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The ten Golden Rules of Interviews

By Tom Barlow

Interviews come in many forms, from one-on-ones to panels and


telephone conversations. Real World reveals how to survive the
latest trends.

Do Your homework
Have you done the appropriate homework? Have you talked to
people in similar jobs? “I’m impressed if someone has actually
bothered to come around to the department – talk to people and get a
feel for it,” says a public sector recruiter. “But don’t get up the noses of
your prospective employers.” Tailor your preparation. “In particular,
we’d expect interviewees to show a reasonable understanding of the
role that they have applied for,” says Jo Bayne, Marketing and Client
Relations manager at Ernst & Young. Boss up on major players, key
events and the structures in the industry. And make sure you are familiar with a company’s media
image. “Have a look at the company website to look at key words and terminology so you’re
speaking their language,” adds Dr Peter Hawkins, author of The Art of Building Windmills –
Career Tactics for the 21st Century. ‘You need to present yourself in a way that they’ll
understand.”

Practice makes perfect


“Make full use of any practice sessions organised by your careers service or employers visiting
your campus,” says David Lawton of Interactive Skills. Remember, your interview day might
also involve psychometric tests and written exercises, which can also be practised at your
careers service. Ask family friends who work in business or related fields to give you a mock
interview.

Dress for success


“Interviewing can be a very imperfect way of assessing somebody. A lot of interviewers make up
their minds in the first two minutes and spend the remaining 28 reinforcing their judgement,”
continues Hawkins. Appearance is not more important than what you can offer as a person but
your presentation will reflect on how well you will fit into a company. Every company will have
its own clothing culture and if in doubt pay a visit to their offices to see for yourself. Even if
the industry is casual it’s better to err on the side of smartness. Avoid excessive make-up or
cologne. Oh, and turn off your mobile.

Time it right
If you can’t be relied upon to be punctual for a first meeting, what hope is there for the long-term?
Plan your journey well in advance and leave home with plenty of time to get there, bearing in
mind traffic, weather and the state of our country’s transport system. Aim to get a good night’s
sleep the night before. If you live a long way away, ask the organisation whether they will
contribute to overnight accommodation.

Bring along your application form


Re-read your form and be in a position where you can elaborate on what you’ve written. The
same applies to your CV. Take a spare copy with you and expect to be asked about it. If you
are asked about a negative area, finish on a positive note, how you turned the failure into a
success, the lessons learned and how you have matured since then. Present your documents
neatly, in a folder or binder.

Think physical
Don’t slouch or avoid eye contact. Also practise the art of the handshake with someone you know
– too limp is yucky and a bone-crusher is offensive. When interviewing with a panel of
interviewers, be sure to shake each person’s hand. On the big day bring a comb or hairbrush,
and a hankerchief. Avoid excesive make-up, jewellery or cologne. Don’t forget to thank the
interviewer before you leave.
If your interviewer starts to slouch during your answers it might be because you are waffling.
Don’t. It’s better to keep your responses to a couple of minutes and allow follow-up questions if
necessary.

Think attitude
Feeling nervous? It’s natural, but there are ways to diminish your stage fright. “Remember
that this is a two-way process,” says Ceri Jarred of Deloitte & Touche. “You’re at the interview
to find out about the employer as well, and keeping this in mind can help to ease the nerves.” The
more interviews you go through, the better you get. Don’t appear overly desperate for the job, too
cocky or even too modest. You need somewhere in the middle.

Anticipate questions
“Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes and make a list of 10-20 questions and scenarios
where you’ve done something really well and can talk about it,” suggests Peter Hawkins.
Listen carefully to the questions. “You’re allowed to pause,” says one graduate recruiter, “but
more than 15 seconds and it looks like you can’t think on your feet.” Go through practise
questions at your careers sevice: bear in mind classics like “Why do you want this job?”, and
“What are your strenghths and weaknesses?” Avoid memorised responses, as you’ll probably
forget parts in the process. If you don’t know the answer to a question it’s better to say so and
offer an educated guess.

Prepare your questions


“Good questions imply research,” says Duncan Forbes of Asda. “They might be along the
lines of ‘What’s it like to work here, have you enjoyed it? What would you say the best thing
about working here is?’ They may sound very simple, but asked in the right way, they imply that
you understand about the business, and what you want to know now is what you can’t find out
from the outside – the company culture.” An excellent tactic is to have visited the company’s
offices, presentations, outlets or even companies in the same field, and to relate your question(s)
to these experiences and to having talked to employees. Make sure you don’t end up asking
questions that have already been covered in the interview.

