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Guest post from our Cork coach Gillian McGrath of Change Grow Succeed

You’ve just been invited for interview and the delight that initially hit you is now replaced by pure dread. Sound familiar? You begin to panic as some of the following thoughts enter your head: “How will I answer the question about the gap in my CV?”

  • “I am so out of touch with the workplace, I’ll never survive an interview!”
  • “What do I wear? I have no clothes!”

To offset this mode of panic, it’s important to reframe the term ‘Interview’. Quite simply, it’s a meeting with an objective. One party seeks to find the best candidate for a position on offer. Another party is seeking to impress the interviewer and assess the position on offer.  Mind management is key in this nerve racking process and good preparation lies at the essence. So, here are my 3 tips to ensure that your experience at interview is successful!

Prepare – “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail”

  • Collect and revise all relevant documents for this position. This includes an original job advert, your CV (or application form) and a cover letter (if you sent one in)
  • Research – the organisation and the role. The Internet and social media (LinkedIn in particular) is a fantastic resource. Perhaps you know of somebody already working in this company? See if you can meet them for a chat.
  • Plan your route – Be sure you know where you are going and how long it will take to get there. Aim to arrive 20 -30 minutes before hand. And finally,
  • Prepare answers to questions you’ll most likely be asked. There are three categories of questions that form the nucleus of the interview process:
    • Can you do the job (questions relating to your skills, abilities and qualifications)
    • Will you do the job (questions relating to your interests, attitude and motivation)
    • Are you a good fit for the organisation (usually, your personality)

It’s imperative to prepare for a typical Interview Ice breaker such as “Tell me a bit about yourself“ or “Talk me through your CV”. This is a great opportunity to introduce yourself, your skills and experience.

Of course, if you haven’t worked in a while, an obvious answer to prepare for is “I see a gap in your CV…” The thought of answering this question is daunting for many. Here, I always reassure my clients to be honest, acknowledge the gap but bring the conversation back to your readiness for the role at hand e.g. “I took time out to rare my young family. It was a fantastic time and we have all benefited hugely from it and now I’m ready to return to work and believe I have a lot to offer for this role, such as …”

Perhaps you have up skilled in that time? E.G. “I used some of this time to reassess the direction of my career and decided to up skill/ re train in …” You can see that the language is very active and positive. Remember, interviewers are humans too and by nature, we are story tellers. This is your story to tell!

Practise – “The more I practise, the luckier I get!”

As with every skill you’ve ever learned, mastering interview techniques require time, practice and perseverance.  Three methods that I find most effective are:

  • Practise in front of a mirror! You will feel a bit *strange* but this technique appeals to all the senses- you get to see and hear yourself talk through your responses. You can also gauge your body language.
  • Mock interview – This is a simulation of an actual job interview. It will not only help you perfect your technique, but it will also allow you to get valuable feedback on your performance. Your coach or a trusted friend can help you here.
  • Breathing – Sit still and engage with your breath. Notice how busy your mind is and take a few deep breaths. This will keep you grounded and supply your brain with oxygenated air.

Whatever route you take to practising, it will all help to reduce interview stress and boost your confidence. Finally,

Present  – “You never get a second chance to make a first impression!”

  • Attire – Etiquette can vary from sector to sector. Smart is always preferable (I recommend being overdressed rather than under dressed!)
  • Engage with your own body language and that of your interviewer. Smile, shake hands, make eye contact.
  • Thank the interviewer at the end of your meeting!
  • Ask questions- Not only will this demonstrate your interest and enthusiasm but it’s an opportunity for you to gauge if this role is a good fit for you. Questions on training, reporting structure, profile of staff and next steps are all appropriate at this stage.
  • Post interview- do review your own performance for example, make a note of what went well, what you wish you had said and any preparation for the next stage. If, in the case you receive a rejection letter or email, do request feedback where appropriate and use it!

While Interviews are daunting, they aren’t any great mystery and I hope that my 3 tips Prepare, Practise and Present will help to demystify the interview process and support you in nailing your next Interview!

Gillian McGrath is a Cork based Life and Business Coach and Master Trainer and is founder of Change Grow Succeed. Contact here via her website