All your hard work in searching for the right job, and preparing and writing your application has paid off - you have been invited to attend an interview. Congratulations! You have passed the first stage of the process, but there are more hurdles to jump before securing the job offer.
There are all sorts of different types and combinations of interviews used by employers. Interviews are the employer’s opportunity to delve deeper into your experience, skills, abilities and motivation, usually through asking you lots of questions, but often through giving you additional tests and tasks to complete too.
In these pages, we guide you through preparing for interviews, give you tips and highlight some of the most popular interview questions that you might encounter. We also describe the various types of interview tasks and tests, and outline the increasingly popular phenomenon of the assessment centre. We’ve started off here with a run through of different types of interviews and when they are likely to be used.
Often used as an initial screening process, or if candidates are based at a distance. Employers will usually tell you when they are going to call you - so be prepared. Make sure you are there to answer the call promptly, and that there are no inappropriate answer phone messages or flatmates to pick up the call first. Have all the details to hand that you would usually take to an interview - ie, CV, job advert or job spec, and any other information you might need. Your appearance doesn’t matter for a phone interview, but in all other respects you should behave exactly as you would in a face to face interview. Don’t be distracted by the fact that it’s a phone call into behaving more casually than you would in a more conventional interview situation. If anything, your verbal communication skills are more important than ever, as this is solely what the interviewer is judging you on - they don’t have any clues from your body language to help interpret what you are saying.
Used less regularly than telephone interviews, due to the equipment needed to set them up, but often used for candidates based at a distance, or for jobs based overseas. Again, ignore the medium and concentrate on the fact that this is a formal interview, and behave accordingly - the interviewer will be able to see as well as hear you this time! Make sure beforehand that you are familiar with the equipment and how it works to avoid embarrassing technical failures - have a run through if necessary. The one thing that can be tricky with video interviews is eye contact - it can be difficult to know where to look, particularly if there is more than one interviewer. Our advice is to look straight at the camera, and try to avoid letting your eyes wander off to the side when you are listening to questions or replying. Also bear in mind that there can be a few seconds’ delay in transmitting, so speak at a steady pace and don’t leap in at the end of interviewers’ questions - leave a short pause to make sure they have finished speaking.
The most common type of interview, this comes in a number of forms. You might be meeting one person face to face, or, more commonly, two, three or even more interviewers at once - the panel interview. If you are being interviewed by several people, remember to keep them all involved when you answer. Maintain direct eye contact with the person who is asking you the question when they are asking it, but involve everyone when you are answering it - they all want to hear the answer. You may sometimes have sequential interviews - when you are interviewed by one person or pairs of people one after the other. Pace yourself, and stay alert for all the interviews, as they are equally important!
...and sometimes third and fourth! Again, the number of interview rounds you go through will vary between different recruitment processes. At each round, the number of candidates will be whittled down as the interviewer finds out more about them. It is hard to generalize, but as you progress through the rounds, expect the questions to become more probing and demanding as interviewers seek to test you and find out what differentiates closely matched candidates from each other. Expect to meet different people, as the company will often want to gather a range of opinions, but also to be asked the same questions again, or in a slightly different format. If you have interviews but are unsuccessful in getting the post, then do ask for feedback. If you have taken the time and trouble to attend an interview, most employers will provide this. Often the reason will simply be that there is a slightly stronger candidate, but you may also pick up useful tips about some aspect of your interview performance.
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