Decisive interview victory

Raison d’être

Due to company liquidation, future recession and a new batch of university students soon emerging, many of us will be on the hunt for jobs for the first time in years or ever. The good news is, with more time on your hands now is the perfect time to dust off your CV and start planning.

Getting an interview

The first step to getting an interview is having a professional up-to-date curriculum vitae (CV). The most common and damning error is spelling issues, small and frequent mistakes are an easy way to be skipped. Make sure your information is clean and easy to read, remember there’s a person reading hundreds of CVs and doesn’t want to put effort into extracting what they want to see. Remove any silly gimmicks and dedicate space to tailoring key points according to the job listing. Make use of colleagues and friends for advice, fresh eyes make a large difference.
The most over-looked opportunity of job hunting is making use of your network. Contact colleagues, friends, relatives, conference contacts, anyone who might be interested and ask if there are any positions, plenty of companies have internal hiring schemes. If there are none currently available ask if they can keep an eye out and you’ll be sure they’ll think of you next time they hear. If using online tools, and you should, make sure it’s up-to-date and clear of anything you wouldn’t want an employer seeing.
Many people scour the internet and newspapers for job listings but some 80% of jobs are never listed. Albeit many of these are found through networking, many simply don’t exist until you ask. Colleagues of mine have told stories of getting their jobs by turning up at the door with a CV, others with simple e-mails, either way get your foot in the door. Companies host thousands of events make sure you take advantage of these and you can soon get a job you previously thought out of your league.

Interview preparation

Getting ready for an interview can be a stressful task if you don’t have a plan. The majority of your preparation time for an interview should be spent researching the company and role. Read and re-read the job description making sure you’re able to comment on your experience with any of the points. Spend time researching how the company functions, makes its money and recent news. You need to spend time making sure you have answers for the common hard questions like your biggest weakness, why should we pick you or why do you want to work for us. Being well dressed for an interview is key, unless told otherwise by the interviewer dress up, too many times have I seen people turn up to an interview in a jumper or jeans. Getting documents prepared to take with you is a good sign showing you’re organised and eager. Documents such as a passport, a printout of any interview emails in case you need to be pointed in the right direction and most importantly, bring your CV.

During the interview

One thing you need to realise is that as soon as you step through the doors, you’re being assessed. A friendly and confident introduction to the interviewer and other staff is an instantaneous method to have the interviewer want to hire you before you even startle interview. By far the hardest part of an interview is making sure you’re professional but not nervous, confident but not cocky and chatty but not annoying. Easy steps to ace this are chat to other interviewees and staff whilst waiting if they’re just waiting too, asking simple questions such as where they’re from or how they’re doing. Introducing yourself with a strong handshake and if they start a friendly conversation keep it going but don’t force it if that’s not what they’re after.

Team workshop

I’ve mentioned the team workshop interview first as it’s truly the one that can move you from top of the list to do not hire. Even though you may think of this as an opportunity to show you’re the best and take lead DON’T. The idea of this interview is to see how well you encourage others to get involved and share their ideas whilst still making sure you have your say. If you feel you have better ideas than the team, let them be known but don’t force them, the interviewers watching will know you had the better idea but you’re also a team player but be ready to answer questions on your points. If someone in the room has taken lead, don’t worry, they’ll come out on the bottom and your main goal now is to make sure you don’t get drowned out and look like a push over, instead when you can try and share your opinion and specifically target others who haven’t been talking and get them back into the discussion.

Technical interview

The company you are applying to likely has a base engineering problem it is solving such as manufacture of pharmaceuticals or analogue design. You should spend some time getting familiar with the engineering problem facing the company. You can then use this information to plan what questions might come up and solutions for them. For the pharmaceutical example, accurate drug delivery systems such as PID control and peristaltic pumps may come up. In the analogue electronics company op-amp amplifier gains may need to be calculated. Overall I would recommend getting familiar with circuit and system drawings as these are common and easy ways for you to show of engineering intuition.

Competency interview

Competency based interviews are a structured attempt at interviews to reduce bias and allow for good documentation around hiring of staff and a centralised hiring team. The interviewer in this case wants to see how good you are at a certain skill, this skill usually isn’t had to deduce from the question and ultimately what you need to do is prove that you have that skill. Now I admit that is easier said than done but one key method is the STAR approach, if you haven’t seen this before make sure you’re a master before the interview. The interviewer will likely have a checklist ordered for the STAR method and will tick depending on how well you respond so be ready with examples, it really helps here to know your CV and have it on the table in case you get really stuck.

Case study interview

Case study interviews are coming more and more common where the interviewer will ask you a few days in advance to create a presentation or pitch of some kind. The interview here serves two main purposes, to figure out how good you are at presenting but more importantly how much effort, time and thought you put into your solution, sometimes with these you may come up with two main ideas, unless told otherwise you can pitch them both explaining the advantages and disadvantages of both and show you’re adept enough to realise these advantages. Chances are they’re not expecting you to be.

Find out more

= After publishing this blog page I ended up being involved with an article for the IET, feel free to read it Here.