The Interview Itself

The Moniker “fail to plan, plan to fail” has never been more apt then when preparing for an interview. The quality of your preparation and the success or failure of the interview may have a significant positive or negative impact on your future career and earnings.

We will ensure that you have been thoroughly briefed about your potential employer; familiarize you with their website and provide you with a summary of their overall business and the team or business unit of which you would be a part, or lead.

Where possible we will provide some background to the employment history of the interviewer to help you to understand their experience and standpoint.

Crucially, we will endeavor to provide you with our view of what the interviewer is looking for.

We will advise on:

  • Who else is involved in the selection process
  • What the selection process is  i.e. how many interviews and with who
  • What format , competency ,situational , likely presentations
  • Advise on any Human Resources aspect to the process such as psychometric, numeracy or literacy testing or attendance at assessment centres etc.

We will provide you with an up to date job description, a summary of the salary range,  the bonus potential and other benefits.

At this point, your experience and potential value and our efforts have secured you the interview, but what can you do to maximize your chances pre interview?

  • Review carefully the job description and go prepared to show how you meet its requirements or how you can overcome any skill set or experience gaps you may have.
  • Research the company via their website to establish their business model and their direction. Look for recent press releases.
  • Order their accounts either via the web if a public company or via Companies House if a private PLC or Ltd company in the UK , if the employer is based outside the UK access the accounts from the in country equivalents. Establish how successful they have been. Read the Directors’ reports.
  • Is the company part of a larger group? If so, order the group’s accounts. Where does the subsidiary company fit in? Does it look strategic to the overall group’s long term objectives?
  • Consider who their competitors are .What do you consider the employer’s strengths & weaknesses to be, compared to their competitors?
  • Establish who their major customers are. How long have these relationships endured?  Which major relationships have been lost or won recently?  Why was this?

How long should you invest in your preparation?  As long as it takes.

  • You have been fully briefed and you have prepared well.

    How do you approach the interview and leave the hiring manager the impression that you are a benefit not a cost to their business and that he or she needs to hire you and now?

    Firstly get the real basics right:

    •  Arrive at least 10 minutes early
    •  Make sure you look the part: Dark business suits white shirts & plain ties / white blouses all send the right corporate message.
    •  Ensure that shoes are highly polished and nails are clean.
    •  Hair is as good as you would want it to be.

    You’ll be invited to sit down in a corporate reception area. Don’t sit!  Have you noticed that almost all seating in reception areas is set a very low level. This actually puts you at a mental and physical disadvantage and also encourages you to relax too much. It also forces you to then rise awkwardly when your interviewer arrives, so stand and wait.

    When the interviewer arrives first impressions are everything .Do they see you on your smart phone, reading the paper, or reading their corporate brochure or their latest newsletter or press release ?  Which gives the better impression?

    Shake their hand firmly and make good eye contact whilst they lead you to the interview room.

    Once in the room, ensure that you have good eye contact with your interviewer. Don’t let yourself be positioned where the light streams through a window into your eyes. Try to sit at right angles to your interviewer. It is less confrontational than across a desk. This can usually be achieved in a one to one interview in a meeting room but may be more difficult or even impossible in a small office without a round meeting table.

    Ideally you want to be in a position that you can take notes at the interview. Tell the interviewer that you intend to takes notes and do so, but don’t let your note taking distract from the interview or your eye contact with the interviewer.

    You should know in advance if you are being interviewed by more than one person but sometimes clients bring a colleague unexpectedly into the interview. If this occurs it is important, diplomatically, to establish who the new co interviewer is, what their role is,  who they report to, and how they are involved in the selection process.

    This is important as if the co interviewer happens to be a potential peer level colleague if you secured the position then it is not appropriate to discuss either your current salary or indeed what you are seeking to move for!

    You have managed to position yourself where you feel comfortable and effective and you know exactly who you are talking to and what they do there. What next?

    • You need to be clear on what your objectives are and also to clearly establish what the interviewer’s objectives are.

