Over the years at recruitment presentations, careers expos and in consultation I have heard the question to employers (and it’s a good one) “what are you really looking for at the interview stage?” I have also heard the answer a fair few times. It is slightly different for every organisation, depending on the HR and recruitment practices they follow so firstly don’t expect one magic rule. Investigate each employer and the interview stages they go through. For example check if they do psychometric tests or pre-selection social events. However if we are thinking about the face to face selection interview this is where they drill down to get a sense of the real person. Recruiters ask you to interview because from the application you look like the right fit and you have the grades they expect. They will usually have a choice of potentials and they want to select down to the number they require, sometimes only one person. It is about performance on the day so preparation is key. However, employers understand you will be nervous and that all answers will not be perfect. Preparation helps alleviate nerves and in an ideal scenario you will have thought of answers to common interview questions, looked at the resources from your careers service, even been to a mock interview to practice, so you will have some control over what to expect. Yet you still want to know – what are they really looking for? Let’s assume that you have thought about arriving on time, dressing appropriately, looked at the organistion’s website and that you know the requirements of the role. What else do you need to prepare? This gets tricky as it’s about you, your attitude, personality and approach. They want to check how well you would integrate into and contribute to their teams in addition to whether you connect with and understand their values. They want to see you can demonstrate common sense, have an affinity with their line of business, can work in the environment they operate in.

Do you have a clear understanding of the qualities they are looking for in their staff? (check online profiles of last year’s graduate intake or the job description). Think carefully about how can you talk to them about the content of your CV or give answers to behavioural questions that will show your approach and attitude, demonstrating that you are a match to what they want. When talking about your degree or part-time job do you showcase someone who is curious and/or creative? When highlighting your extracurricular hobbies or sport can you be positive and passionate? Can you explain why you chose your study path with enthusiasm and explain the relevance to the role, even if the subject is not a requirement? Do you come across as someone who is really interested in their company and the sector they work in? Have you recently read news about their area of work and got opinions on their industry sector? If you are asked about anything in your application or CV, can you say why it was interesting or important? Are you able to contextualise how you work in a team and how you dealt with a disappointing team experience and a high functioning one? Can you be trusted to get on with things, take clear, sensible decisions and work towards solutions – how would you show that?

Quite a lot to think about but always keep front of mind they are trying to get to know you beyond the words written on your application.

If the organsition states its values and culture on their website these will be a good starting point to really understand what type of people they are looking for – things like ‘Collaboration’ or ‘People focused’, ‘Innovation’ and ‘Team Success’. What recruiters are really looking for is the right person to do a great job for their organisation. Good luck!

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