Interview tips for the new UK migrant

If you schooled in the UK or have lived here for many years, this is probably not for you. I stand corrected though if I happen to be wrong. Having been in the field of Recruitment and Selection in the UK for the last 7 years, I have encountered some job applicants that would have done better if only they had some guidance. Growing Immigration figures in the last 10 years has seen an influx of foreigners to the UK particularly from the EU, Asia and Africa. Migrants albeit having strong and even relevant qualifications from institutions in their home country are finding it really difficult getting into the UK job stream. While the UK experience is a determining factor, interviewing well could tip the scales in ones favour.

I relocated to the UK 10 years ago and initially it was a roller coaster of fails and wins as I tried to move up the corporate ladder.  Like I often say there is still room for growth but I feel confident that I am well on my way. My tips to follow are all based on personal experience so there is definitely a “method to the madness“.

Over 2 decades ago in my home country as a university work experience trainnee, I attended my very first interview. This interview would have gotten me a job after University in a prestigious organisation but I did not do so well. The interviewer called me back for some feedback. He firstly comforted me as being just 19 then, I was taking the not so good news really hard. He then went on to tell me something that I tell my kids today which is to look people in the eye. Most children brought up in Africa in my generation hardly looked anyone in the eye as it could be misconstrued as being rude. Whereas a typical 19 year old in the Uk even in the 90’s would have been more confident as I have now even observed that presentation skills is a big thing in this part of the world. This leads me to the 10 skills that I would like to share with you.

  1. Make eye contact – Look your interviewer in the eye, do not stare though. When you first meet them, make sure that you hold their gaze as that shows confidence and conveys the feeling that you are open and honest.
  2. Forget your accent – Don’t affect an accent, speak as you would normally but clearly. Trust me they will understand you and find you unique. Ignore those voices in your head telling you that “you are not enough”. You cannot sound more British than the British.
  3. Study the organisation on the internet – nothing excites an employer like when you tell them unique things about their establishment that you could only have found out via research.  Mention key successes only though!
  4. Don’t shy away from small talk– Your interviewers may try to make some talk, don’t get so tense that you refuse to engage. I went for an interview once and I was asked what makes me tick and I just blurted out “nothing”! I was so tense that I could not even make sense of the question. The small talk is not a trick situation, its just them trying to know you and get you to relax.
  5. Banish Negativity – I have been in waiting rooms and heard fellow applicants lose hope as they feel there are too many other applicants or even white British applicants. I am a strong believer in 2 things – “If you are good you are good” and “what will be will be”. Just prepare and show up and all will be well, if it was meant to be.
  6. Repeat the question – Ask for repeats if need be, better you are clear on the question than you go off on a tangent. Some questions have branches, so make sure you have a paper and pen to write the salient points down so that your answers are complete without prompting.
  7. Character works! – Modern interviews are no longer predictive. Some panelists may choose to ask you for a line from your favourite book, film or music. Such random questions are just to test your persona, to see if you have a sense of humour or any other interesting trait that differentiates you from the crowd. Now I once had this question and guess what my line was? That line that any Nollywood lover knows which is, “what an elder sees seating down a child cannot see even if they climb the Iroko tree”. The panel roared with laughter as I broke it down to them. However remember to keep your tale short and sweet so that you don’t lose your moment!
  8. Appearance – I recognise that these are individualistic times, everyone wants to be unique, but an interview might not be the best place to rock your new blue Mohawk or tight Herve Leger dress. Everything should be in moderation. You do want to stand out but not for the wrong reasons.
  9. Examples, Examples and more Examples – In the UK, giving examples is very crucial. Direct experience is not always essential, however transferable experience is. So you have not worked in customer service before, but you have been a receptionist then this is enough if you can show examples that connect with both roles. Another example is that of someone who would like to work as a learning mentor for teenagers but has not done this in a formal setting before. If you have experience as a Sunday school teacher for teenagers in your local church even if it was in Africa that could be a transferable skill for the learning mentor role. The onus will always lie on you to prove that the skill you already have is enough for the role you seek.
  10. Have questions for your interviewers – At the end of most interviews, you will be asked if you have any questions and it will be good if you have some. Prepare them in advance so that it does not sound forced. I interviewed someone once who asked 6 questions at the end; that is too much! 1 or 2 smart questions will suffice. Examples of what you could ask could be how the  company manages to thrive in a competitive market or even when you will hear the outcome of the interview.  

I could mention more but don’t want to bore you so will leave you with these. I look forward to your emails.

as ever,

Uloma.

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