Interviews. They never get any less daunting, whether you’re going for your tenth job or embarking on your very first. You’ll find yourself going down a black hole of advice when searching, “how to ace an interview”, so having been on all sides of the career ladder – be that starting, shifting, training or recruiting – I’ve learnt a thing or two about interviews that I’d like to share. My two top tips are preparation and lifestyle compatibility.
Now, you may be rolling your eyes thinking, well of course, stupid. But let me explain a little more about what I mean by preparation, which may give something a little different from other advice you have already read…
Learn about yourself
Write down three examples of each of the skills and competencies that the recruiting company is looking for, demonstrating your ability to meet that criteria from your past experiences. Be short and to the point. By writing them down you can curate and refine multiple examples that ensure you aren’t flustered or talk too much when asked questions on your skills and capabilities. Be sure to learn them, practicing saying them out loud, so you are confident in your delivery when you are feeling the pressure.
Many of us find it hard to big ourselves up, but an interview is no place for modesty. Interviewers can often be a little tricky and may ask you the same question using different words, or simply ask you for another example. Don’t get caught out. By doing this, not only are you prepared for anything, but you are learning more about yourself and how your skills can be transferrable and adaptable to any question that is thrown at you.
When you’re in the interview, make sure you take a notebook and pen with you. You are about to find out a lot of information about a role that you could be spending a heck of a lot of your life in. I know if it was me, I’d like to take some notes to reflect on later. People not bringing a notepad and pen is my pet-peeve. When someone walks into an interview completely empty handed, without any of their own prep or a notebook to write anything in it’s the first thing I notice and it’s a negative strike before you’ve even sat down and opened your mouth.
It’s an interview, not a test. You can take a notepad and a copy of your application or CV in with you. Write any prompts neatly in this notebook ready for when you need them, along with any questions you may have (see below). I advise you to only note short prompts for your competencies, to avoid the risk of reading them out monotonously and not thinking properly about the question they have asked.
2. Lifestyle Compatibility
According to a study by HSBC, 89% of people surveyed by the bank (of all ages) said the thing that would motivate them to be more productive at work is flexibility, followed by remote working. Lower on the list were things like bonus schemes, learning programmes, extra sick days or healthcare plans.
Valuing a work-life balance
You may not have noticed if you are only early into your career, but those of us who have been around a little longer may have spotted a big shift in the way we work. With advances in digital technology, most of us have our
work at our fingertips (sometimes begrudgingly!), meaning most of us don’t need to be glued to our desks in order to do our jobs. Having the ability to fit your work around your life, rather than the other way round, is in much higher demand, but despite this, many businesses aren’t keeping up and are still stuck in the 9-5 routine of the last century, where asking for flexible working is seen as quite a taboo subject.
Not all jobs can offer flexibility, but the Victorian era of the 9-5 really can be bewildering sometimes when we have such a diverse workforce all working so differently from one another. My point is, regardless of the role you are applying for, it is useful to understand what is important for you in order to secure a balanced lifestyle. Does this match up with the role you are applying for? Do you even care as long as you can get a foot on the ladder? If the standard 9-5 works for you, then that’s great. If it doesn’t, then it’s up to you to know what you do need and not be afraid to ask about flexible working when it comes to your interviews.
Interviewing the interviewer
Remember, interviews aren’t just about you being grilled by the interviewer. You need to create the opportunity to ask your own questions about the role, the company, and your future to make sure that it is compatible with your lifestyle, your skills and your personality.
So often I’ve interviewed good people, but when it comes to the end of and we offer the chance to ask questions, they don’t take us up on the opportunity. It’s such a disappointment and can often lead them to missing out to a more eager, self-aware candidate. It tells me you just aren’t interested enough in the job or your future.
Think of it like this… For most working people, the majority of the week is spent either at work or in bed. Surely, you’d want to know as much about the role as you can if you are going to dedicate so much of your time and yourself to it? Here are a few things to get you thinking:
- What does a typical day look like?
- Could you ask for a quick tour of the office?
- How big would your team be?
- Is there much travel involved?
- What is the dress code?
- How much holiday do you get and is there opportunity for flexible working, or working from home?
- Have they disclosed the salary or any benefits?
- What’s the appraisal process and how often do you have a salary review?
- What is the company policy is for TOIL (time off in lieu) and is it realistic?
- Will they ‘request’ that you sign the 48-hour work week opt-out agreement?
Ask questions important to you, not just ones you’ve stumbled across in a blog like this and write them all down in your notebook, so you don’t forget them on the day. Be ready with them and be confident in how you ask your questions, but also conscious of how appropriate they are once you’ve come through most of the interview.
So, there it is. A couple of top tips to help you ace those interviews and hopefully secure your dream job or that first step on the career ladder. Best of luck!
About the author
Jackie is an ecologist by training, with a background working in infrastructure and sustainability. She now works for the Gloucestershire Local Nature Partnership, bringing nature to the forefront of decision-making both locally and nationally. You can read more of her articles on her blog at theroadtowild.com and/or follow her on Twitter @jakjobes
Blog posts on the CIEEM website are the views and opinions of the author(s) credited. They do not necessarily represent the views or position of CIEEM. The CIEEM blog is intended to be a space in which we publish though-provoking and discussion-stimulating articles.