As an organisation, the interviews that we arrange are extremely varied and for more specific advice we would advise that you speak to the consultant arranging your particular interview. There are a however a few things that you can do that will stand you in good stead for any interview, regardless of the industry or level of seniority.
Prior to the interview
Preparation ahead of the interview is at least of equal importance to the time spent actually in the interview itself. There are certain questions you must ask yourself before going to meet your prospective employer. Do you truly understand exactly what they are looking for? Have you taken the time to work out how best to illustrate the most relevant aspects of your experience or competencies? Have you considered the areas that you are likely to be most weak or vulnerable? Working out how to diminish the relevance or importance of your weaknesses is just as important as selling your biggest strengths. The interviewer will be looking for reasons to hire you but they will also be looking just as hard for reasons not to hire you. A good interviewer will seek out these weaknesses or areas where you might be lacking in experience so you need to be ready for this.
It goes without saying that you need to be able to show that you have knowledge of the company or department that you are applying for. Without appropriate company research you are setting yourself up for a disappointment. Perhaps less obvious though is how you can take this a step further, providing yourself with a winning advantage. Almost without exception, employers want people who are genuinely interested in their company, people that can demonstrate a passion for what they do, how they do it, where they are going in the future or what they can contribute to the company. Employers want to be confident that the person they take on is not only technically capable of doing the job, but more importantly that they will be loyal, motivated and happy within the role. If employees are loyal, motivated and happy then they are likely to be productive for the long term.
Without that knowledge of the company, you cannot demonstrate these attributes. Anyone can go to an interview and say “I’m really interested in this position” “I really like the company” or “I want to stay with the company for the long term.” The problem is that those are just words. You need to prove your interest and excitement by demonstrating your knowledge of the company and explaining why this is of particular interest or relevance to you specifically.
You should also have plenty of pre-prepared questions to ask your interviewer. These questions are vitally important for two reasons. Firstly, a successful interview is one that results in a two way fit. You have to be happy with them as an employer, just as they have to be impressed by you as potential employee. If you don’t have all the information, how can you compare them to any other company or come to an accurate decision on whether they are the company you wish to work for? The second reason is that the questions you ask are the single best way to truly demonstrate your interest in the opportunity. Think about it. Anyone can tell someone that they are interested. By asking questions you are BEING interested. By asking intelligent, varied and relevant questions, your passion for working for the company becomes that much more genuine. Do not underestimate just how important this aspect is. We have said it once before but to underline the point; Technical aptitude for the role counts for very little if the interviewer is not convinced that you really want the position and for the right reasons.
Aim to take a list of at least 20 questions with you. Think about the structure of an interview. You will be learning more about the company for the duration of the interview and questions that you had planned to ask will have been answered before you have had a chance to ask the question. Only at the end do they turn around and say “What questions do you have for us?” At this stage, the worst possible scenario would be to fail to come up with at least a few good questions. In this scenario, an interviewer could be forgiven for thinking that you aren’t really all that interested. By taking with you a list of questions, you increase your chances of having some excellent questions when they do finally ask you.
Of course, this does not mean you can’t ask questions during the interview as well. It is very good practice to throw in a few relevant questions at other stages of the interview. Just make sure you have some good ones left for the end as well.
At The Interview
10 minutes. No more and no less. That is exactly how early you should arrive for the interview. Any earlier and it will be considered that you can’t keep to a simple timescale. Any later and you will have failed to show your proactive and eager nature.
You have heard it so many times already but it is still just as true. First impressions are vital! Make sure you are dressed and presented smartly. Upon meeting your interviewer, ensure you greet them with a smile, eye contact and a firm (but not bone crunching) handshake.
If you are likely to struggle with nervousness, the best way to counteract this is to go into the interview knowing that you are as prepared as you possibly can be. Nerves are almost always that much worse when you know that you haven’t done your homework well enough. A good interviewer will know that in order to get to know the real you, they need for you to be relaxed. They want to know what you would be like on the job once you are comfortable in your surroundings. Of course they might want to know how you handle pressure as well, but it is likely that an interviewer will try and help you to relax initially. Invariably though, once you are into your stride the nerves will quickly fade.
Particularly when nervous, make sure you force yourself to take the time to think about the question that has been asked of you, why they have asked that question and what they are looking for in the answer. Don’t dive in! You are more than entitled to take a short pause before answering, allowing you the time to give a much more measured and considered response.
Come the end of the interview, it is good practice to try and ascertain what happens next. Ask them what the procedure is from here and when you might receive feedback. Reiterate your interest in the role having learned more about it at interview and don’t forget to thank them for their time. Some individuals like to go further than this and ask whether there is any reason at this point why their application might not be progressed. The is a particularly good question for a sales role as it shows the ability to close. It will also give the applicant a chance to counteract any concerns if the interviewer does turn around and say something along the lines of… “Generally it was a good interview John but the only area we are not so sure of is your experience of x.” It just might give you the chance to bring them round with a parting comment.