How to approach a Skype interview

  • Posted on  | Categories Recruitment | Posted by  | No Comments
By Sophie Mackenzie. Congratulations - you have been invited to an interview! But hang on, the interview is to take place via Skype (or Facetime)…so how should you approach it? This is becoming a regular phenomenon in the recruitment world, so if you managed to avoid it thus far, chances are it won’t be long before you have to go through it. As with all interviews, preparation is everything so here are a few tips to ensure that you give the best account of yourself, albeit via the wonders of modern technology! Setting up Firstly you need to be able to accept an invitation to a Skype interview in the first place so get an account set up and ready to go. Also ensure that your user name is professional. Ideally, you will be given a date and time with plenty of notice. If you are asked to conduct a Skype interview at short notice, try to make sure you allow some time to prepare. Prepare your surroundings
  • Choose the venue for your interview carefully – ideally at home, in a quiet room with a door.
  • Get the lighting right and do a test Skype call in advance to check this.
  • Think about what your interviewer will see behind you – a neutral background is ideal with minimal personal belongings in view.
  • Ensure that pets/children/flatmates are being taken care of and know not to interrupt you!
  • Turn any phones to silent.
  • Position your laptop so that the camera is at eye level – a much more flattering angle.
Appearance You could go for the ‘business up top and party below’ approach (shirt and tie from the waist up and boxer shorts from the waist down?!) However, I can envisage issues with this if you have to stand up to deal with a technical issue for instance. Err on the side of caution and dress as you would for a face to face interview. This doesn’t necessarily mean a corporate suit if this is not in keeping with the culture of the company. You should do your research in advance to get this right and if a recruitment consultant is representing you, they should be able to guide you. In short, you should be immaculately groomed, just as you would for a normal interview Do a test run
  • Test your equipment in advance (a good opportunity to Skype your Mum).
  • Ensure you have a strong Broadband connection.
  • Practice looking at the lens rather than looking at yourself in the corner of the screen!
During the interview
  • Remember to smile
  • Practice active listening (nod, “hmm” etc.) so that your interviewer knows that you are listening and that there is no delay.
  • NEVER type on the keyboard during the interview
  • Keep notes of key points or a copy of your CV to hand (just be subtle if you refer to it during the interview)
  • If there are any technical problems, address it with the interviewer and if necessary call them back – don’t try to persevere if you can’t hear them properly.
  • After the interview, you should email your thanks – just as you would for any other interview.
Ultimately, an interview is an interview, irrespective of the medium in which it is conducted and the rest of your preparation should be thorough as for any other interview situation – read some advice here. By employing some of the techniques above, you will hopefully be able to behave naturally and concentrate on getting across your skills, experience and suitability for the role. Good luck! Click here to follow us on LinkedIn  
 

How should a Buyer prepare for interview?

