Fail to prepare...

Published: 17 August 2016

…prepare to fail goes the age-old adage. It applies very neatly to interviews and the whole approach required in order to successfully land the job that has made you excited about your career again.

Whilst it sounds like a no-brainer, there is a surprising lack of preparation for final interview stages by candidates who can either feel they know enough already or that the hiring organisation will not be interested in discussing pre-interview research. I have seen first-hand many candidates come out of the interview process with their least desired outcome due to having made one or both of these assumptions. So how can good preparation and organisational research make the difference? Outlined below are what I believe to be the 3 key reasons (amongst a host of others);

It shows you want the role

Every hiring organisation wants to know why a candidate wants to come and work for them. Most hiring managers are fiercely proud of the company they represent and will be looking for candidates who will mirror the passion they have. In my experience, as soon as a hiring manager gets the sense this is “just another job” they quickly feel the chemistry and fit is not right. They need to know you want to work for their organisation and in that specific role. One of the clearest ways of showing this is by discussing the organisation’s current strengths and challenges. We are not talking company founded dates here, but instead a more detailed SWOT analysis. 

Your answers will be better

A deep understanding of the organisation and the issues important to them will give you an insight into how best to present your key experiences and achievements. One of the challenges at interview can often be how to get across the killer aspects of your experience. One thing that will resonate with hiring managers tends to be your skills tailored to their requirements, so by preparing and doing the research beforehand you will be well-placed to make the links between what you do best and what they need. 

Gives you an edge over the competition

Fine lines will often dictate who is appointed and who is unsuccessful. A shortlist of candidates, if selected well, should give the client a choice of appointable candidates. So what helps them to differentiate? A number of factors including on-the-day interview performance, cultural fit with the organisation and….how well prepared the candidates were. I have sat in on many final interviews and the impression a well-prepared and researched candidate gives to the interview panel can make a clear difference. 

It can feel time consuming in what is an already hectic work week. Doing a demanding senior role whilst interviewing for another is not an easy task but time should be set aside for thorough interview preparation. Any research undertaken is time well spent and will help build a strong overall picture of the organisation. 

So if you have an interview coming up for a role which means a lot to you, please take the time to prepare to succeed!

Gin Bhandal is a Consultant in the Education practice at Berwick Partners. He regularly works with Universities to appoint senior leaders tasked with delivering transformational change across the sector. 

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