Being great at interviewing isn’t just being the best candidate….

Being great at interviewing isn’t just being the best candidate….
Published: 2 September 2019

Being a good interviewee is a skill that’s often underestimated. Unfortunately, it’s sometimes the best candidates who can be the poorest at interview.  Here we explain why bad interviews can happen to some of the most promising candidates, and shares her advice to help avoid some common pitfalls.

Our role as head-hunters is to target the best talent.  For our clients, that often means presenting candidates who have built strong careers in just one or two organisations.  Candidates who have had several promotions, are engaged by their employers, and are on high-performance schemes.

The reality is, many have reached senior posts without necessarily having to undertake external interviews.  They are not necessarily ‘actively looking’ for a role when then are approached by a head-hunter and told they are ‘exactly what they are looking for’.  Fast forward to the interview between the candidate and client.  For many candidates this will lead to a positive outcome.  However, there is the odd occasion where a client provides poor feedback about the performance of what remains to be a great candidate. 

For the candidate, at the top of their game, this outcome can come as a real shock.  It’s a poor outcome all round. The hiring manager hasn’t seen the best of a great candidate, and the individual has closed a door to a tremendous career opportunity.

Pointers for preventing poor interview performance

1. If you are going to invest the time attending an interview, make sure you are fully prepared - even if you are ‘on the fence’ 

Imagine being in interview, realising that this is a great opportunity, but through lack of preparation you have are not demonstrating the best version of yourself.  Good preparation not only includes research of the organisation, but also analysis of their strategic plan, and how you, in this role, will contribute to the organisation achieving its goals.  A head-hunter can help you prepare – providing insight into what the client is looking for and what areas of your competencies and experiences will resonate well with them.

2. Articulate your skills and achievements

Don’t assume that the interviewer knows everything you have achieved or what skills you bring, even if they have your CV.  They want to hear from you why you are the right candidate for their role – so tell them!  Candidates may worry they appear arrogant; however, the interviewer will welcome you sharing relevant information.  One of the best ways to do this is evidencing your ability to deliver solutions to their problems; articulately talking through examples where you have driven a positive outcome and how this has benefitted the business.   

3. Be clear about why you are there

I worked with a Finance Director recently who was leaving a large corporate after 26 years.  They interviewed at three different companies and gained superb client feedback.  Having been so successful I asked what advice they would give others:

“I always went along extremely well prepared but also with a strong belief I wanted the job.  I was very clear about why I wanted the role and why my experience and competencies were a good fit.”

The interviewer wants to employ people that are passionate about their organisation and the role.  Location, salary or work/life balance may play a factor in your application but be careful about articulating these as the primary reason for you interest.  Explaining how the organisation’s values, purpose and goals fit with yours, and how there is a mutual benefit from you joining the company, are compelling reasons for the employer to offer you the role.


Attending an interview should be a positive experience. Interviewing provides the opportunity to meet industry contacts, gain feedback on your strengths and weaknesses, and to have meaningful business conversations.  Even if you are unsure about a role, if you are taking the time to attend an interview its worth investing time to give the best account of yourself, and put yourself in a position of choice.  Doing your due diligence on the company and its strategy, articulate the value you bring to the role and having a sense of purpose as to why you are there, will provide a strong foundation for a good interview.

For further information please contact our Financial Leadership Practice.

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