I recently caught up with a Head of Buying who I placed in her current role. We were discussing her disappointment that a lot of Buyers she had interviewed in the past hadn’t sold themselves to her. They didn’t talk about the results they had delivered for the business and if they did have the results / numbers they then weren’t prepared to explain how they had delivered them. This meant that she had to invest extra time and effort just to understand how good they were (or not). This is not the first time I have heard this from a client or indeed experienced it myself when interviewing. There is a variety of reasons this can happen: Short notice for interview means the candidate has a lack of time to prepare. Can you remember what you delivered 5 years ago off the top of your head and how you went about it? Can you talk confidently and credibly with those numbers in your head? It is rare to be able to do this without some level of preparation, particularly when nerves come into play. It can also happen when a candidate has been loyal to a business and has been there some time. When was the last time you had to remind people of what you have delivered and sell yourself? Probably in a performance review some time ago. Since then you have built a reputation internally so don’t need to revisit the numbers or the detail. This puts you at a disadvantage simply because you are out of practice at interviews and at selling yourself. I find it frustrating that really good candidates aren’t always successful in interviews for reasons like these. So, here is the advice I give my candidates about preparing for an interview…in short, Prepare! Obvious? You would be surprised. To thoroughly prepare for an interview, here are some considerations:
  1. Working in Retail gives you the significant advantage of being able to research your prospective employer by visiting a store (if it is a bricks and mortar retailer) or visiting their ecommerce site. Even if you did it a month ago by chance, do it again before the interview! Look at the range, the promotions, pricing, the store layout, what is good/ bad, how do you feel going in, and on leaving? You will be able to provide valuable insight for the business to consider and this demonstrates great commitment from you. This will really help the conversation if you are nervous as it gives some common ground to discuss.
  2. SWOT – Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. Even a one page of notes at first stage will be useful to show you have prepared, are keen and have some thoughts to bring to the conversation. This will also help you as a candidate to understand the business better and evaluate if this is a business you want to work for. It’s impressive to a client and can help you be the one they invite back. As the process progresses, you may be asked to prepare a SWOT on a product range specifically and this is your opportunity to demonstrate your creativity, commercial knowledge and insight into the market.
  3. Be prepared to discuss your Black Book. As a buyer, your industry contacts and supplier base form part of your professional ‘brand’ and any prospective employer will want to know what you will be bringing with you. This may need some discretion however it is worth thinking about this as part of your preparation.
  4. Highlight your key achievements for each of your roles separately from your CV, refresh yourself and do a STAR – Situation, Task, Action and Result or CAR. For further guidance on this, click here. These notes will be revision for you and give you confidence.
  5. If you have a JD, read it thoroughly and make notes where it highlights the key requirements and where you have that relevant experience. Combine this with your key achievements notes above, and it allows the interviewer to tick off what they are looking for. This is especially helpful if the first stage interviewer is a member of the HR or Recruitment team and is not the commercial line manager.
  6. Be passionate – show you want the job. Not any job - this job, with this
  7. Know the company - Look at the company website, look at the news on the business in industry publications, Retail Week, Drapers etc. Make sure you know what is going on right now and that you are able to list 3 reasons why you are interested in working there.
  8. Look at the company on LinkedIn. Have you worked with someone who now works there? If so, drop them an invite to ask them how they are getting on.
  I am sure there will be additional rituals you have in order to prepare - I tend to power dress and buy something new for the interview to give myself more confidence and ensure those first 30 seconds of impression count! The key is preparation and I can’t stress enough how important it is to allow enough time to prepare for any interview, after all, “retail is detail.” Good luck!  
 

Daring to be Different: the IKEA HR team share their IKEA experience.

IKEA are embarking on an exciting growth programme which of course creates challenges when it comes to recruiting additional resources to support this expansion. A key focus for this recruitment is in the HR team where they are looking to recruit co-workers from a variety of backgrounds. The environment is unique, as is their approach to recruitment which is focused on the person rather than the CV. Crucially, a classic HR background is not a pre-requisite. More important is a passion for people, an understanding of how to deliver strategy and processes within teams and of course, an alignment with the IKEA values. An understanding of the Retail environment is helpful of course, particularly given the scale of the IKEA store operation! However, it is not essential and the team are interested in people from different backgrounds who can bring a fresh approach. As part of the campaign to source HR Managers in Training, we thought it would be useful to talk to the existing team to find out where they have worked previously, how they have found the transition and what their role entails. As you will see from the following interviews, every member of the team brings a unique perspective to their role which we hope will inspire you to consider IKEA as an employer of choice. Thank you to the IKEA team for their support – you can read their stories here:   Dominique Sayce, HR Manager   Debbie Cox, Recruitment and Competence Development Manager   Darren Taylor, Deputy Country HR Manager, UK&IE   Aoife McCarthy, HR Manager, Dublin   Lisa Duxbury, UK&IE Recruitment Specialist   To read more about these vacancies at IKEA, click here
 