Ask for feedback


Most graduate recruiters offer feedback to candidates. Take up the offer of feedback if it is
given. If you fail, it might not be because of bad interview technique; it could be that the job
just didn’t suit your interests. Try to avoid becoming dispirited and think about what you might do
differently for the next interview or assessment. “Many employers say that not enough people ask
for feedback,” explains career adviser Steve Thompson. “Sometimes it’s a very straightforward
problem that people can easily remedy.” [rw]

Get the latest issue of Real World at your careers service for more advice on:

• More on graduate interviews

• Graduate application forms

• Time management

• Internships and work placements

• Milkround presentations

• How to set up your own bar


Specific types of interviews
Telephone interviews
Telephone interviews are increasingly used by companies as an integral part of the
recruitment process. Most commonly they are used as a method of initial screening, but
some use them as far down the line as third or fourth interviews. The majority of
companies inform you in advance and usually pre-arrange a time with you, but be
prepared for those who just ring!
The important things to remember about telephone interviews are:
• It is just as important to make a good impression on the telephone. As with face-
to-face interviews, first impressions count!
• Be aware of how you sound; there are no visual clues. Practise on the telephone
with a friend, or record practice answers on a tape recorder.
• Make sure you allow enough time. Interviews can take up to an hour.

Be prepared. You could be called at any time so make sure:


• The message on your answering machine is suitable;

• Flat-mates are briefed to take a detailed message;

• The telephone is answered in a sensible manner - no silly comments by flat-mates,


or loud music in the background;
• Keep a list of job applications by the phone, plus a copy of your CV, pen and
paper, a diary in case you are invited to a meeting, questions to ask a potential
employer.
Types of telephone interview
• Unannounced. Someone from the organisation, or a recruitment agency acting on
their behalf, calls you after receiving your CV or application form. Questions are
often similar to those asked at a first face-to-face interview.
• Prearranged. Here you are contacted beforehand to arrange a time to carry out a
telephone interview. You are likely to be fully briefed as to the style of questions
at this stage. It is possible that you could have an automated interview, where you
are sent a Personal Identification Number (PIN) and asked to call the company
within a specified time period. You are then required to respond to various
statements via a touchtone telephone. The time you take to respond may be taken
into account.
• Sales interview. This is only likely if it is appropriate to the job you have applied
for. You are asked to try and sell something to the interviewer.
• Research interviews. Some companies ask you to carry out a piece of research
prior to the telephone interview and ask you questions on it. For example if you
have applied to the graduate recruitment scheme of a supermarket, they may ask
you to carry out some customer research on a certain product or aspect, such as
store layout, and then ask for your findings.

Video interviews
Although rare, these are not unknown, particularly if you have applied for a position
overseas. As far as possible, you should treat them as traditional interviews; dress as you
would for a conventional interview, address your answers to the interviewer (ie to the
camera rather than the display screen) and listen carefully to the questions and
instructions, asking the interviewer to repeat anything that you don’t understand.

Face-to-face interviews
One-to-one interviews
As the name suggests, this is a meeting between the candidate and one interviewer. Try to
develop a rapport between yourself and the interviewer.
Sequential interviews
In this case you have several interviews in turn with different interviewers. Usually each
interviewer asks questions to test different sets of competencies. However this is not
always the case. You may find yourself answering the same questions over and over. If
this does happen make sure you answer each one as fully as the time before.
Panel interviews
In this type of interview you are questioned by several people sitting on a panel. The
actual number of interviewers can vary, but there is usually a chairperson to co-ordinate
the questions, a specialist who knows about the job in detail and a personnel manager.
Such interviews are popular in the public sector.
Group Work
Candidates work as a committee or in teams and are sometimes given specific business
roles. The possibilities are endless. In an advertising firm you might be given a written
brief from a supposed client and told to come up with a couple of ad concepts. Elsewhere,
you might be asked to devise marketing strategies or discuss an ethical business issue.
Whatever the situation, you should find the right balance between constructive comment,
co-operating with others and good listening.

• Any opportunities you get to practise group work will help you.

• Be yourself. If you tend to be assertive, listen to others; if you are meek, make sure your
voice isn’t drowned out – you can’t be assessed if you don’t contribute.

• Be aware of other people’s contributions – praising good ideas or resolving disputes will
show you are a team player.

• Quality of ideas is more important than quantity.

• Not all role-plays are in groups – you might be asked to take on a fictitious role (say, a
new sales manager, required to negotiate with clients) one-to-one with an assessor.

Presentations
These test how you assimilate information and cope under pressure. This will involve
preparing a topic in advance and speaking to the selectors and other candidates, typically
for between 10 and 15 minutes. The following is a typical example: You must make a
decision about the proposed relocation of the head office of an electronics equipment
manufacturer. You present your recommendations, fully explaining the reasoning, and are
then questioned by the assessor about your decision. (SHL group).
Aim to make concise notes in your preparation time – don’t read from a script or lose eye
contact with your audience.

• Video yourself giving a practise presentation. Watch out for ‘ums’, ‘ahs’ and poor body
language.

• Stick to the time limit.

• Remember what it feels like to listen to a speaker – don’t bore them with too much info.

• Try to anticipate what questions you will be asked at the end.

In-trays
For these tests you will be given paperwork, mail, memos and various documents. Your
task will be to file them in order of importance, drafting replies and delegating tasks. ‘It’s a
good way to see who can get a grip under time pressure,’ explains one recruiter.

• The most important factor is time management – read through all the documents quickly
at first, then prioritise the most important information.

Fact-finding exercises
These test communication and interaction. You might be asked to research and form an
opinion on a given subject area or interact with an assessor and obtain information from
them.

