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Managing Your Job Search: Interview Preparation

Preparing for an interview is like preparing for any other meeting, and if you have already gone through the process of putting together a CV with well thought out achievements you are half way there.

Some areas to focus on in your preparation include:

  • Knowing your CV;
  • Objectives for changing jobs;
  • The business you are interviewing with;
  • Questions for the interviewer;
  • Other considerations;

Knowing Your CV

I cannot stress this enough. If something is on your CV, you need to be able to talk about it.

Things to focus on:

  • People respond well to examples so make sure you have real examples of each aspect of your role no matter how mundane it might seem. If you are able to talk about a real example rather than citing a job description it not only limits the risk your answers will sound like everyone else they have met, it also makes it easier to remember what it is you want to talk about. The additional benefit is that if your example relates to an area of concern for the interviewer it is likely to either alleviate those concerns or prompt them to ask another question, giving you greater opportunity to sell yourself;
  • Know the specifics. This means everything from dollars and time saved as a result of something you have implemented, through to annual revenue of your clients if you are in a consulting role;
  • If there are obvious areas of concern on your CV, such as you have had 4 jobs in a year or taken time off from work, make sure you have taken the time to think about how you want to explain these quickly and concisely so they don’t become the focal point of the interview;
  • If someone asks you a question that is clearly addressed on your CV they want to hear you talk about it. Most hiring managers least favourite answer to a question is “it’s on my CV”, your CV was the written test the interview is the verbal;

As highlighted in a previous post, when you are thinking about how you want to structure answers an effective way of making sure you touch on the most important points is using STAR which is:

  • Situation
  • Task
  • Action
  • Result

This is a really useful tool, not only for interviews but for any time you are trying to present an idea.

By taking the time to think about the examples you want to use in this way it will:

  • Keep your answer on track and to the point;
  • Make sure you quantify the outcomes;

Again while it is important to know your CV and your achievements, the purpose of taking the time to prepare for the interview is not so you can rattle off answers like a robot.

It is to make sure you have thought about what is most relevant for the meeting, the role you are interviewing for, and to give you the confidence you need to have a successful meeting.

Objectives For Changing Jobs

There are lots of reason why people move jobs and as such there is a good chance that the person interviewing you will want to make sure those reason won’t exist with them.

Some things to think about:

  • Quantify your reasons where possible. i.e. if you are leaving because you want better “work life balance” everyone has a different idea of what work life balance could be very different. If you say I’m currently working from 7am until 9pm every day and am looking for a job that is closer to 8am until 6pm most days, it removes any uncertainty;
  • Avoid speaking negatively about your current employer. There is always a diplomatic way of saying things and most people will be able to read between the lines;
  • Where possible highlight how the position you are interviewing for will satisfy your objectives;
  • Be honest, there is no point telling the interviewer what you think they want to hear if it means you will be in a job you hate in 3 months;

The Business You Are Interviewing With

Use your better judgement here as your answer to the question, “tell me what you know about XYZ company?” will, as you expect, vary considerably depending on the seniority of the role, if you are coming from a competitor and the availability of information.

As an absolute minimum you should have:

  • Reviewed the company website, have a reasonable understanding of the working culture and the reasons why you would be interested in working for the business;
  • Searched for available information on the interviewers including LinkedIn;

The more senior the role the more likely it is the interviewer is going to expect that you have some insight into the current challenges faced by the business and the businesses performance in your area.

If you are coming from a competitor they are probably going to be interested in how the business is perceived by competitors and opportunities in the market.

Where possible if you can speak with someone that is currently working with the business or has worked for them before, it not only informs your decision, it demonstrates that you have a genuine interest in working for the business.

Questions For The Interviewer

The questions you will have for the interviewer will naturally depend on what information you have been able to uncover either through the interview process (if 2nd interview onwards), what you have uncovered during your research and the seniority of the role you are interviewing for.

When thinking about your questions some points to consider, like any other meeting, include:

  • Making sure you include what you already know, i.e. “Your website mentions XYZ can you tell me a little more about that?”;
  • Any concerns you might have, framing is important but this is the time to ask;
  • Avoid self-serving questions where possible, i.e. “What discounts do I get for working here?”, all that information will be made clear to you prior to starting and asking sounds petulant;
  • Make sure your questions are relevant, if the interviewer has answered all your questions, let them know you were going to ask them about XYZ but they covered it;

Other Considerations

Some common questions we get asked include:

What do I do if they ask me about salary?

Everyone has a different view on this, if you are going through a recruiter then the interviewer probably shouldn’t ask however if they do my view is that you should tell them. Responding with “talk to the recruiter”, forms a disconnect between the interviewer and the interviewee.

If the recruiter has done their job then the hiring manager knows how much money you want, they just want to hear it from you.

What time should I arrive?

Again use your discretion however best practice would be between 5-10 minutes before the start of the meeting. Any more than 10 minutes is awkward, go for a walk around the block.

If you are running late either call the recruiter or the hiring manager.

What should I wear?

Wear professional dress to the standard of the job being sought. The obvious exception to this is if you have been told by the recruiter/HR specific instructions.

This is probably fairly obvious for most people however I have heard of someone turning up to an interview in Ugg boots before so bears repeating.

If you are able to take the time to go through the above, ensure you have firm hand shake, make eye contact, turn up on time and are dressed appropriately you should be feeling confident that you are going to give yourself the best chance of securing the position.



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