1. Get the basics right!
Ensure you know who you are meeting, where you need to be, how you are going to get there and what the dress code is. Matching the company’s expectation regarding image is particularly crucial if you are attending a meeting with a fashion business, but equally don’t turn up ‘suited and booted’ for a meeting with a DIY retailer! Ensure you have relevant contact numbers in your phone should you run in to problems.
2. Who is interviewing you?
You can give yourself a real edge in an interview if you have researched the individuals you are meeting. If you have managed to secure an interview there is a good chance you have the experience to do the job so your ‘fit’ becomes critical. You should try to find out a little about the background and personality of the interviewer. This should enable you to build a good level of rapport early on. There is plenty of information available on internet searches and you should utilise your network to fill in the gaps. It is crucial that you fully understand the organisation’s culture, values and long term goals.
3. Know your experience.
Try to ascertain what the structure of the interview will be and prepare accordingly. For instance, most interviews will be ‘competency based’ incorporating structured questions. Typically, you will need to provide specific examples of how you have demonstrated the competencies required for that specific role. This type of interview does call for preparation so that you aren’t left fumbling for decent examples. Write down key examples of how you have dealt with situations relevant to the role, such as, people management or strategic planning. This will help you remember what you have achieved and ensure you analyse exactly what you did to achieve a result. This will really pay off in the pressure of the interview.
4. Prepare insightful questions.
If an interviewer is undecided whether to progress your application, the quality of your questions could swing it your way. Clearly you will want to know about the individual and company you might be joining however avoid basic questions about benefits or working hours. Instead focus on areas that indicate that you have thought deeply about the role and how you might be able to add value. This is an opportunity to demonstrate behaviours that you might not have been able to highlight in the interview. Take a notebook and pen with you and record key information, this will demonstrate a professional and considered approach.
5. Be clear about why you are applying for the job.
In the current environment there is some scepticism about why people change jobs so you need to ensure you do not allow any confusion to arise. Be clear and specific about why you want the job you are interviewing for. This should be positive, regardless of circumstance, and leave the interviewer feeling like you have targeted her/his business specifically. If you have been headhunted…avoid using this as an answer, it can sound a little arrogant!
6. Ensure your Linkedin profile, CV and interview answers are consistent.
If you work in a target focused environment and quote dates and achievements ensure that they match up! It is very easy to become complacent about what you have achieved so it is worth ‘revising’ your career to date. If you state in your opening paragraph on your CV that you have excellent empathy skills you need to demonstrate this throughout your interview in the way you communicate with your interviewers and how you recount experiences from the past. In short, ensure your ‘brand’ is consistent!
7. What will be the most awkward questions you will have to answer?
A good interviewer will spot potential weaknesses in your CV and interview answers as much through what you don’t mention as what you do. If, for example, you have failed to achieve a cost reduction target, ensure you are honest about the reasons why but most importantly talk about what you have learnt from this experience and what you would do differently. Think about your ‘soft spots’ ahead of the interview.
8. Research the business and the industry.
How has the industry changed in recent years, are there any external factors such as government legislation that is likely to make a significant impact? What is the company doing differently, what projects are they involved in? This will give you an opportunity to ask a couple of questions that will demonstrate the quality of your research. Try not to be controversial however try to indicate you have a rounded view of the macro economic environment.
9. Visit the business.
If you are interviewing with a business with a customer facing offer such as a retailer you should visit several sites. Appraise the business from an employee, customer and competitor perspective. If you have a negative experience, do not be afraid to share this in an interview, however present this constructively as an opportunity to capitalise on.
10. Be yourself.
It is crucial that you do not do or say anything that you are uncomfortable with. Ultimately if you find yourself ‘acting’ there is a high probability that the company or role is the wrong fit for you. You should come across as ‘rounded’ and try to give an overview of what else you are involved in outside of work. Common ground outside of work will often work heavily in your favour. Think about what you are comfortable with sharing ahead of the interview and how it will be interpreted.