By Nick Gee
Carrying out the right preparation prior to going into that job interview is critical. If your application is successful and you’re fortunate enough to be invited in for an interview, you owe it to yourself and the client to come prepared. This means preparing to talk about yourself as well as taking the time to understand the position and the organisation.
I realise that many people are time-poor in this day and age but there really is no excuse for being ill-prepared. I’m still astonished at how poorly prepared some candidates are, even those with good track records.
Whilst it doesn’t take long, it’d be fair to say that the more preparation you do, the better you’ll be ready to handle the interview. The fact you’ve done your research also demonstrates to the recruiter and/or employer that you’re seriously interested in the opportunity because you have actually taken the time to give the position a great deal of consideration, and this always goes down well. The ability to then convey the depth of your knowledge about their company is an additional way of conveying the depth of your interest - and this is an aspect that interviewers are always keen to measure.
So, before the interview…
- Find out as much as you can about the job and the organisation. At a very minimum review their website thoroughly and carry out a Google search. Whilst you might not need to deep-dive into the financials of the company, you should at least be aware of their current state and anything that they have recently done or are planning to do. Look through the company website, news pages and also their social media pages e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.
- Find out who the company’s main competitors are – and once you’ve found that out – see what their points of difference are. Also carry out a quick check into their sector/industry to see if there’s any big news/changes on the horizon.
- Ensure you’ve read the position description and identified the skills and competencies / behaviours thoroughly. Make sure you can talk about how your skills align with those required and prepare to talk about examples that illustrate this.
- Research the remuneration level appropriate for the role.
- Ensure you can speak about why you are interested in the position and the organisation – not only in what you can offer them, but also how it fits into your ideal longer-term goals and career plans. This can be a good opportunity to showcase the research that you’ve done, and at the same time, show that you are motivated and genuine in your interest. If you are jobseeking from a current position of employment, also be prepared to clearly articulate your reasons for considering moving on – and ensure that these are well thought out.
- For many senior positions, “job-fit” is crucial, so ensure that you’ve got a handle on the company culture. Do you know anyone who works there or has worked there previously? What are their values?
- Find out the format of the interview. Panel Interview? Skype interview? Just you and the recruiter? Just you and the HR Manager? A casual chat with your prospective new boss? Both? It helps to be prepared because a casual lunch/chat with your new line manager is quite different to a panel interview, which is quite different again to a one-on-one interview with a recruiter.
- Find out about who will be interviewing you. Google them. Review their LinkedIn profile. Do you have anything in common with them?
- Practice answering interview questions you’ll likely be asked during a job interview. This will help give you a chance to prepare and practice your answers. Doing so will also help calm your nerves.
- Prepare some questions to ask during the interview. Questions are a good opportunity to reference your research. Ensure the questions you ask are genuine and relevant.
- Have an in-depth knowledge of your CV. The person interviewing you will have read your CV thoroughly so make sure you have too. Ideally you should also be able to talk through your employment history and career journey to date from memory, without having to refer to your CV, but if for some reason you find this hard - bring a copy along to the interview to refer to.
- You should also be able to articulate your key strengths and be prepared to acknowledge and discuss your weaknesses – or “development areas”. Interviewers often ask these questions to see what people say about themselves and regardless of what your responses are, they can be seen as an indication your level of self-awareness. When asked what their weaknesses are, it’s surprising to hear so many candidates reply “ooh I knew you were going to ask me that” but then struggle to provide a response. In terms of preparation, it’s certainly not a good look if you’re trying to give the impression of being prepared, to not have an answer for something that you knew you were likely to be asked.
It’s common to feel nervous before an interview but by carrying out the appropriate research, you’ll likely put yourself into a better state of mind. Moreover, it demonstrates to those interviewing you that you’re keen and interested in the position. It also provides a positive indicator for how you’ll likely behave as a future employee. If you’re well prepared for an interview, you’ll likely be perceived as someone who ensures they’re well prepared for things in general – a huge positive in the eyes of most employers.
Preparation increases knowledge and knowledge is power. Use it wisely.