Afterwards
Do ask for feedback even if it’s not offered. As with interviews you’ll get better with
experience, becoming aware of areas you need to work on. [rw
Preparation

Don't just turn up at an interview - prepare for it. You will be calmer if you know your
stuff and the interviewers will see that you're well motivated and positive.
Seven pre-interview essentials:
• Confirm you'll be attending. Ring up and use it as an opportunity to check
practical stuff like parking or directions.

• Find out what the interview will be like. Who'll be interviewing you? Are there
any additional tests or exercises as part of the interview? See our What to Expect
section for more information.

• Look at your application again. Pick out points interviewers are likely to want to
talk about - likely areas are your choice of GCSE's/other qualifications, last job or
skills you've noted on your CV (like a Forklift licence or ability to use
computers). Think about how you'll deal with any weaknesses or gaps in
qualifications or experience.

• Do more research. The research you did for your application needs updating.
Revisit the same resources and check for new developments. Be aware of any
current news stories that affect this employment sector and have an opinion on
them.

• Anticipate questions you're likely to be asked. Most are predictable. Fix in your
mind the points you want to cover, but don't try and stick to a script. See the
Questions section for more information.

• Plan what to wear. Check it fits and there are no buttons missing or hems
flapping. If you know you look good, you'll feel more confident. Clean, smart and
simple is best, whatever the job. You need to look like you've made an effort, even
if the actual job entails wearing oily overalls.

• Make sure you know where you're going, how long you need to allow to get there
and what the parking arrangements are. If you park on an employer's premises,
remember your car says a lot about you - so at least make sure it's clean.
What To Expect

Good interviewers should supply you with a breakdown of the interview programme. If
you didn't get one, ask what's involved when you call to say you're definitely coming.
You will cope better if you've been able to prepare.
Seven standard procedures
• Interview by a 'panel' - usually about two to four people. Intimidating, but
common. Listen when the interviewers introduce themselves and try to remember
their names. This will help you make a connection when you are talking to them.
Answer the person who asked you the question, as trying to eyeball everyone will
just leave you looking confused.

• A series of one-to-one interviews with different people. This is less stressful than
a panel interview, but remember to be consistent in your answers. The
interviewers will talk to each other!

• Interviewers taking notes. This is quite normal - instead of letting it unnerve you,
take advantage of the situation by using short, punchy statements and the key
words used in the original job ad. Make it easy for them to think you're a good
candidate - they're only human, after all.

• A presentation. Common for jobs like sales where you'll be making presentations
to clients or colleagues. Scary? Yes, but see our tips to help you through in the
Development section.

• Group activities with other candidates. These test your teamwork. Your ability to
listen and communicate, to motivate others, to cope with pressure and to come up
with solutions is being tested. Avoid any temptation to take over. Join in without
being bossy.

• Tests of aptitude, personality or specific abilities, such as manual dexterity. For


example your hand-eye co-ordination - over and above your ability to play Grand
Theft Auto!

• The opportunity to look around and speak to current employees. This is your
chance to see what the place is really like. It's easy to tell whether staff are happy
or harassed. The look of the actual office says a lot about the value the employer
places on the workforce. Keep your opinions about the place to yourself
Group Exercises, Roleplaying & Assessment Centres

Team games and challenges are good because they can take the pressure off a little bit.
However, interviewers will still be watching carefully so get some tips from Laura Frith
on what to expect.
Group exercises and roleplays
• These simulate the types of situations you might find yourself in

• You'll be given a task and a time scale to complete it

• The employer is interested in assessing your skills and not just how long you take

What will employers be looking for?


• How good your communication skills are when expressing your views to others

• Your ability to cooperate and accommodate others' needs, views and skills in
order to achieve a goal
Tips
Try to find out about the everyday tasks of the job you've applied for before going to the
assessment. The exercises set for you will probably simulate one of these activities and so
you won't be as surprised by what you are asked to do.
Assessment centres
These are places where two or more of the above techniques are applied to a candidate,
one after the other.
Assessment centres normally last between half a day and two days. Employers use them
to gain a range of information about your mental agility, your personality, your skills and
experience.
Tips
The best thing about an assessment centre is that no one part of the day is taken in
isolation. So if you mess up one exercise, forget it and move on. If you do brilliantly in
all others, the employer will probably allow it. Nobody is perfect.

Personality Tests

Increasingly, large organisations are using personality tests, also known as 'psychometric
tests', to suss out whether a person's qualities are suitable for a particular position.
Personality tests are made up of a series of carefully structured questions, designed by
psychologists, to reveal the kind of information about you that might not come across in
an interview. For example, can you stay calm under pressure? Are you a good team
player? How motivated are you?
Questions you might expect to see
Do you prefer to work:
• To deadlines?

• Just whenever?

Are you more:


• Punctual?

• Leisurely?

Do you like things:


• Settled and decided?

• Unsettled and undecided?


The most commonly used psychometric tests are based on the Myers-Briggs Type
Indicator, which states that there are 16 types of personality.
Types Of Assessment:
Ability & Aptitude Tests

This section explains the types of assessment used at interviews.


