Advice for Interviews: How To Do Brilliant Research

The second blog in my series on Interview Advice looks at how we should prepare for a job interview with the necessary research. 

It’s always good news you have the interview – probably the toughest part of the process is making your CV stand out sufficiently to be shortlisted as one of the lucky interviewees. But too many times I see potentially brilliant people muck up the next process, because they didn’t spend time doing the research. InterviewAdvice

So here’s some pointers on research, which will help you be much better in the interview:

RESEARCH THE COMPANY – You have to know this one, right? Everyone does this… surely? Sadly no. And it shows in interview. One of the first questions you will be asked in interview, is “So what do you know about our company?” – You need to know WHO they are, WHAT they do, and what makes them stand out in their field. So, read the website, get a good feel for the company and their direction.

WHY DO YOU WANT TO WORK FOR THEM? – You have to know WHY you want to work for them, and demonstrate an interest and enthusiasm in their products.

KNOW WHAT’S CURRENT  – Read their news on the website, Google the company for recent mentions, which may talk about awards, business deals, new board members, and product launches. Knowing this kind of stuff will give you more conversational confidence in the interview.

FOLLOW THEIR SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE – most companies will now have a LinkedIn page, a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and very pertinently a YouTube profile. Make sure you follow them, and research the content of them. You will learn a lot about the personality of the business.

KNOW WHO IS INTERVIEWING YOU – You should do a little ‘stalking’ (in a good way!) on the people who are going to interview you. LinkedIn profiles, Twitter accounts, Google them and look at their career history to understand their own journey and perspective.

KNOW THE DRESS CODE – the dress-code thing is not so plain and easy any more. It used to be suit and tie for men and business dress for ladies – but now less companies dress in suit and ties – but then you don’t want to turn up in the t-shirt and jeans you painted your spare room in yesterday either (even if some people in creative agencies look like they go to work that way!!) Always check in advance with the recruiter or interview arranger, to make sure you get the tone right.

KNOW THE JOB ROLE – Make sure you read that job spec! Also, don’t be afraid to ask the recruiter; agency or in-house; some questions on what are the key components of the role, before the interview. You need to know this, to know how best to emphasis your experience to the content of the role.

PREPARE EXAMPLES – Be prepared with examples of when you have undertaken key components of the role. Read yesterday’s article for advice here.

KNOW WHAT MAKES YOU DIFFERENT – do you have USPs? (unique selling points) Are there particular areas of skills you possess, which would make you particularly extraordinary for the role? Make them relevant and directly in tangent to the role, so for example – when we at CloudNine hired @LittleJessWood for a role with us, it became a distinct benefit to her application that she extended creative skills, website development and video editing etc. It meant she could do the role, sure – but also she could add value to us, because of her wider and relevant skill set.

WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU HAVE? – eeek!! It’s that question, where we clam up – because we realise we didn’t prepare sufficient questions and we have to respond with the inevitable ‘well you seem to have covered everything’!! Spend some quality time preparing questions about the role, the company, the people, the aspirations of the company, the profile of successful people within the business, how the company is handling current business challenges, questions arising from content on the website, clarification of certain matters relating to the company from the website… *and breathe* – the Interviewer WANTS to know that you are keen and inquisitive, and not appearing disinterested and lazy, and selfish. Don’t ask questions about lunch-breaks, holiday entitlement, salary, coffee allowance, sick pay leave, etc – these are in some cases negative questions, and the more pertinent questions around the package can either be handled later in the interview process, or should be been ascertained before the interview.  The quality of questioning tells the interview a lot about you.

So there are a few things to work on in the whole area of research and planning. Good research & knowledge leading into the interview makes for a more confident individual with the interview. You need to feel like; when you walk into the building; you kind of have a feel for the place and what they do – and where you fit in – already. It’s so much practical planning, but it has a dramatic effect on your mindset.

Feel free to suggest other areas you have found useful for interview planning.


Advice for Interviews: Prove Your Competency For The Job

This week I will be presenting a series of 5 blogs providing some pertinent and useful advice on interviews. I hope you find them useful! Today I look at interview preparation for competency-based questions. 

