Interviews are a fundamental part of the job application process.
Unfortunately, they can also be a daunting experience for any professional.
While it’s impossible to predict exactly what your interviewer might ask, there are a handful of common questions in the current IT sales landscape.
Knowing how to respond to questions like, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “Why do you want to work here?” could be the key to setting you apart from your professional competition.
Today, we’re going to cover all the most essential steps in preparing for an incredible interview and nailing the most common questions.
Our report will cover:
- How to prepare for your interview
- Making the right first impression
- The 10 top questions to prepare for
- Answering questions the right way (body language)
- What is a competency-based interview?
- Which questions to ask your interviewer
Let’s dive in.
Interviews are a crucial part of the candidate selection process.
Employers interview an average of 6 candidates for every vacancy they advertise, and only 2% of the candidates who apply for a job get through to this crucial stage.
If you’re lucky enough to earn an appointment for a job interview, whether it’s via video conference or in-person, it’s essential to ensure you’re properly prepared.
Working with a specialist recruitment team like us, Ice Recruitment, will give you an immediate edge.
You’ll be able to work with your agency to gather information about the company you’re going to be interviewing with and develop a deeper knowledge of what they’re looking for in a candidate.
As specialists in the IT sales field, we can also give you tips and insights on how to improve your interview techniques, from dressing correctly to preparing competency-based answers.
How to Prepare for your Interview
Preparation is everything to a great interview experience.
The more planning you do, the better equipped you’ll be to handle any questions your interviewer might ask. With that in mind, start by taking a closer look at the job description for the role you’re going to be applying for.
Highlight any specific keywords in the description which may indicate the kind of “competencies” your interviewer prioritises. For instance, you might notice your employer is looking for:
- Excellent communication skills
- The ability to work in a team
- An intuitive and independent approach to work
- Experience with certain software or tools.
Ideally, you’ll highlight these key components before applying for the job, so you can tailor your CV to what you know your hiring manager is looking for. Your CV should highlight the specific skills and experiences relevant to this role.
Around 47% of candidates who fail job interviews do so because they don’t have enough preliminary information about the company they’ve applied to work with. Don’t underestimate the value of doing your homework.
You can also gather additional information about the company by looking online and from your partnership with a recruiter – us! We aim to always have the most prepped candidates on the market.
Most companies will have websites where they can highlight important information about their business goals, company culture, and values. Make a note of anything you consider to be valuable during your homework. For instance:
- What is the mission statement of the company?
- What has the business accomplished recently?
- Where does the company say it’s headed?
- Which characteristics are highlighted in employee “About” profiles?
Collecting information from social media profiles and even job review websites like Glassdoor may be helpful here too.
Making the Right First Impression
With your research about the company and its missions on hand, your next step will be planning for the impression you want to make at the interview.
Go back to the company’s website or social media pages and look at how employees tend to dress. You’ll need to mimic this style in your job interview. Professional attire is best if you’re not certain what dress code the company follows.
If you’re attending the interview in person, think about all factors that might influence what someone remembers about you. Spritzing yourself with a nice fragrance might not seem necessary, but it can help add something special to your professional presence.
Taking extra steps to increase your confidence for the interview can help too, for instance:
- Take extra care with your appearance, so you know you look your best.
- Make sure your clothes fit well and look flattering.
- Practice some self-affirmation and positive talk before the interview.
If you’re attending an interview via video, don’t assume you shouldn’t work as hard on your appearance. Video interviews aren’t an opportunity for you to attend a meeting in casual clothing. You still need to dress the part.
According to the Wall Street Journal, around 70% of hiring managers would avoid offering a job to candidates who turn up to an interview in the wrong attire. 22% of hiring managers have rejected applicants based on their appearance in an interview.
For the strongest possible approach to your interview, consider practising common questions ahead of time. You don’t necessarily need to memorise answers, but having a selection of well-thought-out responses pre-prepared is essential.
The interview style may vary from a casual conversation to a competency-based question and answer process.
So you are fully prepared, below is a reminder of how competency-based interviews work.
What is a Competency-Based Interview?
These interviews provide your HR manager or company with greater insight into how well you can demonstrate specific competencies needed for your role.
Competency-based questions don’t have to be as complicated as they seem. To demonstrate your skills in an interview, you should already be drawing attention to evidence of things you’ve accomplished in the past. Competency-based interviews ask you to present examples of how you’ve used specific knowledge and skills to:
- Meet deadlines.
- Overcome challenges.
- Work collaboratively.
- Complete projects.
The best way to prepare is to look at the kind of questions you’re likely to face in an interview, then prepare several responses using examples from your past. For instance, some of the questions you might hear in a competency-based interview will look at skills like:
- Communication: Tell us about a scenario where your communication skills helped resolve a problem. Draw attention to both your verbal and written communication skills here, as well as your ability to listen and understand others.
- Conflict management: Tell us about a time when you had to deal with a complicated conflict in your organisation. Highlight what the conflict was about and how you came up with a resolution and implemented it for your team.
