Developing Your Interview Skills
You have successfully made it to an interview. Congratulations, it means you now have the opportunity to outshine the other candidates. To help you prepare for the interview, below are four essential components that will assist you in developing your interview skills: preparation, interaction, closing, and evaluation.
Research the position and the company. Contact the convenor of the interview and ask them questions to enable you to fully understand the company structure and objectives. You will demonstrate to the interview panel your enthusiasm and knowledge in the position and you will feel more confident knowing you are well-prepared.
Make sure you have a copy of the essential and desired criteria for the position. Prepare possible interview questions for each of the criteria and practice answering each of the questions and obtain honest constructive feedback. It is a good idea to record/video yourself answering your made-up questions so you can also evaluate yourself.
What are your strengths, qualities, and skills?
- Strengths – eg team player, conflict resolution skills, reflective listener, communication skills.
Qualities – eg punctual, honest, integrity, loyal, positive communicator, confidentiality.
Skills – eg computer skills, data entry, assertiveness, customer relations successes – eg list all you have achieved in your work and a social life that will enhance your interview experience.
Try to add these strengths, qualities, and skills into your answers to all the interview questions.
Visualise success. See yourself walking out of the interview with a smile on your face. Your subconscious will have that memory and may assist in your pre-interview nerves. Utilise all your senses. For example, see yourself smiling, hear your heart beating, and feel your feet on the ground as you walk out of the room.
Personal presentation. Be well-groomed, dress for the position (no tight clothes that can restrict your breathing), and arrive early for the interview as you can never foresee delays. While you are waiting, you can relax, listen to music, and read over your answers to possible questions.
It’s now time for you to interact with the interview panel.
The PREP technique
The PREP technique is a simple formula that will assist you in answering any question:
- P (point) – state your point, answer the question briefly,
R (reason) – state your reason for your point,
E (example) – give some examples to back up your point/reason,
P (point) – restate your point and have a clear conclusion to your answer.
Answering questions using the PREP technique will prevent you from going off track.
After you have answered the interview question, you can ask for the question to be repeated as this will ensure you have completely answered all aspects of the question.
Provide eye contact with all persons on the interview panel, not just the one asking the question. Don’t worry if they are not looking at you; it could be that they are writing down something you have stated.
Make sure your voice is audible. Provide pauses, and speak at a slower rate than usual.
Difficult interview questions
Answer difficult questions with something like “I have not had experience with that issue/equipment/problem, however, I will ensure I do my research on this topic if I am successful in this position” If you are asked a question, for example, on your experience using the ABC data programming and you have never used this program, don’t just say “I don’t know”. Using the PREP technique, you will demonstrate your problem-solving and analytical skills to the interview panel.
Point – I have no experience in the ABC program
Reason – I have, however, used the XYZ program
Example – I have successfully used the XYZ program to effectively categorise data and generate reports.
Point – I believe that my knowledge and experience in XYZ programming will allow me to quickly adapt to the ABC programming.
Honesty is essential; do not put down any previous employer. For example, if you are asked why you are leaving another position for this one state, for example, it is because you want to gain more experience in another field.
When you are asked if you have any questions you can add more information about your qualities or essential criteria. For example, if you prepare a question on conflict resolution and you did not get a question on this, you can provide your prepared answer on conflict resolution. This will give the interview panel added information on your strengths and skills.
Always check with the convenor after the interview about why you were successful. If you were not successful then ask how you could have improved as this will assist you in your preparation for the next time you are interviewed.
These techniques will help you succeed in any interview. To further develop your interview skills and confidence to successfully pass any interview, Toastmasters has a Table Topics session which is designed to help you master the art of impromptu speaking.
~ Annette Roberts is a member of Alpha Toastmasters Club