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Interview advice for HR professionals

Posted on from Handle

Despite the increasing use of psychometric testing and a host of other techniques, as any HR professional involved in recruitment will know the heart of any hiring process is still the interview. But what is important to remember and what is best to forget?

Appropriate dress wear

Regardless of how experienced and knowledgeable we are, job interviews will instil fear into a lot of us. It is the one opportunity to impress your potential future employer and demonstrate that you have the experience, skills and personality that they are looking for.

First of all, make sure you’re “dressed to impress” - choose appropriate clothes for both the company you are visiting and the role you are applying for. We’ve heard of candidates going to interviews in everything from ball gowns to brightly coloured cowboy boots. This will make you memorable, but for all the wrong reasons.

However it’s not just the interviewer you need to impress. It is worth entering ‘interview mode’ not just when you’re in the interview room but when you’re within a perimeter of the office. You never know who you may share a lift with or see in the coffee shop next door. Many employers also ask receptionists their opinion of candidates so be professional to anyone you may encounter.

Interview questioning

Once in the interview don’t forget that it is a sales pitch – you are selling your skills and abilities to the employer. It’s important to get the balance right; be confident enough to show you can do the job, but not too confident that you could be perceived as arrogant.

Honesty is important but at the same time make sure you’re only giving information that is relevant and that the interviewer needs to know – i.e. highlight your strengths, not weaknesses.

As any HR professional involved in hiring will know, an interview should be a conversation so it’s important to listen and answer questions but also to ask questions. Always have a few positive questions prepared for the end of the interview to demonstrate that you’re keen to get the job and to learn about where it would lead.

Difficult interview questions

It’s of course essential to prepare for interviews – to know as much as possible about the company, to have a copy of your CV with you and to know how to answer some of the common and predictable interview questions.

Some are harder to answer than others, and if any ask you a negative question, like what part of your job you like the least, try and turn the answer into a positive. For example “the admin side of the job isn’t the most challenging but I know it’s a vital part of the role that needs to be done.” Then there are the more bizarre questions: “how many windows are there in London?” or “if you were a drink, what would you be?”

There is of course no correct answer to these questions, they are designed to test your ability to cope with pressure and to demonstrate a logical thought process, so keep calm and answer as best you can.

Body language and gestures

It may sound obvious to anyone with a professional background but it’s crucial to make sure your phone is switched off in an interview. There is nothing worse than that buzzing sound coming from your bag or jacket pocket – it’s both off-putting and unprofessional. If you do leave your phone turned on, do not answer it. One candidate who had got to the third interview stage once answered his phone during an interview as he believed it showed he was busy and in demand. It actually knocked him out of the running for the position.

Also, be aware of your body language. A recent survey by careerbuilder.com said that body language mistakes could distract from what you’re saying, or worse demonstrate you’re not confident that you can perform well in the interview, and consequently the job. Top of the list was a lack of eye contact, along with not smiling and too many hand gestures (leading to many knocked over cups of coffee or stacks of paper). Finally if asked if you’re interested in the position, say yes. An offer can always be rejected afterwards and there will be a slim chance of receiving an offer if the employer does not believe you want the job.

Professionalism & preparation

Anyone in HR that has conducted an interview will know many of the interview tips, but being on the other side of the interviewing table can be very different. Professionalism and preparation – having the two Ps covered will lead to the greatest chance of success.

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