“Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity”
Seneca, philosopher, 4BC-65AD
Congratulations! You have applied for your dream job and your recruiter has just called you to tell you that you have an interview in a few days time. You are probably excited and nervous at the same time.
The interviewer will have a few key objectives when looking for the right candidate - to get the person with:
- Relevant qualifications and expertise
- Key interpersonal skills
- High energy and drive to get the job done in a timely and efficient manner
- A record of quality results from previous job experiences
- Someone who can take initiative and is willing to go the extra mile
- Dedication and loyalty to the new employer
So how do you nail that interview?
Your CV vs The Job Description
Make sure you read and understand the job description in detail. Make a list of all the skills, qualifications and personal qualities that the employer is looking for. Do a tick box exercise and compare them to your CV.
Do you fulfill all the criteria? Be prepared to relate your skills and experiences to elements of the job you have applied for. If you are changing job sector you need to identify your transferable skills. You may lack a specific professional qualification, nevertheless you have been chosen for the interview as you have work experience that makes up for the lack of a professional qualification. If so, you will need to be prepared to talk about this particular element of your experience in detail, and be able to convince them that despite the formal qualification you know your stuff. It may be that they will expect you to embark on this formal qualification in the future, so be prepared for that question.
Anticipate likely questions. Some employeers use behaviour interviewing where they will ask a series of questions related to how you dealt with certain situations, conflicts or challenges. They might mark candidates on the basis of a whole range of criteria such as decision making, relationship management, team working, overcoming problems, delivering outcomes and communications.
Research The Company
Research the company and their current projects, their products/services, and their competitors. You should also try to find out information about senior management and potential colleagues and any mention of the company in the news, press or social media. First port of call is the company website. Read annual reports, overview of products/services, internal divisions, and any recent press releases. They would not expect you to be an expert on their company overnight, but they want to see that you have done your homework.
Find out what have been their most recent successes and what their biggest challenge for the next few years is. Are you joining a new division, or a team that is expanding due to recent developments/new product/service or similar? It is helpful if you know a bit more of the background to why they are hiring. Think about what value you can add to the company and how they could benefit from your experience and skills.
Know Who You Are Meeting
Make sure you know the names and titles of the people you will be meeting. Find out all you can from the company website about hierarchy, company structure, team divisions and so forth. Read any media coverage of potential colleagues if you can. Check out social media profiles or talk to people in the industry who have worked with your potential new colleagues, if possible.
Office Culture And Attire
How you dress and how you look is important. You need to not only be the right person for the job but also look the part. Try to find out the level of dress code at the company you are interviewing for. Is the company a creative agency or a conservative blue-chip conglomerate? Have a look at their website to suss out the company image and office culture. If you can try to find any photos online of the senior executives that is even better. If in doubt then it is better to be on the more conservative side of what to wear than to be too informal. A younger executive can usually get away with a more relaxed approach however one tip is that you should try to dress more senior than your current role.
The interview could take place in their office or it could be a virtual video call.
If you are going in to their office spend some time the evening before to plan your route to the place. If you are early, go for a walk around the block or have a cup of tea in a nearby cafe to calm the nerves.
Turn off the sound of your mobile phone before you enter the building. Bring a notebook, a pen, your diary and a printed copy of your CV. They probably already have it in front of them, but it is always good to show that you are prepared. If it is a job that requires specific writing skills, it might useful to bring along your best work. Or if you are applying for an accountant job you could print out their annual report and show them that you have gone through the numbers.
Have a firm handshake when you greet someone, and make sure to smile. Eyecontact is very important.
If you meet the interviewer in a lobby, make sure you are prepared for some small talk on the way to the meeting room. Comment on the building/architecture, the area, the art on the wall or the weather. Saying something is better than not saying anything. But make sure you are positive and upbeat. If you had a bad morning, don’t tell them so!
Show that you are listening and make eye contact with all the people in the room. Avoid nervous gestures such as fiddling with your hair/pen/clothes/notes or biting your nails.
If you're having a video call then make sure you have a calm background and that you are sitting in a quiet room where you will not be disturbed.
This is your moment to shine. It is a bit like being an actor and entering a stage, the audience will be watching your every move. Tell them the story about you, your motivations, strengths, values and accomplishments. Show them that you understand the role well and what is required. Tell the interviewer that you can meet deliverables and will excel. Substantiate your claims with positive, concrete examples from past experiences.
However, the interviewer is also trying to find out if you would be a fit for the team and the company’s culture. So be true to your personality, experience and talents. Be open, honest and confident when answering questions. It goes both ways - if you don’t fit the team, you will be unhappy and uncomfortable in the job.
Try to connect with the interviewer. Remember to listen well. Do not interrupt the speaker, and make sure you take time to answer questions (especially if you are not sure what to answer). If you do not know what to answer, ask if you can think about it and revert to that question later in the interview.
It’s important to show enthusiasm and explain to them why you would be dedicated to the job, the team and the company. Tell them your success stories and greatest achievements.
One final note
Make a list of 3-4 questions you would like to ask at the end of the interview. Be curious about the company culture and team.
Examples of questions to ask:
- What is the company’s greatest challenge the coming year?
- What projects can I contribute to straight away?
- How big is the team?
- What does a typical day look like?
Do not ask about salary or company benefits on the first interview. Leave these questions for a later stage (your recruiter can guide you through this).
Before you leave the interview, make sure you know the timetable and what the next steps are.
Try to sit tight, don’t bombard a company with emails every 24 hours – they will only think you are desperate for the job. However, we recommend that if you do not hear back from them within a week, follow up with a thank you email and reaffirm your interest in the role.