Interview with Debbie Cox, Recruitment & Development Manager, IKEA

Name:                                     Debbie Cox Role within IKEA:              Recruitment & Competence Development Manager Biography: IKEA FOOD manager Gateshead store & Wembley store; Assistant Store Manager Oslo, Norway; IKEA FOOD Country Manager Norway & Denmark; IKEA FOOD UK Competence Developer; numerous secondments and projects. Debbie, you joined IKEA from being a foodcourt manager in 1994, how did you find the transition? It was over 20 years ago now, but I remember it not being so easy. I"d come from a typically British hierarchical retail catering background where direction was created for me. Suddenly, I had to create my own direction. Once I got used to this, it was incredibly exciting, but I had to learn a thing or two about myself along the way. One thing I will say though...the people around me in IKEA were – and are – never less than welcoming, helpful and friendly. This is why I knew joining IKEA was the right thing for me. How does your role of HR Manager at IKEA differ from your previous role? I"d not done HR before joining IKEA, and I guess that speaks for itself! The opportunities to take your career in different, and unexpected, directions are very much alive in IKEA. In your view, what are the key skills and qualities required for your role? Influencing skills are key – the ability to get buy-in from colleagues is essential for success in IKEA as all leaders have a certain level of autonomy. Perseverence; things can take time in IKEA and you need to be able to stick with it. A strong identification with the IKEA culture & values – you have that, you’ll be able to achieve anything. IKEA are known for recruiting the person rather than the CV, what makes someone stand out as a candidate for IKEA? A fresh outlook. Open to ideas and contributing ideas – no matter how off the wall they may seem. A willingness to put themselves in new situations. Passion. What advice would you give to candidates attending an interview at IKEA? Be yourself. What is the biggest challenge in your role at present? Recruitment. I’ve only just taken this on as part of my role and not having a HR background, I know nothing about it. It’s probably only in IKEA where this is seen as a good thing! I guess I bring fresh eyes, a new perspective , and can challenge received wisdoms. We’re about to go in to expansion mode so there’s a lot of recruiting to do and it needs to be done differently than we’ve done it in the past. What will your next role be within IKEA? No idea! That’s the beauty of it. It could be anything. I’ve never had a career plan, but just walked through the doors as they opened! And finally, what is the best thing about working for IKEA? The fast pace, the freedom to set your own agenda, the space to be who you are. To read more about opportunities to join the HR team at IKEA, click here
 

Interview with Dominique Sayce, HR Manager, IKEA

Name:                                     Dominique Sayce Role within IKEA:              HR Manager Biography: Area Manager for Aldi Stores Ltd: A regional role achieved through the fast track Graduate Programme, which covered between 4-6 stores around the Bristol area. Responsible for an average of 125 employees, and weekly turnover of £750k+. A wide ranging role which entailed area recruitment, financial planning and forecasting, area wide recruitment, inventory auditing, coaching and development, cost control, competitor analysis , full HR responsibility and project work which included National Apprenticeship Roll Out for the South West, new store opening in Fishponds and restructuring of training programme for Store and Area Managers. Finance Consultant for Michael Page Ltd: Specialising in the qualified and executive finance arena, I covered the Swindon, Wiltshire and Gloucester region specialising in qualified accountants  through to Director level recruitment. Dominique, you joined IKEA in December 2014, how have you found the transition? The transition into IKEA is an ongoing journey – one in which I have only recently started. It truly is a different world, but one in which you get a lot of helping hands along the way, pulling you through and guiding your every step. Never before have I worked in an environment where it is in everyone’s interest to watch you succeed and you are actually encouraged to take your time, learn the ropes and get to know everyone before you actually step into your official role. As corny as it sounds, I feel like I can be myself and let down my barriers to really get to know my colleagues and co-workers. How does your role of HR Manager at IKEA differ from your previous role? I would say it is more so the environment that differs, as opposed to the expectations of the role. The responsibility of HR throughout the commercial realm is to lead and develop staff, to spot and nurture talent, to provide robust systems and processes to ensure fair and diverse recruitment and to overall, provide a safe and enjoyable working environment for all employees. However, IKEA actually provide the environment where the needs and happiness of the employees is a number one priority. It’s not governed by targets and KPIs, it is more focused on leading by example and creating the type of environment where employees naturally enjoy coming to work, are motivated and proud to represent IKEA and want to work together to really drive the business forward. From an HR Manager perspective, I feel as if I have the scope to spread my wings, really get close to employees to understand truly their needs and perspectives and then build upon those findings and relationships to create processes and systems which suit our store. The UK IKEA “HR Guidelines” are there as a support function; they set the structure for how to conduct business, but we have real autonomy on a local level to adapt our processes and focus to cater for our co-workers. In your view, what are the key skills and qualities required for your role? It is a wide role and often quite hard to pin down each and every aspect of the HR Manager role, but I would summarise the key qualities to be: approachableness, honesty, humbleness and passion. It is commendable to try new things, to dare to be different and to strive for improvements throughout the store. It is ok to make mistakes, to learn from them and not be scared to go to plan B, C or even D! Passion shines through. In order to drive changes and success, it is crucial to have your team and co-workers behind you. By leading through people and by example, passion is infectious and creates the “feel good” factor. IKEA are known for recruiting the person rather than the CV, what makes someone stand out as a candidate for IKEA? Apologies for the “thesaurus” approach to this question, but I truly believe that each co-worker (regardless of job role or seniority) displays the following characteristics: openness, honesty, passion, motivation, dedication, humbleness, desire to improve and find new ways of working, keen to share best practice, ability to build relationships and more that anything, have two ears and one mouth! What advice would you give to candidates attending an interview at IKEA? Be yourself. IKEA truly is an anomaly in that your values, personality, attitude and passion are the key drivers to success. If you are someone who is a people person, who believes that relationships are the key to success, is ambitious and eager to find better ways of working, and ultimately wants to work for a firm where you are employed for who you are – come to IKEA. What is the biggest challenge in your role at present? Given I am new to the role, my biggest challenge is learning the IKEA Way. Coming from quite a hard commercial background, it is a very different way of looking at business. I am being encouraged to walk and then crawl, having been used to being expected to run from day 1. Also, relaxing into an environment where the focus is on building relationships and getting to know the entire business. What will your next role be within IKEA? Quite hard to say as I have currently only been in my role for 2.5 months. Nonetheless, the freedom internally to move disciplines means that I can get quite excited about the freedom to consider options such as Logistics Manager or Business Navigation. That said, there are always numerous opportunities which will be arriving due to the extension and upcoming project plans for the UK. And finally, what is the best thing about working for IKEA? The best thing about working for IKEA is the autonomy to shape your role, to experiment and bring new ideas to the table and the freedom (and expectation) to truly spend the time getting to know co-workers and building relationships. Not many companies offer this opportunity. In so many firms nowadays, the expectation is to be up and running as soon as possible, delivering targets and meeting KPIs. Never have I ever worked for a firm such as IKEA, who genuinely place so much pride and emphasis on the strength and relationships of their employees.    To read more about the opportunity to join the IKEA HR team, click here
 

