Interviewing - Getting That Job

by Jane Tredgett

Common questions

  1. What should I put in my covering letter?
  2. How do I write a good CV/application form?
  3. Can I ask for feedback if I am unsuccessful?
  4. Do you have any tips for overcoming nerves?
  5. How should I answer questions posed at interview?
  6. What are interviewers looking for?

 

1. What should I put in my covering letter?

A good covering letter should ideally be

  • Neat and tidy
  • Typed, rather than hand written
  • No more than one page long and ideally just two or three paragraphs
  • On reasonable quality paper
  • Spell checked before it is sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent
  • Tailored to the position and organisation
  • Referenced to the position being applied for
  • Reasonably formal in structure
  • Clear about any disability or special needs
  • Addressed to the right person.

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2. How do I write a good CV/application form?

To make sure your CV/application stands out, it should ideally be

  • Neat and tidy
  • Accurate and well-structured, with clear headings
  • Logical
  • Easy to glance thorough and pick out key points
  • Typed rather than hand written
  • No more than two sides of A4 long (for CVs)
  • Spell checked before being sent
  • Read by someone other than yourself before being sent
  • Tailored to the position and organisation and to the key qualities you think they are looking for.

Your CV should contain

  • Your address details
  • A brief summary of your education, including evening classes
  • Relevant qualifications
  • A chronological summary of your work experience, from the most recent, working backwards
  • Experience of a similar job, if you have it
  • A brief summary of interesting hobbies
  • References.

(Application forms will normally prompt you for this information.)

Try to illustrate that you represent a close match to the job description/person specification criteria and to any skills and qualities mentioned in the advert.

You do not need to include your age, marital status or number of children, which used to be traditionally mentioned.

‘Red flags’ that may generate concern include

  • Moving job frequently
  • Gaps in employment history/missing periods of time that are unaccounted for.

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3. Can I ask for feedback if I am unsuccessful?

Yes – you can ask for feedback, but legally an organisation is not obliged to give you any. If you do ask, make sure you are not defensive and that you don’t leave a negative impression.

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4. Do you have any tips for overcoming nerves?

Being nervous at interview is perfectly understandable. Here are a few tips on handling nerves:

  • Be well prepared
  • Arrive in plenty of time
  • Keep items to carry to a minimum
  • Take some deep breaths
  • Wear comfortable, familiar shoes
  • Visualise positive outcomes
  • Find a song that makes you feel strong, positive and confident
  • Use the ‘fake it until you make it’ technique.

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5. How should I answer questions posed at interview?

Try to keep your answers concise without appearing too guarded and make your answers memorable

  • Be honest, open and warm
  • Make sure your answers demonstrate some of your skills, you personal qualities and the results you have achieved
  • Focus on the positives unless asked for negatives
  • If you are asked about weaknesses – don’t give the glib ‘working too hard’ type of answer
  • Don’t be frightened to pause briefly before answering a question
  • If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarification
  • Prepare and practise your answers to commonly-asked questions

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6. What are interviewers looking for?

Among other things (and depending on the specific position), an interviewer may generally be looking to see if you are

  • A good match with the qualities required
  • Able to make a good first impression
  • Able to handle difficult situations
  • Well prepared
  • Reasonably confident
  • Enthusiastic and positive about the company and role
  • Well presented in terms of dress
  • Good at listening
  • Unhurried but not too laid back
  • Observant
  • Polite
  • Punctual
  • Non-defensive
  • Calm and assertive
  • Knowledgeable at the company and role
  • Businesslike.

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