Interviews: keep calm and carry it off

Working with employers in the agricultural industry to identify gaps in their business and matching candidates with the right skills and experience is our forte at Merston Peters. In our last article we looked at some pointers for candidates to prepare for their first interview; now, we’re looking at the interview itself. Having worked with our clients for many years, we have a good idea of the things that impress and the things that, quite frankly turn employers off – here are a few pointers:

Punctuality: Being late for an interview really does give a negative impression – as mentioned in our previous article, do research the location of the company, and ask about parking in advance, if necessary. Plan your journey so that you arrive 10 minutes before your interview, giving you time to compose yourself and prepare.

Dress: Wear clothes that you believe give a professional impression: attire that you believe represents the position that you are applying for and suits the role, as well as the business.

Kick-off: A good strong greeting, a firm handshake and waiting for an invitation to be seated will all set your interview off on the right foot.

The main event: Eye contact, a clear voice and an air of confidence (not arrogance) will all ensure that the employer enjoys talking to you. In terms of body language, a certain amount of behaviour mirroring will help you to identify with the interviewer (although too much and you’ll just look like a mimic!). Repeating comments made by the employer also helps you to become more memorable.

You yourself: Ensure that you are enthusiastic, and remain positive at all times – be true to yourself and try not to adopt an ‘interview you’. Be proud of your achievements and relate all of your answers to the position on offer, and ensure that it’s appropriate to the business too.

Questions, questions: Try not to be thrown off course by a question – having considered answers to the most common questions is always a good idea before your interview:

“What are your strengths/weaknesses?” – ensure that questions about strengths or skills are answered in relation to the post on offer; ensure that, when asked about weaknesses, you admit to at least one – and ensure that it’s not going to be crucial to the job role!

“Tell me about some of your achievements” – make answers relevant to the job you’re interviewing for; some personal information is fine but remember the reason you are here.

“Why should we hire you?” – a great opportunity to name all of your skills and experience that fit the job role – not just the obvious, but personality traits that make you the perfect choice.

“Why do you want this job” – a great answer would show the interviewer that you understand the role on offer perfectly. For example, if the job involves working as part of a team, you could talk about how you’re a great team player and look forward to the opportunity of being a part of it.

“Where do you see yourself in five years time” – doing some research into the business and the role that you’re applying for will help you to answer this question; a realistic but ambitious answer would be the best route.

Turning the tables: At the end of your interview you will almost certainly be asked if you have any questions. It’s a good idea to have considered questions beforehand that concern the business and the job role; you can then pick from points that haven’t already been covered:

  • Ask about key challenges and opportunities
  • Ask how performance is measured
  • Ask about the company’s plans over the next few years
  • Ask about the company culture
  • Ask about people – especially people you’ll be working with

Goodbye: Eye contact, a firm handshake and a genuine thank you.  A sentence about your enthusiasm for the role may also make you more memorable than other candidates

Good luck!

Next month we’ll be looking at following up on an interview, and second interview/negotiation skills. For any questions, or for help with finding your perfect position in agriculture, please get in touch.