Interviewing for a new role can be immensely stressful. A lot of the time, the more you want the role, the more stressful it becomes, as you place added pressure on yourself to secure the position. Being stressed or nervous before an interview, however, is normal – you are not alone. In order to take some of the pressure of your shoulders, you can ensure that you are fully prepared for the meeting.
It is the same with any business presentation. You wouldn’t turn up to a client meeting unprepared (I hope not, anyway) and as such you treat your interview the same way. Rather than selling the business, you are selling yourself. Granted, not everyone has conducted client meetings before, so here are some tips to get you through your interview.
Before the Interview
Preparing for an interview takes time. Frantically reading through notes on the train or while you are sat in reception won’t cut it. You will need to research the company extensively to ensure you can confidently communicate what you know about them and to display a real desire to work there. It’s a classic question, ‘what do you know about us?’ or ‘why do you want to work here?’ By reviewing their website and recent news articles, you should be able to answer these questions a lot easier.
Your research shouldn’t stop at the organisation but should extend to who you are meeting. LinkedIn is a powerful tool in this regard and is used by jobseekers and hiring managers everywhere – don’t worry about being seen to have viewed someone’s profile, it is almost to be expected.
Know your CV and the job description inside out and bring both with you to the interview. Having to look across the table at your printed CV to understand what the hiring team are referring to will come across as disorganised. Know your career dates and any key achievements stats by heart, so you can quickly roll them out when asked. Being able to articulate how you mirror the job description will go down very well and through asking searching questions, you will demonstrate real enthusiasm for the role.
During the Interview
Make a good first impression! Ensure you are well presented and dressed smartly. Try on your interview outfit a couple of days before the meeting to check that it still fits – we’ve had an unfortunate situation where a candidate had to attend his interview in casual attire as his suit no longer fit him! Plan your journey beforehand and if possible, do a dry run so you know exactly where you are going. Try to arrive approximately 15 minutes early, as this will allow you time to compose yourself before the meeting.
Smile and make eye contact with everyone you meet. Be personable and attentive throughout. From start to finish, your body language will be scrutinised, so be open! Crossed arms and defensive postures will not serve you well. When answering questions, maintain eye contact with the interviewer, or if it is a panel interview, address each person. I’ve had an interview where I have asked a question and the candidate stared at my colleague while answering. Safe to say, that didn’t go down well with either of us.
If you are offered a drink at the start of the interview, take it, even if you aren’t thirsty. You will be speaking for nearly an hour, so your mouth will likely get dry which could affect your concentration. As well as this, taking a drink will allow you extra time to think of an answer when asked a challenging question.
When answering questions, be sure to be concise and to the point. Waffling will come across as disorganised and displays a lack of focus. Answer the question that you have been asked (like with any bid) and provide examples and evidence to back up your response. Don’t spend time talking about skills or experience that they haven’t asked about. They may well come to these later, at which point you will be repeating yourself. Or, they don’t want to know about those skills as they aren’t relevant to the role. You are likely to be asked about why you are looking to leave your current role. Be constructive in your response and do not criticise your current or previous employers. Instead, do your best to flip it round and talk about the opportunity on offer, how it excites you and what you can bring.
At the end of each interview, you are likely to be given time to ask questions yourself. Ensure you have a list of these prepared, to the point that you have more than you think you need. The interviewer may cover a lot of the topics, so you don’t want to be left with nothing to say. Asking questions about the role, the team and company culture will display real interest. Remember, this is an interview. It’s a two way meeting and you should treat it as such. Explore the opportunity and ask questions to find out what you need to know to assess if the role and company is right for you.
As the interview draws to a close, ask about next steps. This will provide you with a feel for timescales and how committed they are to hiring. As well as this, don’t be afraid to ask if they have any concerns about you as a candidate. Knowing this will allow you to allay these fears at the next meeting, or if you have time, at the close of the first meeting.
If you have more questions following the interview – either you forgot to ask or you ran out of time – you can provide these in an email via your recruitment consultant. This will again display interest in the role and the organisation as a whole. Conversations related to salary and benefits are typically easier to go through your recruitment consultant as well. They can remain objective in the negotiation process and can handle any queries diplomatically.
Preparation is key to a good interview. The more you know about the company, the role, who you are meeting, and of course yourself, will give you a better chance of success. You will also be able to answer challenging questions more effectively, allowing your personality to shine through. There is no guarantee that even if you have all the right skills that you will secure the role. Team fit is very important, particularly if you are looking to join a small team. So, prepare, research, be personable but most importantly, be yourself!