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The best advice on how to suceed in that vital job interview

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Jane Downes

Jane Downes

Jane Downes

In a recent Sunday Independent business article, Sharon McCooey, senior director of LinkedIn Ireland, revealed that the majority of companies in Ireland were planning to increase their headcount this year.

While this indicates a rise in the amount of interviews set to take place here over the coming months, it also means there will be an increase in sweaty brows, dry throats and shaky hands - as interviewees around the country attempt to secure their dream job.

However, is it possible to enjoy an interview? And are there fail-safe tips guaranteed to make the job-selection process go smoothly?

"I tell my clients to enjoy the interview, because if you are enjoying it, then the interviewers are too. If you have done the necessary prep work then you will be able to enjoy it and the results will be a lot better too," says Jane Downes, principal coach with Clearview Coaching Group and author of The Career Book - Help for the Restless Realist.

According to Downes, a strategically-constructed CV is an essential starting point when applying for a job.

"There are two types of CV - the one that gets you an interview and the one that doesn't - it's as simple and brutal as that. At this stage in the economy, you need to be career smart and recognise the importance of a CV that is focused on the job you are applying for. If you get your CV wrong, chances are you are going to kiss that interview opportunity goodbye."

The ability to summarise in a CV is vital, says Downes, as is having an online presence.

"It's really important to look for the key words in the job spec and then weave them into the CV. Also, make sure your CV is up-to-date and digitally up-to-date. A LinkedIn profile is part and parcel of a CV now, we call it a cloud CV. You have got to know how your skills translate into the role you are applying for. Don't even attempt to go to an interview without examining the job spec."

Making sure there is nothing on your social-media accounts that you wouldn't want a future employer to see is an important part of the interview prep; however, using social media as a research tool is also important, according to Paul Mullan, founder of Interview Solutions.

"Not enough jobseekers are using social media to check out the people that they are going to be interviewed by," he explains. "It is very important to build a rapport during an interview and social media can help to give you that extra bit of enhancement and help you to find some common ground."

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A good first impression is key to getting interviewers on your side from the start, Mullan says. While skills and ability are important when being considered for a job, being likeable is crucial.

"An interviewer has to know that they will be able to work with you for 40 hours a week, so your ability to be able to fit into their organisation and the culture there is really important. It is something that employers are assessing throughout an interview.

"A lot of companies will deny it, but if they like you, you are more likely to get the job. Be confident, keep eye contact, smile and give a nice firm handshake to get yourself off to a good start."

Through working with clients, Mullan has noticed that many jobseekers find it difficult to sell themselves. However, not all the focus in an interview should be on skills and achievements.

"An employer will always want to know if someone can do the job and that is the part that most interviewees concentrate on. However, employers also want to know if you are interested in the job and if you want it and people often forget about this."

"Your interest can be seen in your body language and your tone. Always have a question ready to ask at the end - not asking questions can be interpreted as not having an interest. If they don't think you are interested, they are not going to hire you."

While the majority of interviews are still conducted in the traditional face-to-face manner, Skype and phone interviews are on the rise as a convenient, cost-effective alternative for employers. The same interview techniques apply, says recruitment manager with Sigmar Recruitment Consultants, Niall Foster.

"While the basics are the same, there are a few extra considerations for phone and Skype interviews, such as ensuring that you have the setting right.

"Make sure to choose a location where there will be no distractions such as your mother coming in asking if you want a cup of tea.

"With Skype, make sure you set yourself up in good lighting and in front of a neutral setting like a blank wall - you don't want an interviewer forming an opinion of you simply because they can see a pair of socks on the radiator behind you or a towel on the floor."

Checking your device in advance will ensure that there are no technological glitches during the interview, which can be off-putting for both the interviewer and interviewee.

"If it's a phone interview, make sure you have good reception and try use a landline if possible," says Foster. "For a Skype interview, make sure you have high-speed internet connection and test it a few times in advance to minimise the chances of anything going wrong.

"Most interviewers will be patient and understanding if there is some technological problem during the interview that is out of your hands and not caused by something you overlooked, like charging a device."

Going for an interview for the first time can be an especially daunting experience. Guidance counsellor Andree Harpur works a lot with preparing graduates for the experience and says that it needn't be as overwhelming as it may seem.

"Some graduates worry that they have nothing to put on their CV or refer to in an interview, but I would say to them that they started their career in transition year.

"Referring back to projects they were involved in, work experience and extra-curricular activities, can be tremendously important. College is a huge experience and graduates have done an awful lot in those years."

Harpur's advice to graduates is to make sure that their social-media accounts highlight the positive things they have done.

"If you volunteered abroad, make sure that is clearly visible on your Facebook or Twitter page, so that when someone looks you up they will see that you are a really committed person," she says.

Being able to provide clear examples of skills and abilities is a central part of every interview, and Harpur says that part-time jobs or college projects can serve as good reference points.

"Jobs like working in a bar can be great - you can talk about earning good tips by being a good people person or dealing with difficult customers. Any experience can be used well.

"It's always good to refer to a time when you resolved a problem of some sort. You want to stand out and become a real person to the interviewer and show them what you can bring to the job."


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