You may have huge experience in an interview situation or not been involved in one for a while. Either way, we've put together a list of tips which may help you at this key stage. There are no hard & fast rules as to how either a hiring manager will conduct an interview or how you should conduct yourself but we get feedback from our candidates and clients and we've tried to put this all together to help you as much as we can.
- 1. Know the company.
- 2. Try not to give set answers.
- 3. What should I wear?
- 4. Be organised.
- 5. Make sure you ask questions.
- 6. What are companies looking for during an interview?
- 7. How much does body language play a part in the interview process?
- 8. Be honest.
- 9. Know your CV.
- 10. The video interview.
- 11. The telephone interview.
1. Know the company.
It is always prudent to do some thorough research about the company who are interviewing you. You should certainly make yourself aware of their products & services and, if they are a large company, the products & services across their divisions even if you won't be involved in that sector of the business. It will help to give you a good overview of the company, where they are going, what parts of the business most emphasis is placed on etc.
You should always make yourself aware of their direct competitor's products & services. If you have an interview with them then it is highly likely that you have come from one of their direct competitors so you are fully aware of these, however, if you are from outside of the company's sector then it is paramount that you have not only an understanding of their business but also of the market in which they operate.
Have a look at their website and any other marketing and product materials you get hold of. Read the latest news section of their website which may list valuable information on any latest contracts won or recent product launches. Visit some of the industry forums or industry magazines to find out the latest news in the sector.
Have a look at the company's financials to understand their position in the market compared to their competitors. For all company financial information in the UK you can refer to Companies House and download annual accounts for a nominal fee. Similar sites are available for other countries. This will give you a good idea as to their profitability & their growth areas. The company's financials may also show a downward trend and you could be part of the company's strategy to reverse that trend. You can use this information to formulate the best answers for during the interview.
2. Try not to give set answers.
Listen to the questions they ask rather than preparing yourself to tell them what you want to say. It could come across as highly scripted. Make it a conversation rather than a Q&A. There are questions that tend to be asked at all interviews so you can take that opportunity to give them a prepared answer but only when prompted.
3. What should I wear?
It's always important to look your best and even if this is the fifth interview you have had, you need to put as much effort into this as though it was your first. It is important you dress for the role you are applying for.
For male candidates we recommend a business suit in a solid, dark colour with a white shirt and a conservative tie. For female candidates, dress code is a little more difficult to define so we would tend to suggest, smart, comfortable & corporate depending on the company/position.
If your outfit is looking a little dated or rough around the edges then, if finances allow, why not invest in a new one. A new outfit may even give you a little added confidence.
Make sure your grooming is of a high standard. Men need to make sure that they are clean-shaven or at least have trimmed their beards. We don't need to go into detail with regards to things like clean fingernails, deodorant etc as you are an adult.
Make sure you go steady with perfume or aftershave. If the interview is to be held in a small room it could become a little over-powering for others
4. Be organised.
Interviews can be stressful occasions and very daunting for many people. To alleviate as much of the stress prior to the interview, make sure you are organised.
Have all your paperwork ready, i.e. job brief, product & marketing materials, company documents, directions if you don't have a satnav or maps on your mobile & contact numbers for the company interviewing you in case of emergencies. Also, take a notebook & pen so you can write down any key points or an idea that has triggered a question but it's not appropriate to ask at that point in the interview.
If you have been asked to do a full digital presentation then make sure your laptop battery is fully charged and you have the charger in case the interview takes longer than expected. Have a copy of the presentation on a usb memory stick in case they ask you for a copy to look through again after the interview.
Most important of all, don't be late. This immediately sets you off at a disadvantage. Plan your route and allow for traffic or unforeseen circumstances. There's nothing wrong in arriving an hour earlier and going through your preparation notes in the car.
Turn your mobile off.
5. Make sure you ask questions.
It is important that you have some questions ready to ask the interviewers. However, throughout the interview you should be firing questions back to them and, as mentioned earlier, trying to turn the interview into a conversation rather than a stilted Q&A.
At the end of your interview always ask the interviewers if they have any reservations. We have known candidates extend their interviews by a significant amount of time due to this question being asked. You don't want to leave the interview with the interviewers having doubts about you so make sure you ask.
