Extech 2000 Recruitment Ltd
IT Recruitment Specialists

Extech 2000 Recruitment

Interview Techniques
This has been prepared this as a general guide to help you prepare for the interview process.

We apologise if some of the guidelines appear a little obvious, but the format of most interviews, whatever the level is similar, so it does no harm to go back to basics !!!!

Researching the company for which you are interviewing
In todays’s world, with information at our fingertips, there is no excuse for not researching. By looking at the company website, going on LinkedIn, not only will you have a better idea of what you are potentially letting yourself in for, but it provides you with information to drop into either your answers, or your questions at the end of the interview. E.G. I understand that last year your company merged with Company X.  How do you see this affecting the X department and what will it mean in terms of opportunities for advancement? You might also discover that you already know people in the company!!! Google the company and see what comes up. Check out the interviewer on LinkedIn, you might have people you know in common.

Preparing yourself
It is now common practice for interviewers to focus on key competencies – skills or attitudes that are necessary to the role in question.  Most interviews will follow a structure that is designed to bring out those qualities.  The questions should be answered by giving specific examples from your background that highlight the relevant competencies.  Therefore it is important to have ready-made examples that you can use on cue.  Go over your CV and recall your greatest achievements.  What were the skills and attitudes that you used to bring about the achievements?  How did you use them?  What did you learn from the experience?  What would you do differently if faced with the same situation again?

Personal appearance
Within the first 2 minutes of the interview, the interviewer will already have formed a judgement of you and your suitability for the role – make sure it is a positive one. Regardless of the company’s dress code, always dress to impress. Remember, you never get a second chance to make a first impression!

Research has shown that 50% of communication relies on body language.  Many applicants let themselves down without realising that they are sending out negative signals. 

Areas to concentrate on include:

  • Walk slowly, deliberately and tall when you enter the room
  • Give a good, firm handshake (nothing more off-putting than a limp wrist)
  • Smile – show the interviewer that you are open, friendly and confident
  • Maintain good eye contact

The most important message to convey is that you are relaxed and confident and the best way to do this is through thorough preparation.

Reasons for hiring
By looking at the interview from the other side of the desk, it is much easier to understand what the interviewer is looking for and therefore to tailor your answers to what is needed.

The interviewer will have 3 main considerations:

Ability & suitability
There are plenty of people with the right qualifications and skills to do the job in hand.  From the CV, the interviewer may have little to help them differentiate between candidates.  Look at the role that you are applying for and list all the technical skills and soft skills that are vital to the job. Then pick out specific examples from your past that highlight these qualities.  Make life easy for the interviewer by painting vivid pictures from your past.  Specifics will always win over generalisations as they prove to the interviewer that you have what it takes to do the job well. There is nothing worse than a waffler.

You may have the right credentials to do the job but the interviewer needs to know if you are the sort of person who will go the extra mile in order to help the team succeed.  Make sure you can talk about instances when you went beyond the call of duty in order to ensure the success of a project or task.

Problem solving

Anyone who is hired is hired for the same reason: the employer has a problem of some kind that needs solving.  Look at the job description and decide what problems will need to be solved by the individual who gets the job.  Again, think back over your professional career and prepare examples of when you overcame similar problems.  Pay particular attention to your approach to the problem, your thought process in tackling it, how you went about solving it and the outcome of your actions. If you are just starting out, think of examples from school, college or university

Common Competencies
Specific competencies will vary from job to job.  There are a number of common competencies that you will be questioned on, no matter what job.  Below are the most common traits that you will need to prove that you possess:

Drive Reliability
Motivation Honesty/integrity
Communication skills Pride
Teamwork Dedication
Energy/enthusiasm Analytical skills
Determination  Listening skills

Money that you have saved your company Efficiency
Time that you have saved your company Economy

There are many different questions that the interviewer can use to determine whether you possess certain competencies.  However, by matching the above competencies to specific examples from your past in preparation for the interview, you will be able to cover most eventualities.

Common Questions
Below is a list of questions, some of which will come up in the interview, others that may not.  There are no penalties for over-preparation though, so it is important that you have put some thought into how you will answer all of them:

What did you dislike about your old job? 
This is an invitation to put your head in a noose.  Keep answers short and positive: e.g. ‘I really enjoyed my last job but I felt that I wanted a bigger challenge’.  ‘One of the things that appeal to me about working with your company is the fact the individuals are stretched to bring the best out of them’.  ‘I look forward to tackling such a challenge.’ Don’t criticise the company

Have you done the best work that you are capable of doing?  By saying ‘yes’ you give the image of being a spent force.  Say something along the lines of being proud of your work to date, whilst assuring the interviewer that you feel the best is yet to come.

