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The five ‘P’s and two ‘Q’s of interviewing in person

January, 2023
Adam Richardson

While the spectre of COVID-19 still lingers, UK businesses have settled into a “new normal” and, as was the case pre-2020, there is an expectation from the overwhelming majority of employers in the construction industries that candidates will interview in person either throughout or at some point during the hiring process.

Comments from employers in recent months suggest that some less experienced candidates feel ill at ease interviewing in person compared with via Teams while even some experienced candidates are a touch rusty as a result of reduced face-to-face contact over the last couple of years. So here are our “five ‘P’s and two ‘Q’s of face-to-face interviewing” to help you show the best of yourself and really understand whether you will be a good fit with the potential employer.  

Punctuality – there is more scope for being late when interviewing face-to-face compared with logging into a virtual interview room. Prepare your route, read any notes the recruiter or employer has given you and allow a margin of error considering the possibilities of road works, train strikes, peak traffic hours, parking restrictions, even finding the right office in an industrial estate of identical looking units... 

It sounds obvious but it is happening more often than you would imagine both to experienced candidates and those starting out in their careers. Arriving late not only looks bad but also typically results in the candidate starting the interview stressed and underperforming as a result. 

Practice  following two years of restricted face-to-face contact not only have some people unconsciously developed new mannerisms, behaviours and traits but many of us are simply not quite as at ease as we were in a formal setting such as an interview. Particularly if you have been working remotely a lot, then a dummy interview with a friend or recruiter can go a long way to helping candidates enter the interview room with confidence.

Presentation – first impressions count so don’t leave it to the morning of your interview to check your favoured outfit still fits and is clean. Stand tall on arrival and, being mindful of COVID, offer a firm handshake. During the interview sit up straight, keep your hands on your lap or on the desk without fidgeting and maintain eye contact with the interviewer(s). Feel free to take time to consider your answers before responding but make sure that you answer clearly, concisely and in a way that relates to the question. 

Preparation – investing time preparing for each interview makes a dramatic impact to the likelihood of getting an offer. Start by reviewing the job description, then read up about the company (browse their website and recent news articles). Next review your covering letter, CV and LinkedIn profile thinking how the skills, experience and responsibilities the company is looking for dovetail with your experience. Employers will expect you to talk about not only what you have done but also the impact you made personally. If you have gaps on your CV or discrepancies between your CV and LinkedIn profile then expect the interviewer to ask you about them.

Good recruiters (and we include ourselves in that category) will prepare every candidate for every interview often by video or telephone. Make sure you prepare for this call and challenge your recruiter’s knowledge about the role, company, attendees, and interview process - they should be able to offer more specific insights than you will glean from the company’s website or a generic job description… This call can also be a good opportunity to practice a dummy interview as mentioned above.

Priorities – while demonstrating that you are the most capable person for the role is the most important goal, be prepared to discuss your salary expectations, flexible working, career progression etc. should the interviewer ask you about your priorities. Remember it is called a “salary negotiation” for a reason and so consider trade-offs you would be happy to make and as well as your red lines. 

Questions from your interviewer(s)  further to the traditional questions interviewers have been asking for years, in recent months many have started asking questions relating to candidate perceptions of remote and flexible working as well as the issue of staff returning / not returning to offices. The interviewer may be looking to understand whether your vision dovetails with the company’s, or for ideas about how to manage these going forward as companies are often still finding their ways on such issues.

Questions for your interviewer(s) – interviewing is a two-way process and you should take the opportunity to ensure the company and role are the right fit for you as well as you being the right fit for them. While some of your list of questions will doubtless relate to your priorities (as discussed) above, you should also think of less transactional ones that will help you understand the company’s culture, corporate aspirations and vision, management style, current financial performance etc. If these issues come up naturally during the conversation or it feels inappropriate to ask them at the time then skip over them, however when candidates do not have any questions it can make them appear unprepared and generally less interested than they are in reality either making them less attractive to potential employers, or weakening their negotiating position.

We’ve created three candidate guides (“Starting your search”, “Managing your interview”, and “Managing your resignation”) to support you through your job hunt from start to finish. To download these guides please visit:

About the author:

Adam Richardson - Managing Director

Adam has over 20 years’ experience recruiting procurement and commercial professionals across the construction sector.

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