Interview with Lisa Duxbury, UK&IE Recruitment Specialist, IKEA

Name:                              Lisa Duxbury Role within IKEA:       UK & IE Recruitment Specialist Biography: I joined IKEA as a co-worker in the Lakeside store working in customer services. After 18 months I joined the HR team as HR Administrator, and then went on to other roles in HR including store Recruitment Specialist, L&D Specialist and HR Generalist. I took part in some internal development programmes to then move on from the store and take the role of the HR Manager in our UK & IE Service Office. I have been in my current role for 2 years. Lisa, how did you find the transition when you joined IKEA? I joined IKEA way back in 1997! I remember getting lost in the store and meeting so many new people in the large store teams. But I remember feeling connected to IKEA very quickly and very soon feeling at home! How does your role of HR Manager at IKEA differ from your previous role? Really having a voice in the People Agenda in your unit! By working alongside the store team everyday and working in a multi functional way we can really ensure that we are making our stores a great place to work. In your view, what are the key skills and qualities required for your role? Openness to learning, being a strong leader and having a passion for developing people. IKEA are known for recruiting the person rather than the CV, what makes someone stand out as a candidate for IKEA? Being open to learning new things, being self aware and being you. I like to see a connection between people and the business together if possible. What advice would you give to candidates attending an interview at IKEA? Just be yourself and be open. What is the biggest challenge in your role at present? Looking after candidates in a good way so whatever the recruitment outcome, everyone has a positive experience meeting IKEA. What will your next role be within IKEA? I’d like to work in the store again! And finally, what is the best thing about working for IKEA? Working with likeminded people who share the same values and passion for making IKEA a great place to work! To read more about the opportunity to join the IKEA HR team, click here
 