Why do employers use assessments?
A psychometric test is a reliable measure of human ability and behaviour. There are
broadly two types:
• Type 1 - Ability/aptitude tests

• Type 2 - Personality questionnaires

Type 1. Ability/aptitude tests


• These look at the speed and accuracy of processing verbal, numeric or abstract
info.
• They last between 30 and 50 minutes.

• They're usually a paragraph of text, figures or a graph about a subject. You have
to choose the correct response from a number of options.
• You might be given examples to practice before you take the test.

• You need to work as quickly and accurately as you can.

Most employers use these tests because they want to know you'll be able to keep up with
your colleagues or customers' thoughts.
Tips:
• Take your time with the examples and ensure you understand how the questions
work.
• If you don't understand, ask.

• You are only assessed when the clock starts ticking.

• If marks are not deducted when you get an answer wrong, attempt all the
questions - you'll stand more chance of getting it right than if you leave any
answer blank.
An example question
'MB International has a retail, pharmaceutical and financial division within the UK.
They create and retail products such as first aid kits and legal drugs. Increasingly, they
are selling personal finance services to their existing clients.'
Is the statement 'MB International creates and sells pharmaceutical products'...
• A - True

• B - False

• C - Cannot tell from the information supplied

A is the logically correct answer from these options.


Read on for info on Personality Questionaires.
Presentation Skills

If the mere thought of giving presentations makes you break into a cold sweat, you've
come to the right place. Here's how to beat those butterflies and win over your audience:
• Practise and prepare. You need a clear idea of what you want to accomplish in
your presentation, so thoroughly organise your notes, practise in front of the
mirror, time yourself, practise in front of friends and family, memorise as much as
you can and think about which questions might come up. That way you'll be ready
for anything.

• Set up the room. Get there early and check that all the equipment works
(projector, sound system, computer, air conditioning, lighting, etc.). Lay out the
seats in a semi-circular arrangement to make everyone feel included, and try to
create three aisles - in the middle and down both sides - so if someone gets up, it
causes minimum distraction. Also make sure there's plenty of water and glasses.

• Control your nerves. Take the edge off your fear by breathing deeply for a few
minutes, visualising your audience clapping appreciatively, chatting with people
who arrive early, or listening to some calming music - whatever you feel helps. If
your legs are trembling, perch on the edge of a table. If your hands shake, put
your notes on postcards, rather than A4 paper. But remember... your nerves won't
show half as much as you think they will!

• Set the ground rules. Let your audience know very briefly what you'll be
covering and, if you want them to ask questions during or at the end of the
presentation, say so and get their agreement.

• Get their attention. Grab the audience by doing something effective. You could
discuss something relevant that's happened very recently, you could show them an
amazing visual, or you could stand on a chair and juggle if it's appropriate! Never
be afraid to be creative!

• Keep their attention. Keep your audience interested by varying the pace and tone
of your presentation, using props or visuals every now and again, smiling and
making eye contact, moving around the room, and using humour and stories to
emphasise points.
• Go with the flow. If you miss something out, don't panic - they don't know your
script, remember? If it's an important point, slot it in later. If you run short of time
- cut something out that's less important. You're in charge, so you can chop and
change your presentation as you please.
Bored at work? Stuck in a rut? Read on.
The Interviewer's Questions

The people who are interviewing you are trying to find out about you, your knowledge of
the job and the company, and your wider knowledge about related current issues. They're
not trying to trip you up!
Questions about you
Having a clear idea of who you are and what you want from life and work is essential.
Look at the what are you like pages for help.
Ten common questions about you:
• Tell me about yourself. Leave out the life history - this is a chance to show them
you're normal and break the ice.

• Why do you want this job? Enthuse about how your skills are a perfect match.

• What are your long-term aims? Keep them relevant to the job you're after.
Ambition is a good quality so don't hold back.

• What can you bring to this job/company? Highlight your relevant skills,
strengths, experience and qualities.

• What are your strengths/weaknesses? Confidently state two or three strengths


that match the job and one 'positive' weakness, like 'I'd like to have more skills
and training in XXX area'.

• What do you enjoy most/least? What you enjoy most should be relevant to the
job. What you enjoy least should be something you have no power over, such as
those days when you achieve very little due to cancellations, interruptions and
circumstances beyond your control. However, let them know that, though you
dislike it, you can handle it.

• What's your greatest achievement so far? Keep it relevant to the job. Leading
your pub-quiz team to victory won't cut it.

• What would you like to be better at? Let them know you're open to developing
your skills in relevant areas.
• How would your colleagues describe you? Don't be bigheaded, but don't put
yourself down. Be honest - and try to use real positive examples from your last
appraisal, school report or discussion with a college counsellor/tutor.

• Why should we give you this job? Unless this is the opening question, think
about how your answers have gone down so far, and what you've been asked. For
instance, if they've asked a lot about your teamwork skills, make these one of the
strengths you highlight in your answer.
Questions about the job or the company
If you've completed a course that's relevant, you need to show you can apply that
knowledge to the job. If the job is of a technical nature, expect technical, subject-related
questions. If it involves dealing with people, prepare yourself by thinking of situational
questions. These relate to everyday experiences such as dealing with a difficult customer.
They may also ask:
• What attracted you to this company? A good answer will flatter them but make
sense, like talking about the impressive staff training programme. Mentioning
good salaries and free lunches won't go down well.

