Interviews are structured conversations through which the recruiter is trying to find out if you are a suitable candidate for the role and the organisation.
As such they form an extremely important part of any job application process. Whatever other methods are being used to select candidates, recruiters always ask applicants to attend an interview before a job is offered.
Central to the interviewing process is the employers’ need to answer 3 key questions:
Can you do the job?
Will you love doing the job?
Will you fit in?
The interview is a two-way process and so ideally, these are questions you should also be asking of yourself to help you decide whether or not to take the job if it is offered to you.
This blog will show you how to prepare for and handle job interviews confidently and boost your chances of getting the job you want. In particular, we will be looking at:
The main types of interview that you may encounter
Getting ready for the interview – preparation is the key Examples of typical questions and how to be ready for them Important
“Do’s and Don’ts” for good interview technique
The main types of interview
Panel interviews: Employers conduct panel interviews, whereby a number of recruiters interview together. Panels may consist of only two people but can constitute as many as four or more. The secret here is to remain as relaxed as possible and try to include all of the panel members when replying to questions.
Technical interviews: these may include very specific questions relating to knowledge of a particular area of Architecture, UK Building Regulations or CAD, for example. The emphasis is likely to be upon exploring factual knowledge. Thorough preparation is needed. Technical interviews could include taking tests as well.
Telephone interviews: these are used in the early stages of an application process but could occur at any point. As the name suggests, they are conducted over the telephone but in most respects can follow the format of a standard interview so prepare well beforehand. Remember, that, as you cannot see the interviewer, it is important to speak very clearly and ensure that you make or take the call in a place where you will not be disturbed. You can also prepare simple notes to use during the discussion. Mind maps work well as they allow for your thoughts to be organised clearly and concisely.
Getting ready for the interview
“If you fail to plan you plan to fail!” Good preparation is absolutely essential for any interview and there are some steps you can take to get ready for the big day:
First – do your research & prepare
Read material on the company website.
Find out if the company has been in the news recently and why. Check out the company / organisations’ website, broadsheet newspapers, relevant professional journals and professional bodies. Useful information to find out about includes projects and services, turnover, locations of offices, history and culture of the company.
Review your application. Think about why you want the job and how your skills, knowledge and experience match against the requirements of the job. That is to say, what can you offer the employer?
Prepare your portfolio to reflect your best and most relevant work at the front.
The best presentation you will ever give is about your work.
How are you going to present it?
What you are going to say about each example?
How are you going to sell your soft skills such as communication, leadership & management etc..?
Start to prepare some questions you could ask at the interview – it is highly likely that you will be given the opportunity and it is important to have something to say here. Asking questions creates a favourable impression and will enable you to understand more about the role.
If the interview involves a CAD test, ensure you practice your skills beforehand. Re-read your CV to remind yourself of dates and details to discuss.
Second – don’t overlook the basics. Make sure you know where you are going
It seems obvious but make sure you plan out your journey in advance and allow sufficient time to reach your destination without getting flustered. Late arrival can convey a very poor impression!
If any problems occur during the journey to the interview and you may be running late, telephone the employer to let them know of the problem. Do not arrive late without letting the employer know first!
By arriving a little early you can get some of the sense of what the organisation is like, relax and concentrate on mental preparation for the interview. Try not to arrive too early as this could increase any feelings of anxiety.
Third – dress code
What you wear and how you look are essential elements to whether an interviewer gains good first impression of you. This means you need to invest time in making sure you look good. Check company websites for information on what to wear. If in doubt you could always ask. Try to wear something that you feel comfortable in and that gives you confidence.
Dress: a suit is generally acceptable. Preferably this should be worn with a shirt and tie (men) or a shirt / smart top (women). Make sure your shoes are well polished!
Presentation: a well groomed look is important. Hair should be neat and if your hair is long, it should be tied back if you know you might be tempted to fiddle with it during the interview.
Jewellery: try and avoid large, conspicuous earrings, rings, necklaces or bracelets.
Piercing and tattoos: if you do have any facial piercing(s) – choose a stud that is neat. We suggest tattoos should be covered.