Interview with Darren Taylor, Deputy Country HR Manager UK&IE, IKEA

Name:                                     Darren Taylor Role within IKEA:              Deputy Country HR Manager UK& IE Biography: University Graduate -1996 Experience in a main stream DIY and food retailers - 1993 - 1997 Darren, you joined IKEA from Do It All DIY in 1997, how have you found the transition? I joined IKEA in 1997 from, at the time, a main stream DIY chain where I was a warehouse supervisor. The transition for me was very natural; the fast paced retail environment that IKEA offered suited my strong work ethic and offered me career opportunities as well as an environment to grow as a manager and a leader. How does your role of HR Manager at IKEA differ from your previous role? Over the last 17 years in IKEA I have had a number of roles, starting as a trainee department sales manager in the cook shop area and then spending the next 13 years working with the IKEA commercial functions in various roles in four IKEA stores. In 2011, I decided to try a different direction and diversified by taking a position as a Store HR Manager in Nottingham. I then joined the Country HR team as the Deputy Country HR Manager in 2014. As a Store HR Manager there were a lot of similarities and transferable skills which I used before and still rely on daily. A passion for working with the customer and leading a team of co-people is a common theme through my career; I use these skills today as much as I did in all of my previous roles. The HR manager role in IKEA gives you freedom to develop a short, mid and long term approach to working with a “People plan” in your local market. The key is to engage the 300+ co-workers and management team in your store, while at the same time you have the opportunity to develop and lead the business from the front, making key decisions within the store to secure the IKEA brand. In your view, what are the key skills and qualities required for your role? The key skills for this role are, having a passion for people; this includes both the customer and co-workers alike. IKEA are known for recruiting the person rather than the CV, what makes someone stand out as a candidate for IKEA? The candidates who stand out are the ones who are comfortable with who they are, being self aware of their skills, how they lead, what they want to personally develop, how they can contribute to IKEA’s growth as a brand. What is also important is having a passion for home furnishings and how to connect this to customers’ and co-workers’ lives, needs and aspirations. What advice would you give to candidates attending an interview at IKEA? Be yourself, be open, passionate and inspire; it’s not necessarily about what you have done in the past but more what you can do in the future. Enjoy the interview and share your views. What is the biggest challenge in your role at present? IKEA is growing so fast in the UK&IE ; with our customer and co-workers’ needs constantly changing and evolving, my biggest challenge today is to make sure we are living up to our vision, HR idea and core values in all of these diverse and exciting markets . What will your next role be within IKEA? My career has been very varied and has changed direction many times, however I always feel comfortable with the fact that you can have many different careers in IKEA without moving company. My ambition is to be a Country HR Manager over the next 3-5 years, in a European country; lets see where the next few years takes me.... And finally, what is the best thing about working for IKEA? The best thing for me is the freedom to grow both personally and with the business. Every day there is a new challenge, but each one is exciting and stretches me to become a better person, leader and retailer. To read more about opportunities to join the IKEA HR team, click here  
 

Interview with Aoife McCarthy, HR Manager, Dublin, IKEA

Name:                               Aoife McCarthy Role within IKEA:       HR Manager, Dublin Biography: I have 13 years experience in HR, 11 years as an HR Manager across a number of different sectors – telecommunications, sales and retail. I have worked with Xerox, Google, Manpower and CPM Ireland. Aoife, you joined IKEA from CPM Ireland in September 2014, how have you found the transition? I will be honest, it has been intense. Changing jobs can be challenging as you absorb yourself in the new culture and the learning curve is significant, no matter how much experience you have. It’s like starting school again! I was also returning to work from maternity leave for the first time so adapting to life as a working mum was equally challenging. But since joining IKEA, I have not looked back. It has been an incredible experience so far. The first thing I noticed about IKEA was how welcoming everybody was - the co-workers had such a wonderful spirit within them, it immediately felt like home and I knew I was part of something very special. Within a few weeks, I felt like I had always been there. Understanding the culture is one of the most important things before making the transition to a new job. As a new mum, IKEA have been so supportive as I adapt to striking the balance between home and work. I really don’t believe I would have gotten the same level of support in another company. How does your role of HR Manager at IKEA differ from your previous role? People are at the forefront of IKEA’s business strategy which isn’t always the case for some companies. Everything we do at IKEA aims to support our co-workers. The biggest difference for me as an HR Manager in IKEA is supporting the store as Duty Manager at weekends. This is a fantastic way of keeping close to challenges in store and utilising this information in driving the people agenda forward. It also keeps me close to the co-workers and ensures I am continuously building relationships. I also work in partnership with our Business Navigator which is different to previous roles. Our relationship is critical in steering the business in the right way and we support each other in decision making. Also, I never had to wear a uniform until joining IKEA – I love not having to think about what I’m wearing, it’s at least an extra 25 minutes of sleep each week when you know what you’re wearing the next day!! In your view, what are the key skills and qualities required for your role? As an HR Manager, you need to be people focused, commercially astute, decisive and highly energetic. You need a high level of empathy while being able to adapt to an ever changing daily agenda. You also need to be a very strong leader. IKEA are known for recruiting the person rather than the CV, what makes someone stand out as a candidate for IKEA? I really believe that if you are committed to putting the customer first, have a high level of integrity and the desire to learn while learning from mistakes, you will be very successful in IKEA. What advice would you give to candidates attending an interview at IKEA? Be yourself. It is as much about IKEA being right for you as it is you being right for IKEA. If it’s really right for you, you might actually enjoy yourself at interview, I know I did! What is the biggest challenge in your role at present? My biggest challenge currently is prioritising. There are so many exciting projects on the HR agenda, I am eager to get me teeth stuck into all of them however I also need to manage the day to day operational issues in store. What will your next role be within IKEA?      I always thought that I would stay within HR for the rest of my career but IKEA has taught me that if you are a strong leader and you have the ability to learn quickly, you can do anything and IKEA will support and develop you. I would love to be an Assistant Store Manager some day! And finally, what is the best thing about working for IKEA? The people. They are IKEA’s best assets and I am so proud to be a part of them.   To read more about the opportunities to join the IKEA HR team, click here
 

