Well done! All of the work you put into your resume and impressive application has paid off and the interview is booked. Now the second phase begins - the preparation. There is no doubt that interviews can be daunting and nerve racking occasions. Even the most seasoned job seekers can find interviews tough to master, however, with some smart preparation and planning you will give yourself the best chance of success.
Importance of Preparation
It is absolutely critical that you take some time out to prep before attending any job interview. Even if it is framed as just an 'informal' meeting, turning up to an interview unprepared suggests a lack of respect for those involved and a disinterest in the position and can jeopardise your chances for any future employment with the company. It's a bit like an exam, if you haven't studied, your chances of success aren't great. One of the most frequent comments recruitment consultants receive from their clients is that the applicant didn't know enough about the organisation, hadn't invested enough time researching the organisation, or didn't seem interested in working for the organisation. Remember, you want them to want you, but they also want you to want them!
Research, Research, Research
Prior to your interview, make sure you conduct thorough background research. Focus on the following areas:
The Company: Although you may have a company brief, it is your job to build on this and ensure you have a comprehensive overview of the company structure, vision and market positioning. The organisation's website is always a good place to start, however also keep an eye out for media releases, annual reports, mission statements and news articles. Be sure you are familiar with the products and/or services the company offers. ASX, LinkedIn and Google searches are essential.
In addition to this, try to find out about the company culture and the people who are interviewing you. Your recruiter can assist you here, but you may know someone who currently does or has previously worked for the organisation and can help you understand the business and culture better.
The Industry: In addition to company research, it is worth doing a quick search on the industry generally and keeping an eye out for industry specific issues and news. If there are particularly relevant events or pressures facing the industry, understanding these can help you demonstrate your knowledge and build rapport with your interviewers. Be familiar with potential competitors and visit their websites too.
The Position: Read and review the position description, advertisement and your own application. You have been invited to an interview based on the relevance of your skills to the competencies required; now it is time to refresh and think about how you will prove or demonstrate this in person. As you read through the required competencies, try to think of examples that highlight your skills in that area. For example, "strong stakeholder management" could relate to a time when you have needed to resolve an issue or consult closely with a lot of different business units or colleagues - so try and think of a specific instance when your skills have been tested and proven successful.
The Extra Mile: You can also be proactive and carry out field research to find out more about the company. For example, act as a potential client and call the call centre or visit a branch or retail store. See how you're treated and develop your own impressions of the business.
Questions: One of the best ways to demonstrate your knowledge and to engage your interviewers in conversation is to ask open and relevant questions. Be careful not to ask basic questions that you should know the answer to and stay clear of any questions around remuneration unless asked - it is considered low priority at the first interview. Also, think of how you can add value to the business, either through reduced costs or increased profits. Some standard questions you could prepare in advance are:
• Why is the role available?
• What goals and objectives are set-forth within the role? (Tie this in with how you can help your prospective manager achieve their objectives)
• What are the key initiatives for the first 6 months of the role?
• Who are the key stakeholder groups for the role?
• Where do you see the role in 1, 3, or 5 years?
• How would you describe the company culture?
• What makes a person a success at the company?
• What motivates you at the company?
• How is loyalty and hard work rewarded at the company?
It's not rocket science - but you need to make sure you have the logistics down. Know where you are going, how you are getting there and how long it will take and then…LEAVE EARLY! Think about where to park, public transport timetables and allow time for negotiating a busy reception desk. If you are early you can always get a coffee which beats being rushed, flustered and on the back foot to start with. In case of a completely unavoidable situation, make sure you have the contact details of the person you are meeting with (name, position and title) and give them a quick courtesy call to explain.
Good presentation is really important for an interview. For women, wear simple accessories and make-up, close-toed shoes and ensure your overall presentation is tidy and professional. For men, make sure your shirt is ironed and your shoes are polished. If you're in doubt about how to dress for an interview, it is best to err on the side of conservatism.
Do bring extra copies of your resume, just in case it has been misplaced.
Don't turn up too early! If you are more than ten minutes early find a quiet café and review your preparation.
Do bring relevant examples of your work if appropriate. Make sure they are neatly organised in a folio, compendium or presentation folder.
Do prepare and research. You will reap the rewards.
Do prepare an elevator pitch: why you are right for the role.
Did you know? 55% of the interviewer's first impression during the initial 2 minutes of the interview is non-verbal communication (e.g. body language, expression, dress, general appearance). Keep that in mind!