Dragons’ Den pitch coach Catherine Moonan on how to nail that job interview

You need to remember that it’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what the interviewer wants and needs to hear in order to give you the award or position

Catherine Moonan: you’re not going to be able to give all of your experience in a short space of time. So pick and choose the golden nuggets of your experience to match the required guidelines or job specification

Catherine Moonan: you’re not going to be able to give all of your experience in a short space of time. So pick and choose the golden nuggets of your experience to match the required guidelines or job specification

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Presenting Yourself for Interview

When presenting yourself for an interview, you’re effectively pitching yourself. It might be an interview for a course, an award, a job or a promotion. Or you might be interested in joining a start-up and you have an interview with the founder. Whatever the reason for your interview, you owe it to yourself to put your best foot forward.

Preparation Before the Interview

Know Your Application Form

You cannot assume that the interviewer knows anything about you, except what you have written in your application. To be honest, a lot of interviewers won’t have had a chance to look at your application in great detail. They may have intended to look at it, but got caught out at a meeting that lasted longer than expected. Just because you have mentioned something on the application form, doesn’t mean that the interviewer has picked up on it. Make a list of experience, further education, personal achievements and awards from your application that you don’t want to leave the interview without mentioning, even if you haven’t been asked directly. They can either be carved into the answers to other questions or you can include them in a piece at the end.

Guidelines, Job Specification and Person Specification

The organisation has drafted a set of guidelines, a job specification and/or a person specification for the position you are interviewing for. Take a look at this carefully. This is what the interviewer will be looking for. Underline the keywords that stand out for you. You need to try to match that list. Make sure you tailor your answers and experience to the required guidelines or job specification. It is unlikely that any candidate will be a 100 per cent match. You have been invited for interview. They are interested in you and your experience. You’re not going to be able to give all of your experience in a short space of time. So pick and choose the golden nuggets of your experience to match the required guidelines or job specification. At this point during your interview preparation, you need to remember that it’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what the interviewer wants and needs to hear in order to give you the award or position.

Two Possible Questions

There are two questions that are often asked in an interview that you can definitely prepare for in advance. I would suggest a maximum of a 60 second answer to each question.

An opening question might be “Can you tell me about your career to date?”

Another question could be “Can you tell me why you’re the best person for this award/position?”

Even if neither question is asked in your interview, it is useful to prepare the answers to these two questions as it helps to sharpen your mind for the interview.

Other Possible Questions

Here are some possible questions you can use for interview preparation. It would be worth your while to make a list of additional questions you think could be asked in the interview, based on the application form, job specification and person specification.

Tell me about yourself.

What motivates you?

What can you contribute to the team?

How do you handle stress?

What are your strengths?

What are your weaknesses?

How do you handle criticism?

What interests you about this position?

What particular experience do you have that you could bring to this position?

What qualities do you think will be required for this position?

What challenges are you looking for in a position?

Where do you want to be in five years?

Competency Based Interviews

Many interviews these days are competency based. The interviewer looks for specific examples. Instead of you saying “this is what I can do or would do”, you give examples about what you did in the past. How you behaved in the past gives the interviewer a better indication of how you will behave in the future. If “leadership” is one of the competencies listed in the job specification, for example, you might be asked, “can you tell me about a time when you showed exceptional leadership skills?”

It is important to have at least five case scenarios ready for the interview, ie short/snappy examples that relate to specific keywords from the job specification. It might be problem solving or decision making or organisational skills or time management. Notice that I say short/snappy – you don’t want to bore the interviewer with long-winded stories which have no meaning or purpose. Give the situation you were in at the time, the action/behaviour that was carried out and the positive result that followed.

Top Tips For Communicating Effectively During An Interview

1. Enter the room confidently – walk tall, shoulders back

2. Shake hands with the interview panel, use eye contact, use people’s names

3. Sit upright, place feet flat on the floor, gesture naturally

4. Have a pleasant facial expression – smile

5. Project your voice

6. Vary the pitch and pace of your voice

7. Use pause and emphasis

8. Listen to the question being asked

9. Engage the interview panel - make your answers interesting

10. Keep your answers to under 60 seconds

The Pitch Coach by Catherine Moonan is published by Liberties Press

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