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Interview skills: Advice from professional career coaches

interview skills

If there’s one part of a job search that most of us dislike, it’s the interview. If your CV is about selling your skills, the interview is about selling yourself.  That’s what rattles many of us. Even people who are highly qualified in their field may need a little help presenting themselves in the best possible way – and dealing with their nerves.

That’s one area where a career coach can help. We asked five career coaches to give us their No. 1 interview tip. Here’s what they had to say.

Fail to prepare – prepare to fail

Preparing for the interview is the most important aspect for a successful result. By preparing, I mean “getting into the zone”.  We cannot expect to perform well at an interview by running from our current role into an interview.  We need to take some time to clear our head and focus on what the role is about, understanding what skills will be needed and what aspects of our experience aligns best with the requirements of the jobWe need to take time to practice speaking about our experience in a positive manner using the STAR (Situation, Task, Actions and Results) framework Take 5-6 responsibilities or tasks that you have been involved in, write them out, memorise them and use them to demonstrate your abilities in certain situations. Be confident in your ability to do the job!

Marie Devane, Devane Careers

Reframe how you view the interview

Reframe how you view the interview. The interview is not about you, it’s all about them – the interviewers. The interviewers have an idea in their minds of what the ideal candidate is like. This includes attitude, communication style, experience and skill set. To prepare well for an interview – get to grips with what that ideal is by analysing the job description thoroughly, speaking to people who have any knowledge of the role, company and industry.  Once you are clear of what is needed match yourself to their needs by pinpointing stories from your past that match the level of the job you are going for rather than the one you are in.

Patricia Tiernan, Leap Career and Personal Coaching 

Having a job specification is like having a cheat sheet

Remember that going into a job interview and having a job specification, is like having a cheat sheet for a maths exam. They will only ask you questions relevant to what’s on that piece of paper. Understanding and studying it, will allow you to be able to have your answers clear and thought out. In regards to your answers, always have an example to back up what you say. If you were the Interviewer and you asked a potential employee “Are you a good communicator” and they answered “Yes, I am”, would you be happy with this? Or would you want more of a concrete example as to why they say “Yes”?

Keith Coburn, Coburn Guidance and CV Writing

Pick 5 key points about yourself

My number 1 interview tip is to pick 5 key points about yourself that you want to get across at some stage of the interview. Make sure they describe who you really are, what you love to do and that they sell your particular skills or character traits. Make it personal and unique so that they remember you. Treat these 5 key points as your brand –if they were the only things the interviewer heard about you then they would know who you are, what you offer and would want to hire you.

Jennifer Davis, Capture HR

Know how to answer competency or behavioural style questions

There are a few key Ingredients to increasing your chances of doing an X factor interview but the most important one in my experience is to understand how to effectively answer competency or behavioural-style questions. This question style is playing a bigger part in the format of interviews, especially in the public sector. As the name suggest, these questions are looking for real examples of a candidate’s present or past work experience demonstrating how they have acquired certain competencies or achievements.

Unless you have crystal ball, you don’t know what exactly they will ask but use the job spec to identify what competencies would be most important for that job. Even without a spec you can do this by searching for a spec of a similar role. Once you have the list of possible competencies, have a think about suitable examples which you could discuss on the day. At the interview it is vital you give a well-structured answer. I would suggest you answer using PAR method. The Problem or issue, the Action you took, and the end Result (how you solved the problem). Using this structure for any competency or open ended questions gives a very polished answer.

Orla Donagher, Interview Tutor 

Want more advice?

At Jobs Expo Career Clinic, attendees can meet face-to-face with career coaches. The coaches can help with issues such as CV preparation, interview skills and changing career. The Career Clinic is absolutely free of charge.

The next Jobs Expo takes place in Cork on Saturday 25 November at UCC’s Devere Hall, Aras na Mac Leinn. To get your free ticket for Jobs Expo Cork, Galway or Dublin, click here.

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