Do you know how to prepare for an interview? Like the BBC series Dragons Den you have a set time to present your wares and state your case.
The higher up the chain of command the more interviews you will have in the overall process. Don’t be surprised if you have approximately 5 interviews which may include a psychometric test.
So how do we prepare for an interview? Some of us have not had an external interview for over 10 years let alone put together a CV. That said, there are guidelines to follow and quality tips to put you ahead of the other candidates. One of which is the odds of being successful.
Over the years of interviewing I have carefully noted the success rate of candidates taking into consideration a number of factors regardless of the position. For example:
- Have they done the company research? Time to use the Van Halen Method
- Understanding the CV – Can the candidate talk it through professionally?
- If a presentation is requested is it as per the terms of reference?
- Do they know their numbers? You have stated you did XYZ…explain it to me.
- Do they have an up to-date professional LinkedIn page?
The 5 elements I have noted are the most important and we will look at each one in turn to understand how crucial they are when you an attend an interview. But there is the clue. When you attend! Almost 1 in 5 candidates I have interviewed failed to show for the first round interview. Shocked at first I delved deeper and found no surprise really……..someone had beaten me to the candidate. A lesson learned for hiring managers to not over complicate the process and have steady timelines. In reverse I have experienced some horrific time lapses when applying for interviews. For Instance:
- 3 interviews with a logistics company (1200 mile round trip). The last interview was with the Global President of sales who flew in from the USA. Despite being told I would hear in 5 days……I chased up after 7 days to be told we will let you know. I’m still waiting…….
- A 3rd interview with a business for a Directors role. I had to meet the Group Sales Director who was flying in to interview me from Germany but who was diverted that night to Nigeria. His mother had died. Very sad but I heard nothing again.
The Interview Odds
Then again, as the interviewer I have experienced candidates who have blatantly chanced it. Regardless of the position, the sense of entitlement of ” I don’t have to prove how good I am” is still prevalent today. But that’s good news for you. So from 5 candidates who were shortlisted this is how the betting form faired:
- 1 candidate – Failed to attend (and no explanation either)
- 2 candidates – Entered the interviews with NO prior research
So now we go from a 1 in 5 to a 1 in 2 success rate for you. Your initial concerns about the quality of the shortlist are now defunct. They didn’t prepare for the interview.
Back to our 5 elements. We get the date for the interview and the terms of reference which will probably be a presentation on how you would affect your skills within the business. From the off it is crucial that you fully understand the process. Call the hiring manager. Double check the address. Ask who will be conducting the interviews. Do they have a company laptop for the presentation or do you bring your own (you’ll be amazed at that response) and what is the recruitment process over which period of time.
If you have any doubt as how hiring managers work read this!
Research For The Interview
- Look up the interviewers on LinkedIn and connect with a simple ” Look forward to meeting you” message. You will be ahead of the game when you can find personal facts regards the hiring manager. Here is a LinkedIn profile of a Director I once worked with who hired regularly. Remember – people like to talk about themselves.
- Do due diligence on the company report and finances……this will give you vital information about where the company is going. JD Sports is a great example. They detail the growth of the business in detail.
- Research existing customers. What are their thoughts of the business/product/staff.
- Who do you know who has worked there or is working there?
- Read up on Trustpilot, Google review or even Glassdoor.
Understanding your CV
One of the many frustrations of hiring managers is the rambling stories we hear when interviewing. A simple question can be answered by a quiet rant without actually answering the question. This is a major alert to a hiring manager. In all instances I would advise:
- Practice telling the story of your CV. Always keep it brief. Pull our 2 achievements per position that you were most proud of highlighting one key success of how you overcame a problem.
- Do not start with your first ever position. I would limit the story to your last 3 roles (unless otherwise directed too) & ending with your current role.
- Listen to the questions. Pause if you have to. What might feel like 5 mins to you is only 5 seconds to the hiring manager.
- Look the interviewer directly in the eye not the ceiling.
- Don’t feel you have to add further to the conversation if its not needed…..sometimes less is more.
You should love the challenge of a presentation. This is where you get to shine.
Once you receive the terms of reference for your slide show its vital that you understand the mechanics of it. Such as:
- Get to the heart of the question. Is it how you’d grow sales or manage your team? If in doubt don’t be scared to call the HR manager for clarification.
- Stick to the time limit. One of the most overdoing failures is to present for 30 minutes when you were given 15. That is part of the test. Can you describe your plan within 15 minutes. More is not good.
- Ensure you arrive at your interview with your slides in a hard copy ( handouts for each interviewer), on your pc and on a pen drive. I even used to upload it to the cloud just in case. DO NOT hand out the slides until you have finished. Otherwise they will be reading slide 3 when your still on your intro slide.
- Stand Up! Always stand up. The power shift changes when you do.
- With Covid the norm is to present via Teams or Zoom. Practice, Practice, Practice. Learn where the Mute button is.
- If you need further training with Powerpoint enroll on a course with Udemy.
Knowing Your Numbers
Knowing your financial numbers is imperative. “Well of course” I hear you say. Candidates who can explain their bonus system, financial sales position, P&L of their operations dept or marketing budget are one step ahead of the other candidates. You can’t fool anyone unless you know this crucial information. My only caveat is if you are applying for a role with a competitor as you will be looked on more favourably for showing confidentially. Think of it as pitching at Dragons Den.
LinkedIn is the Facebook of the business world. They boast almost 720m users worldwide but more importantly offer the interviewer an insight into you and your business world. It’s well recognised now that all companies will prepare do some kind of digital check on the candidates prior to the interview. For that reason I take a leaf out of the management guide of many companies today who ensure that their management team follow the rules. The rule of lock down all social media with invite only.
But thats my civil liberties? Get real, if you want that job you don’t want pictures of you slumped in the chair at that wedding or dancing with a tie wrapped around your head! In addition, that risqué picture of you on the beach in Greece is not what the hiring manager wants to see. I experienced this at a company where a HR manager had a photoshoot makeover done….it was bordering on soft porn. A little contradictory if you were having a disciplinary. Likewise, I had a chap who would frequently post pics of his body building physique in almost 99% naked state…….and yes they were both managers, leaders and in one case a director.
Ensure that your LinkedIn profile is up to date with a good facial photograph – not the one from your wedding. You’re at work after all. My top 5 tips are for example:
- Look at your title/headline. Does it incorporate your unique offering?
- Quality head picture at all time. Do not do this!
- Do you have recommendations from colleagues & customers? If not get some.
- Contact details up to date and proper? – firstname.lastname@example.org is not good (funny but not good!)
- Detailed your responsibilities on each position you have undertaken?
Help To Prepare for the Interview
If you need further information regards Linkedin I would advise Brenda Bernstein’s book. Easy to read and full of quick handy tips to assist you. If you need further tips on LinkedIn email me direct and I will point you in the right direction. We can even arrange a zoom call for 30 minutes and I will review your profile free of charge and even prepare you for the interview.
After the interview send a Thank You email to the interviewer.
Got the Job? Now it’s time to Follow the Leader