The economy is poor, jobs are hard to come by and interviews are at an absolute premium!
So when you actually get an interview, you need to make a great first impression, be clear and consistent in your communication, add value, make sure to get all the information you need, not to mention show that you have the skills needed to do the actual job.
But most importantly you need to make sure you do each of those things better than all the other interviewees out there.
In other words, you better make sure that your preparation is excellent, and you are ready to rock from the word go.
The following are five steps to excellent interview preparation:
STEP 1 – GATHERING INFORMATION
Starting out with a simple but important element of your preparation, make sure you have all of the necessary information well in advance of the interview itself.
- Interview details
– time, date, location, duration etc.
- Interviewer details
– name, title, interview type, personality etc.
- Full job description
- CV and cover letter
– if you are working with a recruitment agency, ask for the CV and introduction they sent.
Get all of the information together and saved in a safe place and then schedule in a time to go through the rest of your preparation one to two days before the interview itself.
STEP 2 – STEPPING INTO THE INTERVIEWER’S SHOES
One of the areas of interview preparation that is consistently overlooked is an assessment of the interviewer’s perspective, reasons for interviewing and the resulting motivations.
You can give yourself great insight by simply thinking through the following issues related to why the interview is happening and how. Take a piece of paper and write down the answers to the questions below:
- Who do they really want to hire?
– READ between the lines of the job description, look for prioritised skills and immediate deliverables.
- Why do they want to hire anybody?
– Is this hire a replacement, new position or project? What problem is the company looking to solve by hiring somebody?
- Why are you meeting this interviewer?
– Who are you meeting with (HR, Hiring Manager, Executive) and what might their perspectives of this hire be, what will be most important to them?
- What are the company-wide implications of your hire?
– have you read up on the company and understood their financial results, upcoming projects and initiatives which you may be involved in?
- What does all this mean for you?
– Once you have written this out, think about how this changes the interview, you should see that this interview is not just about you, but about a company looking for a solution for a very real need, from there you can work on becoming that solution.
STEP 3 – FINDING THE SOLUTION YOU CAN BRING
Any hire is made when the hiring company becomes convinced that a specific candidate offers them the solution to their problem.
You have identified the problem(s), now it is time for you to put together your argument to show that YOU are the solution.
- Re-evaluate your CV
– With the needs and problems of your interviewer in mind, take another look through your CV. Look for skills and achievements in your history which could act as a solution. Write each one down on a piece of paper.
- Look for additional value you can add on day one
– Can you identify skills and achievements that you have which fall outside of the job description, but within the greater needs of the company? Additional things that you can bring to the table from day one; write these down as well.
- Define the solutions you bring
– Go through your list of “solutions” and appraise them honestly, are they current and realistically going to add value to your prospective employer? When you have cut the list down, spend time re-writing them as clear and concise summaries that you can use in the interview to introduce a topic.
– Be positive and broad in your approach, remember that you are preparing for an interview rather than a monologue and make sure that you have enough solutions to deal with any twist in the conversation.
– an example may be:
“I am able to manage and turn around struggling teams/projects and lead them to success, having done so in my last three firms, and specifically in my current company where I took over the failing XXX project and was able to complete under budget saving the company £X”
STEP 4 – LEARNING YOUR LINES
This would be the natural point for most people to stop – you can’t afford to.
However many times you have been to interviews, however successful you are, this step is the key for interview excellence. Practice.
You need to learn and be familiar with the solutions that you have written down, familiar enough to be able to talk about them casually and with flexibility; you will not be able to do this if you can’t remember them!
- Practice in front of the mirror or in the shower
– As silly as it sounds, getting familiar with the words and statements that you want to make will empower you to deliver them in the interview. It will give you the confidence to act with positivity and deliver solutions, your solutions.
- Get out there and interview
– Utilise recruitment agencies to conduct mock interviews, ask friends and family to test you on your answers.
I will reiterate this point again: we all need practice whatever our background. This is the best way to avoid missing out on important points and counterintuitively the more you practice the less likely you are to appear over prepared.
Practice is about getting comfortable with words, not robotic.
STEP 5 – THE DAY OF THE MEETING
Ending with another simple but important part of the process: don’t let your preparation done beforehand down by ignoring the actions that you need to take on the day itself!
- Arrive early
- Take a look in the mirror and make sure you are well presented
- Be ready to listen and take notes
– Take a notebook with you and engage with the interviewer by writing down what they have to say!
- Be ready to initiate the interview
– Any meeting starts with one person initiating the conversation, there is no rule to say that it can’t be you in an interview. If you are positive and feeling confident, smile, shake hands and start the conversation!