How To Prepare For An Interview
Congratulations, you have secured an interview! Here’s how best you can prepare and be sure to make the right impression.
Remain optimistic but realistic
Once your CV has been sent off to a company you will not always be guaranteed a speedy response. If you don’t hear anything regarding your application, you should feel comfortable getting in touch with your recruitment consultant to see if there has been any news. Ideally, they will have some constructive feedback from their client to pass on to you. If your consultant hasn’t received feedback related specifically to your CV, they should hopefully be able to pinpoint the differences between your CV and the CVs of those candidates who were successful.
Whatever the circumstance, it’s never acceptable for you to contact your consultant’s client directly. One of the reasons the company has instructed the recruitment agency is because they themselves don’t have the time or capacity to deal with the queries of every candidate who applies. You will not endear yourself to a prospective employer by going down this route.
If a company doesn’t choose to interview you, please don’t take it personally. Even in cases where your CV matches the job description perfectly, there can be a variety of contributing factors affecting the company’s choice. Whatever the reason, you should accept these setbacks graciously.
Your consultant should be doing their best to get you an interview but there will be a limit to how hard they can push before they’re doing more harm than good. Keep in mind that it may take many applications before you find a match.
Once you have an interview, be sure to prepare. It should go without saying but research the company and people you’re meeting:
- look at their website,
- read their annual report,
- Check the latest company news and news within their market.
find out what you can about your interviewers online (Linkedin is your best friend!)
Other key things to prepare:
- Make sure you have a few questions of your own up your sleeve just in case the questions you were planning to ask are covered during the meeting. You can use the research you’ve done to help.
- Know your CV backwards and forwards. This is the document upon which your interview will largely be based, so you should exactly what’s on it and where you want to elaborate.
- The same goes for the job description. Know where your experience aligns and what gaps you have in your experience.
Answering the tough questions
Commonly, most interviews are conversational but some may be more structured and, in either case, you should prepare yourself. The first thing to think about is yourself.
- Think about why you’re looking to move.
- Why do you want to work for this company?
- Why is this specific job of interest to you?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What are your ambitions?
Knowing the answer to these questions will help you formulate answers and generate conversation in an interview setting.
A commonly asked interview question is, ‘Why have you chosen to look for a new job?”. Use the questions you have asked yourself to focus your answer on positives such as your ambitions and what you want to learn next instead of focussing your answer on your current employer which might not reflect well on you.
You should be prepared for competency-based questions even if the interview may not be flagged up specifically as competency based, it’s likely find one or two competency-based questions thrown into the mix.
A competency-based question might be:
- How do you maintain and build relationships with senior management?
- Tell me about a time where you had to deal with a conflict between team members.
- How have you solved a problem where the cause wasn’t immediately obvious?
Be sure that you expand on your answers and give examples. Just be sure you don’t overdo it – your answers should display an organised thought process and be reasonably succinct. If you’re rambling or jumping from one point to another, you won’t impress. The STAR technique is extremely useful when thinking about answering these questions.
Situation: Describe the situation.
Task: Describe what task was required of you.
Action: Tell the interviewer what action you took.
Result: Conclude by describing the result of that action.
If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s ok. Just apologise and admit that you don’t know the answer and if appropriate suggest what steps you would take to find a solution.
Looking the part
Don’t negate all your interview prep by not taking care with your appearance. As with your work, attention to detail is key.
This is not really the time to make a fashion statement. Leave the comedy ties and cuff links at home. Keep the flashy jewellery in check. Conservative and professional is the best way to go – you don’t want what you’re wearing to distract from what you’re saying. Remember, neat and safe is best when it comes to interview dress.
Body language is so important. Be aware of the signals you’re unconsciously sending out. When you arrive be sure to smile, make eye contact and give a good firm handshake. Try not to slouch in your chair or have your arms crossed defensively.
Do your best to appear calm and composed on the outside even if you’re not feeling it on the inside!
That said, don’t play it too cool. It could easily be misinterpreted as arrogance. The company secretarial market is a very small world; you may very well encounter your interviewer again in the future. Possibly event at an interview for your dream job at a different company! It pays to be engaged and polite in all circumstances.
What if I’m asked about my salary and expectations?
Some interviewers might ask about your salary expectations, that’s not a problem and is very common! It can be a daunting question but your recruiter should have made the employer aware of your current salary and given you an understanding of the salary range for the role. It’s perfectly ok to say that you have been told “x” and you are ideally looking for a sum within that range.
The benefit of working with a recruiter is that it’s our job to manage expectations and, often, have the difficult conversations about renumeration.
You can be honest about your expectations bearing in mind what your recruiter has told you.
Once you’ve been for an interview, call your consultant following the meeting and be forthcoming with your feedback. If you’ve got a really positive feeling about the people you’ve met, tell your consultant, and don’t hold back. If you have questions or concerns, make sure you express these to your consultant as well. They may be able to clear these up for you or make enquiries to the company to find out more.
Don’t be disheartened if it takes a bit of time before you have news. In many cases, the company will want to complete all first-round interviews before giving feedback to any one candidate. Be prepared for a bit of a wait and don’t jump to the conclusion that the lack of immediate response is a bad omen.
The interview feedback that your consultant receives from your interviewers can be very thorough and, even when it’s not all positive, it may be a great help in your job search. Try to take feedback constructively and pinpoint any changes that need to be made to improve your chances next time. Even when the feedback your recruiter receives isn’t very specific or detailed, as is often the case, try to take from it what you can and use it to your advantage.