How do you know whether you are being engaging at interview?

In some ways, attending an interview is like a first date: two potentially interested parties meeting for the first time to see if there is a spark, a connection which warrants further exploration! Arguably, an interview is more like speed-dating – more likely to be conducted under pressure in a limited time frame rather than over a lingering 3 course meal. Like mobile phones and Facebook (!), speed dating didn’t exist when I was young, free and single so I have limited experience of this phenomena however I know of one marriage at least which has resulted from it. When it comes to interviewing, you have a very short amount of time to win over your audience. It is no cliché to say that first impressions count (we have written about this here) . Getting things off to a positive start is crucial – some people may make their minds up about you instantly and so the rest of the interview will either be spent reinforcing their positive first impression or doing everything you can to turn them around! But how do you know how it’s going? What indicators should you be looking for to ascertain whether you are being engaging? Body Language We all know the classic negative body language indicator of folded arms. Likewise, crossed legs, sitting back in their chair, fidgeting, looking around the room or checking the time may all be a sign that your interviewer is losing interest. Positive indicators are: leaning towards you, ‘open’ body language (arms and shoulders relaxed), taking notes. From the first handshake, your interviewer’s body will be giving you clues about their level of engagement. Don’t be alarmed if you pick up on some of these negative indicators early on in the interview – it may not be about you. They may have just finished a meeting or a discussion with their boss, they may be thinking about a deadline they have to meet later in the day. Your job is to get their attention and make them glad they spent an hour with you! Eye Contact Put simply, if someone likes you, they look you in the eye. To clarify, a continuous hard stare may be an indicator that they are unimpressed however, if your interviewer looks you in the eye regularly and it feels naturally part of the conversation, then chances are they are engaged with what you are saying. Active Listening There is an art to listening well. You have to show someone that you are listening and when someone is engaged with what you are saying, they will do this subconsciously. Nodding, responding to what you are saying with facial expressions or an encouraging “hmm” and reflecting your words are useful indicators. When someone is actively listening you will feel that you are being heard. Smiling A smile is often faked but if this is the case, it will be glaringly obvious. A genuine smile however will make you feel encouraged and will help you relax. If your interviewer is smiling, they will be enjoying the interview and hopefully thinking ‘great, I have found someone I would like to work with’! Rapport Call this rapport or chemistry – it is almost impossible to define but we all recognise it when we experience it with someone. In an interview situation, this may be something as simple as using the same phrases/language or laughing at the same thing. It is usually more obvious when discussing your interests outside work when there is more chance of finding shared experiences. If your interviewer opens up about their own personal life – talking about their family for instance, this is a good indicator that rapport has been established. Closing the deal We have all been interviewed by someone with a poker face who is impossible to read. I have taken feedback from candidates so many times when they say that their interviewer ‘gave nothing away’ and this is a proven technique for some interviewers. However, you will often find that if it has gone very well, the interviewer will not be able to help themselves! They may give some definitive feedback or make it clear that you will be invited back for the next stage. In some cases, they will get so carried away that they will make an offer there and then – be wary if this happens and, while being suitably grateful and pleased, suggest that you need to discuss with your family and will give them an answer asap. Chances are, your gut reaction will let you know whether it has gone well however, take heed – I know of one candidate many years ago who was so pleased with how their interview went, they hugged the interviewer on their way out! Probably wise to keep Public Displays of Affection out of the interview process...
 

