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How to succeed in an interview for further education

01 October 2019

How to Succeed in a Job Interview

by Fiona Bardell

As part of the Executive Recruitment team, I am fortunate to travel to parts of the country that my Antipodean-self had never heard of before. I have had the privilege to meet a range of governors, staff, students and candidates gaining valuable insight into the fabulous work that our colleges do around the country. With the insight I’ve gained and using our in-house expertise at AoC, I have highlighted the best tips for jobseekers to succeed in the interview process.

This may seem like elementary knowledge, but you would be surprised to know just how many people get the basics wrong. Here are my top five tips for candidates:

Figure out the commute before the day of the interview

Technology is a valuable tool and sometimes we don’t utilise it enough. Google Maps has an excellent tool where, when searching for your potential job destination you can also change the departure and arrival times to gauge how long the commute might take on a Monday morning for instance. Rather than driving the commute late in the evening or on a weekend, which may not reflect the actual commute time. Knowing how long the commute could potentially be is something I recommend applicants look at before they apply for a role or at least before the shortlisting stage. This is to ensure that they don’t waste their time or the client’s time for an opportunity that won’t work for them or their families.

Always start off by saying “hello”

Many colleges utilise a “Meet the Staff” or a “Meet the Students” session in an assessment day. In my experience, one of the first things these panels will mention after is a candidate leaves, is usually either one of two things; “I liked that they introduced themselves” or “I didn’t like that they didn’t introduce themselves”. This introduction or lack thereof, can set the tone of the session quite quickly and by not setting aside the first minute or two for introductions you might be setting up an additional small hurdle for you to overcome in the session.

Demonstrate your research skills

While job-hunting can be stressful and time consuming, it is vitally important to research the individual roles and organisations thoroughly. Through our conversations with candidates, we know that generally candidates do their research and due diligence, however this does not always translate to the selection process. Demonstrating your knowledge of the organisation does not need to entail you giving the selection panel a monologue of all the facts you’ve learned. Instead I would advise candidates to ask thoughtful relevant questions throughout all their activities, which relate to the stakeholders they are interacting with. It is also important for candidates to weave a thread throughout their activities to ensure that they are answering the questions – “why this job?” and “why this organisation?”. Each college and organisation are unique, and their stakeholders want to see that candidates understand and appreciate that and not view the opportunity as merely a career stepping stone.

Understand your social media presence

We live in an age of social media and our individual online presences have exploded over the last few years. This visibility is fairly recent and there have been many documented instances where an individual’s past posts or publicised views on social media have been re-discovered and jeopardised their career. I would recommend utilising Google to search yourself every 6 months or so in order to understand the information that is publicly available about you. This is not for vanity purposes, there may have been a post or a picture you have been tagged in 10 years ago that you may not wish a potential employer to see. We have only in the last few years really begun to understand that things posted on the internet are forever and the potential impacts this will have. On this note, keep your Facebook and Instagram accounts private, but ensure that you have a professional and up to date LinkedIn account!

Keep calm and remain professional

It is important to feel somewhat relaxed and comfortable in an interview, however it is always important to keep the fact that this is a formal process and assessment in the back of your mind. This is not the time to engage the panels in your potential comedy set. While you may have good intentions and would like the panel to see your personality and relaxed style, in most interview situations this comes across to selection panels as not taking the job or the interview seriously. This doesn’t mean don’t be yourself and remain stoic throughout the process. Small talk about generic topics such as weather and traffic are both acceptable and encouraged, but the end goal is to demonstrate your professionalism and suitability for the post. Too much joking around will only detract from the answers and examples that you give and could end up being what the selection panel remembers about you during deliberations.

These are my top five tips for candidates. These things may seem small and common sense, but I recommend giving them thought during your interview preparation, so that on the day your answers and performance will be what stands out.

If you are seeking new career opportunities, then visit AoC Jobs, the FE job specialists.

And if you are looking to recruit to your organisation, please get in touch and see how we can help you find that perfect candidate.