How to nail the interview

How to nail the interview
Published: 4 August 2022

Following on from my recent article ‘The Do’s and Don’ts of Writing the Perfect CV’; you now have your CV looking great. Next, how do you ensure that you nail the interview to help you land your dream role?

Many people relish and thrive during an interview process, while others find them daunting and uncomfortable talking about themselves. Interviewing is a pivotal part of the job seeking process and there are several steps you can take in advance to ensure the interviewer/s see the very best of you on the day, which will hopefully help alleviate any apprehension or nerves on the day.

Motivation

Before committing yourself to a process, take time to reflect on why you are considering a move, don’t just throw out a load of applications because of one bad day at work. Think carefully about your reasons for moving on: is the role a logical move in your career? What will you gain from the role in terms of experience/exposure that you’re not getting in your current role or company? I frequently ask candidates to fast forward 3 years, if you were asked, “why did you leave your role at Company X to join Company Y”, how would you justify the move?

Focus

Be laser like in your approach to searching for a new role. Accept that the more senior you are in your career, the fewer the roles there will be. Your search may take up to twelve months to find the right role that ticks all your boxes and warrants you tendering your resignation from your current employer.

Due Diligence

In this digital era, there is a plethora of insight and information to be gained by doing some very simple research on a company or organisation. Look online for recent financial reports; frequently listed companies will publish shareholder information on their website. Also look on the Current Vacancies/Careers tab on their website where you will typically find additional information on the company’s culture/values etc. Look up the company on various news sites to be aware of any recent news articles featuring the business and don’t be afraid to challenge your findings during the interview process.

Network

Use any tool or advantage at your disposal. Who do you know that works there that you can seek confidential insight from? LinkedIn is a hugely valuable tool which is available to you – find out who you will be meeting during the interview and have a look at their background and experience. This will give you a strong degree of understanding.

Do your homework

Ask in advance the format of the interview and allow yourself sufficient time to prepare – don’t leave your prep work until the night before the interview. Review the key criteria laid out in the job description and think how you would illustrate the experience sought in your answers. Keep your examples current and varied. Try not to use examples from 10+ years ago and where possible use different examples throughout the interview.

Ensure you have some well thought out probing questions to ask. You will typically get to the end of the interview and they ask if you have any questions. Many of which may already have been covered off during the interview, but make sure you still have 1-2 up your sleeve ready to ask.

Research

Try and show some insight into the organisation or sector to demonstrate you have put some thought into the interview. Where possible, link your responses to your experience with how you perceive some of the challenges the organisation may be facing – this will have been gleaned from your research and due diligence. Also, think more broadly about the wider industry/sector and some of the challenges the sector is facing.

Practice

As a keen golfer growing up, the great Gary Player quote of “the harder I practice, the luckier I get” always resonated with me and interviewing is no different. The last thing you want to do is venture onto the job market and immediately encounter your ideal role, knowing full well the last time you had an external interview was 5+ years ago. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that an external interview is the same as an internal one. They are completely different – you are largely an unknown and untested entity to an external interviewer, whereas you are a known and proven internally. You may have recently sat on the other side of the table when recruiting into your team, so think about the challenging questions you and the panel would ask external candidates and how you would answer them. Think about your Achilles heel – what is the question you would hate to be asked and how would you respond? Practice does make perfect, and it may be beneficial to gain some external interview experience, either through a recruiter or directly with the client to really sharpen and refine your answers.

Mentors

If you have an external mentor, reach out to them – seek their help, guidance, and support. You can use them as an independent sounding board to bounce ideas off, as well as general career advice, and coaching. They should also be there to challenge your thinking and help in your decision-making process. 

Positive and engaging

Lastly, and crucially, ensure you are in a positive frame of mind; get a good night’s sleep and plan your journey allowing plenty of time for the unexpected. If the interview is virtual, ensure you are set up in a quiet place where you won’t get disturbed or distracted. Check the technology works in advance and you are familiar with it. While Teams, Zoom, and Google Meet etc. are similar, they are all slightly different.

Don’t forget the simple things, be polite, courteous, and engaging with everyone you encounter, from the person on security/reception to those who are part of the interview process. While they are seeking your capability to undertake the role from a technical perspective, they will also be gauging how you interact from an interpersonal perspective. Remember, if you can’t sell yourself, then they will be left thinking ‘how can you sell your vision and strategy to internal/external stakeholders and/or customers?’. Thank them for their time and the opportunity at the end and reaffirm your interest in the role.

Richard Guest is an Associate Partner in our Procurement and Supply Chain practice.

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