It’s all a question of doing your homework

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SO you’ve put in your curriculum vitae and to your delight, you’ve managed to get an interview for the job you’re chasing.

But how do you maximise your chances of impressing your prospective boss and landing that elusive post? According to Jackie McGreal, customer services operations manager for Jobcentre Plus Northumberland, preparation is the key.

And to assist Northeast Press’s Keep Northumberland Working campaign, she’s come up with some useful advice to help job-hunters ready to meet a potential employer.

“The thought of a job interview fills most people with a mix of excitement and dread,” says Jackie.

“Excitement at the prospect of a new job and a fresh start and dread at the possible barrage of tricky questions to be overcome first.

“But while it’s understandable to feel a bit anxious before an interview, jobseekers should remember that if they do get through to the interview stage, they stand a good chance.

“One of the most important things you can do before an interview is to find out as much as you can about the employer and the job you’re going for. The more you know about their business and their customers, the easier it will be for you to explain how your skills and experience make you the right person for the job. Employers will expect the better candidates to do this sort of preparation.

“It’s not normally difficult – the internet is a great place to start, because the company may well have its own website with all the information you need. Make a list of likely questions in advance and practise possible answers. Practising out loud will help you to answer questions in a fluent and natural way. You don’t want to sound as if you’ve learned a script, but some practice will help you feel much more comfortable. The aim should be to answer questions as fully as you can, but without rambling.

“If you were sent a job description and person specification, study them carefully. They will give you strong clues about likely questions. If they say that good teamwork skills are essential, you’ll almost certainly be asked about this topic.

“Rather than making a general statement such as ‘I get on well with everyone’, you need to be specific. You could, for example, describe a project you worked on with other people, how you contributed to the team and how you overcame any particular hurdles.

“You should also dress for success. There are no set rules about what you should and shouldn’t wear, but remember that first impressions count. If you’re dressed smartly and have a clean and tidy appearance you are more likely to impress the person interviewing you.

“When you are called to interview, enter the room confidently, shake hands firmly and introduce yourself. Look the interviewer in the eye, and remember to smile. That first minute is crucial - the employer will form a mental impression of you and you need it to be a positive one. Employers want people who are keen to work for their company, not just people who can ‘do the job’. So listen to what the interviewer is saying – maintain eye contact and don’t interrupt. It’s also a good idea to have one or two questions of your own that you can ask.”

Jackie adds: “Keep calm. If you’re asked a tough question, don’t panic. Take a deep breath to compose yourself. If you didn’t understand the question, say so and ask the interviewer to explain it again. Don’t worry if you need to take a few seconds to think about a possible answer. The interviewer wants to give you every chance to succeed, so it’s better to take a little time than to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind.

“End on a positive note. Thank the interviewer for seeing you and tell them you’d be keen to take the job.”

For more interview tips, try the Jobcentre Plus website – www.direct.gov.uk