Over the summer I, along, with many other students have been looking for a job and with jobs inevitably come interviews. Now, although my working life has been short (I’m only 20) I’ve had a fair few interviews so I’ve managed to accumulate a list of questions which crop up a lot.
Having been successful in my recent interview and securing a job (WOOOOO!!!) I thought I’d write a post about reoccurring interview questions and general tips. Recently, I have experienced both face-to-face and telephone interviews along with assessment days so I will be sharing my tips on how to excel in these 3 areas!
WOOOOOOO YEEEEEAAAHHH!!! You’ve bagged yourself an interview so what can you do to help prepare yourself?
- RESEARCH: Find out as much as you can about the company you’re going to be working for. The ‘About Us’ section is about to become your new best friend. Most, if not all, companies have websites these days and there is always a section labelled ‘About Us’ where the company will talk about who they are and how they started. Some companies may go in depth and mention their history and recent achievement i.e. awards. Having this kind of knowledge about the organisation you’re applying for shows that you’re interested and willing to go the extra mile because you’ve taken time to research.
I’ve had many interviews where I’ve been quizzed on something related to the company. For example, in an interview for sales assistant I got asked what I thought the next fashion trends would be. Inside I was slowly dying because I’m not a huge follower of fashion so was stumped, but in reality I had to make something up… I believe I responded with something awful like ‘neon colours’ hahaha needless to say I did not get the job! However, I did learn you need to have a good amount of product knowledge and awareness of topics related to the company. So for example, if you applied for a job in a clothing store having knowledge about fashion trends is ideal. Knowledge is power, people!
- DRESS SMART. This probably sounds so obvious but make sure you look clean and presentable. No one wants to see foundation marks on your collar or off-white shirts. Looking smart really helps give off the vibe that you’re an organised, put-together person which adds to a great first impression to any interviewer.
- HAVE THE ESSENTIALS TO HAND. Essentials include: A copy of your CV, your passport, national insurance card and bankcard. I have found, both, on assessment days and in interviews that there is sometimes a requirement for your passport, national insurance card and bank details.
Obviously, you usually get told beforehand to bring these items along but sometimes you’re just expected to bring them. In my experience, on two different occasions I have found myself returning the next day with my national insurance/passport because the company required photocopies. The best thing to do is carry the essentials with you to save you running back and forth and looking unorganised. It may seem a bit extra to carry your passport just for the interview but better safe than sorry.
Side note: make sure your CV is truthful! I have known friends to ‘bend the truth’ on their CVs and they’ve found themselves being quizzed on their so-called ‘hobbies’ which is hugely embarrassing: don’t be that person! Don’t get me wrong we all want to give the impression that we are the perfect candidate but make sure you’re truthful. I.e. don’t say you’re hoping to win gold at the Olympics for swimming when in reality you only go swimming once every three months!
- BE FRIENDLY. Make sure you’re friendly and approachable to the people around you. A lot of people see interviews as competitions so people can often be reluctant to start conversation. Personally, I feel it’s good to make conversation with the people around you because you may end up working together and it’s nice to already have a friend. I’m not saying you’re going to become BFFs but it doesn’t hurt to be friendly, plus this will help you relax a little if you’re feeling nervous as it takes your mind off the interview!
- BE CONFIDENT. Easier said than done, I know. Sometimes, even confident people get nervous in interviews, including myself, but let me tell you honey: you gotta fake it til ya make it because in certain roles confidence is essential especially where there is regular customer interaction. In interviews it can sometimes be hard to get your personality across because you’re in a nerve-wracking situation but try to answer questions with confidence. I consider myself a confident person but even I struggle with nervous butterflies but with a deep breath or ten I’m usually fine!
The recruitment process for me went: Telephone Interview – Assessment Day – Face-to-Face Interview.
