How to succeed in interviews

12 April 2002

Land-based careers are still a popular choice for many, with

farmers weeklys recent Next Generation Survey showing 80% of

rural youngsters keen to pursue such work. Farmlifes Careers in the

Countryside special brings you a flavour of some of the jobs

available – and some tips on how to get them

How to succeed in interviews

Looking for a job for when you leave

college? Considering moving on from

your current post? Farmlife asks

Will Gemmill, head of Strutt and Parkers

national farm recruitment service for a few

tips on how to wow at interview

YOUVE got to be confident without seeming arrogant. "That can be a fine line," says Will Gemmill, "because you are trying to sell yourself after all. But sometimes the best sell is the soft sell.

"If youre arrogant, people wont warm to you. So be confident – but be humble about what you have achieved.

"If, for example, youve got a first-class honours degree, you certainly should mention it – but its better to say you had a bit of luck with the exam questions, rather than that you were miles ahead of everyone else!"

Body language at the interview is important. Try to smile and remember eye contact is also key. "Dont stare at the wall, but dont eyeball the interviewer so much it makes them uncomfortable."

Sit up straight, dont have your arms folded and have an open manner. "Be assertive, but not aggressive," advises Will.

Whatever the job youre applying for, one of the most important attributes to show is enthusiasm. "Be enthusiastic – but dont get too carried away. You should be realistic about your capabilities. If you cant do something, admit it. A lot of jobs involve an element of training – what you have to do is sound keen to learn. Dont be tempted to lie – itll catch up with you."

Whats vital is to show that you are keen and willing to take on new challenges. What you mustnt do is put up too many restrictions. Dont say: I dont like spraying. Say instead: I havent done much spraying so far – but would be very keen to learn.

Good preparation before the interview is a must, says Will. This will help your answers and make you feel more confident.

Its worth preparing answers to the "standard" interview questions such as: What are your strengths, what are your weaknesses and why are you applying for the job?

Ask yourself, too, what your greatest achievement is. And as for that ever-tricky Whats your greatest weakness? question, Wills advice is simple. "If you are going to own up to a failure, make sure it is either very minor or could be perceived as a strength. Its better to say youre too tidy than you cant get out of bed in the mornings!"

Other useful preparation includes finding out about the business, what it does and who its key personnel are. "If its a farm, find out at the very least what the main enterprises are."

&#42 Reread job advert

Preparation should also involve rereading your cover letter and CV. Its also worth looking over the job advert or, if applicable, the job description. This will be full of "clues" as to the questions which may come up.

Arm yourself with evidence as to how you fit the requirements. If the advert uses the word "hardworking", then add up the hours you worked the previous summer so you can demonstrate how hardworking you are.

If it says "determined to succeed" be ready to quote the details of some enterprise youve completed which took great determination. Back up your case.

"Remember, employers want hard grafters. And in farming jobs, attention to detail is important. Show you can look after animals diligently or drill in a straight line."

You should also prepare some questions to ask. They dont have to be too technical – ideally they should show you are keen on the job, interested and enthusiastic.

Dont raise the subject of salary as one of your questions – certainly not in the first interview, advises Will.

Mention of money is better left until the second interview or after youve been offered the job. "If someone really wants you, they will pay to get you. Play your cards close to your chest – pay negotiations really start after youve been offered a job."

At some point, the interviewer will want to know about your hobbies and other interests. Qualifications and technical abilities might get you down to the final shortlist but ultimately itll come down to personalities and how they fit.

Remember, most interviewers will be looking for someone whos outgoing and team-orientated. "Im more likely to give a job to someone who – other things being equal – is into team sports rather than computer games."

Remember, in farming, practical experience is vital. "Any practical experience is good. Even if you travel after you leave college, if you can show youve worked on a farm, that will be looked upon favourably."

Keep in mind throughout the interview what you are capable of, says Will. "You can probably do more than you think. Young people can sometimes become blinkered and think: I can only, for example, work on an all-arable unit.

&#42 Foot on ladder

"If you hate pigs but get offered an otherwise great job that will mean spending one day a week working with pigs, remember it will widen your horizons. When youre looking for your first job, its all about getting that foot on the ladder.

"What you want is a job that offers potential and further training."

Give some thought to how youre going to dress for the interview, too. Dress appropriately to the job – but whatever the position is, "smart" should be the starting point.

If youre going for a practical farming post, have a pair of overalls and wellies in the car in case youre shown round the farm. "You can always dress down, but its hard to dress up once youve got there.

"If youre going by car, turn up with a tidy car. Dont reek of fags either. It may be off-putting to some interviewers and, if nothing else, it shows you are nervous. Polish your shoes and dont be late!

"So, go prepared, try not to be too nervous, try to enjoy it and give it your best shot. Be yourself, sound keen and youre half way there."

Car-eer…dont forget to muck out your car before driving to an interview!

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