How to nail it at interview

I recently worked with someone who was going for a new role and was really keen to land it. It was their dream job. By the time they went for the assessment I think they were the most prepared person I have ever come across. They nailed the interview, were offered the job and were given the feedback that they were ‘head and shoulders above’ their second choice.

Here’s how they did it.

  • They researched thoroughly.
  • They had accurately and succinctly aligned their CV to their experience.
  • They practiced potential interview questions and answers in advance.
  • They showed passion and a desire to get the job.
  • They invested time.

Here are some tips to help you do the same.

Before the interview:

  • Research, research, research – the role requirements, the competencies and skills they are assessing, the organisation including its values, mission and purpose, the key stakeholders – in particular anyone involved with the recruitment process. Use everything you learn to inform which areas of your experience you draw on in the interview.
  • Know your best achievements inside out, including the outputs, with numbers wherever possible. Spend time reflecting on your best achievements not just the career moments you are most proud of, but those you can quantify and articulate. Write down all the details and have a pre-prepared set of scenarios that you can use to answer a range of competency questions.
  • Ensure your CV accurately reflects your achievements. So often I interview someone and they are talking with energy and passion about something they have delivered and it isn’t mentioned anywhere on their CV. Make sure you don’t miss anything significant.
  • Practice articulating your achievements. Actually saying them out loud. You are probably familiar with the STAR model for answering competency-based interview questions, where STAR stands for Situation, Task, Action and Result. (read more in this blog from @kat_boogaard for The Muse and check out their handy infographic)
    The STAR model is great, but actually I would take it a step further. Let’s call it the ‘R-STAR’ model. When you answer an interview question, present it with greater impact by starting with a results focused summary.
    e.g. Q: Tell me about a time you made a real difference at work.
    A: Of course. I will tell you about when I led a project that saved the business £70k.
    This sets the scene with a results focused summary and sparks the interest of the interviewer. Then head into the situation, task, action and result as usual.
    Keep your examples concise and punchy including all key elements without surplus waffle. You may only have an hour to get across all your best achievements – make every answer count.
  • Prepare intelligent questions to ask throughout the process. This isn’t just a case of the things you want to know. This is in part to demonstrate your knowledge of the sector, the challenges, their organisation and more. I used to work with one client who used to dedicate a big chunk of the interview to candidate questions, to see if they could cope if the focus was on them to run the meeting.

In the interview:

  • Remember they just want to get to know you. An interview isn’t designed to trick you or trip you up. Try not to be nervous (I know it’s easy to say) but treat the interview as a meeting where you get across an accurate account of you, your experiences and strengths but also get to know the interviewer and sense check whether it is the right role and organisation for you. It is a two way process.
  • Listen to the questions you are asked and answer them. It may sound obvious, but many people don’t. I recently asked someone to give me their best example of X. Their response was to tell me briefly about four. Aside from not giving the interviewer what they have asked for, you are diluting the time you have by giving four brief overviews instead of one really juicy (and your best) example.
  • Take a moment to pause and reflect if you need to before starting answering a question, rather than thinking as you talk which makes you sound unfocused. The more preparation you have done the easier it is to draw on one of your pre-prepared scenarios.
  • Let them know you want the job. I know. It sounds cheesy. But imagine you were interviewing two candidates, both of whom were equally well qualified, but one came across as really wanting the position and the other less so, who would you favour? You don’t have to play it cool. It is good to say ‘thanks so much for your time. I would love to work with you’ or similar.

If you would like some one to one coaching ahead of an important interview, please get in touch.

For more on setting yourself apart at interview read my blog: These two easy changes will massively increase your success at interview.

Photo by Steve Halama on Unsplash

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