Interview technique

Tea and biscuitsIf you've been looking after children full-time and out of the whole paid-work world, the interview part of getting a new job can be the most butterfly-inducing.

But there's a knack to interviews that you can learn like any other skill. The key thing is doing the legwork beforehand. 

Preparing for an interview

You've got an interview - it's a mahoosive step forward, but the job isn't in the bag yet. First off, you need to find out as much as you can about the company you're applying to, put together a list of potential questions that might come up and think about issues you'd like to discuss during the interview. 

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Try not to approach your interview with a 'do or die' mentality - you'll be more relaxed, and perform better, if you can adopt a 'let's see what happens' kind of approach.

Easier said than done, but it helps if you can genuinely go into an interview with the mindset that this is as much about you working out whether the company would suit you, as it is about them working out whether you'd suit the company.

"When you get an interview, write a list of the questions you think they might ask (they will be either related to the job description or what you have written in your application) and prepare some answers (with examples), stating what happened, what the consequence was and the skill demonstrated." venusandmarzipan

Work up some concrete examples of things you've achieved - resolving a tricky work situation, or an innovation that made your department run more smoothly or increased your company's revenue. They will then be at the forefront of your mind if you're asked for specific examples.

"Think about tasks/situations that have gone well for you, then consider why that was. Which skills did you use to gain that outcome? I managed to smooth over a difficult family situation while on maternity leave. As I was applying for a manager's job, I used this example to demonstrate my negotiation and listening skills. Pleased to say I did get the job and went on to interview for posts in my new role. So from the other side, be yourself, be prepared for awkward questions. Also found that a few drops of Rescue Remedy calm the nerves!" mummysmagic


The interview process

Job applications and interviews:
the employer's perspective

I do a fair amount of interviewing and would rather employ someone who was reliable, willing to learn and will work hard, so make sure you really think about what the employer wants rather than how the job will suit you - it's OK to ask about flexible working at the end of the interview, but maybe after a decent question about the company or job itself. 


Address all the criteria listed in a person specification - I have read stacks of job applications that I can reject straight away as the applicants have given me their life history rather than telling me how their previous experience will help them do the job I am advertising.

Most interviews now seem to have competency-based questions - ie 'Can you tell me about a time when...?' - so it's a good idea to think about some potential answers to give in advance of the interview. There are lots of example questions out there on the internet so do some proper preparation in advance of the interview - including why you want to work for the company you are applying for. abgirl 

It's entirely normal to feel nervous before an interview - it's a challenging situation - and to worry that your hand will be clammy to the shake and your mind blank to the question.

But remember how you used to be convinced you'd forget everything you'd revised once you got into the exam? And you passed. We rest our case. 

How to calm pre-interview nerves

"Visualise yourself giving killer answers to their questions. Get yourself into a place where you feel good about what you can offer. The visualising thing really works. 
Also, practise with a friend the first two minutes of the encounter, the bit where you sit in the reception area and they come out to get you and make small talk. Practise the firm handshake and the 'yes, my journey was fine, thank you. It's a lovely office you have here (etc etc)' line. This works, too, I prominse you!" Finbar

"Imagine the people interviewing you having a dump.
Hard to be in awe of someone if you imagine them on the crapper. NB: only do this if you can do it without laughing." Blandmum

You can only do your best, as generations of mothers have said. So take Mumsnetters' advice to heart and you'll do yourself proud.

"Present as pleasant, confident, capable. 
Questions: if you can't think of any answer straight away, take a sip of water and think clearly. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification. Do not be afraid to say you don't know something.
Make eye contact and speak to the interviewers, not your feet. Ask questions." CouldYouWouldYouWithaGoat 

"You need to come across as friendly, approachable, and able to listen. This will give the impression you can take direction well.

You can do this by waiting about 15-30 seconds before answering any question, even if you know the exact answer you want to give. Make sure you are answering their question, not the question you wished they had asked." lou031205

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If the interviewer hits you with the old 'What are your weaknesses?' question, then one Mumsnetter says to cite something you used to feel you needed more development to accomplish; so not something you were rubbish at, but something you could have done given a bit more experience or knowledge.

"That way you are not really saying it was a weakness as such, and you are highlighting your commitment to improving your own performance." flowerybeanbag

If after all this, you don't get the job this time, don't despair. Dealing with rejection is a big part of what finding work that suits you is all about.

Take a deep breath, have a glass of wine, and talk through with caring friends how it went and what you might have done differently. Believe that maybe this just wasn't the right job for you, but that the right one will come along. And it will.

And if you do get the job, congrats. Please share your finessed interview technique with your fellow Mumsnetters on the Talk boards.


Last updated: about 2 months ago