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You’ve got one chance at an interview. Here’s how to make the most of it!

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Depending on which research you believe, most people in the UK change jobs about every three to five years, although there is also considerable evidence that millennials are more likely to get itchy feet after only two years. 

Even at only two years, this means that most people are not expert interviewees.  With that in mind, we’ve prepared this brief guide to help you make the most of the opportunities that come your way.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

One of the oldest clichés in the book, but nonetheless it’s true.  Do your research on the company, the job and the people who are going to be interviewing you.  It’s what the web and LinkedIn are for…

Get the basics right

Charge your phone in case you need it, but switch it off for the interview.  Bring change for parking.  Make sure you know where to park, or if you are getting public transport then check how long it takes to get from the station/airport to the interview. Be on time, ideally a few minutes early. Check out the area for places to grab a coffee if you think you’re going to be early, so you can relax and go into the interview with a clear mind.

What to wear

For professional construction job interviews it used to be so easy. Jacket, tie, smart shoes and the equivalent for the ladies. Nowadays, smart casual has taken over, but if you’re in any doubt, take the advice of our MD, Chris Peace who recommends slightly over-dressing. That way, you will be seen to be respectful, but not an old-fashioned has-been.  The golden rule is to dress to respect the interviewer: if it’s a labouring job no-one expects you to wear a suit and if it’s a QS then don’t turn up in dungarees.

Live up to your CV

It’s important that you are seen to know your stuff.  Your CV has got you this far: make sure that you can explain everything on it and demonstrate knowledge, experience and skills that will benefit your potential employer. If you’ve done your research on the interviewer/company then the way you marry this information with the high points from your career to-date will help tip the scales your way.

Answering questions

Rule number one: you are not a politician so make sure you actually answer the questions! Don’t waffle, prevaricate or ramble.  Make sure you maintain eye contact throughout. Your pre-interview digging should have alerted you to likely questions so you should have prepared some answers.  Peace’s recommends the STAR approach.  Organise the information in your answers around ‘Situation/Task/Action/Result.’  Explain your successful projects in these terms and you will stand out. Which brings me to…

Stand out from the crowd

Setting yourself apart from the rest is partly down to how well you have prepared and answered the interviewer(s) questions.  It’s also about how you conduct yourself. Remember, people buy people, so empathise with your interviewer and try to get on his or her wavelength. Body language is important, but so is being natural and engaging.  Give yourself confidence by remembering that the interview wants someone to succeed – so make it you! 

Do not

Stare out of the window, spend five minutes on an answer that only requires two, scratch yourself (or worse), let your mobile ring or, worse still (and we’ve seen this), answer it mid-interview, and, especially, do not seem desperate.

Ask the right questions

It’s not all about how much you’re going to get paid.  Nowadays, employers will expect you to be interested in what they can offer you as much as what you can offer them. Typical subjects include CSR policy, their approach to the environment, employee benefits and flexible working. However, you should have established before the interview just what the job involves, so don’t ask for the moon when they are only promising you the stars. Crucially, make sure that you have intelligent questions about the job itself and the company’s strategies for the future.  After all, that’s why they are hiring you.

Lewis Potter, Peace Recruitment

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