So, you’ve applied for a role that appears to fit with what you are looking for, the phone rings and bingo, you’ve got yourself an interview! Obviously, you won’t know until you’ve been to the interview whether it’s the right role for you, however, you need to prepare to assume it will be.
You may kick yourself afterwards if your lack of planning leads to a rejection when you came away full of positivity and hope.
There are lots of general tips we can offer, which are published here, but let’s delve a little deeper into the content of the interview:
What format will the interview take?
Whether you applied directly or via a recruiter, you must ask this: Who is interviewing you and what are their job titles? Will it take a more relaxed, informal style, or will it be more formal/competency based?
The informal interview
Once you have established it is the more relaxed variety, you can plan! Do not be fooled by ‘informal’. They are still taking the process seriously and want to get it right. They have chosen to take the more relaxed route, so they can get to know the real you, but they will have considered carefully what information they need from you. Their questions will just appear un-planned, impromptu and disguised as a conversation. It is our advice that, in terms of preparation, you do the same homework for both styles of interview. The same information is needed from you, it will just be communicated differently.
Once the prep is done, you simply need to adapt your style to the style of interview. It is likely this informal style has been chosen because cultural fit is very important. Make sure the real ‘you’ shines through - this will help you both decide if the fit is right!
How to prepare for your interview
Thoroughly research the company before you meet them and let them know it! For example, refer to a recent news article or something you particularly liked on their website, or social platforms
Have a few good questions ready about the role and the business. Take time to think of some that are unlikely to be covered off in the general chat – don’t be left saying, “No, I think you’ve covered all the questions I had"... It doesn’t look very inquisitive or creative
Whether formal or informal, we have established the interviewer is looking to glean the same information, specifically:
Skills: Consider the job you are being interviewed for and the skills needed to perform it. Does the role require specific software skills, communication skills (presentation, listening, etc.), or management skills? Be ready to offer clarity and confidence in this regard.
Experience: Consider the job you are being interviewed for and the experience they’d hope you to have. This could be the number of relevant years in a similar role and specific sector experience: logistics, financial, not for profit, retail, etc. Dissect the job description in detail and be ready to articulate your experiences aligned to the role, company and industry.
Competency: Every role requires different competencies and/or levels of competency to perform well in the role. Consider the role you are going for and what competencies are needed.
For example, an effective project manager needs to come with a very strong ability to organise themselves and others, be a great team player, a relationship builder, and with the ability to influence and multi-task.
Questions will be asked in a non-direct manner to elicit this information. If an interviewer asked you if you are a good team player, the answer would, of course, be ‘yes’. As such, competency questions are example based, looking for real-life examples that demonstrate the relevant competencies. Here are just some examples of competencies: Adaptability; creativity and innovation; delegation; influencing; integrity; leadership; teamwork; decisiveness; tenacity; communication; independence
Although most questions tend to ask for examples of situations where you have demonstrated specific competencies, they can appear in different formats. Examples include:
How do you ensure that you maintain good working relationships with your senior colleagues?
Give us an example of a situation where you had to deal with a conflict with an internal or external client
How do you influence people in situations where there are conflicting agendas?
Tell us about a situation where you made a decision but then changed your mind
In many cases, the interviewers will start with a general question, which they will then follow up with more specific, example-based questions. So, for example:
How do you manage upwards?
Give us an example of a situation where you had a fundamental disagreement with one of your superiors
The key in answering all questions is that you are required to "demonstrate" that you have the right skills and competencies by using examples based on your prior experience, and not just talk about the topic in a theoretical and impersonal manner.
So, your preparation relating to competencies is about trying to predict what the interviewer will be looking for and preparing examples accordingly.
Cultural fit: This is hard to plan for and is as important to you as it is for them! From their perspective, they know who thrives in their culture and they’ll be looking for traits that fit. Our advice is to be yourself – there are no winners by attempting to be anything else. Should you be asked to meet off-site, in a bar or café, things are looking good but it’s still time to keep on your toes! It is likely you are meeting the wider team, to involve them in the process.
Again, be yourself but focus on letting your personality shine through.