Okay so it may seem obvious, turn up on time, look smart, talk the talk and, bingo, you’ve cracked it. Yes, but no. Preparing for an interview so that you stand apart from all the other candidates you are competing against demands much more than that.
Although I know there’s a lot to consider, I have tried to condense everything down to a list of points that are, in my opinion, fundamental.
First things first, do your research. Research the company in as much detail as you can. Review the company website, taking careful note of any recent news. Speak to your recruiter and ask for their insights into the company, insights that you won’t necessarily be able to find online. Your consultant will have in-depth knowledge about the environment you will be working in, the company culture, for example, as well as the employer’s expectations and candidate requirements.
To expand on this, some specific facts about a company are crucial:
- What are its products and services?
- What is its growth potential?
- Who are its main competitors?
- How is it viewed in the marketplace?
I’d also advise researching into common interview competency questions – you don’t want any unpleasant surprises. Know your strengths. Know how to shape your weaknesses. Practise answering questions with your recruiter. After all, we do this every day, so take advantage of our knowledge and experience in this area!
Show what you know and take the time to make a match between your expertise and the requirements of the company. That way you really can sell yourself at the interview. You could use evidence from previous work (providing it’s not confidential, of course). For example, in compliance, you could describe how you successfully embedded a new framework from scratch; that usually goes down a treat.
Next, presentation. As the old saying goes, first impressions count. In the modern world of “cool” and “hip” company cultures, dress codes are becoming very nuanced. At one extreme, you have the corporates; the financial service bods. At the other end of the spectrum, you have the Shoreditch vibes bunch; the fashion gurus, the digital companies, the FinTechs, the buzzing boffins. Turn up to an interview in a grey suit, complete with tie and shiny black shoes, to an e-commerce company and you might be considered a write-off straight away, condemned to oblivion, as someone who doesn’t have a clue about their business.
So, make sure you dress appropriately and, while we’re on the subject, to avoid extra stress on interview day, spend some valuable time getting your perfect in tune, tuned up outfit ready the night before.
Oh, and by the way, in case you’re now getting hung up on clothes, don’t forget to take a pen and paper - to take notes.
Penultimately, punctuality. Be on time. By on time I mean early, but not too early. Ten minutes before does the trick. If you’re driving, I usually advise candidates to do a reccy in advance of the interview, so you know exactly where you are going on the day. If your interview is in the city where you already work, don’t assume you know where you’re going - pop over to the interview venue on a lunch break, then you really will know where it is and how long it’s going to take to get there on interview day. Nothing, and I mean nothing, is worse than the feeling of being lost when you are on a tight time constraint. And yes, I’m speaking from experience!
Finally, ask questions. Never, ever, say you have nothing to ask at the interview. It’s too blasé these days, and potential employers want to know that you really want the job and have thought about it. Obviously, don’t look desperate – jeez – just make sure you say the right things. You could, for example, ask more in-depth questions about the role or about the company culture.
Members of the ICA will be able to view a separate document with more interview questions – both those you could be asked and those you could ask - and I will be throwing in some more examples too.
To summarise: do your research, present yourself appropriately, turn up early, and ask questions. You know what they say…. fail to prepare and prepare to fail.
One last thing, it’s a cliché but it’s true - remember to smile! Now that’s a powerful tool.