• What do you know about our business? Show them you've done your research.

• How would you fit in with our culture? If you're stuck, answer with a question -
ask them how they'd describe their culture and then match yourself to the
company

• What do you think the most important qualities for this job are? Show you
know what's actually involved in the post you're going for on a daily basis. Match
up your qualities to everyday tasks - you want them to almost be able to see you
doing the job.
Questions about current issues
Watch or listen to the news so you can show you're aware of the world around you.
Reading trade journals will enable you to comment on issues that affect the industry you
want to get into. Be prepared to give reasons for what you think and believe - they may
be playing devil's advocate to see if you stick to your convictions.
What Are You Like?

Your values
Getting to know yourself will help you work out what's going to make you stick to a
career for the rest of your life - or at least for a couple of years! Your personal values are
the things that are important to you and that you look for in your life and relationships.
Personal values can include; family, money, the environment, independence, ambition or
honesty. If a job matches things you care about, it's going to be a hell of a lot easier to get
out of bed in the morning. It's important to set your goals in line with your values,
otherwise you may end up where you thought you wanted to be only to be disappointed.
Being clear about and knowing what's important to you is vital, and will be a great guide
to you as you move onwards and upwards.
It will
• Keep you on track and motivated

• Help with making decision.

• Add to your sense of fulfilment

Writing your values down in a list can help make this process clearer, or you could print
off this worksheet and try the quick values exercise as a way of working out what your
main values are. You could also try out the Careers quiz in BBC Science.
Where are you now?
Now you've taken a look at what motivates you, it's time to work out where you are now
and what you've got going for you.
A SWOT Analysis is a tool used in business planning, but it works just as well for people.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and you need to
look at all of these things to work out:
• Where you're going

• How you're doing

• What you should do next

This test should help you to identify areas for improvement, and can be the start of a
personal plan for success.
The first step in a SWOT analysis is to make a grid, creating four sections - one each for
strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
For example:

• Strengths and Weaknesses are usually things internal to you - about your skills,
personality character etc.
• Opportunities and Threats are usually external - about people you know, job
openings that might occur, and other external factors that might impact on your
life.
Fill in the grid thinking carefully about all the things that are affecting you right now -
there's a grid on our worksheet you can use. This exercise can help you identify any
particular problems which might lie ahead. It can also remind you of your strengths and
help you think about how you can use them to your advantage.
Remember these values, strengths and opportunities - they can help you work on the next
step; setting yourself goals.
How Motivated Are You?

There's no real secret about motivation; if you're alive you're motivated, if you're dead
you're not! If you don't count yourself as motivated it's just that the stuff that motivates
you isn't really giving you what you want.
For example, if you like the idea of being super fit and you keep on drinking, eating and
slobbing out a lot, then your real motivation is not to be fit! For you, living a life of wild
excess is a stronger motivation than being fit. Check out the following statements, and
think about the real motives behind them.
You say: You might be thinking:
I don't want to constantly watch what I eat.
I can't lose weight
People like me like this
I can't ask my boss for more
I might not be worth it
salary
I can't save money to go on an I don't want to be thinking about money all the
amazing holiday time and watching my cash
What's driving you?
It's worth thinking about what drives you at the moment to check out your motives and
how these match with your real desires. If what drives you at the moment is getting you
what you want and where you want to be, then your motivation is on the right track. If all
the things you do are just passing the time, you may need to change.
You say: Your real motive:
I am motivated to go clubbing A good time with friends
I am motivated to go out with mates Friendship/a good time
I am motivated to go shopping Great clothes and looking good
I am motivated to get fit Feeling healthy/energetic
I am motivated to lose weight Self esteem/feeling in control
I am motivated to queue for a ticket for a A sense of belonging/being part of
football match/live band something
I am motivated to put in the hours for my
A sense of achievement
exams
A sense of satisfaction at doing the
I am motivated to go see my gran
right thing
I am motivated to just drift around An easy life
Check out more of your motives and what they might mean in our Ulterior Motives quiz!
Running the same old motivation programme
What do you think of your own motives - your motivation programme? If your own
personal motivation programme seems kind of OK but you are not living the life you
want to live, perhaps you need to change the programme. Sometimes a kind of negative
motivation towards an easy life or just having fun can be an obstacle to something you
really want to do or be.
Find out more on how to juice up your motivation levels

Career Development Worksheet


Print off this worksheet and use it alongside our articles as a way of helping you
work out your career plan.
Values
Look through this list and tick the values that are most important to you, you can add
your own values.

Adventure Freedom Independence Passion


Ambition Friendship Integrity People
Creativity Honesty Love Recognition
Challenge Health Learning Power
Family Humour Money Respect
Security Travel Fun
Success Trust

Pick your top three values and put them in order of importance.
What I value most is:
1.
2.
3.
What have you got going for you?
Complete this grid with as many strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats as you
can think of.
Strengths Weaknesses
Opportunities Threats

Goals
My ultimate goals are:
(Write as many as you like)

Now pick on to concentrate on and break it down into steps.


