How To Rock Your Next Interview

So, after all the job hunting, finally, you’ve landed an interview for a job that seems to fit your search criteria and career aspirations. You feel a sense of fleeting accomplishment and a boost in self-confidence that someone out there recognises your future potential.

You have a balanced argument in your head about the pros and cons and decide it’s worth the investment – “if only for interview practice”!

Let’s run through some general advice to help you succeed.

Choose a convenient time

As soon as you land the interview, your ‘interviewee hat’ should be worn! Ensure you arrange a date, time and location that you will be able to attend without undue hardships.

For example, don’t commit to early morning interviews if transport is problematic – try to arrange over lunchtime when the morning commute is a distant memory. Similarly, don’t commit to an interview whilst working on an erratic project within insane hours that might lead you to defer your interview.

Be polite and professional and agree on an interview that works for you. You need to be at peak performance – you don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.

Thoroughly understand the job description

I’d recommend writing down the job description and benchmarking it against your skills. Let’s say the job description has ten sentences, it’s a good idea to create a table with these ten sentences, alongside, populate these cells with brief comments to showcase and map your experience. You will also be able to identify skills gaps that you will need to research before the interview – Google can provide a rudimentary understanding in the first instance.

Research the organisation

You will be asked what you know about the organisation so you need to equip yourself with outline knowledge such as:

  • History – merger and acquisition activity, origins and evolution
  • Locations – global/country/city presence
  • Major products/services – what are the main components and why
  • Key risks – political, environmental, socio-economic, technological

Anticipate questions and draft outline responses

Most interview questions can be prepared in advance and typically fall into three categories:

  1. CV – fully understand your CV even those last minute changes!
  2. Technical – for example, if you are applying for a technical tax accounting role you will expected to know the basics around tax legislation and how this is currently changing
  3. Behavioural – you will need to demonstrate how you have employed key traits of the role are apply for

The trick here is to understand the outline of your response but it’s not advisable to learn a response word-for-word as this will give you undue pressure and restrict your fluidity not to mention that your response is likely to be cold and devoid of passion.

Behavioural interview questions

There is a whole raft of potential questions here but if you prepare two examples for each of the below five topics you will have most bases covered:

  1. Teamwork oriented
  2. Problem solving
  3. Initiative/leadership
  4. Interpersonal skills
  5. Challenge/stress/pressure

Your examples should be concise (say 3 minutes maximum) structured – a recognised structure is STAR:

  • Situation – what problem needed solving and why?
  • Task – how did you distill the problem down into manageable parts to solve?
  • Action – How did you personally mitigate or solve the problem?
  • Results – what measurable and tangible benefits were realised? 

Attending the interview

Dress for the job you want not the job you have. However, also consider the company culture.

The interview begins when you set foot in the interviewer’s building – avoid being unprofessional in any way such as taking a social phone call in the waiting area or swearing if you miss the lift! It happens!

Provide interviewers with extra copies of your CV to ensure version control – I usually carry ten copies of my CV which should last for several interviews.

Take notes using a professional looking notepad and a good quality pen. Avoid scraps of paper and bitten biros. Taking occasional notes shows the interviewer you are listening and following the interview – take notes even if you don’t think you need to – they could become invaluable at the second round.

Verbal and non-verbal communication are both important. Speak slowly, clearly and with structured purpose. Sit up straight, maintain non-piercing eye contact, position hands and feet appropriately, and manage you facial expressions.

The main questioning is finished and you are asked if you have any questions. Even if you think everything has been answered, you must ask at least three questions. Be strategic in these questions and avoid asking obvious questions where you should have researched the answer in advance.

A useful tip is to write a list of two questions for each of the following categories and pick three that best suit the mood of how the interview has unfolded:

  • The role – is the role new or how has it evolved?
  • Your team – how is the team perceived by senior management?
  • The interviewer – what’s it like to work here?
  • The business – what is the biggest challenge faced by this company?
  • Learning and development – what training opportunities are available?

Last of all, confirm the next step before departing the interview. Politely ask when the interviewer expects to feedback and reiterate your interest in the position.

Evaluate the success of the interview

The interview is a bilateral assessment – they assess you and you assess them. Be respectful to your interviewer and their company but don’t capitulate and undermine your self-worth. You have an interview because of your skills and experience so project with confidence that they think you might be able to help advance their business.

The recruitment and interview process is a necessary evil. It can be demanding and stressful but it’s a matter of short term sacrifice for long term gain. This could propel you into your dream role and you need to stay positive and committed throughout.

When you find the right role, the right role has also found you so above all, be yourself and showcase your ability and the rest will fall into place.

Keep smiling, you can do it!