- Creativity: Describe a project or situation where you felt a conventional approach wasn’t suitable. How did you use your creativity? Explain why you had to think outside of the box and how you implemented your new idea.
- Leadership: Tell us about a situation where you had to lead or guide another group of employees. Discuss every aspect of your leadership role, from the challenges you faced and how you overcame them to how you delegated certain tasks.
- Teamwork: Describe a situation where you behaved as part of a team? Highlight your position in the team and how you worked with other people. Discuss the challenges you faced and the outcomes of your work.
10 Interview Questions to Prepare for
Questions to practice include:
- Tell me about yourself?
It may sound like an old-school-style opening, but it is still a popular question that interviewers start with. It is a recognised way to calm down interview nerves, surprisingly, on both sides, i.e. you and the interviewer and leads to different questions later on.
Logically this is an easy question to answer provided you have a context. Though your recruitment consultant will have talked about you to the hiring manager, the key goal of the interview is for the hiring company to get to know you and assess if you will be a good fit for the role and organisational culture. It’s a great opportunity to demonstrate that you can communicate clearly and effectively, connect with and react to other humans, and present yourself professionally.
This question isn’t about communicating who your favourite football team is or the breed of dog you have. The information you share here is about your work journey.
A good flow would be.
- What you are currently doing, the breadth of your responsibilities and what you are involved with.
- Follow this by talking through your past roles and what prompted you to move.
- Finally, share your ambitions, how you want your career to develop and why you are now applying to their organisation as the next step.
- Where do you see yourself in five years?
Most companies today want to hire people with compatible visions to their own. If you’ve done your research and looked at the company’s vision statement, you’ll be able to communicate how your goals align with theirs.
For instance, if your company wants to make the world a better place, you can also describe your vision of positively impacting the planet. Where possible, outline how you plan on reaching your goals.
You can discuss potential courses or training opportunities you’re looking into or areas where you’re expanding your skills.
- What are your biggest strengths and development areas?
This question is widely considered one of the most challenging interview questions.
When addressing your strengths, recall the job description and the research you did. What kind of characteristics, skills, or competencies did the company mention? Ideally, you’ll want to match your strengths to the role’s requirements.
The key here is to communicate your strength and how people experience its impact. If you are tenacious, give an example of how your tenacity delivered a result for your current or past organisation.
As you describe situations and scenarios like this, the interviewer can begin to connect your skill/trait or strength and how it will help their organisation.
When outlining your weaknesses, don’t just choose common options like “perfectionism”. Think about the things you’re actively taking steps to address. For instance, you may say a development need is that you don’t have a certain qualification, but you’re looking at the process to acquire it.
- Why should I hire you?
Hiring managers are looking for evidence you’re the best candidate for the job, so if this question appears, the response you give should highlight why you are ideal for the role.
Focus on the things which make you particularly impressive to your intended employer.
For instance, if your hiring manager mentioned the importance of punctuality in the job description, explain how you have never arrived late to work or a meeting or shift in your last role. Talk about the results you have delivered for your current or previous employer. Communicate the passions and unique skills which set you apart from the competition.
- How have prior experiences prepared you for this role?
This question is an opportunity to match your previous professional experiences with the unique skills and characteristics your new employer is looking for.
Recall the job description for this role and what kind of things you’ll be responsible for in your new position, then connect those responsibilities with projects you’ve managed in the past.
Whether you are asked this question or not, make sure that you communicate what you have delivered in previous roles, especially if they align with the role description for the job you are applying for.
- Are you a team player?
This question might seem like a simple question with a simple answer. However, the reality is it’s much more complex than you’d think. The answer isn’t just “yes”.
Your hiring manager is looking for authentic evidence you’re a team player, complete with examples of how well you’ve worked with others in the past.
Discuss a recent project that relied heavily on teamwork and mention how your unique skills and ability to work with others led to success. You can also discuss how you might have handled conflict in your team in the past.
- Have you ever had to deal with a workplace conflict?
Today’s workplaces are filled with employees from various walks of life. There are around five generations in any workplace at present. It means there’s a good chance you’re going to have to tackle conflict at some point in your professional life.
Discuss how you’ve dealt with “minor” conflicts and disagreements in the past. It is your chance to show how you can appreciate and listen to the points of view of others.
- Why are you leaving your current job?
One of the golden rules of any great interview is: never badmouth another employer. Saying bad things about your current manager will make you look childish or petty. Top tip: don’t complain about previous work colleagues; it’s unnecessary and never puts you across in a good light.
Instead, explain how this new role seems to fit your goals and skills perfectly, once again drawing attention to what makes you ideal for the position.
Be honest if your reason for moving is a lack of opportunity, development or flexibility. Here at Ice Recruitment we will put you forward for the opportunities you have said you wanted, so clarity around why your are leaving is important.
If you’re currently unemployed, you can discuss how you’ve been looking for this particular opportunity to work with a company where you can thrive.
