HARRISON HOLGATE: INSURANCE, REINSURANCE AND FINANCE RECRUITMENT

Interview Guide

It’s a well documented fact that in interviews people make their decision within the first few minutes of meeting. Although this may not ring absolutely true on every occasion it certainly pays to get off on the right footing.

No matter how well qualified you are on paper the interviewer is interested in you and your personality. You’ve come this far – present yourself poorly at interview and you risk throwing it all away. It is vital to give a good interview – particularly if there are a number of applicants for just one job. With some simple preparation and thought you can conquer those nerves and present your skills ensuring you shine on the day.

Basic preparation:

  • Make sure you know the name of the person you are meeting, where and when. Plan for delays on the journey to the interview. If driving, take into account the time of day and allow for different traffic patterns. In the highly unlikely event that you are going to be late make sure you phone ahead to tell them of the delay and your rough time of arrival. Remember though, being late may well give them cause to cancel altogether.
  • Ensure you have appropriate interview clothing. Expensive designer gear is far from necessary, but the interviewer will judge your appearance – make sure your suit is clean and recently pressed and that you have polished your shoes. Men should wear white shirts and neutral ties, Women should wear smart blouses or similar tops and trousers or skirts that are businesslike. You do not know the interviewer and want to minimise the risk of them finding anything you wear inappropriate attire.
  • Do not carry anything into the interview other than a smart business folder/wallet containing any information on the company you have gleaned, along with a notepad and pen. Also take a spare copy of your CV so that you can offer it to the client at the beginning of the interview. A smart rucksack or brief case is acceptable but avoid taking shopping or carrier bags!
  • Make sure you turn your mobile phone OFF before you walk into the building!
  • Beware excessive jewellery and body piercings –many companies have dress codes and policies, it is better to find out about the job, the company and what their attitudes are before making your decision on whether it is a place for you.
  • Aim to be on time. Ideally you want to be ready in reception five to ten minutes before the allotted interview time, but aim to arrive no more than ten minutes early. Do allow time for getting through reception, signing in and completing any security procedures.
  • Remember you are on interview the moment you enter the building. Many companies ask the opinions of their reception staff and you may by chance bump in to someone influential in the corridor or whilst waiting – possibly even the MD or CEO! Be friendly, courteous and smile, right from word go!
  • Research the company thoroughly – use their website. If they have a mission statement, learn it. Check the Trade Journals for company news, ask people you can trust what they know about the firm. Memorise information about the companies past performance, achievements, future goals and progress, find out how many people they employ and how the company is structured.

When in the interview, if there is something wrong, for example the sun is in your eyes, make sure you say something to the interviewer. You’ve done well to get here, do not let anything put you off your top form.

The Interview Itself

When you meet your interviewer make sure you are standing up, offer your hand for a firm handshake, smile and have a line such as “Pleased to meet you” ready to be delivered with confidence. If you get in a lift or are walking to an interview room try to make a positive comment and small talk – you need to start building rapport to maximise your chance of success. Just being cheerful and positive will truly make all the difference.

If you meet more than one interviewer greet them in turn and make sure you memorise their names. During the interview always look at and address the person who has asked the question to which you are responding.

Good body language is vital throughout the interview. Sit upright in your chair, keep you feet flat on the floor and your hands in your lap (this will minimise displays of nerves). You must answer all questions clearly and with confidence and you should aim for good eye contact throughout, however, avoid staring at the interviewer!

A standard interview will normally start with an “ice-breaker” – an easy question about your journey or an offer of tea, coffee or water. Each interview is different but it will often then move into general questioning about yourself and your career history. Provision of general information on the company and team, role or department can follow and then the opportunity for you to ask your questions.

Make sure you know your CV and are prepared for questions. Ensure you have also read the job description and understood what the interviewer is looking for. You should plan out what types of questions the interviewer may ask and your responses. It is important to deliver your answers with confidence. Write them down, learn them and practice delivering them in front of a mirror. Remember to speak slowly and clearly.

LISTEN to the question being asked. Sometimes people are so quick to want to respond they don’t hear the question properly. Before you respond think through what has been asked and how you can best answer, drawing on the experience you have gained in your work or personal life. If you need time to think take a sip of water, remember you want a composed, confident response. Avoid one word answers at all costs!

If you’ve said something you didn’t mean or are unhappy with – say so. Don’t be afraid to clarify what you meant – it could make all the difference.

Make sure you are enthusiastic at all times – even if you have reservations. Your reservations may be unfounded and it is too early to jump to conclusions. If the interviewer thinks you are not interested you will be ruled out automatically!

Questions to the interviewer

This is one of the most important parts of the interview because it shows your level of interest and how much you have understood the role on offer. Make sure you have prepared questions to ask. DO NOT ask about salary.

Some example questions include:

  • What training is on offer?
  • Do you provide Exam support?
  • How many people are in the team
  • How would you describe the people/environment?
  • Are there any opportunities for career progression?

Conclusion

The interviewer will close the interview and may tell you what will happen next. If not, ask them what happens. If you are interested in the job make sure you tell them.

Leave the interview as you entered it – a very positive handshake, smile, thank them for their time and say that you look forward to hearing from them.

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