When you are out of work, you can feel like getting a job is a job in itself and when you are in a job, the level of stress and effort involved with the both the application and then the interview process makes you wonder whether it is even worth starting to look!
Given the above, the last thing you want to do once you have made a successful application and have an interview booked in is to weaken your chances of getting the job. Why make life hard for yourself when every candidate should have a good chance of success when they start an interview process with a hirer?
You are at least 50% right if you successfully get an interview
If a company wants to interview you, they have identified something in your profile which makes you stand out. As a worst-case scenario, you will have at least 50% of what they are looking for otherwise it is unlikely they would want to meet you.
It is now your job to ensure you get to being at least 75% right for the company by the time you get to the interview. Doing this should secure you a second interview at least but more than likely put you toward the front of the queue to getting the job.
Why the picture above? Think of a pilot; irrespective of whether they are flying for the first time or whether they have flown for thousands of hours, they will always go through the same checks and processes to ensure the flight is as safe as humanly possible for their passengers. Preparing for an interview should be exactly the same; go through the same high quality pre-interview process every single time and you give yourself the best chance of your interviews always running smoothly.
Make sure you do the basics before the interview
Do you want to be in the situation of nervously trying to make something up to an interviewer when 30 minutes of your time researching could give you all the knowledge you need?
No-one, repeat no-one, has an excuse in our always online world to say they have not got time to do their research and prepare for an interview. Your mobile phone can be used wherever you are to quickly research both the company and the actual interviewer/s, so make sure you do a proper job of preparing.
Different levels of role naturally require a varying level of time and effort but the essential items which you need to think of are:
1. Who is the company I am interviewing with?
- What do they sell / services do they provide?
- Can I confidently talk about the company and simply summarise who they are and what they do?
2. What is the role I am being interviewed for?
- Have I fully assessed the job spec ? (Actually have I been given one?)
- Do I have an awareness of the company culture?
- Do I know the type of person who will fit into this team?
TIP: For anything cultural / people oriented, if the company careers page does not outline this area, focus on websites like Glassdoor and LinkedIn. You should be able to ascertain good quality information on the types of people they hire and the pros and cons of working for the business using these resources.
3. Who am I meeting?
- What is the background of the interviewer(s)?
- Can I gain any knowledge of the type of person they are?
TIP: Social media is king here; LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter – these are just a few of the basic places to go to when researching the interviewer’s background. If you can find a common interest (place of education, company you have worked for in the past, the same hobby etc.), you have instantly got a hook to engage the person with.
4. Why am I interested in this specific role?
- Can I succinctly explain why I want to work for this company and specifically, in this role?
Common sense says if you do not know why you want the job, why are you going for an interview in the first place. If you are working with a recruitment consultant and during your research, you can’t get fired up for the meeting, be honest and pull out! Your stance is unlikely to change so be honest and move on to the next opportunity.
However if this really is the job you want then when the interviewer asks you the question, and they will, your genuine enthusiasm and positive answer really is a giveaway as to whether you genuinely want the role or not. Given most candidates give stock answers to this question, be original and you can stand out by showing you have done due diligence to the process to really fit to their business (their culture, people and values) as well as the role itself.
5. Where could I fall down in this interview process?
- What areas of my background could the interviewer find fault / pick holes in?
- What parts of the role am I lacking experience in?
Most people prioritise their strengths when preparing for an interview. I would always recommend starting with the reverse; know what your weaknesses are and be fully prepared to justify why you are still right for the job.
More businesses than ever are looking for candidates with character who can push back professionally when the answers they give in an interview are challenged. Even if your perspective isn’t right, it shows the employer you have the tenacity and self-belief to stand up for yourself under pressure.
6. What questions do I have for the interviewer?
- Do I have a solid list of at least 5 questions which will demonstrate I have given due care and attention in preparing for this interview?
Having stock questions prepared puts you within the 80% but you want to be in the top 20% don’t you? Good questions to focus on are opinion orientated; this ensures no matter who you speak with throughout the process, you will always get a different answer. Examples are:
- What aspects of working for xxxxxx make you genuinely excited to be a part of their business?
- What challenges do you feel I would face coming into this specific role?
- What do you feel it takes to be truly successful when working for xxxxxx?
You should always have at least 5 questions prepared which do not cover ‘fact’ orientated areas (these are typically covered during the interview itself).
7. What has happened to the company in recent times?
- Do I know anything newsworthy about this business which could be raised by the interviewer?
This forms part of ‘who is the company’ but specifically relates to media stories. Make sure you have an awareness of trading performance (if it is freely available) and any positive (or negative) stories which are in the press (particularly in the last 6 months). You do not want to be caught out if you are asked for an opinion on something which you are not even aware of!
8. What should I wear and how do I get there?
- Do you know what the dress code is for the business?
- What is the best way to travel on the day to ensure you arrive on time?
There is literally no point doing great research if you are going to turn up looking unprofessional. Know the culture of the business you are interviewing with and ensure your interview attire fits well. Always aim to dress one level above who you are meeting and if you are unsure, err on the side of caution and dress smart.
Similarly, being late is no excuse either – Google Maps shows nearly every location in the UK and being aware of roadworks and public transport issues should be checked to ensure you allow adequate time to arrive with plenty of time to spare.
Dependant on the role you are interviewing for, there are plenty of other things you can do to stand out but these are the core areas to ensure you prepare for every interview.
In part 2 we look at the interview itself. This looks at tips and ideas to make sure you are not one of the 33% who are a ‘no’ within the first 90 seconds of an interview by making obvious errors which are easily avoided!
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