Make-up: keep it simple – nothing too strong or overpowering. Likewise, avoid strong fragrances as these can elicit emotional responses which may not always be positive.
During the interview
Body language (sometimes referred to as non-verbal communication) is very important. The way you come into the interview room, shake hands and the way you sit can suggest interest, confidence, nerves or even boredom.
An open stance i.e. not crossing legs or arms, leaning forward to indicate interest is considered the best approach.
Smiling is essential in striking up and maintaining rapport with the interviewers throughout an interview. It conveys confidence and may help you to not look like a victim!
Be careful of waving your hands around too much.
Good eye contact is an excellent way of conveying your interest in the job. Looking down, or at anything other than the interviewer, can make you appear disinterested or insincere. Maintaining good eye contact can help you gauge the interviewer’s reaction to what you are saying (to see whether you should be expanding on your answer or winding your answer up).
With panel interviews, the best advice is to look at and answer the person asking the question, with a glance from time to time at the other interviewers to include them in your reply.
This is often easier said than done, we know, and it is natural that you should feel nervous. However, you need to show you can manage any anxiety. If an employer is looking for someone who can cope with pressure then the interview is a good guide for them.
Don’t go to the other extreme and seem too laid back, act naturally as employers are looking for individuals, not clones, so there is no one way to get it right.
You may be required to shake hands with your interviewer either at the beginning or end of your interview. A confident handshake is one way to create a favourable impression so if you are unused to shaking hands, a practice run with a friend is recommended.
Have questions to ask the interviewers
What do you think will be the major challenges facing this company over the next 3 years? What role would I be expected to play in the first team I am assigned to?
Discussing Money at an interview can be a delicate conversation. You want the job, but with the right package.
What salary you say at interview is often the salary clients expect to pay and negotiation is difficult after that point. Undersell yourself will result in a low offer and oversell could mean no offer at all, as you’re automatically priced out of the job.
The interview should be focused on your skills, abilities and desire to do the job, but hey you are under pressure and the interviewer wants an answer,
Here are a couple of options:
Let the recruitment agency deal with money and point the interview back to them.
Give a salary range - ensuring you will accept the lowest figure if offered!
Ask the interviewer "based on my skills and abilities where would I fit in your salary structure"
The decision whether to disclose a disability to an employer is often a personal one and may be based on a number of factors such as the nature of the disability and the demands of the role being applied for. Disabilities can be disclosed before, during or sometimes even after interviews but may also be disclosed during parts of the application process. Decisions about this are largely a matter of judgment. If disclosing disabilities, always do so in a very positive manner, explaining any assistance that may be needed.
It is important to answer any direct questions from the employer fully and honestly.
Seek feedback from the employer if you are unsuccessful – it will enable you to address any weaker areas and build on your strengths to help you to perform more effectively at your next interview.
After the interview
Be aware of your surroundings.
Do not light up a cigarette or vape near the office or in the car park, you do not know who is watching you.
Do not call someone and talk about the interview until you are clearly away from the building, you do not know who is listening.
Call your Agent.
As soon as you are in a position where you can talk call Planning Recruitment for a full debrief. This demonstrates interest in the job and we will want to hear from you before speaking with the client on our scheduled call.
Finally some ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ to help you when preparing for interviews
Make sure you have done your research before the day.
Be able to explain why you want the job. The employer is likely to ask.
Be able to explain convincingly what you can offer the company in terms of your skills, attributes and experience.
Think about some of the strategies you would use in response to competency based and similar questions. Make sure you have examples of evidence you can quote in support of your claims.
Provide evidence for your answers from all aspects of your life – degree, employment history, interests, clubs and societies, positions of responsibility. Spread your answers around!
Be prepared to talk positively about previous employers and why you left.
Make false claims regarding your ability; don’t exaggerate your role in a team or claim an ‘amazing’ ability to do something.
Indulge in flattering the reader about their organisation e.g. ‘I want to work for the number one Architectural Practice in Europe’.
Sit in silence. If you don’t understand a question ask for it to be clarified.
Interrupt the interviewer(s).
Talk negatively about a previous employer.