Posted on 3/03/2015 by Ryan Lamb
With an increasingly buoyant recruitment landscape as a result of economic growth, many people are now considering their next career move. Whether this is pushing for an internal promotion or an external move, here’s how to maximise your chances of securing that move and how to stop you from having that sinking feeling of rejection!
I have read many interview preparation guides over the years, from the over complicated to the quirky ‘don’t eat garlic’ the night before. Below is how I would prepare for any interview and it is also how I expect every candidate that represents me to prepare! Part One: ‘Preparation’ is below and I will follow up with Part Two: ‘The Interview’ in the next few weeks.
Part One: Preparation
I’m sure we have all heard the phrase: Very Poor Preparation = Very Poor Performance. There is a better known version of this but I’m not sure LinkedIn would appreciate the language.
Why is preparation so important? Think of it like this - Would a finance professional expect to pass their CIMA / ACCA exams without preparation or an HR professional pass their CIPD exams with no study? Answer: Unlikely, and the same applies to anyone going for an interview. If you don’t prepare properly then it is pretty unlikely you will get the role you want. You’ve invested time in preparing a CV, making applications and meeting agencies, now it’s time to make sure you do the right things before the interview to maximise your chances of getting the job!
So what does good preparation look like?
Research the company: Don’t simply focus on their website to find who they are and what they do. Reeling off a few sound bites at interview is rarely enough to make you stand out from the competition. If they are a Plc, download and read their annual reports as this will give you a good insight into performance and strategy. How are their shares performing and how are they viewed by investors? If they aren’t a Plc, search Google news, this will give you an idea of what is happening in their business and their respective market. If that turns a blank then get creative. It’s amazing what you can find out using LinkedIn, Youtube, Corporate Facebook pages and sites such as DueDil.
Think about the challenges their business faces: Research competitors as well as economic factors and key risks to their business. How do they differentiate, stay ahead or plan to overtake the competition. What would happen if the price of wheat, crude oil or silicon for example, changed significantly? Factors affecting business performance can be very broad so you will have to get your thinking cap on to do this!
Have a think about what KPI’s the business measures and then drill down into the KPI’s that you may be judged on. Broad sector based KPI’s can be determined within 30 seconds; try Googling: restaurant KPI’s to illustrate this purpose. You will be an expert in measuring success within a pub/ restaurant business within 10 minutes.
Research your interviewers: If you are not on LinkedIn, you really should be. The days of going in blind to meet someone are almost over. This process serves two purposes: Firstly, it helps takes the nervousness and anxiety out of an interview by reducing the unknown! You might even be able to recognise the person coming to meet you in reception rather than standing up three times for the wrong person (We’ve all been there!). Secondly, it allows you tofind common ground: Did you go to the same University or have the same qualifications? Do you have mutual connections? Do you have similar interests? I’m not suggesting you turn into a stalker and I would advise against pinpointing every shared interest, (people may find this a little odd!) but finding common ground is a great way to build rapport at interview, something that will be explored further in Part Two: ‘The Interview’ my follow up article.
Read, learn and break down the job spec: Think about what you have and haven’t done in the role. Tailor examples and achievements from your experience to those which will make you sound relevant for the opportunity you are interviewing for. This is not rocket science but it is amazing how many people use the same examples for every interview.
Make sure you know your own CV: Be able to talk through your background and experience and practice doing it in no more than five to seven minutes. Interviewers want to get a feel for what you have done and why you made the decision to leave certain roles but giving them ‘war and peace’ is likely to lessen the time you have later to show off your true achievements.
Use your agency and try and work with a good one! I firmly believe that a good agency or consultant can give you that extra 5% that will help you end up top of the pile. How can your agency help you?
Go and meet them and run through a mock interview: I often find myself justifying to candidates why they should come and meet me before an interview and although they come in reluctantly, they leave feeling better prepared and surprised at how useful it was getting advice and feedback on their interview technique. Remember, recruiters interview for a living, make them work for the money they will ultimately make from placing you with their clients….ask to come in!
Get a feel for the sort of questions being asked: Good recruiters get repeat business at the same companies. This means they build up knowledge of questions and interview approach. This does not mean they know all the questions that will be asked as every interviewer will have their own style but it does mean that they can help you deal with common questions or themes; dealing with change, managing difficult stakeholders or improving process for example.
Unfortunately many recruiters still only scratch the surface when interviewing, confirming the basics but failing to really challenge you or understand what a good answer is. If you feel this is the case and you still need help get in touch on LinkedIn and I will be happy to help!
Some things to remember
I did all that research and didn’t get a chance to use it: This will be discussed more in my next article but think about how and where you will be able to use this research regardless of the questions asked. It will allow you to ask some really testing and probing questions of your interviewer showing your knowledge and impressing them in the process.
You could ask: What are the hours like?
I would suggest it’s much better to ask for example: I noticed in this year’s annual report you have hedged your fuel price until September 2015… has this given the business a competitive disadvantage against your key competitors given that the price of crude oil has dropped significantly in the last six months?
Doing the preparation will make you feel more confident and less nervous in the interview:I know from personal experience that if you are fully prepared for anything in life, it makes it the doing part much less of an ordeal. Planning a holiday or knowing your stuff in that key presentation at work are just a couple of examples that spring to mind.
Don’t get despondent! - If you don’t get that big move but you’ve given it everything you’ve got, prepared to the best of your ability and felt it went great, just remember it’s not always about you!
Don’t turn into an ‘Interview Droid’: An interview droid (and I have met many!) is someone who has had several interviews and has lost the ability to show passion for the role and the company for which they are interviewing. The person operates on the basis that it’s just another interview knows their CV and has good examples, but does limited research on their new employer and sees all opportunities as ‘just another job’. These people often make it through to second stage but miss out at the final hurdle.
I hope you find this guide useful and look out for my follow up article on the interview over the next few weeks. Please share with anyone who may find this of interest.
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