Interview Tips #3 - Claire Le Prevost, HR Professional

What’s the best/most memorable answer you’ve heard from a candidate at an interview?

The most memorable answer I had actually come from a works experiences student who we did an informal interview with to spend a week or two with us.  I asked him why he was looking to do works experience with us, he said that he understood that apprenticeships were hard to come by, but he was very keen to have one and rather than wait until one came available for him to interview for, he wanted to come in for unpaid work experience to prove his worth to us and show how dedicated and hardworking he would be should he get the opportunity of an apprenticeship with us.  This was very impressive, particularly of someone so young, and would put him ahead of other candidates by showing willing, he also had another job which he was using the holiday from to do unpaid work for us.


And what’s the worst?

I have two answers that stick in my mind, the first one was when I asked the candidate why they were applying for the position, this was after we had explained the job description in full.  The candidate replied that actually after listening to the job description this wasn’t the job he wanted at all, and he thought he was applying for a job in a different department.  Unfortunately he hadn’t read the information on the job that he was given, which wasted the company’s time and his.  This reflected very badly on him, and if a position came up in another department he wouldn’t be considered.  It is very important to fully understand the job you are applying for, if there is confusion on a job description call up the HR department or hiring manager they will be only too happy to discuss the role with you, or give you information.  The second one was I asked a candidate what they liked most about their current job, they turned the question around and said “well I can tell you what I don’t like…” and listed all the negative aspects of their job.  I asked them again what they enjoyed, and they talked only about the negatives.  Whilst it is important to be honest to some degree to your interviewer as to the reasons you are not happy at your current position, there is a fine line between giving them an insight into why you are leaving, and coming across very negative in the interview, and it’s important not to go too far with negative comments.


How do you feel someone should dress for an interview?

You can never be too smart! –  We get many people coming in for interviews in jeans or casual clothing as they see us a commercial company which has a more relaxed dress code.  We score candidates on different aspects of the interview including dress code, if you aren’t sure how to dress always dress smartly, you will never be criticised or marked down for being too smart, but may be for not dressing smartly enough.  Remember regardless of the type of business you are interviewing with, they all have a company image that they want to uphold, and having people working for them that are smartly dressed and presentable is important no matter what type of business they are.


Do you feel that the standard challenging question “Where do you see yourself in 5 years’ time” still has a place in today’s interview processes?

I think that there is a place for it in certain jobs, If you feel this candidate is keen for quick progression in the company, but the job just can’t offer that it is important to establish that to begin with, equally if you want someone that will come on and do exams and work their way up, it is important to make this known at interview, therefore understanding what their intention with this job is crucial, they may not wish to study and progress, therefore asking this question helps understand their aspirations and gives the interviewer a good opportunity to discuss how the role could potentially develop.


When in the interview process should a candidate mention salary?

I feel that this is the interviewers job to bring up when they feel it’s appropriate and it very much depends on what job they are applying for.  We have certain jobs where there is a set salary for that position and everyone is on exactly the same, therefore we would tell them this at first interview stage, as there is no scope to change this.  For other positions where a salary band is agreed it usually depends on a candidates experience as to the salary.  As the interviewer I would ask them their current salary or their expected salary, but would not confirm anything to them until an offer of employment was made.


What’s the most important tip you would give to a candidate attending an interview?

Be prepared, be professional and be yourself.  Prepare yourself for the interview.  I always ask candidates what they know about the company, to see if they have taken the time to research it, and to see if they are really interested in the company they are applying to work at.  Being professional is very important, no one wants to take on someone who doesn’t act appropriately.  However, sometimes people can forget to be personable as well! Remember that not only do they want to assess your skills and suitability for the job, they are also assessing whether you will fit into their current team, as that is also very important.  Therefore it is ok to show your personality off a bit, but there is a thin line with that and being unprofessional, so it is important to have a good balance.



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