Where do you see yourself in five years time?  A good response is to throw a question back:  What opportunities are there within this company?  If possible and honest, blend this answer with your prepared answer.

What are your biggest accomplishments?  A golden opportunity to sell yourself.  It is absolutely crucial that you have several well-prepared stories including facts and figures.  The more concise your story, the better the interviewer can visualise you not only successfully completing that task, but completing such tasks for their company.  Be conscious of time and don’t ramble – get as much detail into as short a time as possible.

Can you work under pressure?  A simple ‘yes’ does not separate you from the crowd.  Think of specifics from your past including how you dealt with pressure. 

What are your greatest strengths? 

What most interests you about this job?

Describe a difficult problem that you have had to deal with?  This is a chance to show off your approach to problems.  Show that you employ a logical thought process by outlining a step-by-step approach to problem solving and then give an example of a problem that you are particularly proud of solving.

What have you done that shows initiative?  It is best to think of some examples that are work related, but use examples from outside professional life if absolutely necessary.

What qualities do you think it needs to be successful in this field? If you have listened to the interviewer’s preamble at the beginning of the interview, you will know what they want to hear. 

Do you work better on your own or as part of a team?  By knowing about the role, you will have an idea of the balance of work in terms of how much time will be spent working on your own and how much contributing to team efforts.  Answer according to the necessary balance. 

Tell me of a time when you had to communicate with people from different levels.  What problems did you encounter?  What were the results?  This is not only a question designed to probe your interpersonal skills, but also to determine how you dealt with a problem.  As above, show a logical approach to problem solving.

Give me an example of an event that really challenged you.  How did you overcome the challenge?  Answer in the same manner as the previous question.  Be sure to portray the challenge in it’s worst light.  The darker you can paint the problem, the more you will shine.

How have you benefited from your disappointments?  Resist the temptation to explain specific disappointment in detail.  This is one of those questions where it is better to give a general answer, e.g. ‘I treat disappointments as learning experience.  I looked at what happened, why it happened and how I would deal with things differently if I had the chance.  Having done that, I put the disappointment behind me and look forward to tackling the next problem with a better understanding.’

What is your greatest weakness?  Keep your answer short and end it on a positive note if possible, e.g. ‘I like to give projects 100% and I sometimes find it frustrating when others in the team do not give the same level of commitment.  I am conscious of this weakness and aim to overcome it by a positive attitude that I hope will catch on.’

  • What would you do if you were going to miss the deadline?
  • What has been the biggest decision you have had to make?
  • When did you last take a risk at work and explain the risk?
  • What frustrates you at work?
  • What are your ambitions?
  • What hours do you normally work / how flexible are you?

The interview will normally close with the interviewer inviting you to ask some questions.  Having researched the company you will be in a great position to really probe and find out if this is the role/company for you, have your prepared questions written down, you will never remember them off the top of your head. Be careful not to ask questions relating to what has been covered already in the interview as it will appear you have not listened!

Another thing to remember is that people love to talk about themselves.  Now is the time to find out about the interviewer – after all you are potentially going to be working with this person. 

Good questions include:

  • Why did you join the company?
  • What keeps you here?
  • What are the qualities that you have shown in order to get to where you are?
An excellent question is:  ‘What would my first assignment be?’  This not only gives you an insight into the day-to-day mechanics of the role, but also results in the interviewer picturing you working within the company.

Show enthusiasm for the role, e.g. ‘I understand that you are making a decision on the X.  Do you think I am right for the job?

Next Stage
When you leave the company, call your Extech Consultant immediately to provide your feedback. At this stage you will be invited to send your written feedback to Extech which will then be forwarded to the interviewer. This gives you the opportunity to:

Thank them for their time
Let them know that you are interested in taking it to the next stage
Clarify any area where you may have come away thinking “I wish I had said that”
Correct anything that you may have got wrong in retrospect
Think upon this as an additional self selling tool and take the opportunity
Demonstrate your written communication skills

Best of luck with the interview