Whether you are a newly qualified speech and language therapist looking for their first post or looking to progress you career by applying for a higher banded position, interviews will always feel daunting. Having been both an interviewee and an interviewer, I am hoping I can give a balanced view of the best way to prepare for an interview.
Depending on where you are interviewing, there may be a variety of things you are asked to do before an interview. In the past, I have had to give presentations, sit tests and the standard face to face interview. Virtual interviews are becoming more common, especially since Covid, and group interviews are becoming more popular.
Face to Face/Virtual Interviews
It is important to read all the information sent to you as this is the biggest indication of what they expect from you and what they may ask you. Look through and read the person specification and try and turn each of these points into a question and plan an appropriate answer to make sure that you can talk about each area. Also, look up the most common interview questions and think of some answers.
Do your research! You should spend time looking on the trusts or company’s website. Pick a few specific things from their website to learn or comment on to show you have done this. Is there something that the trust or company is well known for such as a piece of research or an approach? Most importantly, look into their values. Values based recruitment is very popular at the moment. Tell them their values and explain how you could embody these values.
As well as thinking about the company or trust, think about the role itself, what is the client group you will be working with? And do you have examples of people you have worked with in this client group? Are you familiar with difficulties, assessments and therapy for this client group? How is this company or trust different to others? Think about the difference between working for an independent company compared to the NHS.
I would recommend that you pick around five examples of sessions with clients that demonstrate your personal skills such as organisation as well as your knowledge and learn them. Think about how you can apply these examples to different questions.
Be memorable! Show your personality! Show your passion! Yes, be professional but I love it when you can see a person’s personality and passion shine through. It helps me picture them in the team and passion makes a person much more engaging to listen to.
Structure and practise your answers. Structure is a key part of the interview. You need to give structured answers to help them listen to all the really good things you have to say. I would recommend looking into the STAR approach to help you do this. You only have the chance to say what you want once, and the interviewers can only hear you say it once so try and talk in a structured and coherent way. To do this, slow down and take your time. Some of the best interviews I have been in is when the candidate asks for a minute to think and organise their thoughts. A minute thinking is better than waffling for a lot longer than needed. Another way to support you to give coherent answers is practice. Think of questions and think of your answers, but don’t stop there, say them aloud. Saying them aloud is a lot different to thinking. Ask someone to help you. They do not need to know the area but just be there to tell you whether you spoke too quickly or whether they understood what you are talking about. In interviews, people not involved in the specialism often attend, so it is not just about the specialism but the way you present and deliver the information.
Group interviews are an opportunity for the interview to see the way you interact and work with others and to get a sense of your personality. Are you the person that takes the lead? Are you the person that supports everyone have their moment to shine? There is not necessarily a right or wrong in this task as the interviewer is often looking to see who would fit best or enhance their current team. But the biggest piece of advice is try and find the balance between shying away and over dominating in the group.
We have all set tests or exams before but in an interview it feels different. Throughout this I will be specifically referring to written tests. I would revise for a test in the same way you would the interview. I have had to sit tests about the trust itself and also about my own knowledge. They may give you an idea of what this may be about, or they may not. Use the information given about the role, the trust or company and your own knowledge base to revise for this. The three key pieces of advice I would give from my own experience is
1) wear a watch. You would not believe how many of the rooms you sit these tests in do not have a clock and make sure you look at the clock at the time they say to start and know how long you have.
2) take your time. This is the same as in an interview. Take a minute at the beginning of the test to take a deep breath and relax yourself.
3) remember everything about you is being assessed. You may have the knowledge and the skills but interviews are often tight between two candidates and they are looking for anything that may differentiate you from others. This can be anything from how messy the test you present is to the ease of reading your hand writing. Make sure your writing is clear and legible to give yourself the best chance.
From school to university, we have had to give presentations. Whether you love them or hate them, the chances are you have already had plenty of practise. They will give you a topic and this is your chance to shine and show both your experience, your personality and your knowledge. Just be prepared and ask others to listen and feedback to you so the first time you do it, is not in front of the interviewer. Be slow and speak clearly. Be organised! Do you know that they will have screen? Do they want you to bring slides on a memory stick or email this in advance? Or should you take some handouts in case they don’t. Or do they not want visuals at all and just you to talk. Try and know what you are talking about and do not just read what you have written. This is another time to be engaging and passionate and memorable.
For all interviews, make sure you have some questions to ask at the end. This is the time to see if the role is right for you. You are seeing just as much as them if this is the job that you want. Also do not be afraid of the interviewers, having interviewed myself I can tell you, they are just as nervous as you are! They want you to do well! They want to give you the best shot they can as they want to make sure they find the best person for the role as well.
Hopefully, this advice has helped you and good luck at finding the perfect job for you!
Check out our 5 Top Tips for NQPs blog post for advice on how to prepare for your new job!