(You can add as many steps as you like)
How will you know when
Where are you When will you do
you've done it?
now? it by?
(What's your measure?)
Your final goal
Step 1.
Step 2
Step 3.
Step 4.
Step 5.

Sell Yourself
Write a short paragraph about yourself, saying why you're the best person for the job.
Goals

Setting goals is the first step to success; this will give you focus and direction.
You can't set goals without deciding what you're ultimately aiming at. Look into the
future. What would you do if you knew you couldn't fail?
• What sort of work would you do?

• Where would you work?

• How much would you earn?

• What would your lifestyle be like?

Think of someone whose job you'd like to do. Get creative, and think BIG! Write your
goals down and think about them as a real possibility, rather than just a dream.
Start getting SMART
SMART is an approach to goal setting. It's a checklist to help you give yourself goals you
have a chance of reaching. You can apply this to all the goals you have written down - if
they include all of the following you can call them SMART goals.
S: Specific
Be as clear as you can. State exactly what you want, in detail.
M: Measurable
You need to know when you've reached your goal by having measures. E.g. If your goal
was to become a journalist then your measure could be having an article published in
your local paper.
A: Achievable
Don't set yourself a goal that's so high that you want to give up before you've even
started.
R: Realistic
You want it to challenge you but not to be impossible.
T: Time bound
This is very important, otherwise you could dream forever. Set yourself some time limits
- when will you achieve your goal by? It could be in six months or even ten years,
depending on how big your goal is. Write it down.
Make sure your goals fit in with your values, check that they're SMART and then write
them down somewhere safe. You can use our worksheet here. It sounds strange, but
having your goals written down makes them seem more real, and achievable.
Now you're a bit clearer on what you want it's time to look at how you're going to do it.
Planning

You've worked out what your goals are...now what?


Imagine you've already reached your final goal and work backwards: how did you get
there? What steps did you have to take? Write down all the steps you'd take in order, and
think about how you can achieve them.
For example; if your ambition is to write a novel, some of your steps might be; write a
character description for three characters, write a brief plot outline, write five pages of the
opening chapter etc.
If you're using our worksheet do this bit in the 'Goals' section.
This exercise does two things:
• It makes your final goal seem more realistic and maps out your route to get there.

• It breaks your final goal down into lots of mini-goals, which you can start
working on right now!
Keeping your plan alive
We've all done it; written out plans or made promises to ourselves only to completely
forget them or get sidetracked by something else. You need to keep your plan alive. Here
are some suggestions:
• Buy a diary
Transfer the information from your plan into your diary, on the specific dates.
Book them in as though they are appointments you have with yourself.

• Tell friends and family


It's important to have people around for support. They will be there to keep you
on track, pick you up when the going gets rough and also share in your successes.

• Reviews
Look at your plan on a regular basis and check how you're getting on. Is there
anything you need to add or change?
You've worked out what order you need to do things in, you've set yourself goals and
broken them down. Now it's time to put it all into action.
Take Action
The hardest thing about reaching your goals is taking that first step, but remember that
every great book started with a single word, every great song with a single beat. So
whatever you can do, no matter how small, is a start.
Fear of failure
If you don't get an 'A' in your exams it doesn't mean you're a complete failure as a person.
See it for what it is i.e. that you're a perfectly ok person who has happened to fail at one
particular thing. Try to learn from it and you'll have the strength to accept life's
challenges. Don't beat yourself up for not succeeding, that's being unfair to yourself.
Perfectionism
What is perfectionism?
• The desire to jump in and do things yourself because others just can't do it right

• Not wanting to start on something unless you're sure you can do it well

• The need to finish the job, and worrying if things are left 'hanging'

Going through life as a perfectionist can damage your self-esteem. That's because the
impossibly high demands you make of yourself and others will often result in
disappointment. It will also make any rejection you might experience even harder to deal
with. Preventing perfectionism begins by saying 'no' to unreasonably high demands.
Make sure your goals are realistic and stop focusing on your faults.
Procrastination
Do you put things off? Find yourself making excuses to get out of doing things? We're all
guilty of procrastinating from time to time, but when putting things off interferes with
your life, you need to sort it out.
• Know yourself. What style of procrastination do you take? Cleaning your room?
Socialising? Reading? Running away? Day dreaming? Keep an eye on yourself
and learn to spot the warning signs.

• Get yourself a diary and use it every day. Write down what you are going to do
or have already done. Carry it around with you every day, make it a habit.

• Plan ahead. Break down tasks into smaller goals, and give these goals deadlines.
Write these deadlines into your diary.

• Make a 'to do' list that you write into your diary. Even small, easy-to-do things
could be added to the list. Tick them off as you go along.

• Break things down. Breaking a task down into manageable chunks usually
removes the threat of having to do a large task all at once. Also, completing
several small chunks is going to make you feel a lot more positive than if you fail
to finish one large unmanageable one.
• Organise your environment, Pin boards, calendars, an address book - work out
what you need and put it in place.

