Arriving For Your Interview
Try to arrive a little early; it gives you a chance to collect your thoughts and, perhaps, pay a visit to the WC before the interview begins (useful for checking hair and tie knots etc). Remember to turn off your mobile phone before entering the building and under no circumstances make calls on your mobile from a potential employer’s reception. If you carry a paper or magazine, make sure it is a quality publication. Nobody is fooled, however, by a perfect and obviously unread Financial Times!
If you find you are running late, try to call your recruitment consultant or the client directly. Always apologise upon a late arrival. Remember that the person who greets you, including reception and security, are employees of your prospective employer. Always be polite and friendly, you will be surprised how many interviewers seek the opinions of their front of house staff!
The first rule is, relax! The person on the other side of the desk is usually a human being. Most interviewers will try to put you at ease and use a more informal style; ‘Mr Nasty’ interviews are out of date and discredited. However, remain alert - the less socially skilled interviewer may still be a little formal. Sit comfortably – do not slouch or lean forward and be careful with your body language. In particular, do not fidget. Maintain eye contact as much as possible without staring.
Listen carefully to all questions and give concise (not brief) answers. If you suspect the interviewer wants more information, offer it (“would you like me to explain further?”). If you have prepared your answers, you should not have any nasty surprises. Finally, be yourself. If you have to put on a performance to get the job, it probably is not right for you anyway.
There are loads of interview questions, but here's a summary of the most common, You should have a great answer prepared for each:
- Talk us through your career to date.
- What has been your greatest achievement to date?
- Where do you see yourself in two/five/ten years time?
- What motivates you?
- Why do you want to leave your present employer?
- What are your strengths?
- What are your weaknesses?
- What do you know about us?
- What will you bring to this company?
- Tell us about your interests.
- What would your friends/colleagues say are your strengths and/or weaknesses?
- How do you think that your career is progressing?
- Always thank the interviewer for their time, give them a positive close (“I’m very interested in the job”)
- Before leaving, ask what the next stage will be and when.
Interview Questions to Ask
If you don't ask questions in your interview, you're missing a huge opportunity to learn more about the company, the team as well as demonstrate your interest in the role.
- How will I fit into the team?
- Who would I be reporting to?
- What are the challenges facing your company?
- Does the company have a record of promoting from within?
- Why has this position become vacant?
- How will you encourage/support me in my studies?
- When would you like me to start (if I get the job)?!
Competency Based Interviews
Competency based interviews involve questions that ask you to demonstrate, through your own experience, your skills or attributes a match with those defined for the role you are interviewing for. Some companies (a few) use formal structured competency-based interviews where you are asked a question and given time to consider your answer.There may even be two interviewers; one conducting the questions and one making notes. Most commonly though, competency based questions will be introduced as part of a conventional/biographical interview.
- Give an example of when you have had to work to tight deadlines in your current role and how you dealt with it?
- Give an example of a project you have undertaken and how you managed it.
- Surveying roles always include some routine and mundane elements that require attention to detail.
- Using your professional experience, can you demonstrate your ability to cope with these elements of the job?
- Like most busy departments, we sometimes face stressful situations. Can you give an example of when you have had to cope with stress, in a work or social context, and how you dealt with it?
- In business, the only constant is change. Give an example of a significant change during your work life and how you dealt with it.
- One of the key aspects of this role is managing people. Give an example where you have had to deal with a problem with a member of your team and how you solved it.
- Everybody has to deal with disappointment, or even failure in his or her career. Can you give an example, explain how you dealt with it and what you learnt from that experience?
Social Situation Interviews
Social interviews are now relatively common, usually meeting your prospective new team over a glass of wine, a beer or a coffee. Be careful about how much you drink - potential colleagues will delight in keeping your glass full to witness the consequences.
Try not to smoke unless the key decision-maker does. Talk to as many people as possible and take the opportunity to ask them questions; this can be a revealing exercise. Be polite to enveryone. If the decision amker has any doubt,m they may ask a colleague, from a partner or director to the receptionist or the doorman to understand their impression of you. Remember you're on show from the moment you step through the door to the moment you leave.
What they about you when you're not in the room is your personal brand and the impression they have of you and what it would be like to work alongside you.
