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5 ways to brush up on your key interview skills

From how to arrive to what to prepare.

STELLA LACKEN LOOKS after the Global Graduate Programme for IBEC. The graduates participate in a full-time work placement, and while they’re completing that, IBEC is also funding their postgraduate studies.

“Most of our applicants are young graduates who have just finished college,” says Stella. As part of her job, Stella helps the graduates prepare for their interviews as well as providing them with constructive feedback afterwards – so she’s well-placed to give advice on how to impress once you land that interview.

1. The interview starts the moment you walk into reception

Arrive early and be friendly to the other people in reception. I’ve seen candidates arrive in flustered at the exact time of their interview. You’re sweaty, pulling your jacket off – it completely throws you. Being there 15 minutes beforehand is so important. Arrive with your bag and coat in one hand, the other free for a handshake.

2. Preparation is key

People go to so much effort filling out their application and getting themselves to the interview stage that when they get there the preparation sometimes isn’t great.

There will always be variables, but there is basic preparation that you can do. Having your introduction ready, for example, is really important. I’m always surprised when I ask a graduate to tell me a bit about themselves and I get a very short answer – you can tell that they haven’t prepared it.

Understanding the core competencies of the role, then looking at what you have on your CV and tying them together with examples is key.

3. Don’t undersell yourself

Graduates often undersell the experience that they have. They might just mention an internship that they’ve done, and leave off important things like their part-time job or volunteering.

These things show that they can multitask and that they’re hard-working; that they’re managing college whilst working as well. A lot of people leave information like that off their CV if they don’t deem it relevant. Even the people who have included it will often couch it in negative language during an interview as ‘only’ volunteering or ‘just’ a part-time job.

They’re all character-building so focus on the strong interpersonal skills you gained and can now apply to a business environment.

Stella Lacken Source: IBEC

4. Have a good answer for the ‘What’s your biggest weakness?’ question

I’ve done this myself! The old answers that are supposed to transform your weaknesses into strengths: I’m not a great delegator, I like to take on a challenge; that kind of thing.

What you need to remember is that the reason the panel is asking that question is because they’ve already identified areas that you might struggle with in the role. So the best thing to do is get ahead and acknowledge the areas that you might find challenging.

By doing this, you’re catching your perceived weaknesses straight away, putting them out there and giving examples as to how you’re going to overcome them. But I think it’s about being really honest and showing that you have a really strong understanding of the job and what skills are going to be required of you.

5. Don’t slag off your previous employers

If you’re in front of a panel and you’re speaking negatively about your current or previous employers, the panel is instantly going to wonder if that’s how you would talk about them as an employee. How you pitch things is so important. If you’ve had a negative experience at work before, frame that as a challenge you’ve overcome and what you learned from it.

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