• Fake it! Act as if you are a well-organised non-procrastinator. Imagine how you
would think and behave and you'll pick up the habit.
Now that you've faced your fear and stopped putting it off, it's time to start contacting
people!
Contacting People

In the world of business there is a set way of speaking and


communicating and it makes sense to use these rules.
Speaking to people in a language and style they know, and
are comfortable with helps to make a good first impression.
Making contact by telephone
Making contact by phone can be a daunting task. Here are
some tips to help you overcome this.
• Phone from a quiet place, free of distractions.

• Don't eat or drink while you are on the phone.

• Be prepared to sell yourself

• Be direct and brief.

• Do your research, find out who you will you be speaking to and what position
they hold.
• Speak with confidence

• Plan what you want to say to start the conversation

• Think about the questions you want to ask and write them down

• Try to anticipate what questions the person you are calling might have for you and
have the answers ready
• Always treat the person answering with respect. You never know who maybe
answering the phone!
• Finally, always return any calls you receive within 24hours

Communicating via email or letter


How you write your letter or email is as important as what you say in it. If you're writing
a letter, try to use a PC rather than sending a hand written version. This not only shows
your computer literate but also avoids problems if your handwriting's a bit dodgy and
difficult to read.
• Address and write your letter or email to an individual, not an office or
department. If you don't know who to write to, ring up the company and ask or
check on the Internet.

• Always have in mind why you're writing and stick to the point.

• Don't sound desperate. Don't tell them that you are writing because you've tried
everywhere else and this is your last chance. Be positive. Tell them why they are
special and how fantastic you are.

• Avoid using abbreviations

• Don't use smilies in your email

• If you normally address a person as Miss/Mrs/Ms/Mr X then address them the


same way. If you normally call them by their first name then use that. If you are
unsure, stick to the formal version.

• Never send an email written in UPPER CASE, this is the equivalent of shouting
in someone's ear.

• Check carefully for grammar and spelling mistakes. Don't depend on the spell-
check function of your PC, for example, if you use 'there' for 'their' the spell-
check won't notice.

• Make it easy for them to get back to you. Give your landline and mobile numbers
and add your email address if you have regular access.

• Always keep copies of what you send out, for future reference. You never know
when you may need it.
Once you've started contacting people you can start building up a network of contacts.
Networking

Networking means developing a broad list of contacts of people you've met through
various social and business functions who might be able to give you:
• Job leads

• Offer you advice and information

• Introduce you to other people who might be able to help

Not all opportunities are advertised or publicly announced, lots of people get jobs through
word-of-mouth or networking. Building up a network can increase your chances of
getting to where you want to be.
The best place to start developing your network is with your family, friends, and
neighbours. Talk to the people you work with, and those you meet out and about. Keep in
touch with former co-workers, bosses, and teachers.
The key to successful networking
Do
• Get organized. You need a system for recording all the useful numbers and key
information you collect, such as names, titles, company names, addresses, phone
numbers, fax numbers, email addresses, and dates of communication.

• Keep in touch through regular phone calls, letters or email. Don't be afraid to ask
for their help. Most people like helping others, but you must be prepared to return
the favour.

• Set yourself targets, such as making one new contact a week.

• Keep your network informed of your situation and thank them for their efforts.
Don't
• Be false.

• Lie to get on, you will be caught out.

• Take without giving, you must be prepared to return all your favours.

• Be prejudiced about who should be part of your network. You may be surprised -
you never know who knows whom.
Be prepared
Just imagine it. The person who you would love to work for walks into the room. You
know this is your chance. Your mouth becomes dry. Your head is a complete blank!
Don't let this happen. Practise what you would say and always carry a pen and paper with
you or better still, get some business cards made up.
Sell Yourself
Nobody will know what you want or what you can do unless you tell them. This is often
the hardest part of promoting yourself. We don't speak up because we don't want to seem
arrogant, or we're simply afraid of the reaction we'll get.
Imagine you only had a very short space of time to sell yourself. You would need to be
very clear what your strong points are. What would you say? If you've been using our
worksheet have a look at what you've written down.
Write a short paragraph about yourself saying why you're the one they want. Don't be
modest, but do be honest.
Do
• Say who you are

• Say what you're good at


• Say what you want, or want to do next
Don't
• Spend any of that time apologising for what you can't do

• Explain why you haven't done something

Need some inspiration? Take a look at some of the jobs you could be doing.

What you should do Before the interview:


a. Research the company.
Research the company with whom you are interviewing. Nothing impresses an
interviewer more than a candidate that knows about the company. It shows that you have
initiative.
b. Be punctual.
Get there on time. The importance of punctuality can not be stressed enough. Plan to
arrive about 15 minutes early. It shows your regard for the interviewer's time. If you have
to wait, use the time to go over your notes.
c. Dress Professionally.
It shows that you cared enough about the interviewer and the company to present yourself
in a professional manner. In today's work place, most companies do not have a strict
code. So if you are one who hates pantyhose or a shirt and tie, relax. This may be the only
time you have to do so.
d. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Practice makes perfect. All the information that you would have obtained about
successful interviewing would be wasted if you do not practice. You can know all the
questions the interviewer will ask but if you do not practice, it would be as if you di d
not. Have a friend go over the questions with you until you are able to answer them
promptly without stuttering.

