How to Interview Successfully – Part 1

Attending an interview doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. There are a number of key things that can help you succeed at interview and ensure you are coming away with the best possible chance of receiving an offer. This guide will aim to give you some detailed advice on how to maximise your chances of success and will focus on the interview content itself.

Please also refer to our article “Interviewing Basics” which outlines a check-list of what to prepare and do during interview – this highlights things such as dress code, body language etc. We have also written a guide for interviewing in different formats other than the face-to-face meeting “Telephone and Video Conference Interviews” – Click on the following for Part 1 and Part 2.

The first thing to remember is that an interview is your chance to impress a company and ultimately receive an offer of employment. To get that offer you will need to instil confidence and demonstrate enthusiasm.

Part 1 – Instilling Confidence

To instil confidence you need to convince the interviewer that you can add value to their company. This will be through detailing your experience to them and in turn demonstrating how this could be of benefit to them. Regardless of whether you are at graduate or senior director level, it is important that you prepare properly to talk about yourself in a manner which shows you can ultimately do a job for the client. This means re-reading your CV in detail before the interview to make sure you can take the interviewer through your career history and achievements. Remember, at this stage, the interviewer will only have had your CV to read through so they will want to break down the content and gain a real understanding of your background and experience when they meet you in person. You’d be surprised how many people don’t take the time to know what is on their CV and therefore come across as unprepared.

When speaking about your experience it is important to detail YOUR specific experience. For example, if you worked on a particular project, outline your role on that project, your input, how you fitted into the team – a lot of people simply say something like: “I was the project manager on a $1 billion Casino project.” This is not enough as it’s likely there will have been quite an extensive team on a project of this type. The interviewer will want to know what part of the project you worked on. Was it the retail? Was it the hotel? Was it Phase 1/2/3? Were you responsible for the technical delivery or design management earlier on? Did you see if from start of construction to completion?

Throughout the interview, you will of course be asked a number of questions. Really listen to what is being asked and think carefully about each answer. Try to be precise, detailed but also to the point when responding. When you have finished your answer, think to yourself, “did I just answer the question asked?”.

If you are presenting a portfolio or project samples at interview, this is again a great opportunity to instil confidence. I will outline in a forthcoming article how to put together a strong portfolio. When talking through your work make sure you highlight YOUR specific experience as when talking about you career history. A well constructed portfolio will tell a story to a client, not just of a particular project, but of your experience as a whole. Therefore go into detail about what drawings are specifically yours, how they developed and where you started. Take the interviewer through your initial concepts and show them your reasoning for the solution you chose and developed. If you are a strong designer, show them YOUR designs. If you are a strong technical candidate, show them YOUR detailed/construction drawings. The presentation doesn’t necessarily have to be chronological – you can select projects that are relevant to the company your are interviewing with. For example, if you are meeting a residential design firm, show your residential projects first. This will also show the interviewer you have researched their company and go some way to demonstrating your enthusiasm to work for them. Typically, a portfolio presentation will make up for around 30-40 minutes of a 1 hour interview so do practice presenting your work prior to an interview. A lot of senior candidates will have quite large portfolios so it is therefore doubly important to select some relevant projects to talk through – it isn’t necessary to detail everything from a 20 year career – the interviewer can always ask to see more if they want to.

The same basic rules of presenting a portfolio apply even if you are not talking through visual samples of work. You may have a project list that shows what you have project managed or worked on as an engineer. As with a portfolio, select relevant projects to expand on and be prepared for in depth follow up questions about your specific role and input on these schemes. For example, one candidate of mine went to interview for a role as project manager on a hotel scheme and was asked questions regarding what they would choose as the thread count for the carpets in the hotel corridors and public areas and where they could be sourced! This may sound a little extreme but it was simply the client wishing to feel confident that the candidate was capable of coming in and doing a specific job for them i.e. instilling confidence.

Part 2 – Demonstrating Enthusiasm will follow next week.

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7 Responses to How to Interview Successfully – Part 1

  1. Thesis Writing says:

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