Interview Preparation Tips
While some people are confident and love being tested in interviews, others get nervous and don’t always show the best version of themselves. No matter which one of these is you, the following tips will help guide you to perform at your best.
Remember you only get one chance to make a good first impression and preparation is key.
We have even seen confident candidates fail in interviews. Overconfidence can sometimes lead to a lack of preparation for an interview, and it often shows up in an attitude of “sell this job to me”. So even if you are the smartest person in the room, with the gravitas to match, you need to do the basics well and remain professional at all times or hiring managers will be put off by a perceived lack of commitment to the interview process.
Whether you feel the position is one you would love to be offered or if you’re merely there to explore the opportunity further, you need to put your best foot forward at all times. Be professional and humble and never let complacency or arrogance come across – it is a small market, people talk, so do yourself proud each and every time.
1. Always do your due diligence on the company you are interviewing with
What have they been in the news for lately?
Read the companies last annual report.
Who sits on the leadership team?
Who are their biggest competitors?
Speak to anyone you know who has worked or does work for that business to get their insights.
2. Have an opinion on what problems they could be trying to solve
Even if you are not currently in the same sector as the hiring company, make sure you understand the issues this sector is facing and come with a view on how, as a business, they may tackle some of these challenges. Clients like that you’ve had a think about their organisation and come with some points of view. It shows interest in them and also a proactive approach that will distinguish you.
3. Rapport is key
It is an unconscious bias that people hire people they like. Always try to build rapport with the interviewer in an authentic way. Be curious, inquiring and also aware that the hiring manager will be evaluating your style and personality against other major stakeholders in the business you would support in order to be effective in the role. They will be asking themselves if you have the style, maturity and gravitas to lead people as well as senior stakeholders while also challenging them without getting them offside. Keep this in mind and always have examples on hand of previous relationship building successes both from team leadership and senior stakeholder perspectives.
4. Keep it concise!
One common reason for rejection is not being able to articulate your answers in a concise way. Often candidates will give long-winded answers and go off on a tangent. Yes, it’s imperative you need to build rapport BUT interviewers have a limited amount of time and want to get to know you as much as they can in a professional capacity more than a personal one, at least at first.
5. Your Questions
Come prepared with two or three good questions to ask the interviewer when the opportunity arises. This usually happens towards the end of the interview. Always remember when asking questions, the manner in which you ask is often more important than the question itself. Be humble and well intentioned when asking questions about the opportunity so you can determine if this is the right role for you.
When asking about career progression opportunities should you be successful in the current role, please be acutely aware that hiring managers want to be assured you are excited and interested in the role at hand as opposed to the next promotion. It is all in the positioning of the question and can easily be asked more generally like “what do you see as the career pathways from this position after a few years in the role and strong performance”.
6. Money talk
Never ask about salary in the interviews where possible, talk to your recruitment consultant about the salary levels beforehand. Let us do the negotiations for you. If asked about salary expectations in the interview (and yes, it does happen!) gently advise the hiring manager that you haven’t given it too much thought because you’ve been focussed on the role and fit for the position. Advise them that you believe your recruiter would have provided all this information to them prior to the interview.
We have seen these types of conversations go south very quickly if not handled correctly in the moment despite good interview performance up to that point.
7. Behavioural Style Interviews
In behavioural psychology, past behaviours are the best predictor of future behaviours unless those behaviours weren’t helpful and you’ve adopted new ones. Behavioural questions evaluate how you’ve handled situations in the past and what you would do if faced with a similar situation again in the future. It’s about articulating your approach and process but also having learnt from situations that didn’t turn out well. Clients also like to understand what you have learned from failures and how its changed your approach and subsequent behaviours.
For example: Tell me about a time you have failed on a project you were working on? What did you learn from this?
This is not easy but if prepared you can come out on top.
We suggest you tackle these type of questions using the STAR method. This method also ensures you stay on point and concise.
Think of a situation similar to what the interviewer is asking you about that had a successful or learning outcome. It doesn’t necessarily have to be work related as long as it’s relevant. Remember to include the who, what, where, when and how.
Describe the task you were responsible for in that situation. Keep it specific but concise. Make sure to highlight any specific challenges you faced.
This is the part where you describe exactly what you did. How did you complete the task you were assigned? Remember to focus on what you did and highlight traits (qualities) that a hiring manager will find desirable (initiative, teamwork, leadership, dedication, etc.)
Share what the outcome of the situation was and how you specifically contributed to that outcome. What did you accomplish? What did you learn? What were the results of your actions?
This is where you also get to be introspective and share some of the softer learnings over and above the hard facts or results.
Here are more behavioural interview questions to practice with.
8. Watch your ego!
Clients find candidates that display a high level of ego in interview are either covering up for some insecurity they have or have a lack of Emotional Intelligence (EQ). Either way it is not a good look. Clients prefer to hire humble, achievement-oriented people who are universally likeable, no matter how talented they are.
9. Mind your manners
Wherever possible write a thank you email to the hiring manager for their time.
Some clients have a real issue with candidates that do not send thank you messages post interview. A recent survey on this showed that 25% (one in four) interviewers appreciate or even expect this courtesy. If possible, it is recommended you end it straight after the interview or at the very least the same day of the interview.
Research shows that people with manners are perceived as more likeable. Writing a thank you note post interview, reiterating that you would be excited to work with them or that you’re excited about next steps, allows the hiring manager to re-engage with you, thereby making you more memorable too. This small act can place you front of mind during their refection time on candidates they’ve met.