InterviewAdviceI read a perfectly valid blog this morning from my friend Jorgen Sundberg – stating the ‘Only 5 Interview Questions You Need To Prepare For’ – and while all 5 are spot on, because all research is valid – I would add another.

There is a common method of interview content used both by HR professionals and Hiring Managers alike, called ‘Competency-Based Interviewing’ and is a form of questioning which requires you to provide an example of when you have undertaken specific key elements of the role. Sometimes they are hard skills, sometimes they are situational and soft skills. Either way, they could be the crucial difference between success and failure in an interview – because although you can dream up all the best areas you can add value, and your team-working skills – you are fundamentally going to be assessed on your capability for the job in hand.

So, the question you need to be prepared for – and there may be 3 or 4 of these in an interview – will go something along the lines of: “Give me an example when you encountered [insert work situation] before, and how did you deal with it?” – It’s a REALLY difficult question to answer without prior preparation, because you have to rack your brains into your career to find a specific example; which leaves an excruciating period of silence; and what if you don’t choose the right one?

So how do you prepare for this? Well here’s my tip:

The night before your interview, print off the job spec  – yes I mean print it off. Get your pen – yes I mean your pen – and next to each part of the duties and responsibilities scribble down 1 or 2 examples where you have done that specific thing before; from the high-powered, to the menial. Read it again in the morning, and again on the journey to the interview.

By writing the words down – there is a common theory that you retain information you write better than that which you type – and so you are better likely to have them stored in your mind when you reach the interview. When the questions come, they should in theory relate to components of the duties of the role – and you will be prepared with your best chosen examples because of the prior work you gave it.

It will rest your own mind at ease, and also help you perform better and more relevantly in interview.

Good luck!

Getting CV Advice – Leave it to the Professionals.

Getting a CV right is crucial. It is largely the key factor that either gets you the interview for a job application, or not. Sure there are other things, like social presence and external work – but crucially, 90% of hiring managers or recruitment professionals will use a CV as the basis of initial selection. Despite the the drone of the “CV is Dead” crowd…

You see, the problem with the “CV is Dead” crowd, is that they don’t recruit day by day, they don’t evaluate the success of the application process day by day, and they seem to have got stuck thinking all CVs look like they did in 1998. professionals

For that matter, so have ‘CV Experts’.

I see 50-100 CVs per day. Not dead then, but thoroughly thriving!! It’s easy to see the good ones from the bad ones, and we also see from our clients’ selection, where success is achieved. However the quality of the average CV remains poor. When I ask where the poor ones came from, the response has often been “I got it done by a CV advice expert”, and were fleeced £20-50 for the privilege!  How many CVs do you think the ‘CV Expert’ sees a day? Well, only the ones they are given to amend. And then they choose a dated format that looks the same as everything else they do for their unwitting clients. Not all CV experts are this bad, but sadly experience says mainly they are. Sorry.

There are better ways of getting good advice on CVs – and you are more likely to get good advice from a good recruiter or a portal that sees many, many in their operating system.

jobsiteInteresting to see, that leading job-board Jobsite; who are I guess a good example of that; are having a bit of fun around job-seeking and career advice, and have introduced ‘The Advantage’  which …. and offers as a brilliant little prize, a full scale Career & CV advice package as a prize! (including interview advice, and ‘interview wardrobe’ and an iPad no less!! – not bad!) Fortunately you won’t be getting career advice from Sir Alan Sugar – but these guys make it their business to know the recruitment market and factors for job-seeking success.

Here’s their video introducing it. If you are an active job-seeker it would be worth a go, right…?

So, don’t take chances with your choice of CV and Career advice – leave it with people who know what they are talking about, because it is their profession.

Here’s some resources from my Blog back-catalogue which will hopefully help, including some short videos I did for Jobsite last year:

#JobSeekerTips – 5 Tips For Making A Great CV 

#JobSeekerTips – Things Your CV Doesn’t Need To Say 

#JobSeekerTips – 5 TIps For Getting A Job In Social Media

CV Writing in the Web Age – Optimize Your CV! 

The Creative CV – Is It A Good Thing?