Preparing for your interview - some key advice

Matthew Wilcox our consultant managing the role
Going to an interview can be daunting, especially if it's your first time, or if you really want to land the role. Preparation is key, and with the right advice you will feel relaxed and confident when making your first impression. 

Before your interview do some research
 
Find out as much as you can about the company you are applying to - their products/services, scale, structure etc. There are a few other sources you can try to find this information, the most reliable would be:
 
The company website
Annual reports
LinkedIn
Google
 
Best of all, if you can, speak to someone who works for the company. Of course, this is not always possible, but it is a very useful source of information. LinkedIn is a good way to connect with existing employees and reach out to them.
 
Key preparations
 
  • Check the location before the day and explore alternative options of transport.
  • Read through the job description, know where your role will fit into the organisation.
  • Expect the interviewer to do a CV walkthrough, spend some time going through your CV, making sure to familiarise yourself with your previous roles and projects along with dates.
  • Be prepared for any technical questions that could arise from reviewing your CV.
  • Be prepared to explain your reasons for leaving each role.
  • Have a mental note of all key achievements in each role.
 
Day of the interview and arrival
 
Plan to arrive 15 minutes early, always leave plenty of time and assume you are going to be held up and check for traffic reports if necessary. 
 
Best practices
 
  • Introduce yourself politely.
  • Arrive on time or early if possible.
  • Turn your mobile phone off during the interview.
  • Express yourself clearly.
  • Smile as much as possible during the interview.
  • Show how your experience can benefit the company.
  • Ask questions concerning the company for which you are being interviewed.
  • Show willingness to learn and progress.
  • Be assertive without being aggressive.
  • Prepare 10 relevant questions; you will probably cover five in the interview.
  • Refrain from answering questions with a yes or no - expand where possible.
  • Answer all questions truthfully and honestly.
  • Stay positive about previous employers.
  • Show that you have put time and energy into planning your career and that this is a crucial step toward your future.
  • Do not talk about the salary and benefits package - getting an offer is the main priority and salary negotiations will follow.
  • For every responsibility/requirement on the job specification, ensure you have at least one example of an experience or a transferable skill that covers that requirement for the interview.
 
Telephone interviews
 
As a minimum you should brush up on the company’s business structure, clients, products, industry terminology, or anything else that may relate to the position you are applying for. Spending an hour or two researching these things before an interview can make a great impression on your interviewers and possibly land you a second interview or even a job.
 
Always remember:
 
  • Keep a glass of water handy.
  • Smile - this will project a positive image to the listener and will change the tone of your voice.
  • Speak slowly and enunciate clearly, be careful not to speak over the interviewer.
  • Keep your CV in clear view, on the top of your desk, so it is at your fingertips when you need to answer questions.
  • Have a short list of your accomplishments available to review.
  • Have a pen and paper handy for note taking.
  • Make sure your phone is charged and you are in an area with good reception.
 
 
Talking about your experience
 
Keep examples recent and relevant from the last five years, and use a variety of different examples. It is often seen as a weakness to use the same scenario for different questions. If you do not understand a question, ask for clarification. Take your time in answering a question – it is better to give a decent answer after a few seconds pause, rather than a garbled, nonsensical answer immediately. Avoid clichéd answers to questions such as “I’m a great team player”, which you cannot back up with examples from the workplace.
 
Think about the different interviewers motivations:
 - When interviewed by HR their main concern will be to ensure that you fit the company culture, but  they will not be able to assess your ability to do the job.
 - A line manager will be able to test your skills and assess whether they will be able to work with you on a daily basis.
 
Competency based interviewing
 
Competency based interviewing (link this to blog 4) is a series of scenario-based questions designed to examine your strength across a number of soft skills. The concept behind this type of question, where you are asked to give a specific example of a real-life situation in the workplace, is that the interviewer is able to determine how you will behave in the future, based on how you behaved in the past.
 
A competency question will start with something like …. “Describe a situation when……” or “Tell me about a time when…..” It is important that you respond accordingly, with one specific example, rather than saying what you would, could or should do. Prepare examples for each of the competencies; and rehearse your answers. Remember that the word ‘we’ should not form part of your answer, replace it with ‘I’. It is you they want to hear about. The hiring manager after all, is looking to hire you, not your team.
 
To prepare yourself for the competency questions you will need to understand the STAR (situation, task, action, result) method of structuring your answer. The STAR technique enables you to showcase your relevant experience with the interviewer in a methodical
manner. We recommend doing some in-depth preparation before the interview so that you can have some great examples to quote.
 
Some interview example questions:
 
  1. Describe a situation in which you were able to use persuasion to successfully convince someone to see things your way.
  2. Give me a specific example of a time when you used good judgement and logic in solving a problem.
  3. Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  4. Give me an example of a time when you had to make a split second decision.
  5. What is your typical way of dealing with conflict? Give me an example.
  6. Tell me about a time you were able to successfully deal with another person even when that individual may not have personally liked you (or vice versa).
  7. Tell me about a difficult decision you have made in the last year.
  8. Give me an example of a time when something you tried to accomplish failed.
  9. Tell me about a time when you were forced to make an unpopular decision.
  10. What do you expect from this role?
 
Communication, talking the interviewers language
 
A good tip is to always be aware of the tempo of the interview, if your interviewer is talking and asking questions slowly or quickly, respond in a like manner. Try to maintain eye contact and try to gauge the understanding of the individual(s) you are meeting with. Don’t become too technical and lose someone who is unfamiliar with what you are talking about, the same applies for the reverse. Don’t talk high level when you have a technical audience, they will be
looking for detail.
 
If there are multiple people interviewing you, share attention between them and be sure to answer questions to the person that directed them. Avoid talking too much - this is a difficult one, but the talking should be fairly even between interviewer and interviewee. Make sure you pause if you’re in the middle of a long answer to allow the interviewer to speak if they need to.
 
Always remember:
 
  • If late, only apologise once.
  • Remember what you have said to each interviewer. It is fine to duplicate information across the interviews, but make sure you are not repeating yourself to the same person. Sometimes, interviewers may have a short chat between interviews and the second interviewer may be given the task of probing a particular area, so expect some repetition.
  • Never say overly negative things about your current employer or reasons for leaving.
  • Focus on the future, not on the past.
 
Feedback
 
After the interview it is essential that you call Marks Sattin and provide prompt feedback. In most situations your recruiter will not be able to get feedback from the client without speaking to you first. Any delay in providing this feedback can slow down the whole process. Whether it is positive or negative, it is essential that you take it on board and use it for future interviews.
 
Feedback is a great learning opportunity for you and even the very best candidates often need several interviews in order to secure their ideal role.
 
12/08/20
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