How to talk about your strengths in an interview

How to talk about your strengths in an Interview Despite the frequency with which this question gets asked, in my experience it is still one area in which many people fall down. I wrote a blog earlier in the year about talking about your weaknesses (click here to read) and following conversations with a number of candidates I felt it would be beneficial to focus on the other side in terms of talking about your strengths, something which people often assume will be easier. So why is it so difficult to talk about yourself in a positive way? Is it because we don’t want to come across as arrogant or is it that we are worried about underselling ourselves? What is certain from my conversations with many candidates and clients is just how difficult people find these questions and how poorly many interviewers feel they are answered. So what are people getting wrong? Getting it wrong Confident versus arrogant – in reality many candidates actually find it very difficult to promote themselves. In my experience depending on the industry sector, it is actually much more likely that people will undersell themselves than oversell. This can particularly be the case in professions or company cultures where you are not required to promote yourself. Too generic – people often talk too generically i.e. “I am a great team player”, a strength that every other candidate could and will possibly talk about and which will therefore do nothing to make yourself stand out. Irrelevant – if people are unprepared they will often talk about personal strengths but ones that just may not be related to their target role or at the very least will do nothing to support their application. Talking about skills not strengths – strengths are general traits whereas skills are often the result of training and experience. Although there is some overlap, skills can be trained whereas traits need developing and therefore it is important to talk about both. No self-awareness – people’s inability to talk about themselves, their strengths, weaknesses and development needs shows a real lack of self awareness and focus on personal development. This may leave the interviewer questioning your ability to grow and develop. Top Tips What are your strengths - Some people, particularly those earlier in their career may not be aware of their strengths and may never had to really talk about them. So the first step is to sit down and think about your strengths paying particular attention to their relevance to the role you are looking to perform. These strengths could be experience-based or specific competencies /personality traits. Either way, try to focus on more than just the standard list that every other candidate will talk about such as being a great team player or having great communication skills. This is an opportunity to set yourself apart from the other applicants so think about traits that may suit the role, like persistence or tenacity for a target-driven role, for example. Ask other people for their opinion - If you struggle to think of your key strengths, you can bet that your nearest and dearest or trusted former colleagues will be able to enlighten you! Ask them for their opinion and crucially, why they have this impression of you. Focus – in most interviews you won’t necessarily have the opportunity to talk about all of your perceived strengths but you should aim to have 5 or so to talk about, focusing on those you believe are most relevant for the role you are pursuing and the company culture of the employer. Different interviewers will spend varying time on this question – so be prepared and be ready to be challenged. Leave behind your modesty – as mentioned above, people can feel uncomfortable about talking positively about themselves however it really is important in an interview situation! It demonstrates a lot about you as an individual, your self-awareness, your openness and your ability to communicate. By thorough preparation and practice, you can learn to talk about yourself in an authentic and confident manner. After all, you need to convince yourself you are the best person for the role as well as convincing the interviewer. One way to do this is to frame your answer by saying “I am often complemented by others on my strength in……” rather than it all coming from you. Matching your CV – it sounds obvious but make sure that if you have talked about your strengths on your CV that you are prepared to talk about them. I often find people will state some very generic strengths on their CV and then come across as unprepared when asked to talk about them. Back it up with examples – don’t be afraid to use examples to provide evidence of your strength in a particular area. It can also be compelling if you talk about how you have worked on a particular strength as this demonstrates your ability to develop yourself over a period of time. Base it around fact and the example is going to land much better than just talking about a trait you feel you possess. Be candid – as I have talked about before, it is important not to try and be something you are not otherwise you are unlikely to succeed in the role even if you are successful at interview. An honest and authentic approach is more compelling and will hopefully leave the employer convinced about your ability to perform the role. They don’t want to hear clichéd answers like “I work very hard” – what they really want to see is how self-aware you are and to get an understanding of the real you. Not being able to talk about your strengths generally doesn’t make you come across as humble or modest. In fact it is more likely to portray you as weak and incompetent. Given the regularity of use, this question is a really important consideration when looking at your interview performance. With preparation and thought you can improve your answers and help yourself secure the role you desire.