Interview Tips

Becky O'Farrell11 January 2021
Job interview scenario

So you’ve been invited to an interview, but how can you make sure you are ready to make a great impression and present your best self to secure the job? Here Technology Recruitment Partner, Becky O’Farrell answers some FAQs:

What questions to ask in a job interview?

We’ve all been there, you get to the end of a job interview, and you’ve given some great answers and really sold yourself. Then the most difficult interview question of all – “Have you got anything you’d like to ask us?”

So what questions should you ask in a job interview? Well, you need to show interest in the company and the panel – what are their plans for the next five years? What are the expectations of this role on a day–to-day basis? What do they like most about working for the company?

Interviews are a two-way conversation and this is your chance to really engage with the interview panel and to make sure this is the right move for you. You could ask about opportunities to learn and progress; this will help demonstrate that you’re keen to develop yourself as well as get things done. You should also find out more about the company’s values and how they work to make sure they align with yours.

How long is a job interview usually?

This really varies depending on the role, but generally a job interview is around 45 minutes to an hour, but you might be able to get a sense of how long the panel are allowing for each interview if you get a choice of a few slots: 2 hours between each slot? Think 70-90 mins per interview, then time for review, discussion and comfort breaks before the next one.

At Covéa Insurance, a typical first stage interview would be between 30 to 45 minutes, with a second stage interview taking between 1 and 2 hours. If you aren’t sure, then ask the Recruiter who will be able to share the details with you and tell you what to expect.

What are common interview questions?

Now I can’t say the exact questions we ask in an interview (don’t want to give the game away) but you should consider the job description and person specification and plan answers that show how you can demonstrate you meet those. You will probably be asked to give examples of things you have delivered or times you achieved specific things and how, or you might be asked to demonstrate some technical knowledge.

Some organisations might ask things like “Why do you want to work here and not somewhere else in the same role?” or “What would you bring to our company and this role?” so think about the specifics of you and the organisation you’re applying to – how do you align with their values and culture? Make sure you’ve done your research on the company so you can show them you know what they’re looking for and how they do things.

How to answer questions in a job interview?

The STAR format is handy for preparing job interview answers to help keep you on track

Situation, Task, Action, Result –

For example: I was leading a team of five people, I was asked to deliver a complex project in a short time frame with multiple stakeholders with varying requirements, I briefed the team, held regular stand ups to track progress and had regular 1-2-1s with key stakeholder and we achieved effective delivery with positive feedback.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself and let your personality shine through in your answers. Culture fit is just as important as the skills to do the job and the recruiting company wants you to be able to be yourself at work, so make sure you get your personality across in the interview. Don’t be afraid to make casual conversation or have a laugh where appropriate.

Are job interviews important (for technical roles?)

No matter what the role is, interviews are important both for the company and the candidate. It’s not just about demonstrating technical ability and skills but about ensuring that yours and the company’s values and culture align. Being able to build relationships with people to collaborate and achieve in teams and squads is a big part of what we do so we want to make sure those people we hire can do that effectively, or learn to.

How can I prepare for any tests?

A lot of interview processes will also involve some sort of testing, whether that be technical tests or online psychometric assessments.

Make sure you know what to expect; think about how much time you need, tools you need access to and what they are going to test you on. If you don’t have all the information you need then ask the Recruiter. Ensure you give yourself plenty of time in a calm and quiet space so you can complete them to the best of your ability.

What to wear to a tech job interview?

It’s always hard to know what to wear to a tech interview. The digital world is much more relaxed than a lot of big corporate organisations, but there is a balance to be had - shorts and flip-flops are probably too chilled! Think smart casual, and if in doubt go smarter. Have a look on the career’s site for pictures of people in the offices to give you an idea of what people wear for a typical day, and if you are unsure then ask the Recruiter for guidance on what is appropriate.

Remote interview tips

The world has changed dramatically in the last year, and remote interviews are now commonplace, which can feel intimidating if you’re not used to them. And many aren’t. That being said, many of the usual top interview tips still apply, you are still going to have to show you are the right person for the role, the only difference is you’re not all in the same room together.

I’d recommend a trial run or practice interview calls with a friend or family member so you can check everything is working properly including your camera, microphone and WiFi. Also consider the scope of what’s in your shot, how you sit and whether anything distracts you. You can have notes to hand or behind the screen, but don’t let them become a distraction.

Where to conduct your remote interview?

If you’re having a Skype or Zoom interview try to have it in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed. Put a sign on the door if you need to and have someone outside who can keep pets away if you have them. Consider what the interviewer might see in your background – posters, photos, books etc. It’s great to show a bit of personality in this way but try not to have anything too distracting for the interview or anything that might be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Don’t be tempted to have a novelty background. If you really don’t have a suitable back drop where you live see if you can close the curtains or hang a sheet up.

Phone or laptop?

The choice of whether you use a phone, laptop, tablet or PC for a Skype or Zoom interview is up to you, it might be made for you by what you’ve got available. But consider the interviewer’s experience and make sure if you do use a phone that it will stay where you put it for the whole thing and not fall over. Ideally use a device with lots of battery or plugged into the mains and test the tech beforehand if you can.

Should I have video on for a remote interview? Or use headphones?

Generally there’s an expectation that a Skype or Zoom interview will use video, but it’s worth checking with the organiser beforehand. Interview panels want to connect with the interviewee so seeing you is a big part of that. You can use headphones and a mic if you’re comfortable with that and it might make it easier to hear/be heard if the connection isn’t great.

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