Preparing for that all important job interview

Published: 29 January 2016

What better way to start the New Year than having secured an interview for your dream job - Congratulations!  You’ve done great work getting your CV in order over the festive period and it’s done its job. It is now all about how you come across at the interview stage. Preparing for that interview and any subsequent ones will help turn that dream into the reality of a job offer.

In an increasingly competitive market it’s crucial that you spend the necessary time and effort in order to do yourself justice at the interview stage:

Plan – ensure you set aside sufficient time to undertake enough research into the role, organisation, sector and the individuals you will be meeting. Company websites have a myriad of information about the business and frequently have a section aimed at potential new employees either graduates or experienced hires. Make note of any company values that are mentioned and be mindful of them throughout the interview process. A simple google search will bring up any recent news articles on the company or industry sector.

Route – check the location where the interview is taking place and if possible undertake a dummy run to understand the likely time to get to the site. If this is to be your new permanent place of work, how long will it take in rush hour? Is this manageable on a daily basis? Ensure you give yourself sufficient time to avoid committing the cardinal sin of turning up late! It is far better to get there early and sit in the car park if necessary, than turn up stressed because you didn’t allow sufficient time to get there promptly.   

Evaluate – before committing to the process you really ought to ensure you are fully committed to making a move and have thought through the reason why you wish to leave your current company / role. Draw up a simple pro’s and con’s table, comparing your current role with the position you are applying for. If the position requires relocating, talk things through with your family before applying for the role. If you fast forward three years from now and look back would it have been a logical move in terms of your development?

Professionalism - an old, but often forgotten one. First impressions really do count, ensure you dress in a professional, appropriate manner – remember this is a business meeting after all. My advice would be not to connect on LinkedIn in advance of any meeting. However if they exchange business cards or contact details afterwards, do take the time to drop a simple thank you email expressing your interest in the opportunity and eagerness to move forward in the process. 

Anticipate – what they are likely to ask you? What is your Achilles heel? There are only so many questions you can get asked at an interview. Pick out the key facets of the job description and ensure you have examples to outline your experience in these areas. Think about how you would approach the job in your first 30, 60 and 90 days.  You will also start to hone and refine your answers as you become more experienced. Ensure you have solid examples at hand where you have personally lead or managed change or delivered against your objectives – facts and figures help instil  confidence so long as they mirror those mentioned in your CV.

Remuneration – ensure you have communicated the main components of your package in advance and have a good understanding of the base and the package associated with the new role. If you are moving internationally you will also need to take into account local tax bands, cost of living, schooling etc. Above all else be realistic, most people look to move for a rise of between 5 and 15 percent.

Awareness – ensure you engage all members of the interview panel. Linkedin is a great tool if used appropriately. Spend the time to view the profiles of the individuals you will be meeting to gain a valuable insight into their education and career history. As the interview progresses, as well as the hiring manager, you may get introduced to a representative from HR or a key stakeholder and possibly the hiring manager’s manager. Each of whom may be looking for different things.  The hiring manager is typically assessing you for competency against the current job description and to get a sense if you could work with one another. HR may well be focused on cultural fit for the organisation. Stakeholders will be looking for credibility and also an ability to work with you, while the manager’s manager may well be looking to understand your future potential and what impact you may have across the wider team.

Timing – be mindful of the time set aside for the interview. If the opening question is to run through your career in ten minutes – ensure you stick within this limit. There will usually be a clock in the room so keep an eye on it and don’t find yourself still talking about your first role after eight minutes. Having the ability to remain clear and concise throughout the interview is crucial. If they require additional detail they will ask for it.

Interest – have a clearly constructed response as to why you are interested in this position, company and sector. You need to be convincing here on both why this move makes sense in terms of your personal development and also as a key learning experience to help you achieve your career goals, but also why you feel your skills and experience are suited to the position in question. 

Offer – A crucial part in the process. If you happen to be in the position of having several interview processes running concurrently, do not fall into the trap of trading one off against the other. You need to be clear about which role meets all your expectations and focus your attention on that one. Good candidates will always be in demand. Equally manage any roles you opt to decline in a professional and courteous manner.

Notice Period – resigning should be done in a professional manner. This is not the time to let off steam or share your grievances with the company. Remember you will need to provide a referee to your new employer. It’s such a small world and you never know who you may work with in the future. Given that your mind will naturally be elsewhere at this point it is always advisable to try and negotiate, where possible, a reduction in your notice period, whilst ensuring you are able to complete your current workload and undertake a handover where possible. If you have a three month notice period, a reduction down to six to eight weeks would be realistic in most cases.

PREPARATION – is absolutely the key to success when it comes to interviewing. This helps install the confidence you need to ensure you go into the interview safe in the knowledge that you have done your homework and left no stone unturned. Overlook it at your peril and you may rue the chance of landing your dream job.

Good Luck!

Richard Guest is a Consultant at Berwick Partners focussed on placing senior level Procurement and Supply Chain candidates. 

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