Interview preparation

With the right preparation you will be in a position to answer key questions, sell your strengths and convince the interviewer that you can add value to the company.

Research the company

Researching the company shows initiative, enthusiasm and a keen interest in the role. Company websites are the best source of information. Use them to research products and services, corporate details and recent company news. Ask your Monarch Personnel consultant to provide an insight into the company culture.

Research the role

Think about the role and analyse the job description. Wherever possible, relate your skills and experience to the role requirements. Focus on the skills you believe offer most value to your prospective employer. Always have practical examples ready to support your statements.

Prepare your own questions

Remember that the interview is a two-way process. On the one hand, the interviewer uses it as an opportunity to source information from you. On the other, you have an opportunity to ask questions about the role and the company. It is essential that you have a detailed understanding of the role before you commit to anything. You should find out why the role became available, what you will be accountable for and how your performance will be measured.

Before the interview

Take a commonsense approach and make sure that you know the time and location of your appointment, as well as the name and title of the person who will be interviewing you. Write this information down and remember to take a map as an added precaution. If you are going to be late call ahead and let the interviewer know.

During the interview

Have confidence in your research and preparation. Relax. Listen carefully to the questions and keep your responses concise and positive. Use practical examples to illustrate your skills and show how they suit the role and the company. Maintain eye contact and remain attentive throughout.

After the interview

Write down a short summary of the interview while it is still fresh in your mind. Note the areas in which you feel you went well, as well as any questions you found difficult to answer. This will help you to prepare for a possible second interview, or with future interviews for other roles. Call your Monarch Personnel consultant and provide feedback. Your consultant needs to know your views on the interview and the role before contacting the employer.

Their questions (and sample answers)

When you're asked open-ended questions, always try and make your answers positive.

Q: Tell me about yourself. (The interviewer is really saying "I want to hear you talk")

A: This is a commonly asked question designed to 'loosen' you. Spend a maximum of five minutes to describe your qualifications, career history and your range of skills. Emphasise those skills that are relevant to the job on offer.

Q: What have been your achievements to date? (The interviewer is saying, "Are you an achiever?")

A: Again this is a common question so be prepared. Select an achievement that is recent. Identify skills you used in the achievement and quantify the benefit.

Q: Are you happy with your career to date? (The interviewer is really asking about your self-confidence, your career aspirations and whether you are a positive person)

A: The answer must be 'yes' but if you have hit a career plateau or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify the answer.

Q: Tell me the most difficult situation you have had to face and how you tackled it? (The interviewer is really trying to find out your definition of "difficult" and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving)

A: Select a difficult work situation that was not caused by you. Explain how you defined the problem and what solution you applied to overcome the problem.

Q: What do you dislike about your current role? (The interviewer is trying to find out whether the job on offer has responsibilities you will dislike)

A: Be careful with this one. Don't be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company such as its size, its slow decision making process etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes problems and frustrations in your stride, as part of the job.

Q: What are your strengths? (The interviewer wants a straightforward answer as to what you are good at and how it is going to add value)

A: This is one question you will certainly be asked, so there's no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four explanations of how they could benefit the employer. Strengths to consider include technical proficiency; ability to learn quickly; determination to succeed; positive attitude; team focus and your ability to work autonomously.

Q: What are your greatest weaknesses? (The interviewer is asking about your self-perception and self-awareness)

A: This is another standard question for which you can be well prepared. Don't say you don't have any. We all have weaknesses. Either use a professional weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in one area that is not vital for the job, or use a personal weakness and show the steps that you have taken to combat it. An example would be," I'm not very good at delegating but I'm learning to pass work on to colleagues by sitting down on a weekly basis and splitting the workload".

Q: What kind of decision do you find most difficult? (The interviewer is really saying, "I need someone who is strong and decisive but who has a human side")

A: Try to focus on decisions you have made without sufficient information. This will show your positive side. For example, "I like to make decisions based on sufficient information and having alternatives. When you have to make quick decisions you have to rely on "gut feeling" and experience.

Q: Why do you want to leave your current employer? (The interviewer is trying to understand and evaluate your motives for moving)

A: This should be straightforward. State how you are looking for more challenge, responsibility, experience and a change of environment and do explain why you feel you are no longer receiving these things from your current role. For example, " I have been with my company for four years and feel I have learnt as much about their x function as possible and there is no opportunity for a more senior role at present".

Other questions to consider

  1. How does your last/current job fit into your department and company? (Gives an idea of level of responsibility).
  2. How do you respond to working under pressure? (Meaning - can you?). Give examples.
  3. How have you coped when your work has been criticised? (Give an example including the outcome).
  4. How have you coped when you have had to face a conflict of interest at work? (Testing interpersonal skills, team and leadership opportunities).
  5. What are your preferred working conditions, working alone or in a group and why?
  6. How do you think you are going to fit in here especially as this organisation is very different to your current employer? (You may not be able to answer until you have established what your interviewer perceives as the differences).
  7. What are you looking for in a company?
  8. How do you measure your own performance?
  9. Which part of this role is least attractive to you?
  10. Why should I give this position to you instead of the other people on the shortlist? (Strengths).
  11. What would your previous employers say about you and what would they consider your weaknesses?

Your questions

Before your interview, prepare questions you want to ask the interviewer. 'Open' questions that begin with 'What?', 'How?', 'Where?', 'Will?' or 'Who?' should encourage your interviewer to talk and provide you with additional information.

We recommend that you consider some of the following questions:

  1. What will my responsibilities be?
  2. How has the position become vacant?
  3. How will you assess my performance?
  4. How does the role fit into the structure of the department?
  5. How does the department fit into the organisation as a whole?
  6. Who will I report to and are there persons reporting to me?
  7. Where does my line manager fit into the structure?
  8. What encouragement is given to undertake further training?
  9. Who are your customers?
  10. Where is the company going? Expansion plans?
  11. Where is the specific location of the position?
  12. Will the position entail travelling?
  13. How soon will you decide on the appointment?
  14. What is the next step?

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