Our guide to effective preparation and success at interview.
Love them or hate them, interviews are one of the most important aspects of securing that brilliant new role you are dreaming of. So if you are job-hunting, making sure that you develop a successful interview technique is vitally important.
In this blog we look at some of the most important aspects of preparing for your interview and performing at your best on the day.
Don’t underestimate the importance of detailed planning and preparation for the interview process.
If you are applying for a new role with Matchpoint – we will always provide you with detailed information beforehand to help you get the most out of your prep. If you are applying independently, then make sure you do plenty of research yourself.
It is important to note that companies use lots of different interview formats these days, including ‘phone, skype, video, speed interviews and selection centre interviews which can last a number of days.
For the purposes of this article we are looking at traditional face to face interviews but we will investigate some of the other types in future blogs.
It is vitally important that you research the prospective company before your interview. Businesses like candidates who take a wider interest and show that they are serious by doing their homework.
If you work in a sector that is particularly affected by geopolitics and the wider macroeconomic environment, make sure you are up-to-date with current affairs related to your industry. It is easy to get caught out by a simple question like ‘What were the headline business stories on this morning’s news bulletins?’.
Although you can never anticipate exactly what you will be asked, it is important to plan ahead for possible questions that may come up at your interview.
It is surprising how many candidates don’t pre-prepare model answers, which can lead to waffle on the day. Spend some time beforehand thinking about how you will address particular questions or subject areas if they come up. This will help to keep you focused and succinct.
Interview questions tend to fall into a number of broad areas. Here are some examples:
Role specific questions
Don’t forget that the main objective of the interviewer will be to ascertain how your skills, experience, attributes and personality will fit their specific role, team and company so you need to prepare with this focus in mind. Your objective is to present yourself as the right candidate who has the most relevant skills for the role.
Most of us have heard some great anecdotes about companies (often large and successful ones) which like to hit candidates with whacky or tough questions and puzzles at interview, in order to challenge them and see how they deal with curveballs!
This practice is less common these days, but if this happens to you, it is important to remember that there usually isn’t a ‘right’ answer as such, but the interviewer will be interested in how you approach the question and your thought processes.
Don’t panic, share your thinking and don’t worry too much about being ‘wrong’ – having a go is the most important thing.
Forbes has an entertaining article on some of the interesting questions that candidates have been asked in the past.
It is increasingly common for companies to ask candidates to complete a piece of work or prepare a presentation on a relevant subject as part of the interview process. This will be both a test of the content of your offering, and also your confidence in presenting.
Make sure that you follow the brief closely, do your research and stick to the requested content and timings as closely as possible.
Unless you are applying to a role which actually requires you to give client presentations, the objective is less about your public speaking skills and more about how and what you communicate, along with the effort that you have put in to the process.
If you are well-prepared for your interview it would be a great shame to be caught out by an annoying practical detail like being late. Take the time beforehand to plan where you are going, how long it will take you to get there and how you will travel. These points might seem super obvious but it is surprising how many candidates don’t get there on time, or who arrive at the last minute flustered and definitely not ready to present themselves at their best. If the job means a lot to you then do a dry run first.
It is important to dress smartly and professionally for an interview but with an understanding of the culture of the company that you are applying to.
A smart suit is appropriate for most City roles but if the company has a relaxed dress code, a jacket and shirt or blouse may be more appropriate. You want to present yourself in a way that is right for the future role but which also allows you to feel as comfortable as possible.
Bring relevant paperwork with you – a copy of your CV and/or application and any relevant information (published articles, work portfolio etc.) that will aid you in the interview process or which are relevant to the role in question. You may also be asked to bring academic certificates or proof of ID with you.
This can be difficult. Some people are super relaxed and unbothered at the prospect of an interview, however onerous, whilst others feel like a bag of nerves at the very prospect. If you do get nervous, being well prepared will increase your confidence.
On the day itself, make sure you eat a sensible breakfast, allow yourself plenty of time and take a few deep breaths if you need to.
Put your phone away!
Many of us have our ‘phones in our hands lots of the time. Put it away, and make sure it is switched off.
Think about the questions you are being asked
It can be tempting to babble, particularly if you feel a little nervous. Take the time to listen to the questions and think-through and answer appropriately.
Ask for clarification if you need to
Don’t be afraid to ask for something to be repeated or clarified. If you really don’t understand what you are being asked, then say so.
Be confident but not arrogant
There is a fine line between seeming positive and confident and tipping over into becoming arrogant and overbearing. Arrogance or over-confidence may have been viewed as positive in years gone by, particularly in some City jobs, but that is no longer the case. The interviewer wants to see that you are self-assured and feel confident that you will be able to do the job but they are likely to be put-off by candidates who are too full of themselves.
Be honest but not negative
It might be tempting to say ‘I want to leave my current job because my boss is a horrible tyrant’ and this may actually be true (!) but it is much better to focus on the opportunities and positive aspects of the potential new job. Being critical of your current employer is likely to ring alarm bells with a future one.
Questions at the end
It is a myth that you ‘have to ask a question’ at the end of an interview, but if it has been a successful interview process and there has been good communication and engagement, then you may well have some questions. Don’t go OTT though as the interviewer may well be pressed for time. If you don’t have anything to ask then make sure you say I think you have covered everything – thank you and not just ‘no’.
Always thank your interviewer for their time, and say that you hope to hear from them soon.
Don’t forget – you are also making a judgement
You also need to make your own appraisal of the interviewer, the company, their offices and the role itself, so it is important that you see this as a two-way process.
Is the role right for you? Do the ambience and the culture of the organisation feel appropriate for you? It can be difficult to work this out in a relatively short amount of time but trust your instincts and don’t be afraid to ask questions about the company or job if there are any areas where you feel you need more information.
You may be called to a second interview, or be offered the new role. Sometimes you won’t be lucky so it is important to find out why, in order to improve your technique for future interviews.
If you are interviewing via an agency then they should follow-up on your behalf. At Matchpoint we always provide our candidates with detailed feedback on the interview process and their suitability for the role.
Just remember that for every successful candidate there will be a number of people who don’t get the job, so if this hasn’t been your day, keep positive and plan for the next one!
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