8. Tell me about something you are proud of achieving in your work life?
When a hiring manager asks you what you’re most proud of, they’re listening to your answer and then making the connections from there to understand what you enjoy and where you can add value to their organisation.
Logically then, this is an additional opportunity to share your accomplishments.
- Give me an example of how you identified and solved a problem in your current role?
Employers want to employ people who can be proactive and solve problems. This question can show the interviewer how you apply your problem-solving and critical thinking skills to overcome challenges and achieve success. Use an example from a past experience that highlights your thinking process; what you did, how you solved the problem and what the result was.
- Why do you want to work here?
Your new employer is looking for an employee committed to learning, growing, and thriving with their business. They want to know you’re passionate about not just the job you’re applying for, but the company too.
With this in mind, use the information you collected when researching the company to highlight everything you like about the business. Discuss your values and how they align well with the vision or mission of the organisation.
You can let your passion shine through when answering these questions.
Answering Interview Questions, the Right Way
Often, when it comes to standing out in an interview, it’s important to think about not just what you say but how you say it.
We’ve already discussed the importance of preparing for your interview by practising beforehand. Try asking a friend or family member to go through the above questions with you to create some potential responses.
We’ve also looked at the importance of making the right impression from a visual perspective, with the right outfit and appearance. Another way to make sure you’re responding to interview questions correctly is to manage your body language.
Body language accounts for anywhere over 50% of all communication, so don’t underestimate it. Some points to think about include:
- Handshakes: Firm, practised handshakes are excellent but may be inappropriate in a post-pandemic world. Don’t reach for a handshake until the hiring manager does.
- Posture: Always be always of your posture. Keep your spine straight, shoulders back, and chin lifted. Don’t cross your arms or legs, as this can make you seem guarded.
- Fidgeting: Be aware of what you’re doing with your hands. Don’t wring your fingers or tap them. Keep your hands laid on the desk or your lap.
- Eye contact: Too little eye contact gives an appearance of nervousness, while too much is creepy. Make regular eye contact, and ensure you smile to give off friendly vibes.
- Responsiveness: Nod and acknowledge the other person in the interview as often as possible; this shows you’re engaged in the conversation.
Other Quick Points for Preparation
Remember to consider the importance of video etiquette too.
Today, a number of companies will be conducting remote interviews. If you have an interview via video, make sure you know how to use the software in advance and practice everything from putting yourself on mute to changing your background.
Think about the lighting in your video too and consider how easy it is to see and hear you. The right video experience should feel just as natural as an in-person meeting.
Another point to remember is your CV. The CV and cover letter you issued when applying for this role are what caught the hiring manager’s attention in the first place.
When applying to a role, customise your CV and cover letter to the specific competencies and skills asked for in the job description. When you’re actually at the interview, you can then draw attention back to the things you highlighted on your CV.
Questions to Ask Your Interviewer
Before we bring this report to a close, we have some additional points to consider.
The crucial questions to prepare for in an interview isn’t relegated just to the questions your interviewer asks you. Asking certain questions yourself can also be extremely useful. Try to come up with at least four or five questions to ask your interviewer to show your enthusiasm and passion for the role, such as:
- What could I do to impress you in the first 1-3 months? This is an excellent question to ask in a job interview because it shows employers you are eager to contribute to the organisation. It’s also a chance to see what kind of factors your employer will use to evaluate your performance in this early stage.
- Are there progression opportunities for the role? Enquiring about opportunities for training shows your interviewer you’re serious about a future with the organisation. You don’t want to be stuck in a dead-end role either, so it makes sense to ensure you can see additional opportunities with this business.
- Where is the company headed in the next five years? This is a great question about the goals and missions the company is pursuing right now. You’ll be able to get an insight into the values of the business and what kind of job security you’re going to be dealing with too. You may also get a heads-up about upcoming projects.
- Can you describe the culture of the organisation? The company culture will be an important factor in how comfortable you feel in your new role. Asking this question will give you a sense of where you’re going to fit into your new position. It’s also a chance to hear about some of the values that form the basis of its approach to work.
- What do you like about your job? Everyone loves an opportunity to talk about themselves. Asking your hiring manager this question gives you a chance to build a relationship with them. It’s also a great way to get an inside look at what life in the business is actually like. You can even discover how the interviewer progressed to the position they have today.
Other popular questions involve asking about the team you’re going to be working with or how your performance will be evaluated over time (such as with annual reviews).
Don’t make the mistake of asking about your salary, as this makes it seem as though your interests in the business are only financial.
Remember, preparing for an interview for your new role can feel exhausting and stressful, but it’s much easier when you have the right support.
A specialist recruiter for the IT channel – like us here at Ice will be able to give you additional guidance about the company you’re applying to work for. We’ll also give you more support to ensure you’re applying for the positions you’re best suited to initially.
Get in touch if you’re considering the next steps in your career, and you’re not sure where to get started.
We offer complimentary and confidential career conversations. Contact one of our team.