Week 3: Job Interviews

This is part three of a three part series on Job Searching. Check out part one Job Searching and part two Applying for Jobs.

image of a woman being interviews by two women, text reads: week 3 job interviews.Congratulations you’ve got an interview! Over the past two weeks we have reviewed looking for and applying for jobs. This week we’re tackling the part that most people are apprehensive about. So we have some of the best advice resources out there to help you along the way.

Be Prepared

Just like you did for your application, research the organisation you’re interviewing with. They will either ask you a direct question about how much you know about them or you can incorporate it into your answer. If they don’t ask you directly, you can show off your due diligence and use relevant information in your answers to other questions.

Prepare answers to common interview questions. Lots of interviews start with being asked to walk your interviewers through your CV, so take some time to prepare a good answer for this. Each point should have a specific example to back it up. Use the STAR method: 

Background image of stars in space. Text reads: STAR Method: Situation: Describe the challenge or situation giving context and relevant background information. Task: What was your role? What was required of you specifically in this project? Action: What did you do? This is the most important part. Describe what you did using “I” statements in some detail. Say why you chose a certain course of action over another. Avoid using jargon. Result: What was the outcome? What did you achieve? What did you learn? Be as specific as you can. slipireland.com

That might sound like quite a lot but remember you can prepare this ahead of time. It’s also a good thing to have in your mind during an interview if you’re asked something unexpected as it helps you to structure your thoughts in a logical manner. Often it’s easier to do things we find difficult when broken down into small, manageable chunks. Come up with STAR examples for each of your previous jobs and for common questions and themes like:

  • Tell me about a time you worked as a team/group/collaboratively?
  • Tell me about a time you experienced conflict at work?
  • Give me an example of a time you succeeded.

Now practice your answers. Out loud. Yes, it might feel embarrassing but it really works. Get together with friends or classmates and practice interviewing each other. If you can’t do that then practice your answers out loud to yourself, you need to hear how they sound and see how you feel speaking the words you’ve written. You could try recording them on your phone and listening back. Careers advice services in universities often have mock-interview services. All of these techniques are designed to make you more comfortable and confident during the real interview. Who cares if you feel a bit silly talking about “a time you had to work to a tight deadline” while alone in your bedroom? It will be worth it when you walk out of that interview happy that you represented yourself in the best possible light. 

The Big Day

Aim to arrive early, but not too early. About ten minutes is fine. If you’re very nervous arrive in plenty of time and find a nearby coffee shop (except if you really are that nervous maybe stick to chamomile tea!). Your interviewers are probably doing interviews all day and arriving 45 minutes early may make them feel pressured (just don’t do what this person does and show up 15 minutes late to “test” your interviewers). If you’re unsure what to wear to your interview err on the side of business/formal. Your interviewers will ask if you have any questions at the end and it’s usually a good idea to ask something. But don’t ask just for the sake of it, it needs to be something you are genuinely curious about.  You could ask to clarify something they mentioned earlier if it wasn’t clear, ask them about a typical day in the role, ask about their jobs or something about the organisation. Once the interview is over make a note of the questions they asked you, you will forget very quickly but it’s good to know so you can practice for the next one.

After everything it is as simple as that. If you’re not successful this time please don’t be too disappointed. It is a very competitive market, so try not to take their hiring decision personally. If you don’t get the job you can ask for feedback on your interview. Sometimes they will refuse, largely due to time constraints. However, often they will provide valuable feedback to you. This isn’t just pointing out your faults, they will point out your strengths too. For example, they may say they were very impressed with your technical skills, when you didn’t realise you were particularly strong in that area. A lot of the time it comes down to just a few minor points, such as more experience or greater familiarity with the organisation. Don’t be too disheartened, getting an interview is such a positive – you are likely in the top 5 – 10% of applicants.

Further Resources

I cannot recommend enough the website Ask A Manager. Alison Green answers reader-submitted questions from a hiring managers point of view. Always entertaining and insightful she has also written a free guide on preparing for interviews.

GradIreland has a wealth of resources about what to expect from job interviews and how to prepare.

If you have a disability and are concerned about applying for jobs, check out the National Disability Authority website for guidance. James Gower describes his experience of job searching as a graduate with a disability in The Guardian.

Note: SLIP has not received sponsorship to promote any of these resources, they are all used and recommended by the SLIP committee. If you have a resource you would like us to take a look at send us an email here, tweet us @SLIPIreland or leave us a message on Facebook.