Leading communications consultant Gwyn Day at the Bright Network Festival. He's shared his 11 top interview tips with us, so take note – apply these winning tips and you will go far.
Tip 1: Structure
There are plenty of interview answer models you can use, from the ‘Context / Action / Result or Situation / Task / Action / Result’ formula for a Competency Question (see point two) or ‘One / Two / Counter’ for a Technical Question (see point eight). Use a model that can keep you on track and hold back the rambling.
When describing your ‘results’ when answering a Competency Question, wherever possible, include empirical data. Don’t just state that you ‘raised money at a charity event’...elaborate and be specific. How much money did you make? What percentage did you increase your university’s society’s membership?
Tip 2: Competency Questions (also known as Competency stories)
The time spent planning your answers to these questions is vital, as you will need to relay your answers to common competency questions in both written format on application forms, as well as early stage telephone interviews and HR led face-to-face interviews (along with motivation questions – see point three).
The 'tell me about a time when you demonstrated leadership/teamwork/entrepreneurialism...' requires you to closely examine your C.V. and identify EVERYTHING you have been involved in since the start of sixth form as a potential story for highlighting personal development.
These stories are a solid driver for you getting actively involved in university clubs and societies. And by ‘active', I mean attending meetings regularly, then looking to get elected onto the organising committee.
Tip 3: Motivation Questions
You need three specific reasons for both of the big motivational questions:
Question 1: Why this industry?
Question 2: Why this firm?
For question 1, firstly identify the key skills that the sector embraces and think about how you match those - and the proof you have to back that statement up. Think about the culture, opportunities and lifestyle of the sector and why that is important to you in your career. You need to both research and reflect to nail this.
For question 2, the key is to have prepared a briefing sheet. This should be done at the application writing stage and is then added to up until the interview. You need to know what the firm's current strategy is, where it's expanding, who its competitors are, what the career pathway is…and so on.
Tip 4: No parroting
An interview is not the same as writing a GCSE essay - there is no need to echo back the question as the first part of your answer.
Question: "What are you proudest of achieving?"
Answer: "What I'm proudest of is....."
There is no preface needed – simply jump straight to the point. Start out with "That would be when I...." or ‘"Organising......".
Tip 5: Slow Down
If only I had £1 for every time I've told clients to start their sentences with a word rather than a noise, or an ‘ummm...’. The best way to gain control is to pause and actually think before you speak (see point one) and to slow down in what you are saying. 'Bright' members are by definition smart and by just giving your brain that little extra leeway, those neural pathways will do the rest and get your points out in a much clearer, more coherent way.
Tip 6: Answer the Question
At this stage of your education, you’ll have been taught this time and time again. Answer the exact question being asked, get straight to the point and back up what you say with relevant evidence. Employers are a lot less forgiving than teachers or even professors. 'Time is money' and if you are fluffing around with a woolly answer, you are wasting both. This is even more important if you are applying for anything which has a client facing role, as the employer will be imagining you in front of said client and will expect you to be succinct and to the point.
Tip 7: Body Language
All the basics apply, such as eye contact, dropping the shoulders as the tension rises and remembering to look as if you are enjoying the experience. Until you get the real details live at the Bright Network morning events, the best advice I can give you is to watch Amy Cuddy's excellent TED talk.
Tip 8: Technical Questions
The extent of the technical questions you get in the later stages of the interview process is really a reflection of your studies and aspirations. Someone studying Accounting & Finance is more likely to be asked details on Discounted Cash Flow than a Physics students, even if both are up for the same banking role. That does not mean the Physics student doesn't have to show potential. Standard questions such as "How would you invest £10 million?" Or "Which mergers have you been tracking?" should be met with a solid foundation in business current affairs (see Commercial Awareness below) and of the appropriate financial vocabulary.
Tip 9: Robot Interviews
‘Robot interviews’ are becoming much more common for two reasons; they save money and the employer gets to 'see' you at an early stage. The format is basically a Skype interview but with no real person at the other end, just a series of questions with usually two minutes for you to think and answer.
This makes it more difficult (though not impossible) to have a cheat sheet near you to help you remember key information. Psychologically, people feel much more under pressure when they are being filmed like this, so it is vital that you practise for this. Talking in front of the mirror is not enough - you need to be filming yourself as you answer the standard motivation and competency questions.
Tip 10: Explore the site!
Firms put a huge amount of information for students and graduates on their website, yet many students don't bother listening to the talking head podcasts or reading the 'day in the life of…' sections. Human Resource departments put this information up there to help you demonstrate that you have really done your research.
Tip 11: Your questions to them...
People who ignore point ten above often make themselves look really foolish when answering the "So, what questions do you have for us?" If you ask questions that are clearly answered and explained on their careers website, your application will get binned......others do their research. The easiest way to deal with this is to springboard off the latest Annual Report or Quarterly update with a "Well, I saw that you have decided to xxx, what implications might this have for new employees?"