The biggest mistake candidates make when attending interviews is thinking the interview is a one-hour session. It’s not, much like an exam, the interview is simply the accumulation of hours of work and preparation. As such if your mindset is suitably adjusted, the rest should be easy!
Interestingly, even the most senior of candidates often neglect this most important phase of the interview. What does the company do? What is their value proposition? Who are their main competitors? How does their product differ? What scope for growth does the market hold? Can I try the product? Is the product a market leader? How can it improve? What do the competitors do better? What are people saying about the company/product?
Spending a bit of time thinking about these things is an invaluable tool to have during the interview process. It is not uncommon for interviewers to ask questions around their product offering or the market, and having that base knowledge prepared will help you get noticed, impress your interviewer and demonstrate that you want that job!
Another area that can be prepared for is competency or situational based interviewing questions - an interview technique that is becoming increasingly popular. The who/how and why around competency-based interviewing is a topic for a separate blog, but in a it is designed to test competencies such as leadership, teamwork, communication etc. The key here is to listen out for “Tell me about a time when...” or “Describe a situation when...” The interviewer will be looking for examples of a particular competency, so all you have to do is remember your examples. When talking through your examples remember the acronym SAO for Situation, Action & Outcome. Make sure you cover all the headings (most forget outcome!).
Spend a bit of time thinking about the questions you want to ask. Start thinking about questions surrounding the role, business market, it would be worth thinking of between 5-8 questions in each section (remember some questions will be covered off in general conversation).
It may sound obvious but do be conscious of your appearance; an interview is a formal business meeting. We often get asked about , so if in doubt, it’s always better to over than under-dress. Make sure you are on time but do bear in mind that being 20 minutes early gives an equally bad impression as being 20 minutes late!
I would recommend arriving at the general area in good time. Have a coffee try and relax and take your mind off the interview. You should aim to be in reception no earlier than five minutes before the interview is due to commence. Remember your interview starts from the moment you enter the reception and not when you are sat in the meeting room. Everyone will be observing your from the receptionist to passersby so do make sure you act with courtesy and professionalism to everyone you meet (it is not unknown for receptionists to make notes of the candidates waiting in reception!).
Be mindful of your body language, experienced interviewers will be adept at reading this so remember to make eye contact, sit up straight and have a firm handshake. Do work hard to come across as enthusiastic, confident and passionate.
During the interview try and answer the questions in a succinct manner. Always try and reference real-world examples if you can. Don’t be afraid to pause to collect your thoughts, this is far better than a waffled pre-amble while you try and think of the answer. If you are faced with competency/situational based questions (as discussed above), be ready with your examples! The interviewer will be impressed if, unprompted, you answer using the SAO methodology. At the end of the the interviewer will usually give you a chance to ask questions. This is often overlooked but a critical part of the interview. Use the questions you prepared earlier and aim to ask two or three of your questions about the role, the business the market. This is often an ideal opportunity to show the interviewer the scope of your research. Good questions will impress the interviewer and show genuine interest in both the role and firm.
Avoid asking about compensation, it will give the interviewer the wrong impression. The aim of the interview is to sell yourself as the strongest candidate for the role, not to negotiate your price!
After the interview has been completed, I would recommend sending your interviewer a short email thanking them for their time and reaffirming your interest in the role.
Finally, it’s important to mention that interviews are a two-way process, you are interviewing the prospective employer as much as they are interviewing you.