Notes from the outplacement seminar: Interview skills

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Yesterday we devoted long hours to attending two seminars run by outplacement company Fairplace in a subterranean room off Cornhill. Here is a digested version of the wisdom they imparted on...interviews.

- Interviews are not just about selling yourself: They are a two way exchange of information. The company wants to know about you. You want to know about the company.

- There is more to it than the interview itself: The interview is a competition in which there is only one winner. You need to prepare. You need to find out about the role (get a person specification as well as a job description), the company, the interviewer, the interview process, the marketplace. You also need to read your CV.

- Never underestimate the importance of a good story: You'll be asked competency questions designed to elicit evidence that you have the skills necessary to do the job. You can spot a competency question because it starts with something like, 'Can you recall a time when you...' Prepare by looking at the job description line by line and thinking how you can prove you have the skills required. Spend a lot of time preparing stories that provide this evidence. Don't use the same story twice in one interview.

- Don't be too keen on the sound of your own voice: When you are telling your competency related stories do not go on and on. The stories should only last 1-2 minutes. They should be tales of overcoming adversity and structured along the lines of this acronym:

S=Situation, the facts behind the story

T= Task, what you had to overcome

A= Action, what you did to overcome it

R= Resolution, the outcome (the outcome can be bad and you can say that you learnt enormous amounts from it).

-Forget everyone else: Don't talk about what you achieved as part of a team. Talk about what you did yourself.

- Have a few questions of our own: These can be loaded questions along the lines of, "I really like coaching and mentoring, do you have coaching and mentoring programmes here?'

Anticipate questions like... 'What makes you think you'd be suitable for this role?' and 'What are you weaknesses?' Answer the latter by focusing on skills that can be acquired rather than personality traits that are innate. Eg. Avoid saying, 'I am a perfectionist megalomaniac.' Instead say, 'I haven't had much experience of presenting but am really looking forward to doing this.'

Strange behaviour: Be aware of personal tics which might be endearing to loved ones but could put off anyone contemplating employing you.

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