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Preparing for interview

Interviews are all in the preparation. Get that right and you'll do well on the day. If you've been invited for interview, you've already impressed them on paper, all you need to do now is impress them in person. Easy.

 

Do your homework

You want to show you've gone the extra mile. So, take the time to research the following ahead of your interview:

  • The company's past, future plans, products and competitors.
  • Their website.
  • News articles and information on company performance - online search engines are great at this.
  • If you can, try to find out about a bit about key members of staff (or even your interviewer if you know who they are). A bit of 'digging' online and you might be able to find out about their working background and interests.
  • Prepare answers to some of the most commonly asked interview questions.
  • Find out where the location for the interview is. If you can, do a practice run to see how long it takes, where you can park etc.

Interview questions

Being able to prepare for some of the standard interview questions will not only impress your interviewer, but will also make it a less stressful experience for you on the day. We've provided some of the more common questions below and given you some tips on how to put together your response. And don't forget - practice makes perfect.

Try and keep your answer to about five minutes (if you can). Describe your strengths first and then give the interviewer some of the highlights of your life and career so far. Be positive about the skills and experience you have gained. Keep in mind the position you're being interviewed for and the company culture.

  • I'm a people person. I really enjoy meeting and working with a lot of different people.
  • I'm efficient and highly organised, meaning I'm always as productive as possible.
  • I enjoy problems and coming up with solutions.
  • I thoroughly enjoyed my last position and it really helped develop my people management skills.

Be specific and positive about what you did. Focus mainly on the responsibilities which match the ones requested for the job you're being interviewed for. Be honest and give as much detail as you can.

Prepare two or three specific examples if you can, making sure they're relevant to the position you're applying for.

  • I was dealing with an emotionally charged situation which was...... This presented a challenge in that I needed to; understand the situation, remain calm under pressure, support my colleagues and protect the public. So I took the action of....... These skills would be useful within this role because.....

Don't be afraid to admit to mistakes. Everyone makes them, it's just what you did as a result that matters. Here you need to turn a negative situation into a positive one.

  • The most important thing I learned is persistence. Not to give up too soon, because the solution is probably right in front of me.
  • I have learned to give everyone a second chance, because first impressions can often be misleading.

The quick answer is nothing. You loved it. Don't be too negative about your last job. Instead, use this as an opportunity to talk about yourself and what you're looking for in this new role.

  • I enjoyed the people I worked with. It was a fun and friendly atmosphere, similar to the one you have here. I actually looked forward to going to work every day.
  • I am looking forward to a role with more regular hours, rather than shifts.

Use an example that showcases the skills needed for the role. Try to structure your response by describing the situation, what the task was, the action you took and what happened as a result. Use facts and figures if you have them, so the interviewer can get a clear picture of how your actions made an impact.

This question is usually asked to see if you're a team player and how you handle difficult situations.

  • I worked closely with a colleague, who for the most part, always carried their fair share of the workload. On a particular case their involvement was minimal and I had to pick extra work as a result, which I don't mind doing, but was very out of character for this person. I knew I needed to address this situation with them, but decided to wait until after the investigation. I'm glad I did, because I learned they'd been going through a very tough time in their personal life and they appreciated my willingness to go the extra mile at that time. As a result, our ability to work well together significantly increased.

Perhaps one of the most dreaded interview questions. But one that with some preparation can make you stand out from the other applicants.

Be honest and avoid the clichéd answers like being a workaholic - you won't score any points with that one. Instead try turning a negative into a positive.

  • I always work with a sense of urgency - this shows you will perform well to deadlines.
  • I have to double-check everything before I can be sure a job's been done properly - which shows you have a need for everything to be done perfectly.

Alternatively, you could show the interviewer how you have overcome your weaknesses.

  • In the past I took on an additional task that could have been delegated to someone else. I would never miss a deadline, so it meant I had to work longer hours to get it all done. This showed me the importance prioritising my workload and delegating jobs that can be done by someone else when needed.

This is your chance to highlight how well your strengths directly match you to the job you're applying for.

  • My time management skills are excellent and I'm organised, efficient and take pride in excelling at my work.
  • I pride myself on my people skills and my ability to resolve what could be difficult situations.

With this question the interviewer is looking to see if you're a good fit for the role and the organisation. Try to avoid saying that you're motivated by money or benefits.

  • The desire to do a good job. I want to excel and be successful in my role, both for me and for the business I work for.
  • I have always wanted to ensure the public get the best service I can provide. It is important to me that I've done the best I can do and that I've done contributed towards ensuring the public have a positive experience of the Police.

If the salary wasn't provided on the job advertisement, it might be worth doing some research before the interview to find out how much the job (and you) is worth. You may want to indicate that you're open to negotiation on salary and then wait until an offer is made.

This question is looking to see if you work well with others.

  • I was in the Olympic policing task force which involved working with officers from different forces as well as private security firms.
  • During my Police career I have worked with many third parties including Social Services, Crown Prosecution Service, Ambulance and Fire Services. Whilst we all had different duties to perform it was important that we could work well together and to our strengths to get the best outcome for the public.

The interviewer needs to know that you're the right person for the job and that you're going to fit in well. Where you can, back up your answer with facts and use the research you have done on the company.

  • I read on your website that you have recently signed a contract with xxxx and I feel this will offer great scope and the chance to grow with the company.
  • I want to work for a company where I can use the skills I have developed during my time with the Police Service.
  • I like what your company does and the values you stand for.

Give concrete examples to reinforce why your skills and achievements make you the best person for the job. Be positive and let them know what you can bring to the company to really make a difference.

Show the interviewer that you've done your homework. Provide relevant and current information about the company and the marketplace in which they operate. Sum up by reinforcing why you want to work there.

Yes you do. You want to make sure that this is the right job and company for you. Prepare your questions in advance, so you don't feel on the spot.

  • How would you describe a typical day/week in this position?
  • What is the company's management style.
  • Who does this position report to? If I'm offered the job, can I meet them?
  • How many people work in the department?
  • What are the prospects for growth and advancement?
  • If I'm offered the job, how soon would you like me to start?
  • When can I expect to hear from you?
  • Are there any other questions I can answer for you?

We've covered of some of the most frequently asked interview questions here, there are obviously other which you may be asked, so it's while taking the time to think about and prepare for any other questions which you may feel are more suited to the role. You can find plenty of example questions online on job websites like Monster and totaljobs.

The day of the interview

The day's finally arrived. Don't worry if you're a bag of nerves, it only shows how much this job matters to you. Now's your opportunity to put all that preparation into action and show them what makes you the best person for this job.

  • Dress smart - even if the company has a casual dress policy.
  • Bring along any supporting information.
  • Arrive early. Aim to get there an hour before. Scope out where you need to be and then take yourself off for a coffee somewhere - it'll give you chance to freshen up after your journey, have one last read through your notes and means you won't arrive flustered because of an unexpected delay.
  • Be waiting for your interviewer in reception about 15 minutes before your interview time.
  • Be positive, friendly, polite and confident at all times.
  • Use positive body language and lots of eye contact.
  • Show you have done your research and don't be afraid to refer to your notes.
  • Listen carefully to the questions and if you're unsure of how to respond, ask for clarification.
  • Don't forget to match your skills to the company's needs and sell your achievements.
  • Smile.

Good luck...

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