Importance of Preparation:
Interviews are generally stressful experiences, and there are ways of making them, if not enjoyable, at least more positive experiences. If you feel you do not interview strongly, think about your interview toolkit. What are you using to impress the interviewer (s)? and build a good case for why you are the best person for the role they are interviewing for. Great preparation is what is going to help you find and access those tools.
Getting There: whether your interview is virtual or face-to-face know where you are meant to be; what time you are meant to be there; how you are getting there. Give yourself time to collect your thoughts.
First Impressions: Appear confident; to get invited for interview is an achievement; you have persuaded the recruiter that your experience could add value to their organisation. You now have to persuade them that it will. Smile and make eye-contact. If the interview is online make sure you know where your webcam is and look straight at that. Be efficient. Someone may have been using your device before you, so always check it is plugged in, charged and with the volume set correctly, and no inappropriate backgrounds if using zoom!
Where Video interviews are different
These interviews are generally happening in our homes. Some are lucky enough to have dedicated work spaces, others are in the kitchen. It is important to be aware of the surroundings. Avoid distractions behind and about you. How you dress is important, not to make a fashion statement, but to focus the interviewer on you. Although we are becoming ever more used to platforms such as Zoom and Teams it is harder to make a personal connection so remember to use the webcam properly.
And Where Video Interviews are the same
The purpose of the interview remains the same. This is your chance to persuade this organisation that you are the right person for this role. You must be there on time and fully prepared.
Know your Audience – The Company
Research everything you can about the company. There are so many resources at your disposal, use them all. Social Media, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Newspapers, Companies House and most importantly their website. Are you going for a Divisional role, if so make sure you know what the whole company/group does. How does this Division fit in? The level of detail you need will vary according to the level of the role – but be over-prepared rather than under-prepared.
Know your Audience – The Interviewer(s)
If you have been told who is going to be interviewing you, have a look at their background. If you are looking on LinkedIn, depending on your settings, they may be notified. But it is standard practice and can make the interview more personal. If you are being interviewed by the person who is in the role or team currently, don’t try and reinvent yourself as them; the organisation may well be looking for different skills, for all the right reasons.
Know Yourself – Your CV/Application Form
Make sure you remember what you put in your CV or application form and be prepared to go into more detail where you have highlighted something as an achievement or a challenge. It is possible this will be early in your career. They are not trying to catch you out; it may just be very relevant to the role. If you are having an online interview you can have a copy of your CV/Application form or key points close by, but beyond the webcam.
• “Tell me a bit about yourself” and remember to focus your answer on how relevant you are for the role and the organisation; don’t go way back in history.
• “What can you bring to the role?” Think about why you applied for it in the first place.
Know Yourself – Your Skills and Competencies
If you are going for a Competency-based interview you are being given the opportunity to demonstrate how your experience will enable you to bring the necessary skills to the role. The questions are likely to be open-ended.
Prepare for “Tell me about a time when ….”
• You overcame a particular challenge with suppliers.
• You resolved an issue with a difficult customer.
• You cut costs without cutting service levels.
Know Yourself – Your Behaviours
If the interview is Behaviour-based you are being asked to demonstrate how you performed in certain situations. The questions could be asked in many different ways, but prepare for:
• When did something go right? – and what did you put that down to?
• When did something go wrong? – and what did you learn from that?
• How do you manage conflict for yourself and others – formally? Informally? The result?
• How do you motivate yourself and others – targets? Rewards? Teambuilding? Development?
Know Yourself – What more do you want to know?
Even if the interviewers have been exceptional at giving you all the information you need about the role and the company, always have some questions for them prepared. It demonstrates interest and curiosity.
Some possible areas to ask questions about:
• The Interviewer – how have they progressed in the company; what do they like about it?
• The Organisation – is it diversifying?
• The Ethos- does the organisation have a sustainability policy, support a certain charity?
Answering the questions
Structure your answers and the best way of doing this effectively is to use the STAR technique.
S = Situation – briefly give the interviewer context
T = Task – outline what you needed to do
A = Action – go into some detail as to what action you took
R = Result – go into some detail as to what you achieved and how this related to the original task
(R) – Review – briefly what you took away from this, what you might have done differently
Remember the organisation wants to fill this role – it is important for them and they want to find the right person. Demonstrate how that person is you.
Be positive about your weaknesses – be aware of them and how you are working on them
• For example I don’t like speaking up in groups, so I prepare myself for at least one question per meeting or I volunteer to organise a group social event. Try not to say you’re shy and leave it at that.
Be positive about your future career
• For example In 5 years’ time I would like to have developed into a leadership role or have added an international element to my role. It is not a good idea to say you want the interviewer’s job.
Be positive about the role and the organisation. Leave them in no doubt that this is the role you want and where you will be able to add value.
Be positive as you leave the interview – remember to smile with eye contact.
And always keep these tools sharp – They work just as well for pitches, presentations and meetings!