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Interviews

Preparation for interviews is essential. Once you've got past the advert and the recruitment consultant with your CV, you're now going in front of the employer. The main thing to remember when going on an interview is that as long as you are prepared, then you can relax. The more relaxed you are, the more you will listen, take in and enjoy the interview. We thought we'd seen it all until recently when one of our candidates took a pet dog along to an interview. We can't think of everything, so please just use common sense along with our tips.

There are some simple steps you can follow which we've outlined below. If you look at other sites you can find a mass of pages and links providing the perfect formula. We've left that to them and hope that you'll find our information easy to follow. Remember, the 3 Ps: Preparation, Presentation and the Parting shot. There's also some advice on telephone interviews.

Preparation

  • Do your homework on the company. Look at their website if they have one, obtain a brochure and look at industry publications and magazines. The interviewer will be impressed with your knowledge and it will show the thought you've been through.
  • Check the location of the venue on a map and possibly do a dry run a few days prior at a similar time of the day to test for traffic. If travelling by public transport, check the train or bus times. We will always provide you with directions to the interview.
  • Check the date and time of the interview and who you will be seeing.
  • Your portfolio - make sure it is neat and tidy and contains working drawings and detailing as well as visuals, presentation drawings and finished photos if you have them. The interviewer will like to see (unless otherwise requested beforehand) how you worked through a project. So, practice presenting your portfolio at home. Make sure it is in chronological order with your most recent work first. We usually suggest taking along a sketch book to show how you generate ideas for new concepts.
  • CV - make sure you have two good quality copies at hand just in case they are needed.
  • Choose your wardrobe the day before. You may be in a creative industry, but unless you know the dress code of the company then err on the side of smart and slightly conservative. You can always pep things up with accessories.
  • Remember to get a good night's sleep. A night out pubbing or clubbing the night before will not make you feel fresh, nor your breath.
  • Don't arrive late. 10-15 minutes early is acceptable. Even real excuses like traffic jams, late trains etc. will not make a good impression.
  • Make sure you have eaten beforehand. A rumbling stomach will not exactly instil you with confidence.

Presentation

  • Your first impression counts, so remember during the initial short exchange of pleasantries that you give a firm handshake, look the interviewer in the eye and smile.
  • Body language is important. Make sure that you are sitting comfortably with both feet on the floor rather than legs crossed and try not to fidget or gesticulate too much.
  • Take a long deep breath, relax and listen. They may tell you about their company first so try and make mental notes on important facts and questions to ask or include in your presentation later.
  • They may ask you to tell them about yourself first. Don't ramble or give your whole life story. Treat it as a CV summary to which they can question you further if they need to. Refer to the list of potential questions below.
  • When showing your portfolio, use their interest and questions to set the pace. Too fast and you will not be able to sell your skills, too slow and you might put them off.
  • Don't embellish answers too much but expand your answers sufficiently to emphasis your relevant skills and remember to speak up.
  • Don't smoke during the interview, even if one is offered to you. By all means accept a drink (non alcoholic), but it is usually best to refrain from eating the biscuits, especially if you are prone to being a "dunker".

List of possible questions

  1. Where do you see yourself in 3 to 5 years time?
    They want to hear about your career expectations and whether you are likely to commit to their company. Resist answering with "travelling around the world" or "running my own business".
  2. What have you gained from your past jobs?
    List positive experiences and successes and what you've learned.
  3. What do you think about your current company?
    Never speak badly of your present or past employers and try not to single out any one person within those companies. Interviewers like to see loyalty and respect.
  4. Why do you want to work for us?
    Use the homework you've done on the company and information on the job you've applied for in order to answer this one.
  5. What are your strengths / weaknesses?
    Emphasise skills, particularly those related to the job you are going for and don't go overboard on your weaknesses. Any lack of skill should be turned into something you are currently working on to improve.
  6. What salary are you looking for?
    Try answering with a question. If no salary had been indicated on the job brief then ask what their range is. Try and be truthful with your current salary. If you feel it is below the market rate then give a range of what you're seeking and relate it to your experience within the industry and what you can offer to the company.

Parting Shot

  • Always try and ask a few questions at the end, they will usually ask you anyway. Do not ask about mundane details such as holidays or pay, but intelligent questions about the company and the role:
    • What are the main objectives of the position?
    • How do they see their company growing in the future?
    • How soon would you expect me to be up and running?
    • Have you seen many other candidates and how long do you expect the interview process to take?
  • Tell them how you've enjoyed the interview and how interesting it was to find out more about the company. The aim here is to show that you want the job. Afterwards is the time to reflect on whether or not they are the right company for you.
  • Ask what the next step is and whether there will be another interview.
  • Follow up with a thank-you letter immediately to keep you high up in their list of interviewees.

Always remember that if we put you forward for any interviews, you will be coached by our consultants on what the company does and what is expected of you.

Telephone Interviews

You may find that a potential employer has initially requested a telephone interview as part of the application process. This could be because you live some distance away and they would like to check your suitability before asking you to travel for a face-to-face interview. It might be a process they regularly use to screen candidates by listening to them rather than watching them or to avoid the cost and time of interviewing every candidate face-to-face, thus allowing them to be more selective for the next stage of the interview process.

Preparing for the telephone interview is very important and will help you get past the first phase and secure a face-to-face interview. Here is a list of tips to help you have a successful telephone interview.

Have a physical copy of your CV in front of you during the telephone interview to help you go over your strengths and accomplishments. Also have any documents that you might need during the interview prepared close by.

  1. Choose a landline if possible rather than a mobile. Mobile signals vary and are more prone to problems with the network, so unless you are 100% sure that network problems won’t be an issue, a landline is better.
  2. If using a mobile phone, switch off any extra features on your phone so that you do not get distracted or put off.
  3. Choose somewhere quiet as you do not want any disturbances. Set a reminder 10 minutes before so that you are ready and prepared in case they call a little earlier than planned and you are not caught out.
  4. During the telephone interview, speak in a loud, clear voice, do not rush or speak too quickly. You want the interviewer to understand every word you say. Think about your answers and take a few seconds to collect your thoughts before answering.
  5. Although the interviewer cannot see you, make sure you smile as this will come across in your voice and make you sound friendlier. Also it is a good idea to stand up as this makes you both relaxed and more confident in your responses.
  6. Assuming you make it to a face-to-face interview, review your telephone interview and ensure that any parts you were not particularly happy with or information that you missed out are addressed in the next interview.

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