What you should do During the interview:


a. Give the interviewer a firm handshake.
Give the interviewer a firm handshake, even if the interviewer is a woman and you are
man. Nobody likes a limp handshake but by the same token do not take the person's hand
off either. While shaking, introduce yourself keeping eye contact at all times .
b. Smile.
Nothing is worse than an interviewee who looks depressed or indifferent. Would you
want to work with someone who is always depressed?
c. Maintain Eye Contact at all times.
You are confident about yourself and your capabilities. Relay that. Do not stare out of the
window or fiddle with your pencil. The interviewer is talking to you or you to him. Be
attentive.
d. Speak Clearly.
Do not mumble your words. It portrays a lack of confidence.
e. Respond to your interviewer.
If he makes a joke, smile to acknowledge that he made one, even if it was not funny.
f. Listen before you answer questions.
Make sure you have understood the question. If you do not, ask him to clarify it. Take a
second, then answer.
g. Give brief answers.
Answer promptly and intelligently. However, when asked yes or no questions, elaborate.
h. Complete the application thoroughly.
For salary requirements put negotiable, unless specified not to do so. Then put the salary
range for your profession with your experience.
i. Ask the interviewer questions.
Even if he does not ask you "Do you have any questions," ask him anyway.
j. Thank the interviewer.
Be sure to thank the interviewer for his time.

What you should do After the interview:


a. Thank the interviewer in writing.
Send the interviewer a formal thank you.

What you should not do at all:


It may be obvious to some, that most of the things you should not do are the opposite of
what you should. However, some people need reinforcing. a. Be dishonest.
If an employer asks "Do you know about ....? and you do not, say No. If you say yes, the
next question is almost always "Tell me about it."
b. Chew gum during the interview.
It's tacky and inappropriate. I would recommend that you do not before the interview
either. You may forget to remove it.
c. Smoke.
Do not smoke, even if the interviewer does and offers you a cigarette.
d. Refuse a job offer in the interview.
Don't ever refuse a job offer until you have had the time to think about it. It may be the
only one you get.
e. Ramble.
Make sure your answers are short and to the point.

Most Frequently Asked Questions


What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Tell me about yourself.
What are your team-player qualities? Give examples.
Of the courses you have had at college which courses have you enjoyed the most?
What is your GPA? How do you feel about it? Does it reflect your abilities?
How have your educational and work experiences prepared you for this position?
What work experiences have been most valuable to you and why?
What have the experiences on your resume taught you about managing and working with people?
Of the hobbies and interests listed on your resume what is your favorite and tell me why?
Where do you see yourself in five years?
What goals have you set for yourself? How are you planning to achieve them?
To what do you owe your present success?
Why should I hire you?
What makes you think you can handle this position?
What is your most significant accomplishment to date?
Why do you want to work here?
Describe a leadership role of yours and tell why you committed your time to it.
In a particular leadership role you had, what was your greatest challenge?
Give me an example of an idea that has come to you and what you did with it?
Give me an example of a problem you solved and the process you used?
Give me an example of the most creative project that you have worked on.
Tell me about a project you initiated?
Describe the project or situation that best demonstrates your analytical abilities?
Since attending college, what is the toughest decision that you have had to make?
Tell me about your most difficult decision and how did you go about making it?
What types of situations put you under pressure, and how do you deal with pressure?
Give me a situation in which you failed, and how you handled it?
Why are you interested in our organization?
What type of position are you seeking?
Where do you think your interest in this career comes from?
What industry besides this one are you looking into?
Why have you chosen this particular profession?
What interests you about this job?
What challenges are you looking for in a position?
What can you contribute to this company?
What motivates you?
What turns you off?
If I asked the people who know you well to describe you, what three words would they use?
If I asked the people who know you for one reason why I shouldn't hire you what would they say?
When you take on a project do you like to attack the project in a group of individually?
Describe the type of manager you prefer.
Tell me about a team project of which you are particularly proud and your contribution?
Describe a situation where you had to work with someone who was difficult, how did you handle it?
What type of work environment appeals to you most?
With which other companies are you interviewing?
What charactersitics do you think are important for this position?
Why do you feel that this company will be a career for you rather than a job?
Name two management skills that you think you have?
What characteristics are most important in a good manager? How have you displayed one of them?
Why did you choose this college and how did you arrive at this decision?
What factors did you consider in choosing your major?
Describe how your favorite course has contributed your career interests?
Since you have been at college, what is it that you are proudest of?
How have you changed personally since starting college?
What has been your greatest challenge?
If you could change a decision you made while at college what would you change and why?
Why did you choose the campus involvements you did? What did you gain? What did you contribute?

Questions You Can Ask the Interviewer:


Ask about the information you researched.
Describe my job duties.
Is this a newly created position?
What are the companies short and long term goals?
What do you like most about working for this company?
What is a typical day like for you?
To whom would I report?
Whom will I supervise?
Tell me about the training program I will experience.
What is the company's promotional policy?
With whom will I be working most closely?
When can I expect to hear from you?