If you follow the interview preparation guidelines below this should help you overcome any interview nerves and instil confidence for a productive meeting with your potential employer. Remember, you need to leave them with the feeling that you could competently and confidently sell their company’s proposition or support those sales, so start by selling yourself.
Find out, in advance, as much information as possible about your prospective employer, its product range, markets and services. From websites alone it should be possible to familiarise yourself with mission statements, culture, future goals, current analyst ratings etc. Be aware that if your prospective employer does have a comprehensive website, you may seriously compromise your chances if it becomes apparent you have not taken time to research it.
If there is no company website, it is still easy to research your employer. Most national newspapers and industry publications have online sites with archive articles. You can also utilise web search engines just by entering the company name. Talk to anyone you know who has worked or is working at the organisation – we are often able to arrange this if you don’t know anyone personally. If all else fails, telephone the company and request general information. Finally, remember that we are always here to help you so please ask us if you still feel unsure about anything – we may well have the answer.
As mentioned earlier, make sure you have the latest job specification if one was provided. Try to match key accountabilities on the specification with your own personal experiences. This process should help you to pre-empt questions that you may be asked. It’s also important to know your CV inside out. You need to have your experience at your fingertips before an interview.
Top 10 interview questions......and how you should answer them
As the saying goes, "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail", so here is a valuable insight into the world of interview questions and the techniques best used to answer them.
There are some questions that are asked frequently in interviews and you should prepare your answers beforehand. The key things to remember when responding to interview questions are to keep your answers relevant, brief and to the point. If you are faced with a difficult question, make sure you stay calm, don't get defensive and take a moment to think about your response before you answer.
Remember, these responses are only suggestions. Try to personalise your response as much as possible.
Q. Tell me about yourself.
A. Identify some of your main attributes and memorise them. Describe your qualifications, career history and range of skills, emphasising those skills relevant to the job on offer.
Q. What have your achievements been to date?
A. Select achievements that are work-related and fairly recent. Identify the skills you used in the achievements and quantify how they benefitted the company.
Q. Are you happy with your career to date?
A. This question is really about your self-esteem, confidence and career aspirations. The answer must be 'yes', followed by a brief explanation as to what it is about your career so far that's made you happy. If you have hit a career plateau, or you feel you are moving too slowly, then you must qualify your answer.
Q. What is the most challenging situation you have had to face and how did you tackle it?
A. The purpose of this question is to find out what you consider to be challenging situations and whether you can show a logical approach to problem solving. In order to show yourself in a positive light, select a difficult work situation which was not caused by you and which can be quickly explained in a few sentences. Explain how you defined the problem, what the options were, why you selected the one you did and what the outcome was. Always end on a positive note.
Q. What do you like about your present job?
A. This is a straightforward question. All you have to do is make sure that your 'likes' correspond to the skills etc. required in the job on offer. Be enthusiastic, describe your job as interesting and diverse but do not overdo it - after all, you are looking to leave.
Q. What do you dislike about your present job?
A. Be cautious with this answer. Do not be too specific as you may draw attention to weaknesses that will leave you open to further problems. One approach is to choose a characteristic of your present company, such as its size or slow decision-making processes etc. Give your answer with the air of someone who takes such issues in your stride as part of the job. Whatever you do, don’t “knock” your current boss or company. This would not do you any favours at all.
Q. What are your strengths?
A. This is one question that you are almost certain to get so there is no excuse for being unprepared. Concentrate on discussing your main strengths. List three or four proficiencies e.g. your ability to learn quickly, determination to succeed, positive attitude, your ability to relate to people and achieve a common goal etc. Give examples of the above. Make sure you have statistics to hand about your sales performance, even if your role is in sales support. It’s important to show that you align your strengths with the success of your organisation. This will show that you are results oriented.
Q. What is your greatest weakness?
A. Do not say you have none - this will lead to further problems. You have two options - use a professed weakness such as a lack of experience (not ability) on your part in an area that is not vital for the job. For example, ‘I have not had too much experience of this class of business but I understand its principles and benefits and I know how to sell, so I can’t see it being a big hurdle for me’. The second option is to describe a personal or professional weakness that could also be considered to be a strength and the steps you have taken to combat it. An example would be, 'I know my team think I'm too demanding at times - I tend to drive them pretty hard but I'm getting much better at using the carrot and not the stick'.
Q. Why do you want to leave your current employer?
A. State how you are looking for a new challenge, more responsibility, a broadening of experience etc. Do not be negative in your reasons for leaving. It is rarely appropriate to cite salary as your primary motivator.
Q. Why have you applied for this particular job?
A. The employer is looking for evidence that the job suits you, fits in with your general aptitudes, matches your long-term goals and involves doing things you enjoy. Make sure you have a good understanding of the role and the organisation and describe the attributes of the organisation that interest you most.
Other questions to consider: