Senior Recruitment Advisor, Mike Leeman has pulled together some tips for successful interviews (hint: it’s all about the preparation beforehand!).
There are many sites out there giving a multitude of interview tips. Whilst each has their nuances, the common theme is preparation. There is nothing that you will be able to do to change your personality/cultural fit to the company, there is also nothing that you can do to change the experience that you have had in the past. There is equally nothing that you can do about the questions you are going to be asked or the format. The biggest help you can give yourself is preparation.
Sure, read the website, read the Wikipedia page to give yourself and idea of how the company promotes itself and what, as an organisation, it feels is important to represent itself to the wider world. But remember – these too are sales documents and advertising. If you really want to get to know the company, speak to people you know that work there or have in the past. Be careful to understand they will have their own biases, though. Ask them what they enjoyed and did not enjoy about working there. Ask about the values and how they are represented. Use LinkedIn to see what their current staff are like: what backgrounds did they come from, and how new are they to the company – a lot of long-serving staff can be as telling as a team that is completely new. Reach out to others doing similar roles to find out what they enjoy.
Are they on LinkedIn? Use this to look at their backgrounds, how long they’ve been there, what their career path has looked like, etc. And importantly, what/who do you have in common?
This is perhaps the most important. Review your CV and what you have said in it. If it has been sent via a third party ask them if you can see a copy of what they sent, in case they modified it in some way. Think about your core achievements and core failures (we all have them!), and not only the journey that took you to them but what you learned from them. It is almost inevitable you will get asked competency questions so be thinking through these scenarios (look again at the job description and what are the core competencies that you would need). Writing them down will reinforce your memory of them so that they come alive when you are discussing them in an interview. Review what your goals are and find the ones that are closely aligned to the organisation’s goals.
It’s really helpful to get someone to ask you some competency questions and listen to your answers – do they flow, do they make sense and do they answer the question that you have been asked, and not the question you want to answer!
The interview itself
If you’re well prepared then you should be able to harness the inevitable nervous energy that you’ll have before and during the interview to help you project the best impression.
No matter what the format of the interview is make sure you answer the question that was asked; do not go off at tangents and do not waffle. The interviewer has asked the question as they want to know about that aspect of your experience.
People naturally like stories but bear in mind the beginning/middle/end structure. Make sure when answering technical questions you do so with confidence. If you don’t know the answer, be confident in saying that, instead letting the interviewer know how you would find out. For more biographical and competency-based questions, make sure that you answer in a narrative style that will take the interviewer on a journey – this is where the preparation comes in as you’ll be able to give a linear story without having to backtrack, give asides or otherwise add in distractions.
Non face-to-face interviews
The telephone interview has been happening for many years but video calling has been a more recent phenomenon. Due to the situation with Covid-19 the uptake has been a lot quicker, so adapting your interview style to this new normal is also a key skill to learn. Whilst all of the above is true and also by googling ‘telephone interview techniques’ you will get some good general advice, but we would also add in the following:
Choose your background. Ideally try and make sure it’s quite plain so that all eyes are on you and not the items in shot behind you. Avoid backlight – front light is better, although maybe less flattering but at least everyone will be able to see you clearly. Ensure that other people in the house know what you’re doing and not to interrupt you. Check your microphone and camera are working (again there is always forgiveness for technical issues but ensure that you are as calm as possible)
Get a friend or family member to conduct a short practice interview with you via one of the mediums and, if possible, record it. Watch yourself and consider what an interviewer would be thinking, listen to your answers and consider what you could improve and how you could edit them.
Ensure that you are engaged with your interviewers by acknowledging their questions and giving visual cues such as nodding. Avoid staring directly into the camera, this could be quite disconcerting for the interviewer! If there are technical problems or you don’t hear a question properly, just ask for it to be repeated. If you’re struggling to think of an answer this can be used as a bit of a delay tactic also.
Be prepared to ask the interviewers questions and try to link these in to your ambitions aligned with the company’s. Always remember to ask too about the next steps in the process and what timeframe they are looking at for making a decision.
After the interview, review your answers and think through anything else that you may have forgotten or could have said better. You will likely have the interviewer’s email address from the meeting invitation, so drop them a short email to thank them for their time, reiterate how much you would like to work with them in the role, and if there was a glaring omission, this is your chance to add it.