So, your cv has passed muster and you’re off to meet your potential new employer – excellent news! But, interviews can be tough. You need to demonstrate experience, craftsmanship, passion and creativity. Here’s how to make sure you’re ready!
don’t mess up before you’ve started
OK here’s the first thing to say. Reliability and punctuality are the two most important character traits a company looks for in a potential new recruit, at any level of seniority. So don’t mess them around. If you end up rescheduling the interview be very aware this may well affect the impression you are giving them, so be very sure that you do need to rearrange – absolutely try not to. It sounds obvious, but turn up on time! Excuses about trains being late, traffic or dogs that ate your homework just don’t wash (they have heard it all before), so leave plenty of time to get to your potential employer. It’s all about respect.
Video or in-person?
In person, every, single, time, if offered the choice. Research shows that the positive outcome for face to face interviews from a candidate perspective is significantly higher than by video. You can check out the commute, see the office space, observe the company vibe – could you see yourself working there? All this insight in invaluable – so why chose to do it via video? There is also a sense that a candidate that wants to go the extra mile is more interested in the role.
Have you been on your potential new employer’s website and those of their clients (if they are in the service sector)? What are the socials saying about them? What are they posting and what’s the engagement and response like? Who are their direct competitors and what are their socials like – do they compare favourably? Have you formed an opinion about the type of brand they are, who their audience is and what the big stories or trends in their industry are? What are the company’s values and importantly, do they align with your own? How will you demonstrate that in an interview? Have you checked out who you are meeting on Linkedin? What’s their background? Perhaps you share educational establishments, mutual friends, common interests – any of which make a great ice-breaker. Have you prepared a list of questions? If not, do, it is never OK not to ask questions and don’t fall into the trap of saying ‘well, I think you’ve covered everything.” Boring!
It is normal to feel nervous before an interview – it means you really want the job. Remember to make eye contact, smile and turn your nerves into energy – no one likes to hire wall flowers – everyone wants a passionate and enthused individual. Try not to fidget, it’s really off-putting. Don’t say ‘erm’ a thousand times and definitely don’t say ‘literally’ as it’s way overused. You could endear yourself to the interviewer and tell the you are nervous, particularly if this is a first job or you’ve not had much interview experience – honesty goes a long way.
QUESTIONS AND COMPETENCIES
These are all genuine questions candidates find themselves being asked. They range from competency to off-the-wall questions designed to bring out your creativity. If you find these type of questions tricky, adopt the STAR Method: S – Situation: Tell the interviewer about the situation. T – Task: What was the task that had to be undertaken. A – Activity: What did YOU do as part of the task, where were YOUR responsibilities? R – Result: What was the outcome? Was it good or bad? It kind of doesn’t matter, the key here is ‘what did I learn?’ from that experience. You grew as a result.
Here’s some example questions:
- What do you know about us? Don’t fall into the trap of just repeating what’s on their website.
- Why do you want to work for us? Don’t get all giddy here, be professional, do you share values, do you like the brand, why?
- Tell me about your relevant experience. ‘Relevant’ is the key word here. Consider your transferrable skills too.
- What are your key skills? What are you good at? What have you received praise for? What can you knowledge share?
- How do you collaborate? Bring those examples on!!
- Tell me about a time you’ve had to deal with conflict? Don’t focus too much on the conflict, but the outcome and the learning.
- Where are your strengths and weaknesses? Everyone has weaknesses but please don’t say you don’t like to fail or you’re a perfectionist. If I had a penny…
- What moment are you most proud of in your professional life? It could be someone else you’ve helped shine, it could be piece of work or a project, it might be a new skill you’ve learnt or a professional challenge you’ve overcome.
- Could you explain this role to your Grandmother? Of course you could, but how? Could you knit it?
It’s all very well saying what you’ve done but it’s even better to show people. If you can build yourself an online portfolio that can showcase examples of work that’s always a great move, particularly if the recruitment process is mostly via video (not through your own choice of course!). If you’re more on the quantitative side of things make sure you have stats, facts and figures to impress the person you are meeting. You could even create some graphs. If you’re crafty and going for a more creative role, could you make the company logo out of Lego or a cake? It kind of doesn’t matter what you do, but anything to can enhance a boring CV with will always go down well.
RESPONDING TO A BRIEF
It is without a doubt that prospective employers will want to test you in some way. Sometimes it will be an aptitude test, which are often timed and you can find examples of these online, so why not take some practise questions? You might be asked to undertake an ‘In Tray’ task, which are a set of real life, professional scenarios that are emailed to you and over a timed period you will need to explain how you’d respond to each situation – sounds easy but again, I’d recommended doing some practise questions first. You may be asked to respond to a ‘live’ client brief asking you to detail a set of recommendations. It is essential you make sure you plan enough time to do your deck justice and run through the presentation properly with someone you trust to provide constructive criticism. Ensure you have asked how they like to receive a presentation – does it all need to be on (yawn) Powerpoint so could you do something else?
One of the most common reasons for not making it to a second interview is a lack of passion or spark (often referred to as lack of culture fit). You need to be enthusiastic, energetic, motivated, a source of positive energy. People buy people and chemistry is everything – if your prospective employer can see themselves working with you, you are already well on your way. See ‘Nerves’ above.
Don’t lie about your experience, why you left your last employer or anything else. It’s too easy to be found out, not to mention morally questionable.
And finally, don’t forget to let your interviewers know how keen you are on the position. Saying that you’ve really enjoyed the interview and that you are keen to progress to the next round shows confidence and passion.
So, that’s it – a basic round up of how to nail interviews in your early career. GOOD LUCK!