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!

The TotalJobs `Twitter Party` on Interview Advice

Interviewing is one of the most nervous experiences we will ever face. Some of us just aren’t made for it, our jobs often involve limited ‘verbal performance’ and so in many cases, frankly – they are pointless.

interviewHowever – they exist, and even more scarily, more and more companies are using videoing interview techniques too!! So if you thought it was tough in a natural face to face environment, now companies are asking you to perform ‘to the camera’!

Ok, well fear not – I happen to have interviewed probably 4000-5000 people to different degrees over the past 20 years, and am a reasonably useful guy to know in these situations.

Well let’s see. I’m putting that to the public test this afternoon on behalf of TotalJobs, as I run their twitter feed from 2pm – taking questions on interviews as part of their Job Academy project.

If you are a job seeker who wants some good ideas on interviewing well. And getting the most from the interview – then I’m there to help. It’s more than just about turning up on time and shaking a hand in the right way. It’s about how you play YOUR part in the interview and go away feeling you have made the most of the experience.

So tune into the @TotalJobsUK twitter feed at 2pm this afternoon (11th October) and I’ll be glad to help.

If You Want The Job Enough, You’ll Take a Sick-Day, Right?

I was on the train this morning, and in my nosiness (I blame those big Samsung phones), I saw a lady – fully suited – texting someone, presumably her boss. at 9am: “Ugh, sorry I can’t come in today. Totally feeling sick. Staying in bed” 

Well, she wasn’t – clearly. She was on the train, to London, and let’s be fair – probably going to an interview. As a recruiter, and an employer, I felt a bit sick. Somewhere, someone pushed her to do an interview in work-time. As recruiters operating in haste, on the whole, we are trained to almost relay the words “Well, if you want the job enough, you’ll take a sick-day, right?”. And if recruiters don’t say it – then often, the hiring client will – “If they’re not prepared to meet us on our terms, then they’re not really serious about the job?!”.

Beautiful woman looking out window. Image shot 2010. Exact date unknown.I’m not sure this is genuinely seen as a conundrum in the recruitment industry – but in truth, it does raise concerns. What is wrong with a job-seeker who is currently employed, wanting to show appreciation to their employer, and their contract, and only attend interviews outside of work?

From the hiring company’s perspective – if a candidate is prepared to take a sick day from their current employment so willingly; then what is to say they wouldn’t do the same for this company too – should they be hired? What does it say about that person’s attitude – or for that matter any employee’s attitude – if they are prepared to take a sick day at will. Frankly, it’s not the kind of employee I want.

Why isn’t the recruitment agency/recruiter advising this to their clients? Why are we not consulting that arranging meetings requires the full and untroubled attention of both parties and therefore it is best if the meeting is set at a time when all concerned had a clear mind, and weren’t supposed to be somewhere else?

So why are we asking potential employers to break the terms of their current employment, in an attempt to crowbar them into new employment? Why are we asking them to do to their current boss, what we wouldn’t want them to do to us?

Ethics and clarity in the recruitment process is just a practice, and this is an example of a part of that process that gets side-tracked. It really is no harm to wait a day or two longer, and ask the candidate to take legitimate time off in annual leave, do a lunch appointment, or to pop in early or stay late, to see the right candidate – isn’t it?

I welcome thoughts…