Interviews – preparation & actual meeting!

Interviews – I don’t think there are many people that wholeheartedly embrace interviews, even those that purport to love them, I think that’s either a foolhardy or slightly off-key attitude!  Even those that are practiced interviewers, will admit that they aren’t really a fan of them, if they’re very honest!

So – you have the invite to the interview, the time, date and place have been confirmed.  Now this will sound very basic, but I have seen if happen countless times;- you may think you know exactly where the company is located – sure it’s been there for years’ hasn’t it?!  Please – re-read the confirmation details, make sure the address coincides with where you thought it was.  Secondly – the interview may take place away from the normal facility where general operations take place.  It could be on a hotel for example.

Double check, triple check, make sure you know exactly where you’re going.

So, let’s get onto the interview proper.

Is there any suggestion as to whether it’s with 1, 2 or more people, all at once – or on an individual one-to-one basis?  Do you know the names of all of those involved in the face-to-face interview?

If so, google them, look them up on LinkedIn etc. to gain an insight into their history with the company and their previous lives.  Make notes if you want to, alongside the notes that you are going to make about the actual company.

Sometimes the first stage might be a group assessment centre.  You will get due notice if this is the case, along with an indication as to what to expect.  I will cover off assessment centres in a separate piece, as they’re a completely different beast.

The job profile – yes, the exact information that was given about the job that led you to apply for the role in the first place.  Revisit this.  Understand what exactly the role requires, detail this in your own notes, review this information and remind yourself what experiences you have, that you can draw upon at the interview, in order to convey that you are an excellent match for the role.

Look at the reporting lines for the role, make a note to ask who the job actually reports into on a daily basis.  Frequently, the person referred to on the job description, might actually be the budget holder, or overall head of business, as opposed to the actual operational manager.  So, make sure you get an insight into who this person is and what they’re responsible for.  8/10 – this person will be the person conducting the interview, but just double check.

Make a note, if it isn’t clear, to ask why has the role been made available?  Someone leaving the company, moved internally or a growth in the business?

Company information – there should be a short summary of the company history on the job description, but you need more than that.  Again google is your best friend, make sure as well as looking at the company website, you also check out the social media sites, and also click the “news” button on google as well, to find out anything topical or noteworthy, that the company has been involved in recently, that you can use as a base for your line of questioning at the interview.

Back to the interview panel and what you know about it.  If it isn’t clear from the invite, feel free to ask the company contact exactly who might be conducting the interview.

If there is going to be a HR representative there, there line of questioning is likely to be more around culture/company fit and looking at your achievements to date and how it translates into the probability of you being a success in the role that you are being interviewed for.  They will likely ask you what are known as competency based questions, which take the following form:

STAR – situation, task, action, result.  Simply this means they will ask you to talk them through a specific example of when you were required to resolve, action, do something and how you went about getting to the end point or the result.  This is purely to gather evidence that you actually have real life experience of doing a given task, as opposed to a hypothetical questioning line, which is not really best practice and/or illuminating in anyway.

The Line Manager, or the person that will be responsible for the job holder of the post in question, will likely ask more technical questions around the actual day-to-day tasks and knowledge required for the role and should give you a good insight into the actual day-to-day requirements for the role.

THE DAY OF THE INTERVIEW    

So, you’ve done your prep, you know where you’re going and at what time you should be there and who you might be meeting!

Don’t arrive too early, by all means get to the right venue with time to spare, but if you are more than 30 minutes ahead of the appointment time, then go and find a place to refresh yourself and have a coffee and report into the reception of the company no more than 10-15 minutes ahead of time.

When you have reported to reception, use that time to observe the general atmosphere of the business, note who is coming and going and their interactions.  If the reception attendant doesn’t appear to busy, do make a bit of small talk, but don’t monopolise them.  There is no need to shake the reception attendant’s hand unless you are in a country where it’s culturally the norm.

Deep breaths, read the newspaper, company information while you wait.

When the interviewer arrives – look them straight in the eye, stand up, back straight, head held high and extend your hand into a firm, but not bone crushing handshake.  Make small talk on the journey to the meeting room, it’s likely to be no more than “you found us ok”  “the weather is a bit blustery today” type chat!

Wait for an indication as to where to sit in the meeting room, if other parties are not yet in the room, when they do arrive, do rise and again stand up straight and eyeball them, addressing them by the name that they present for themselves.

After the initial chit-chat and the interview starts, remember – take your time to LISTEN to the question being asked, if you don’t know what they’re actually looking for, then ask them to clarify.  Pause, if you don’t have a ready answer and then respond in the most considered, thought-out way possible.  Never blag, or lie if you don’t actually know something, or it’s never happened to you.  Credibility will be shot and you may as well turn on your heel there & then.

If there are multiple participants, be sure to make eye contact with all, when you are talking, as opposed to just the person asking the question.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a glass of water, if you are feeling a bit dry or nervous.  They’ll be more than happy to accommodate.

Try and remain as still as possible in the seat, sitting as square as possible, with both feet on the ground to centre yourself.  Be aware of your posture, try and keep your back straight in the chair and maintain eye contact at all times.  Try and not lean forward or back, as this can come across as careless or overbearing depending on which!

Be mindful of your voice pitch, nerves can make your voice wobbly, deep breathing assists with this and keeping a low even pitch where possible.

At the conclusion of the interview, make sure you have those questions ready.  Do not ask about salary unless the interviewer brings the subject up.  Equally don’t let your only questions be around holidays and the working hours.  The questions you have prepared should indicate your depth of understanding of the dynamics of the business and what are the main objectives, or measurements to the business, from having a successful person in the given role.

Do ask what the next steps are for the process, and when you might hear back.

Thank everyone for their time and then be prepared for more small talk with the person that escorts you out.

If the follow-up isn’t going to be immediate, do email a thank you note a couple of days after the interview.  It keeps you fresh in the interviewer’s mind and also further demonstrates your interest in role & company.

It’s human nature after an interview to self-critique, if there is anything you felt you forgot or missed out, that is relevant to your suitability for the role, then the follow-up email is the place to mention it.

And FINALLY, dress code for the interview, I will do a quick follow-up piece on this, as this post has covered enough!