Over the past 11 years of my professional career, I’ve had a number of interviews and also been an interviewer.
To be fair, it’s an unnatural way to impress on a potential employer that you are the right candidate. Most people come in with a sense of desperation for either money or a sense of escaping their old job.
They fail to get across the value they would be able to provide to the potential new employer.
Some people are so nervous, they are just hopeless in the whole process.
What’s the point of an interview
You might be looking for a change in career, more money or an escape from your old boss and colleagues.
You need to understand that an interview is a two-way street. The company wants someone to solve their problem and you are there to convince them of that fact.
You are also there to find out if the company is the right fit for you and whether it’s the kind of environment you would want to work in.
You might not like everything but you should have a minimum requirement that needs to be met.
If you are looking for flexible working hours (to accommodate childcare) and they don’t offer that, then you need to be ready to walk away.
Preparing for the interview
1. Job Specification
Read through the job spec. The chances are, most of the questions you will be asked will be centred around the content of the job description.
Make sure you have read through it and matched your experience and skills to what the company is looking for.
Where there are no matches, be honest with them and be open to skilling up in those areas either on your own using services like Lynda.com or on the job training.
2. Job Location
Know the location and find out how you are getting there. Some companies will have multiple sites within the same city so make sure you know which site the interview is at and how you plan to get there.
If you are driving, make sure you know where to park just in case the site doesn’t offer parking.
The last thing you need is driving around looking for parking when you are late.
If the company has a big campus, make sure you end up at the right entrance. I’ve made that mistake before and had a 10min run (in full suit) to get to the right entrance which meant I was late and sweaty. Luckily, my skills and expertise got me that job. Don’t run that risk, first impressions go a long way.
If you are taking public transport, allow for traffic and train cancellations. You want the next train to still get you there before the interview starts.
3. Virtual Meeting
Post 2020, there is a high likelihood that you will be having your interview via a Zoom meeting or another video conferencing tool. Make sure you have a good internet connection (connect via ethernet if possible for better speeds) and your background is clean and clutter-free.
If the interview is over the phone, make sure you keep background noise to a minimum and speak clearly. I recommend standing up and moving around as it gives you more confidence and energy. If sitting works for you, why not.
4. Research the company
You are not meant to know everything about the company. A sentence or two on what the company is, what it does and their competition should be enough. The latest headlines from the company will also be good to highlight and shows you are keeping up with current affairs.
5. Research Interviewer
Look up the interviewer on LinkedIn. This is a must to give you an idea of who is interviewing you and their background. Might give you opportunities to ask them questions and see how they have progressed through their career.
12 Questions You Need To Prepare For
1.Tell me about yourself
Make sure you have a short answer prepared to prevent waffling. Start with your furthest role and work your way forward. Touch on projects and work experience that makes you best placed to solve their current problem.
2. What do you know about our organization and what we do
If you have been able to secure an interview, the least you can do is find out about the company. There is nothing worse than a candidate who has no clue what the potential employer does. Keep it simple, a sentence or two is all they need to know. Eg: Company in the entertainment industry providing customers with the tools and skills to design and create their own content.
3. What kind of salary are you expecting
Know the range for the role you are applying for before you go for the interview. This is a trick question and a bit of a game so play it well. Don’t answer with specifics. This is a great opportunity to throw the question back to the interviewer and ask how much the role is offering. Have a number in mind you will be happy to accept. There is no point switching to a new role for less money unless it offers benefits that outweighs the increase in salary. Eg: Flexible working, less commute, remote work, and company benefits.
4. How do you prefer to work, as part of a team or on your own
The best answer here is either. For most roles, there will be an opportunity to work as part of a team and there will be times when you have to deliver the goods on your own so show that you can be flexible.
5. What’s your notice period
Find out what your notice period is beforehand if you are not sure. If they are looking for someone straight away, a 3-month notice might discount you. Also, some companies will ask if you would negotiate your notice from 1 month to 1 week for an example. Don’t fall into the trap of making promises you cannot keep. Always let them know that you would like to hand over all your work so that your team is not left to pick up additional work without sufficient support. Allowing your current company enough time to find an appropriate replacement is good curtesy.
