An interview is a very artificial way for people to get to know each other and there is a move towards a more ‘real world’ type of meeting including a ‘walk in the park‘ final interview where you do not actually meet in an office at all. Here are some pointers and some thoughts for you, if you are called for an interview. It is important that you realise an interview is a two way street and you are there to learn as much as possible about the people, the role of the job and most importantly the culture of the company.
- In advance – Preparation is key.
a. Ask who will be interviewing you, how long the meeting is scheduled for and what type of interview it will be.
b. Research the company and the role. In particular, news stories. Have a look on LinkedIn and see if there is anybody you know who works for the company or even better, somebody who used to work for the company who will give you an honest view of what to expect.
c. Have a look at the job description and think of the questions that you would ask if you were interviewing somebody for this job. Then write out in short bullet points your answers.
- Logistics – it sounds obvious but this is an important meeting for you, so plan your day.
a. Make sure that you have scheduled a number of hours before and after the interview where you will not be bothered by work or personal related issues.
b. Plan your journey to their office and make sure you know where it is and what parking is available, if you are driving.
c. For larger companies arrive 15–20 minutes in advance as you will be able to learn a lot as you wait in the reception area. For smaller companies arrive 10 minutes before your interview as often they do not have suitable waiting areas.
- Dress Code – even for technical roles or non-office roles, it is always best to be overdressed than under dressed. If possible, ask the recruiter or hiring manager what the dress code for the company is but irrespective you should always wear smart business attire. For men the tie is fast becoming a thing of the past but certainly for the first interview you should ask yourself why would you not wear a tie with your suit.
- Interview techniques – some people say an interview is over in the first five minutes after the initial handshake. In other words, peoples chemistry largely defines what the interviewers think of you as a candidate. Here are some things you should bear in mind during your interview.
a. Bring a notepad and pen to take notes and have two or three specific questions to ask them. It looks very poor, if at the end of an interview, you are asked have you any questions and you say no.
b. Clarify at the beginning how long the interview will last.
c. Ask who the role reports to and a little bit about that person.
d. Eye contact with each of the interviewers is essential and nothing beats a smile and a positive disposition.
e. Ask them if this is a new position or replacing somebody and the reasons for either.
f. It sounds obvious but never interrupt them when they are talking.
g. Never badmouth your previous employers, always be diplomatic.
h. Near the end of the interview, ask two or three questions including one that will encourage them to start selling the company and the role to you. An example would be ‘What are the biggest challenges that the company faces in the next 12 months?’
- Video interviews – similar to face to face interviews, it is all about the preparation:
a. Make sure your internet connection is good
b. Confirm the software version of Zoom, Webex etc. is up to date.
c. Do not sit with a window behind you in there is possible sunlight
d. Put your phone on silent
e. Arrange the screen so that you are making eye contact with the camera but can see the person/s.
- Key questions – make sure you are clear in your mind how to answer the following regularly asked questions:
a. Tell me about yourself.
b. Why are you interested in our company and this role?
c. What is your biggest weakness?
- Last five minutes – if you like what you have heard during the interview and you sense that the meeting is about to wrap up, do not leave the room without verbally telling them that you really would like this job. You would be surprised how many candidates do not state this! More senior candidates feel that it might dilute their negotiating power for their package. My view is you cannot negotiate a package, if you do not get through to the next interview round.
- Second interview – at the second interview you need to get into more detail about the role and the breakdown and exactly what they are looking for from you in this role. You can ask them about timelines for a decision and even how many other candidates are they considering at this point.
- Follow up – after each interview, irrespective of whether it’s the first, second or third you should always send a note to your point of contact thanking them for their time, saying that you enjoyed the meeting and perhaps clarifying any areas you think it requires. This shows you are keen on the role and keeps you fresh in their minds.
- Reflect – most jobs will have two interviews and then the Letter of Offer stage. If you have come through a recruitment agency there will be one screening interview in advance. If you are asked back to meet the Managing Director, Head of Department or CEO of the business this can often be a rubber stamping exercise but still should be taken very seriously. At this meeting you have a opportunity to make sure you understand their company culture. Not every job that is offered to you should be accepted, even during challenging times. You should have a written career plan and you should score the company that has made you an offer on at least six aspects such as industry, stability, growth (both yours and the companies), competitors, commute, salary and culture etc.
- Feedback – if you do not get the job, always ask the recruiter or hiring manager for feedback. You will not always get it but like most things in life, interviews are a learning curve.