In the past, I have certainly been guilty of winging it in an interview, confident that my knowledge, experience and enthusiasm would get me through, and in most cases that worked. However, over time, I have seen the market evolve and candidate processes become increasingly rigorous. I hear a lot less of the ‘come in for a chat’ approach as organisations need to demonstrate a fair, consistent and inclusive process. Candidates who are going for roles are seeing tough competition at all stages of the process. It is more important than ever before to prepare thoroughly for interviews. Not just half an hour the night before.
Here are six things you won’t regret having well prepared and practiced:
1. An overview of your career journey so far – aka the CV run-through
Be prepared to talk through your career journey to date, concisely, engagingly and in less than 5 minutes. This is harder than it sounds. Start at the beginning of your working life and very briefly take them on your journey up to the present. A whistlestop tour. Dedicate more time to your recent experience. Include a couple of standout achievements. Include interesting and memorable things. Make sure it captures you – your passions, strengths and unique selling points. You can’t pack in everything and talk really fast (although I have seen people try!) so you need to be ruthless about what you leave out. Think about the most pertinent messages you want to get across for the role you are going for.
2. Your personal / career statement
Essentially the answer to that rather broad question interviewers use to set the scene – ‘tell me about you’. Your aim is to set the scene concisely and ensure you include all the most important things such as:
- What you do
- Why you do it / your purpose
- A couple of lines on your career journey so far
- Your strengths
- A bit about your non-work interests
- Your current situation / why you are here.
For more head to my earlier blog What interviewers really want to know when they say “tell me about you”
3. Your greatest achievements
Investing some time remembering and then writing your best career achievements as individual case studies is such a good use of your time.
If any part of your interview is a competency interview these will be particularly handy for answering any questions that start with ‘Tell me about a time when…’. Even if it isn’t a competency interview, I suggest you weave these case studies into the conversation, so the interviewers have evidence of when you have successfully delivered things in the past.
My earlier blog These two easy changes will massively increase your success at interview expands on how to write and deliver these with impact, including a template of my R-STAR model.
4. Research about them
There are so many amazing resources out there to draw upon before you meet anyone at interview, including:
- LinkedIn – the company page and individual profiles of the line manager, anyone else you will be meeting in the process and the leadership team. Follow their company hashtag if they use one so you can see posts by employees e.g. #LifeAtSky and get a feel for the company culture and activities.
- Their website – announcements, press releases, financial results, annual reports, the career page, company values and anything else you can find nestled in there.
- Glassdoor – the ‘Trip Advisor’ of places to work. You can read the CEO rating and insights into the recruitment process and get some insights into the culture of the organisation.
- Google – the organisation, the interviewer, trends in the industry.
5. Answers to these questions:
- Why do you want this role?
- Why do you want to work at this organisation?
- Why are you the best person for this role?
These need to be tailored for the specific opportunity and concise. Plan your reasons in advance and be able to say them impactfully. One way to do this is to signpost the listener with a list, for example – “There are three reasons I want this role: 1. xx 2. xx and 3. Xx.” Use any information they have given you such as the role profile and draw on your own research.
6. Questions for them
As well as finding out more you want to know, this is another way to showcase yourself. Ask them questions about things you learnt from their annual report or other research you completed. My earlier blog Why the answer is always YES you DO have questions for them! expands on this.
Invest time doing your preparation, and then relax, get a good night’s sleep and enjoy the interview. Remember it is a two-way process. You are choosing whether they are right for you too. And it this doesn’t turn out to be the role for you, the right one will show itself.
You may also enjoy my earlier blog 14 mistakes to avoid at interview.
If you would like to invest in interview coaching, head to the Invest page of my website about individual coaching packages.