6. Why should we hire you?
This is an excellent opportunity to sell yourself to the interviewer. What is unique about you and what skills are you able to provide to the company. The job spec and conversation in the interview should give you a good idea of where the company is going and why they need someone new onboard. Just concentrate on yourself and what you bring to the table. Do not compare yourself to other candidates that might be interviewing for the same role.
7. Tell me about a time you delivered a complex project
Make sure you have an example prepared. Make sure you highlight what the challenges were and how you went about dealing with it and delivering the project. Companies want to know that you are not just a robot but some will challenge the status quo and bring new ideas and improvements to the table and deliver business benefits.
8. Explain how you would be an asset to this organization
This is a chance to highlight your best people and technical skills and a few examples would be good. They want to know if you can step up and add value in meetings, kick start projects, and be open to new challenges once you are up and running. Specific examples from previous roles where you added value that was recognized would be great.
9. What motivates you at work?
This is personal to you and highlights the characteristics that drive you to do your best work. Good examples about the people, resolving challenges, and a positive work environment are good to highlight. Please don’t talk about money or company benefits at this stage.
10. What is your greatest strength?
This is where you sell, sell, sell. Tell them about all the good traits about you. Have a few examples at the ready. Good people skills, a keen eye for detail, the ability to work under pressure, a can-do attitude, and great professionalism are all good things to highlight. Ability to learn new tools, skills, and ways of working are also good to talk about.
11. Can you work under pressure
There are times when work needs to be delivered to meet a tight deadline so say yes and give one or two examples of when you have worked under pressure to deliver the goods. Working late, weekends to deliver a high ticket item is good but make sure it doesn’t become the norm. It will ruin your work-life balance.
12. Are you willing to work overtime/ nights/ weekends/ remotely/ different sites
Be totally honest as this is a personal choice. There is no point saying you can just secure the job when it’s not possible in your current circumstances.
3 Questions You Need to Ask the Interviewer
Asking questions at the end of the interview is a must. In most cases, there will be opportunities to ask questions throughout but I always reserve these three till the end. This is the time you get to interview the interviewer. It puts you in a power position so enjoy it. It’s even better if there a panel interviewing you. They all take turns in answering your questions.
In a few cases, I’ve seen interviewers waffle with their answers or try to end the interview quickly due to lack of time or an impending meeting. I would advise you to give yourself enough time to grill them, its a rare opportunity regardless of how your interview went.
1. What do you like about working for the company
This is an opportunity for you to find out if the company is a place you want to work in. How they answer the question should either excite or scare you.
2. What do you like about your job
Another opportunity to find out if they really like what they are doing. They say most people hate their jobs but there is always a part of the job you enjoy. See which part of the job they choose to focus on.
3. What you do find challenging about your job
This is a chance to understand the challenges you might have to deal with yourself if you are successful. Some of the challenges might present an opportunity for you to add value and propose new processes. Others might just be red flags for you to potentially consider other options.
3 Things you need to get out from the Interview
1. Is it a place you want to work?
After the interview, you should have a very good idea if the company is a place if see yourself long term. If you are excited about the opportunity to work there then great. If not, be honest with yourself why you have doubts. Money can sometimes cloud your thinking but not all roles will further your career but will swerve as a lesson in life.
2. Will there be opportunities for growth?
If you are applying for a junior level role, you should have every ambition to rise up through the ranks. You should be able to master and excel in most roles in 1-2 years.
For slightly advanced roles, you should be looking for new projects to work on as time goes on as this is the best way to be known across the company and add value.
3. Is the role financial rewarding?
Money is not everything but depending on the stage you are in your career, you need to seek the right financial compensation.
Some roles might offer a lower salary in exchange for a great environment to learn and horn your skills. This makes it easier to get that well paying next job because you’ve done all the hard work.
If you are joining the company and offering a unique set of skills, make sure that is reflected. People feel awkward when it comes to salary negotiation but you have to think of yourself and your family. 80% of the time, I’ve received the raise I’ve asked for. If you don’t ask, you don’t get it.
I walked away from one role paying me a lower market rate because I felt they didn’t appreciate the skills I was bringing to the table. Know your worth. No is no point accepting a Head of Sales for within the department when it pays little to nothing. Do not be seduced by decorative job titles.
This world is changing at such a fast pace that you have to be unique and set yourself apart to get ahead. Walk into every interview with a fearless attitude of a winner.
If you have your own tips for mastering an interview share in the comments below.