How to master the art of interviewing
Job interviews represent one of the most important parts of the job hunting process, and regardless of how many you have had so far, they never seem to get any easier. Finding the optimal balance between selling your skills, meeting new people and being enthusiastic can take its toll, even on the most seasoned of candidates.
Mastering your interviews
Administration in the higher education sector is becoming increasingly competitive. As a result, the only way to guarantee success is to plan for it: preparation is key. Here at the AUA, we are constantly thinking of your professional development and career mobility, so we’ve compiled a list of helpful tips that will enable you to master the art of the interview and become a sought-after candidate.
Before we dive right in, there are three core goals you should keep in mind while job hunting:
Make sure that you maintain a positive attitude throughout the entire process, have confidence in yourself and always give practical examples of your professional skills and qualifications.
Do your research
The first step in preparing for the interview is researching the requirements for the role and outlining three main skills that the employer is looking for. Think of your past professional experience and find relevant examples that showcase these skills. Considering that most job interview questions ask you to give practical answers to outline your suitability for the role, this exercise ensures that you will be in a positive, confident mindset before the interview.
Your research should also include the organisation. In higher education, when researching a University, make sure you focus on the particular department as well. Considering that most higher education institutions in the UK are the size of multinational corporations, it’s advisable to also take into consideration the department’s achievements, history and future outlook.
Illustrate your work
Use every opportunity to showcase the fact that you are professional and detail oriented individual: bring handouts to an interview such as copies of your CV for each interviewer, examples of your work (statistics if your job is digital, visual materials if your current position relies on graphic design) or copies of your presentation, if your interview requires you to create one.
However, make sure you don’t overwhelm them with paperwork: a one page CV and 2 extra pages of work examples are more than enough.
Remember, your interviewer only knows what you allow them to see: by bringing in concrete samples of your professional journey, you allow them a glimpse into your achievements.
Top tip: Place the handouts in individual folders for each interviewer, so they look organised and neat. This will help you stand out from other candidates during the post-interview stage, when your potential employers are discussing interviewees and trying to come to a decision.
Prepare for potential questions
No two job interviews are the same, but most of them have in common a few trick questions, designed to analyse not only your verbal answer, but also your attitude. Researching common interview questions and attempting to answer them at home before the interview means that you will not be caught off guard during the meeting. Here is a common trick question :
What is your greatest weakness?
Perhaps the most challenging one you could be asked in an interview. The key to answering this is to focus on non-essential skills. Answers such as “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” sound, at best, insincere.
For example, if the job’s main focus is in the marketing department, you could frame your answer the following way: “While I am always keen to learn new skills, I have to admit that I would be far better at compiling an internal newsletter than I would be at administrating financial operations. However, knowing my limitations and being willing to overcome them through learning has always been an asset throughout my career.”.
Top tip: Always put a positive spin on an answer. Make sure you research common interview questions and answers before the interview, and prepare a few bullet points that can guide you throughout the process.
Interview your interviewer
Many candidates do not realise that an interview is a two-way street: it is as much for employers to learn about you, as it is for you to interview the potential employer and establish if the position is a right fit for yourself. At the end of an interview, when you are asked if you have any questions, taking out your notebook with three handwritten queries gives them the impression that you are serious and genuinely interested in the role. A few fantastic questions you can ask are:
- What is your ideal candidate?
This question is a fantastic way for you to address any gaps you believe your previous answers did not fill with regard to the role profile, and it also gives you a glimpse into exactly what they expect from their employees.
- What’s the best thing about working at your organisation?
Asking this gives you the opportunity to really see if the employer is proud to work and manage that environment, and if the organisation/department is the right fit for you.
- What are the measures used to judge how successful I am in the role?
This question gives you an idea of how you are expected to perform and hose closely your work will be scrutinised, allowing you to ensure that the management style is one you are truly comfortable with.
Thank them for the opportunity
A fantastic way to distinguish yourself from other candidates is to write a well crafted thank you e-mail, or send them a thank you card right after the interview. This elegant touch shows that you are attentive and eager to fill the role.
Top tip: If you are writing an email, make sure you send a personalised one to each of your interviewers within 2 hours of the interview, thanking them for the opportunity to meet the managers and see their offices, and include one short paragraph outlining why you are the right fit for the job.
When sending thank you cards, the fastest way for them to reach their destination is to prepare them before the interview and leave them with the concierge/place them in the postbox of the organisation. This means they will receive their handwritten thank you’s in the same day.
Remember, one of the best ways to stand out in the crowd is to have a diverse portofolio of transferable skills. The AUA offers you the opportunity to attend a wide range of events that can enhance your professional path and help you network with peers in higher education. Take a look at our current events and find one that might just change your career!