Top Tips for Interview
As a leading London recruitment agency, we've helped many candidates succeed at interviews. So when you're preparing for an interview, whether it's for a top London PA job, a temporary PA job, or an office support role, here are some essential preparation tips to help you succeed!
Familiarise yourself with the company’s website. Look at the ‘about us’ section and understand what they do, the number of employees, office locations, and company structure.
Read the recent news stories and try to remember one or two key stories. You may get an opportunity to mention these at some point during the interview to show you have done your research.
LinkedIn will give you additional information as well as an insight into the company’s culture according to what they are posting. This is a good way to see what the employees and your potential future colleagues may be like including the interviewer!
Twitter and Facebook are also good for the same reasons. You may be asked what you think of their LinkedIn or Twitter presence. Interviewers sometimes like to use their interviewees as a way to get insights and opinions from a fresh pair of eyes.
Google the company’s key products and see what other companies come up. Aim to know of one or two direct competitors.
“Fail to prepare and prepare to fail.”
Inadequate preparation will result in you lacking in that all-important confidence before the interview. Knowledge is power!
Most companies will have a list of 20/25 questions to ask candidates and will usually choose about 10. Keep your notes short, preferably no more than one page and think about what the interviewers might ask you.
Here are some examples of questions you might get asked:
These questions you cannot prepare for and they are usually to see how you react in difficult situations. Give an answer, stay calm, and don’t worry too much about the answer, there is usually no right or wrong answer – it’s all about how you manage the response.
Tip: In most cases, employers will want to see where you can ‘add value’ to the role immediately. Tell them about you!
Read the job spec and tailor your experience to what they are looking for in terms of skills and what you will be doing in the role.
>>Who are you? Know yourself!
No doubt if you are applying for the role, you believe you are right for the role. You need to make the interviewer believe this too!
Make a list of important points about yourself that you want the interviewer to know and then learn them, so on the day you can make sure you get these points across.
Make a list of your key strengths as well as weaknesses. Try to be more imaginative in the weaknesses than ‘I’m a perfectionist’. It’s OK to have weaknesses and show them, as it shows honesty and transparency in your character. A good way to answer this question is to give a weakness that is totally unrelated to the role. e.g. Public Speaking.
>>Think of your achievements in either your business or personal life, list them and then try to convey these during the interview.
>>Social Media dangers - Be aware of what is on your social media. Your interviewers may search for you on various social media platforms to get more of an idea of who you are – if the impression they are left with is a party animal, you are already at somewhat of a disadvantage.
>>Check your CV for any grammatical or spelling errors - You may leave this with your interviewers after the interview and it will be what they remember you by.
Tip: If asked ‘tell me about you’ – be brief on the earlier years of your career and expand on the latter.
Make sure you know the format of the interview so there are no surprises on the day. You might encounter a few different interviews or psychometric tests, or even be asked to do a presentation. You will feel a lot more relaxed if you know your exact schedule for the day.
If you are unsure of anything, don’t be afraid to call or email and ask before the interview - it’s better to know!
Have everything ready the night before, as nothing will add to your nerves more than running late or being rushed.
Night before checklist
- A print-out of a map
- The company address written down
- Contact numbers in case you do get lost
- Names and positions of your interviewers
- All necessary ironing
- Get you outfit ready
- A few printed versions of your CV/presentation, plus spares
- Check your interview confirmation for any checklists of stuff you have to bring such as a copy of your passport, as you will look disorganised if you fail to bring what is required.
>>Dress to impress: You only get one chance to make a first impression!
• Suit (dark colour ideally)
• White blouse
• Skirt (A sensible length, no higher than just above the knee)
• Jewellery – limited
• Neat hair – ideally long hair tied back
• If painted nails – no chips
• Suit (dark colour ideally)
• Long sleeved shirt
• Dark socks
• Neat hair
Leave LOTS of time to get to the interview. If you are late, you have halved your chances of being successful before even walking through the door.
From the moment you walk through the front door, you will be making an impression. Be aware of the receptionist, as your interview starts here! They too will have a first impression of you and may well report back to the your interviewers on what they thought.
- Good eye contact
- Firm handshake
- Speak clearly and slowly
- Positive body language – uncrossed arms
- No slouching
- Highlight your key attributes
- Most importantly: SMILE, RELAX, & ENJOY!
Ask your interviewers how they feel you match to the role and if there is anything they feel you could improve on. Asking for feedback shows a humbleness and that you are willing to adapt and learn. Ask what the next stage is? When will I hear?
You’ve almost made it through the interview, but don’t be fooled into thinking your work is done; those final moments of an interview can leave a lasting impression.
Give a final statement/summary of why you really like the job, the company culture, and the people – what it is you feel really passionate about.
- Remain positive throughout: Never be negative. Do NOT slate your old boss/company. If you have a negative reason for leaving your last role, say so but in a diplomatic way.
- Back up everything you say up with practical examples: Its all very well saying you are a leader... but how?
- Make sure you know your own CV: A large number of people have their CVs produced for them by a third party so make sure you know all dates, duties, interests etc.
- Breathe and THINK: It’s OK to pause before you give an answer. If you don’t you will find yourself saying the first thing that comes into your head, rather than that planned answer you had.
- Try not to answer a question with just Yes or No: The more interesting your answers are and the better you back them up – the more memorable they will be.
- If you don’t understand an answer or hear it correctly, ask for it to be repeated. This is much better than guessing and leaving your interviewers wondering what you are talking about.
- Be confident: it’s easy to get cold feet when going to an interview. Often we question whether we are not good/capable enough for the role. You must remember that you got this far and the company selected YOU to come in for an interview.
- Enjoy it: Your interviewers are have been in the same position as you many times before!
- Let your personality shine and be yourself: it’s important the interviewers see you for who you really are so they can judge your fit with the company culture and be right for the role. Being natural will mean you will be much more relaxed and confident in the interview too.
>>Types of Interview & Potential Questions
There are typically three types of interview:
1. Competency-based interviews
2. Factual: investigating your CV experience and future aspirations
3. Combination: an amalgamation of the above two
A telephone interview is likely to be a competency-based interview. A face-to-face interview is likely to be a combination of both or just factual. However, this cannot be considered a rule and largely depends on the employer.
A competency is a particular quality that a company has decided is desirable for an employee to have. Invariably, the company will have identified up to 10 ‘key’ competencies that are used as benchmarks to assess candidates. HR departments use this type of technique and work to a strict scoring system where answers are marked based on the quality of the answers and the specific evidence given.
It is critical to understand that your answers are scored on the specific evidence you give in each answer. This sort of interview will usually have two people in on the interview, one asking questions and the other note taking.
- Problem solving
- Commercial awareness
- Decision making
>>Sample Competency-based questions:
- Tell me about a time when you worked successfully as part of a team?
- Describe a time when you were successful in getting people to work together effectively?
- Give me an example of how you dealt with a difficult customer at work?
- Give me an example of how you dealt with a difficult situation that required extensive communication?
- Give an example of when you have lead a team to reach a goal?
>>Sample Factual-based questions:
- How would your current boss describe you?
- Why did you apply for this role?
- What do you think you will be doing in the role?
- Give me an example of one of your values
- What do you know about us?
- Why do you want to work for us?
- How long were you at your last company?
- What is your biggest achievement at XXX?
- What level of responsibility did you have at XXX?
- What motivates you?
- What has been your best ever achievement?
- How do you motivate others?
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