The interview

Preparation is everything. If you really want this job, you must be adequately prepared. And this isn’t just a quick look on the website the night before. This is finding out everything there is know about the organisation (its staff, its finances, its trustees/board, its competitors) and the role itself. Look at their website, newspapers, scientific reviews sites, company accounts, Google search, annual reports and look at the job description itself again.

Familiarise yourself with the organisation’s website. What do they do? What can you see that they could do better? What are their competitors' doing/doing better? Be prepared to offer your thoughts and suggestions during the interview – in the right way and if appropriate of course! But prospective employers like to see initiative and candidates who have thought about the role, who demonstrate they understand the challenges associated with it and who may have something positive to offer by way of solutions, will stand out.

If you don’t already know, ask who will be interviewing you. Look them up on the organisation's website and on social media. Find out about their roles and responsibilities, their current role, and how long they have been in post. It may help shape your answers to their questions.

Dress appropriately for the nature of the position and the role being applied for. If in doubt, dress more conservatively.

Think about the questions you may be asked and have your answers thoroughly prepared. Why should we offer you the job (as opposed to the other five people we are interviewing today?). Have three or four points ready to make. If you can’t answer this, you should question whether to save yourself the train fare and stay at home.

If your work is technical or difficult to explain, think how you will need to communicate this to a layperson, who might be on the interview panel. Good communication skills are a requirement of all jobs to a greater or lesser extent.

Check your route and journey time. Leave enough time to get there early. Have a contact phone number with you in case you get held up/lost/delayed.

Prepare questions in advance to ask the panel. These should reinforce the panel’s already positive impression of you. So rather than ask questions that may well be able to be answered by HR (‘how often is pay reviewed’, ‘how many holidays am I entitled to’) ask higher quality questions that reinforce your interest in this specific role, e.g. ‘if I were to be successful are there opportunities for me to take part in any cross department projects so I can share my skills from my area of expertise and learn from others about theirs?’ This illustrates a willingness to share and be part of a team, at the same time as wishing to listen and learn from others. All good qualities an employer will be looking for.

If you are asked to make a presentation find out in advance what facilities there are to do so and what the size of the interviewing panel is. If it’s just one or two, a power point presentation may be over the top and you may wish to adopt a different approach. Practise delivering the presentation at home until you are confident doing so. Time yourself delivering it, know it thoroughly but use it as a tool to elaborate from – don’t just read it word for word from the slides or hard copy

Present confidently, smile and be friendly. Don’t waffle. This is an opportunity for the panel to see you in action and decide whether they would be able to work with you in future. It is a real opportunity to impress with not only the intellectual quality of what you are saying but of how you are saying it too. 

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