Preparing for that all important interview

The interview process can often seem somewhat inadequate and something of a blunt instrument for assessing employability. Many wonder whether a couple of hours (or less) being asked questions can give a proper representation of somebody’s ability to do a job. Whilst the concern is valid, the “job interview” has been a mainstay of employment for many years and whilst subject to evolution, does not look set to disappear anytime soon.

It is not an overstatement to say that an interview can alter the course of your career. Get it right, and you could land the job that you have been hankering after. Get it wrong and the opportunity could pass you by.

This article of The Briefing looks at how to ‘get it right’. It is important to look at an interview through the prism of being your opportunity to show off your skills and impress your potential employer.

Prepare, prepare, prepare

It is hugely important to prepare for your interview. Remember this may be your only opportunity in front of the employer and you will have a limited time, so consider what you want the employer to know about you, and what you want to glean from the interviewer.

A good starting point is always research. Make sure you know as much as you can about your prospective employer. And dive deep – it’s good to know when the business was founded and where it is headquartered but far more important is to be able to talk knowledgably about their recent projects. To have understood their values. To have looked at their social media.

A solid understanding of the company with which you are interviewing always looks good but remember that there is huge value beyond trying to impress your interviewer. If this is a company where you are considering spending a chunk of your career, you should want to know what it is like and how it might fit with your personality.

There are elements of an interview that you can predict, and you should always be ready for those. Make sure you know your CV back to front and consider the questions that you might be asked. It is good practice to think about what you would say in answer to the more common questions that you can expect, but that is not to say that you should prepare so much that you lose your fluency: an interview, after all, is a conversation.

Competency based interview questions

Probably the most potent tool in an interviewer’s arsenal is the competency based question. This is a method of questioning that invites you to demonstrate how you have behaved in the past, so the interview can assess how you might behave in the future.

When answering competency based questions, try to answer using the STAR technique. Let’s consider an example.

Question: Describe how you led a team through a difficult project. How did you improve their work?

Situation [Firstly describe a situation you were in.]

For example, a colleague was struggling to understand the project and their performance was poor.

Task [Next tell them what you decided to do.]

For example, I took my colleague aside to discuss their issues and to see how I could help.

Action [Then describe what you actually did.]

For example, having identified their learning gaps, I gave them some examples of how I was able to do the work and coached them in the areas they were struggling.

Result [Finally, tell them what happened as a result of your actions.]

For example, they began to understand the demands of the project and their performance improved such that we were able to bring the project in on time.

Think beyond the interview

An interviewer will almost always invite questions from you. It is important to have questions prepared to show your engagement with the process but it is perhaps more important to use this opportunity to find out what you want to know.

You should never lose sight of the fact that an interview is a two-way process. Of course the onus is on you to impress the interviewer and it is the process by which they consider your suitability. But, crucially, it is also the process by which you consider their suitability – is this the firm you want to join? This is your opportunity to find out.

And never forget the basics.

It goes without saying that the basics of punctuality, politeness, presentation and body language are hugely important and shouldn’t be overlooked. It has long been said that an interviewer makes up their mind in the first eight seconds of an interview – and these are the easiest things not to get wrong.

Lastly, with KPP Search on your side, you are at a significant advantage. It is the job of your Consultant at KPP to ensure that you are prepared for your interview, so talk to them as much as you need to. Remember that they will know your interviewer and the firm so they can give you first hand insights that you might not be able to glean from elsewhere.

If you are a current candidate, or looking to explore your options, please do not hesitate to get in touch for some qualified advice.

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