Great news, you've been selected for an interview. Now what? Before an interview takes place it’s easy to feel completely overwhelmed with what you should do and how you should prepare. We give you a fool-proof guide.
This is the second blog in our job hunting series from our guest blogger Gemma Bartlett, Life Coach, Career Coach and Head-Hunter. Gemma has worked with a number of companies both in the UK and Internationally, to interview and deliver talent of all levels to their business. Gemma also runs her own businesses working with her coaching clients around mindset & confidence coaching, defining life & career goals and giving practical interview and CV advice. So she knows a thing or two about approaching your interview fully prepared and with a confident mindset. Read on for her top tips. Or if you don't tend to learn best through reading text (and many people don't) why not watch this video instead. If you missed our top tips on crafting a killer CV and cover letter click here.
Do your research
It’s important to ensure you are completely prepared for your interview so you can give it your best shot and there are ways to break this down and simplify everything in your mind. Let’s look at what is needed;
- Send a connection request on LinkedIn, to the person who will be interviewing you
This can help build rapport as well as adding to your network. Just include a simple message to explain you're attending an interview with them and would love to connect in advance of the session.
- Research the person interviewing you on LinkedIn
They’ll be impressed you have taken the time to look at their profile, you can throw in some of their key achievements (everyone likes to be recognised!) and it will help you to build rapport with them. At some point they will talk to you about their background and you’ll be able to be part of that conversation and ask questions.
- Research the company
This seems like an obvious point, but a lot of candidates won’t have researched properly so it’s a chance for you to stand out. Look at the company website as well as their social media channels, particularly their LinkedIn Page where they may be more likely to share company culture information. Google the company to see what press coverage comes up and what people are saying about them.
What should you aim to find out?
Aim to cover the below:
- When were they formed?
- What do they do overall and have they added any new products/services recently?
- Have they taken investment, if so who and when?
- How many people does the business currently employ?
- Where are their offices situated? Do they operate nationally or internationally and have multiple office locations?
- Who are their competitors?
- What are their company values? Companies often take pride in their values and will view you positively if you know at least two of them. You can also see if they align with your own values. This gives you a great, genuine reason as to why you’d want to work there when they ask.
Try to remember 5 bullet points about the company rather than an entire dossier.
Try to remember 5 bullet points about the company rather than an entire dossier. This way you’ll retain the information easily and you’ll recite it in a confident, succinct way. If you're worried about remembering you can note them down in a notebook and take it with you on the day.
Prepare your answers to likely interview questions
Always, always, always prepare answers to likely questions in advance of the interview.
Prepare for competency questions
Competency questions are example-based questions relating to the day to day role. They will begin with “Give me an example of a time when…”. For example:
- You have had to deal with conflict at work?
- You’ve had to be resilient?
- You’ve gone above and beyond for a customer / the company you worked for?
- You’ve had to think on your feet to make an important decision?
- Of your excellent work ethic?
These questions are the simplest way for an interviewer to obtain evidence and substance against the skillset on your CV and the duties they want you to carry out.
Key competencies regularly sought after by employers include:
- team work
- problem solving
- conflict resolution
- initiative and independence
These questions will play a big part in any interview.
There will also be some that relate specifically to the job you are applying for, for example, customer services, commercial awareness. You should look through the job spec and think of all the examples they might ask based on the job duties and the company.
Answer competency based questions based on the STAR (situation, task, action and result) method. This is:
- Situation/task | Start the answer by outlining the situation you were in at the time, relevant to the question they have asked. for example, let's imagine they have asked you a question to describe a time at work where you have used your initiative. One example answer might be 'I joined my current company and started working closely with others on my team on a project'
- Action | Next explain what you did in that situation and why as it is relevant to the question they have asked. For example, 'The project teams were using locally saved Excel spreadsheets to manage the projects and there were lots of versions floating around and it wasn't always clear which was the most up to date and this resulted in errors. I persuaded them to switch to using an online tool called Trello to manage the project instead'.
- Result | Finally, finish up by telling them the outcome of your action and the success you saw. For example, 'As a result of switching to a cloud-based shared Trello, everyone found the projects much easier to manage, knew what everyone else was doing and always had the most up to date changes'.
Ideally, they want to hear a work-based example. If you can’t think of a work example look at other areas of your life (education, home life, hobbies, charity work).
Prepare for common interview questions
Always prepare answers for the most common interview questions such as:
- What are your strengths? And the worst one what are your weaknesses?
- Why are you interested in working for us/this company?
- Why do you want to leave your current job/current company?
- Why are you passionate about the role?
- Why should we hire you?
What were your reasons for leaving?
The interviewer will ask this question for each role they discuss with you. It’s important to talk about a previous company in a positive light based on what you learned, even if you had a terrible time there. If you had a bad experience and you are too honest when explaining, it becomes emotional and can be interpreted as passing blame. The interviewer doesn’t want to hear this. Keep the reasons for leaving factual and business focussed.
What are your main strengths?
Hopefully by now you will know your strengths and be confident enough to speak about them in a way that will impress the interviewer. Keep it relevant to the day to day duties of that specific role as well as transferrable skills and traits.
What are your weaknesses?
Ah, the question everybody dreads! Don’t worry, there is a way to answer this and I’ve got you covered!
- Choose something that isn’t essential for that job. E.g. If you are interviewing for a target-driven sales role, administration skills won’t be at the top of the interviewer’s priority list. The candidate could explain they are able to do admin if needed, but it isn’t their passion so therefore could be considered a weakness.
- Choose something that could potentially be viewed as positive. E.g. delegation. Someone who finds it hard to delegate their tasks and instead wants to do everything themselves, could be seen as someone who really cares about their job and wants to get it right.
- Choose something that is easily trainable. E.g. the above options fall into this category, so they’re not going to worry the interviewer too much.
What motivates you?
This should be a work-based answer, but you can always compliment it by talking about your passions or greater vision, where appropriate.
What has been your biggest achievement in your life so far?
This doesn’t need to be work based. This should be your proudest moment in life and give reasons why.
Expect scenario-based questions
An interviewer usually puts you into a scenario which will be based on the daily job duties. These are trickier to prepare for. They will ask you how you would go about dealing with it and why. This is useful for them to see how quickly you can think on your feet. Go with your gut feeling and be confident in your answer – you’ve got this!
So you need to invest some time in preparing for your interview but thankfully if you have multiple interviews you can use some of these examples over and over again to save you time.
What if it's a remote interview?
It's now commonplace to have an interview via video software. All the preparation tips above apply identically, but there are a few other things to remember:
- Make sure everything around you is in place ahead of the interview. Think about a nice backdrop that doesn't have lots of distractions. And make sure there aren't piles of washing of course!
- Check lighting, background, WIFI connection and ensure you won’t be disturbed by people or noises.
- Go onto the link 10 minutes before and ensure all the Tech is working correctly.
If you enjoyed this blog why not read our others in this series:
To find out more about the awesome Gemma Bartlett check out her website and socials below.