informal interview

Every meeting in a recruitment process provides an opportunity to find out more about you.

  • Don't lose sight of this, even during informal discussions over a drink or during a meal which may pre-empt the formal process.
  • Stay alert and perform to the best of your ability at each meeting.

More top interview tips from Lisa Jobson

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