You need to know as much information as you can on the company; write it down, learn and absorb key points. Browse their website and spend time reviewing their business performance, results, their purpose, recent business wins and anything else in the press.
If you do not have access to a computer, your recruitment consultant can send you relevant sections of the website or you are welcome to use our offices to research for interviews.
Note the date and time of your interview where it won't get lost. Check the address and plan your route. Make plenty of allowances for traffic jams, delayed trains or poor weather. A ‘just-in-time’ journey is destined for disaster. Take a map with you and take relevant telephone numbers, just in case you have any problems.
Mentally prepare answers to the more obvious questions and be sure you have some decent questions of your own. Re-read your CV; there is nothing worse than appearing vague about its contents or getting your jobs in the wrong order when answering questions.
First Impressions Count
If you use your initiative, you should be able to spot and exploit every opportunity to make a positive impression. That takes confidence and careful calculation regarding things that might put you at a disadvantage. It starts before you even go through the door. Always dress smartly and professionally for interview. Dress formally and simply. Pay attention to detail - no coffee-stained ties, unpolished shoes or missing buttons. Make sure that your hair is tidy but avoid haircuts just before interviews to be sure. If you carry a handbag or briefcase, make sure it is smart and clean. Do not turn up with a plastic bag!
Initiative and Gamesmanship
Interviews are formal, unnatural and complex social interactions. They can be strained and unsatisfying for both parties. Nevertheless, they are still the best available method for evaluating candidates and are an opportunity for you to assess a potential employer.
A clever interviewer challenges you to a game of wits. Although he may not be trying to trap you exactly, he will often try to catch you off guard to see how you respond. To sell yourself effectively, which is what victory in this game is all about, you will have to be aware of the subtle difference between winning and scoring. In the end, the interviewer should feel that he and his company have come out on top.
Most interviews follow a fairly standard format. First, the interviewer will make a general statement about the vacancy and the firm. Then he will ask you questions and, finally, he will answer yours.
During the first part of the interview allow the employer to have his say, while staying alert and interested. What the interviewer tells you now can give you clues about what you should ask when it is your turn. The interviewer will then try to find out more about you than is shown on your CV; your experiences, attitudes, whether you will be satisfied with the position. Avoid ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers; they do not give you a chance to sell yourself. Watch for opportunities to turn a negative answer into a positive one.
If you go off at a tangent, watch for cues that the interviewer is still interested and responding positively. It is a good idea to watch for the unexpressed motive behind a question. Some employers may ask questions they know you can not answer. They want to see how you respond to the difficulties of the situation, and look for a positive approach. So try to determine what the interviewer really wants to know. Clarify any points they want you to explain by asking them a question that allows them to talk more about what it is that they want you to talk about. The interviewer will see you are listening and it gives you more time to prepare a stronger answer.
When it is your turn, your questions should reflect genuine interest in the firm and the position. Although it is not unreasonable for you to want to know about salary at this point, it is not a good idea to ask direct questions too quickly.
Before you leave the interview, you should ask when the employer intends to make a decision. That focuses both your attentions on the competition; yours on the fact that there will be other candidates and theirs on the possibility that you are considering other employment opportunities. It also gives you an opportunity for some well-timed follow-up.
From time to time, you may be asked questions which you consider inappropriate, unrelated to your qualifications for the job and possibly indicating a discriminatory attitude. For a female candidate, it might be about marital and family plans, social life, husband’s profession and income. Women are not the only victims.
The problem is a delicate one. Any suggestion of hostility on your part will definitely affect your chances. You really have to decide how much you want the job and then make the choice between fighting your cause and obtaining the position. However if you feel called upon to defend what you are or believe in at this early stage, how happy will you be with this company or individual as your employer? If you have been alert throughout the interview, you will have seen indications of the problem long before the contentious question is asked.
Collect your thoughts, make notes and call your recruitment consultant to give feedback.
Within a day or two of the interview send the employer a letter expressing your interest in the position.
Thank him for the interview and if there was a subject of the discussion or an aspect of the company that impressed you, mention it briefly.
Your follow-up letter is another low-key opportunity to sell yourself.
If you're not successful, you need to understand why. What could you have done differently or answered a question in a different way. Learn from your mistakes. Use the positives, come up with the alternative answers and move on. Apply that learning in your next interview to give you a better chance of securing the new real estate job you have been looking for.