The telephone interview was based on generic questions such as how far I lived from the store and my right to work in the U.K. There were also a few questions regarding my skills which I will go into detail later…
The Assessment Centre
Sometimes you can be invited to an assessment centre as a part of the recruitment process where you can be made to do a variety of activities testing skills such as engagement, teamwork and interaction. I recently experienced an assessment day, which lasted about 2 ½ hours where I had to complete a variety of tasks before I was invited for an interview.
My 3 activities were:
- TEAMWORK: Myself and the other candidates were split up into 2 teams where we had to work together to build the tallest tower made out of paper and straws and which could take the weight of a candle. Not exactly a strenuous task but the key here was to show off communication skills as well as co-operation as you need to show you’re able to work well in a team.
- INTERACTION: As the role I was applying for largely based on customer interaction I was sent out onto the shop floor and tested on this whilst being closely monitored by a supervisor. In situations like this you need to show how confident you are in talking to new people and your willingness to help. Even if you feel hesitant or unsure showing willingness to help is something employers love!
- PRESENTATION: My final task of the day was a presentation, which I had been dreading since I had first read it on the itinerary (I literally had heart palpitations, lol). Each candidate had to pick a product and we were then given 10 minutes to prepare before standing up and selling it to the group.
If you’re asked to present take a deep breath (if you’re nervous) and wait for a few people to go before you to calm yourself down (that’s what I did, lol). Make sure you make eye contact and come across as enthusiastic. Employers aren’t expecting you to be experts after 10 minutes prep they just want to see enthusiasm and engagement.
Using these tips combined I got myself an interview: WIN!
Questions I’ve been asked in Telephone Interviews/Face to Face Interviews:
- Tell us about yourself?
This isn’t a particularly hard question but when I was first ever hit with this question I felt a sudden pressure to respond with a list of reasons of why I’m so amazing and all the amazing things I’ve done (which quite frankly is a very short list). I usually tackle this question with what my current situation is: which for me is studying. I mention the subject, which university, anything I’m involved with both in and outside the uni and that usually helps to build a picture of who I am.
- Why should we hire you/what motivates you?
Now, if we were brutally honest with this question the truth would be, especially if you’re a student, ‘I need the money’. Obviously, avoid this answer at all costs because it fails to show passion for the role or the company.
Here is where you want to talk about your qualities and what you can contribute to the company, as well why you want to work for this company in particular. Highlighting the achievements of the company shows you’re interested and that you’ve took your time to research.
- Can you describe a difficult situation you’ve been in and how you overcame it?
This question is asking how you deal with pressure and this is where you want to make sure that you’re coming across cool, calm and collected. Think about how you first responded to the situation, your quick thinking skills and your plan of action to show that you can deal with stressful scenarios.
- Can you describe a time you’ve worked in a team?
This can be any type of situations i.e. at school, uni, or voluntary work. For this question I would talk about my role within the team, the objective of the teamwork, how we achieved the objective and why you like teamwork.
- What is a skill you’ve learnt this week and how have you used it?
I found myself pause at this question thinking to myself ‘omg I’ve literally learnt nothing!!!’. I have since decided that life hacks are a good way to tackle this question because we learn life hacks all the time and put them into practice.
For example, I recently learnt that if you poke a few holes into the top of an empty milk bottle and fill it with water you’ve got yourself a DIY watering can. Your response can be something as simple as that and it shows you’re creative too!
- What do you think about our values/how would you put them into practice?
Firstly, make sure you know the values of the company as in nearly all my interviews ‘core values’ have been mentioned somewhere. This is all down to research, information like this can easily be found online via the company’s website. Learning what the values are and giving examples of how you would use them shows the interviewer how well you are suited to the workplace.
- Do you have any questions?
YES YES YES. Always ask a question even if you know the answer because it shows that you’re engaged and care about the role. Obviously, make sure it’s not a question that’s already been answered. It can be something as simple as ‘when can I expect to hear from you?’ Personally, I think this is a nice and optimistic way to end an interview and shows that you really want the role!
Thanks so much for reading this very lengthy post. Hopefully you find these tips useful!
Feel free to leave any comments or alternative tips below.
Good luck with your interviews and see you soon,