The jobs market is booming, but interview prep is key

There has been a 44% increase in the number of jobs available to potential candidates this year compared to last year, according to the latest index by IrishJobs.ie.

The jobs market might be an employee’s market, but there is still the daunting prospect of an interview before you secure that job.

We spoke to Orla Moran, General Manager of IrishJobs.ie, to get her advice on how to prepare for a job interview.

Do your homework

Research is key. Research the employer, their products, their competitors.

I would also recommend to research the people who are interviewing you, and that way you are demonstrating a knowledge of their interests and responsibilities, and you can connect on a more personal level when it comes to the interview itself.

What should you wear to an interview?

I think it is less about what you wear and more about the impression that you want people to have of you.

I often say to people, that if you were to say nothing at all during the interview, what impression would you like to give the company interviewing you through your appearance or your presence.

From doing an awful lot of interviews virtually during lockdown, the majority of people are dressing smart casual – a shirt and a pair of jeans and a blazer if it’s on site. If it’s a virtual meeting, a shirt is acceptable.

I think the days of turning up suited and booted are behind us now. I could count on one hand the number of people who have turned up in a shirt and tie of the 100+ interviews we’ve done for our own staff.

If the job interview is in person, should you shake hands?

I think you have to gauge from the person to see if that’s something they are amenable to. I think the first impression is that you should be smiling and you should be friendly and you should make eye contact, and maybe ask if the organization is back to shaking hands with people. I would always check with the person because you don’t know what their own personal preference is.

Tell me a bit about yourself.

This is the standard opening question in an interview, as well as, ‘Why are you interested in this opportunity with us?’ If you are prepared for these questions, you can give a good account of yourself from the beginning of the interview.

How long should you spend answering a question?

It all depends on the time that has been set aside by the company for the interview. A first round interview would generally be around an hour. It also depends on the question you are asked. If, ‘Tell me a bit about yourself’, is the opening question, that may take a bit of time to answer. If you are going to talk through your CV, your hobbies and why you have applied for the role, it might take 10 to 15 minutes to answer that question.

There will be other answers that you’ll need to drill into, such as experience or aligning yourself to the job you are interviewing for. I would always give a lot more time to people to describe a situation where they are demonstrating their skillset needed for the role.

Sell ​​yourself

You do have to sell yourself in a job interview. I don’t think there is any getting away from it, but I think you can prepare yourself for it. So if you are daunted by an upcoming interview or you haven’t interviewed in a long, long time, the easy way to get around that is to make sure you are prepared.

One of the things that I would advise job seekers to do is, if you are applying for the role of a receptionist, for example, Google ‘Typical receptionist interview questions’ and practice the answer to them over and over again.

Read the job description that you have been given for the role that you have applied for, and think about the questions likely to be asked around it. It’s less daunting if you prepare yourself.

What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?

These would definitely be standard questions in an interview, and I would say be very honest. Be open and honest. An employer will respect that. They will know if you fluff your way through a question.

If for example, you are asked if you have Advanced Excel experience, and if you don’t, say you have a basic knowledge of Excel and say you are open to upskilling and attending whatever training the company will provide. That shows the employers that you are open and honest, and that you are willing to upskill and develop yourself in the role.

Give examples

It is very, very important to give examples of your work to date. It is really evident when you are interviewing someone if they are giving text book answers or whether they have the experience that you are looking for, and have demonstrated that by giving examples.

A lot of companies would use what’s called the STAR technique – Situation, Task, Action, Result. It’s basically outlining the situation you were involved in, the task you had to do, the action you had to take and the result. That’s the process that a lot of employers will follow when they are interviewing people.

Personality

I think it’s very important to show your personality during a job interview, because it’s a good way of identifying if the person is a good cultural fit. If the role requires dealing with people on a daily basis or interacting with other departments, it’s a really good way of showing that if you can work hard and be friendly and have a little fun along the way, all the better.

In an interview situation, it can be quite formal, and it helps to diffuse the situation if you can have a little bit of light-hearted banter but you also answer the serious questions as well.

What question should you ask the interview panel at the end of the interview?

One of the questions that I like people to ask is, ‘Do you think I’m a good fit for the role?’ If a candidate is applying for a lot of roles, this helps them to understand the probability if you are going to get that job opportunity or not, and whether you need to keep applying for other jobs in the meantime.

You could also ask, ‘Can you tell me about a day in the life of the organisation?’ ‘What would a person do, day to day in the role that I’m applying for?’

Other people might ask, ‘Culturally what’s your organisation like?

It depends on what’s most important to the candidate. Salary is very important to a candidate but that’s the kind of question that you definitely wouldn’t ask in an interview. It’s not appropriate to ask in an interview.

‘What would success look like in this role?’

‘What would you like me to have achieved in six months when I start in this role?’ Then in six months time if you have done all of the things that they asked you to do and done them better, maybe you could ask for a pay rise.

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