    An experienced interviewer will set the scene effectively. They will tell you how long they have set aside for the interview: what they want to cover with you and what they want to get out of the interview. They may ask you to hold back your questions until the end, as they may answer some of these in the course of their questioning of you.

    Traditionally, interviewers used to ask candidates to hold back questions, giving a candidate only a short time at the end to ask questions.  Experienced interviewers now understand that interviewing is a two way dialogue and that it is generally more effective, especially on a one on one interview, to take questions throughout the interview.

    The exceptions tend to be competency or situational interviews or those with more than one interviewer where it can be more effective to reserve questions to the end.

    If the interviewer does not set the scene then you need to diplomatically establish

    •  The time available for the interview
    • What the interviewer is seeking to get out of the interview
    • What you want to achieve from the interview.

    Most experienced interviewers will start by asking you a series of open ended questions: (how, what, why, where, when, who, which ) punctuated by closed questions to gain a picture of you and your experience and value.

    This blend of open and closed questions is exactly how you should establish the parameters of the role, and the key performance indicators that you will be judged by.

    One word of caution: if you are faced with an interviewer who opens with, “Tell me about yourself” or “ talk me through your CV” then you really need to get them to be more specific or focus better to ensure that best use of time is made by both parties.

    A response to the former question could be “What would you like to know and where would you like me to start?” A response to the latter question could be, “To make most effective use of time I would like to start from x company as I feel that my experiences and achievements from here onward have the most relevance to your vacancy”

    The sales moniker AIDA , ( attention , interest , desire , action ) is as relevant to selling yourself and your value to an employer as it is to a product or services sale.

    The employer needs to see that

    • You have the skills they are seeking to fulfill their vacancy
    •  You and the hiring manager can work together effectively ,( ask the interviewer what their leadership style is , ask them if you asked the same question of one of their team in confidence what would the team member say of them )
    •  You can fit into the culture of the company ( ask the interviewer to describe their culture )
    •  You could both fulfill the position that they are hiring and could be promoted in due course ( as a manager who neglects succession planning limits their own career growth )

    As the interview progresses, whatever the position you are interviewing for, you should strive to get a clear picture of what the interviewer is seeking in their preferred candidate. Ask them to articulate what their ideal candidate would be. This will then give you the opportunity to sell your skills, experience and demonstrate that you have what they are seeking.

    Towards the end of the interview you should summarize what has been discussed and how, ideally, the interviewer has acknowledged that your skills meet what they are seeking.

    If the interviewer highlights perceived weaknesses in your experience or skills then this is the right time to deal with these.  Correct any misunderstandings, offer a proof source where appropriate and, importantly, gain the interviewer’s acceptance to the correction.

    If the interviewer highlights a genuine perceived drawback to your skills or experience then you need to maximize and minimize. You need to gain the interviewer’s recognition of the 10 core skills you have got and the value of these. This is the maximization.

    Then minimize the impact of the one area where you are genuinely deficient ( and also think about how you are going to close this skill set gap ) The important point to is to summarize and critically to gain the interviewer’s agreement that the positive reasons for hiring you far outweigh the weakness.

    It is important at this stage to secure commitment from the interviewer either to a second interview or, if you are attending a final interview, then to close them down on offering you the role and on the terms that would motivate you to join their company.

    It does not matter what the vacancy is, if you fail to attempt to gain any commitment from the interviewer, then they are likely to think that either you are not interested in the vacancy ( clearly if you are not interested in the position then don’t try to close ! ) or they will feel that you don’t have the ability to close properly.

    Certainly in you are interviewing for a sales position and particularly a business development role, failure to attempt to close for a commitment will almost certainly end the selection process for you.

    The interviewer will rightly wonder whether once in the job, you would leave a meeting with a prospect or an existing customer without seeking a commitment to move them to action. (Attention , Interest , Desire , Action )

    Call us to discuss different ways to close for commitment

    We know some very effective closes and whilst we cannot guarantee you will get the commitment you want we can give you excellent advice on how to deal with interviewer responses such as “I have other people to see”, “I want to think it over”, “ I have to discuss things with x or y ”. At the very least we can help you ensure that the interviewer recognizes your abilities and therefore your value to their company.

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