6. What are companies looking for during an interview?
The vast majority of employers are looking for a "cultural fit" and on many occasions place as much emphasis on this as they do on the skill level of a potential employee. The reasons for this are more and more companies are focusing on retaining existing staff and lowering attrition rates. One of the best ways to assist in keeping hold of their best staff is to make sure they will fit into the company's culture from the outset. The interview is the key stage in assessing whether you will fit in.
7. How much does body language play a part in the interview process?
We don't like to place too much emphasis on body language in an interview scenario, if you're great at what you do and you are likely to fit in, body language isn't an over-riding factor. However, there are a few things we can highlight that employers will probably be keeping an eye out for during the interview.
The key thing they will be looking for is your professionalism and for you to be a high-energy individual with plenty of confidence. The first impression is a great opportunity for you to express these traits. Your potential employer can usually tell as soon as you walk in the door how you present yourself, from the first hand shake to the way you sit in your chair and engage with them.
Confidence is the key. If you are confident, it will do a great job at masking your nerves. Even the most seasoned presenters can get nervous and nerves are not a negative, it can help you to stay grounded and showing a little humility is never a bad thing.
So when you walk into the interview, get your hand outstretched, put a smile on your face, be confident, be inquisitive, be bold about your achievements and prove you are a leader.
8. Be honest.
We know this a pretty obvious statement to make but you'll be surprised how many people tell lies in their interview. Firstly, if you lie, particularly with regards to the qualifications, accreditations etc, you'll likely be found out and run the risk of being dismissed.
Even exaggeration of your achievements or sales figures can come back to bite you. It's always best to be honest, open and clear on your strengths but also your weaknesses. They may well offer training in the areas you are weak in but want you on onboard because of your strengths.
9. Know your CV.
You know your career history inside out, don't you? The likelihood is that your interview will have studied your CV in great detail so make sure you're able to explain your experience and skills outlined throughout your entire CV.
We recommend you ask your contact within TALENTi for a copy of the CV we have sent to the client. It may well look considerably different to the one you sent to TALENTi. The content will be the same but the layout could well have changed. TALENTi format all CVs before sending them to the client. We remove personal details, tidy them up if necessary, add our T&Cs, add our views on a candidate summary and combine your cover letter with your CV.
10. The video interview.
A common trend nowadays is to carry out video interviews, usually via Skype, particularly for the first stage of the interview process. This is due in part to the cost-effective nature of video interviews, lower expense claims etc, and more and more employers are using them as an important tool. If you have a video interview scheduled then there are a few things that you must get right.
Make sure your webcam is of good quality. Interviewers want to assess your body language as well as your verbal responses so if your face is only represented by a handful of pixels this will prove to be difficult. Make sure the focus is right and that the webcam is close enough to your face but not too close that it's uncomfortable for the interviewer.
Ensure that your environment is tidy. Try not to hold your video interview in your bedroom as it can feel uncomfortable for the interviewer. The best quality video will be achieved if you can sit in front of a plain, light background with some natural or artificial light in front of you so you are not silhouetted against a light background.
Ensure you have a reliable internet connection and that others in the household are not using up valuable bandwidth watching streamed movies or the video quality will suffer considerably. If you want to make doubly sure and increase the chances that the call will go without a hitch then why not try a practice call with a friend or colleague prior to your view interview to make the sound & video quality, lighting and connection works well.
Make sure you are in a quiet environment. If the interview is scheduled for when your children are due home from school it may be better to make other arrangements for them. If your neighbour is a DIY buff, see if they can give you a brief respite from the noise. Interviewers will either reschedule or cancel altogether if they cannot hold a call with you successfully due to noise or video call quality.
Make sure you have arranged prior who will be calling who. If it is a Skype interview make sure you know their Skype handle. Be ready at your computer a few minutes before the call and that there is a back-up plan if the call fails.
Just because you are at home it doesn't mean you shouldn't make the same effort with your attire as you would in a face to face interview so dress smartly & appropriately.
11. The telephone interview.
On occasion a client will offer a telephone interview. These tend to be more informal than a full video interview and are usually part of a screening process to see whether candidates should be shortlisted for the full interview process. They may typically only last 15-20 minutes. Our advice for these follows much of what we have mentioned earlier in the video interview section, apart from a few obvious differences. Although these can be more informal, or concise, than a full interview, it's always best to check with your consultant at TALENTi as the format of the interview may well be not what you expect. They will be able to check with the client prior to your interview, whether it be a face-to-face, video or telephone interview.