So, you’re looking for a job.
You might have been looking because you haven’t got one at the moment, or you’ve been putting the feelers out because you want away from your current employer. You apply for a few positions and tentatively reach out to a few of your connections who work for competitors or in associated industries.
Then, one day, on opening up your emails, you see, out of the blue:
“We would like to invite you for an initial interview for the position of XXX”
(please note that XXX is just a placeholder, not an X rated position)
All of a sudden, the reality of the situation dawns: it’s actually been a really long time since you interviewed. What will they want to know? What will they already know? What will they want me to know? What should I wear?
Well, first of all, for the last option, I'd probably suggest a suit or similar. For the rest, fear not. You can go through the same steps to prepare for interview as you would to train for any sort of sporting event/ challenge (hence the title). Here are our tips to help you get ahead of the pack:
#1 Plan Ahead
Allow adequate time to prepare for the interview and avoid ‘cramming’ or preparing in a rush. Make sure that your diary is free that day, and that you don’t have any huge projects to be completed the day before/ following the interview, because that won’t leave you with ample time to prepare.
#2 Get Fit
Get as up to date as possible on everything concerned with the company; the products, headcount and turnover as well as industry trends and even current events – companies always want well informed and well- rounded individuals
#3 Know Your Competition (and Yourself)
If possible, early on in the process try and assess where the company is in terms of the hiring process – who else is in the running? How many people are you against in the race? Can you get an idea of their PB? (tenuous that last one, but sticking with it).
Also, it’s really important to know yourself and how you come across, particularly online. Google yourself, Facebook yourself, Twitter yourself. If you see anything that you don’t like as a result of any of those searches, then do your best to change it.
Following this, and when you’re happy with your image, start to think about what makes you stand out as an individual. Try to come up with some achievements that aren't generic, and talk about things that you know no one else can, because they're unique to you.
#4 Practice (but not too much)
Read up on some interview questions, and have a think about some of the answers that you might come back with, if asked. Don’t be over prepared or it can sound rehearsed, and you need to be adaptable on the day – after all, no 2 races are the same...
Some good, vague questions to prepare for are:
What are your strengths?
What are your weaknesses?
Why do you want to work here?
Tell me about a time you made a mistake, and how you rectified it
What gets you up in the morning?
Also, make sure that you have some questions prepared for them – and questions that can’t be answered from a look on their website. Having well prepared, interesting questions can be key to an employer taking a shining to you. You usually have the opportunity to ask these at the end too, so your inquisitive, well thought out enquiries might just get you over the line.
“Following on from your acquisition of xxx, do you see any synergies occurring in terms of products aside from the obvious xx with xx?”
#5 Get Some Rest
Don’t stay up the night before cramming for the interview, you’ll be much better served with some rest. Lack of sleep ‘can hinder you from thinking clearly and keeping your emotions at an even keel’ and the last thing you want is to lose track of your thoughts mid way through the conversation, or to break down in tears at the news that they’ve run out of milk.
It will also help your appearance – it’s usually fairly obvious when someone’s running off very little shut eye.
To follow on from this, if the interview is face to face and you have to travel a long way, try and get over the night before. Again, no one is at their absolute best after a 5am start and a 3 hour drive, or after a dash from the airport to an office.
#6 Be a Good Sport
This is important. Don’t slag off your employer(s) past or present. Chances are, they’ll know who you work for and a lot about the business. You wouldn’t hear an Olympian criticising his last employers, races or medals would you? You get the drift.
#7 Get Over the Line
Lastly, post interview, make sure that you continue to make an impression. Asking if the potential employer has any reservations about you can be useful so you can respond with how you'll overcome them.
Afterwards, sending a concise follow up email is also good. Nothing major, just thanking the hiring manager(s) for their time, and reminding them of your contact details. As with the questions I mentioned earlier, these little points could be the difference maker when it comes to making a decision.
Hopefully these points will help you win gold in the next recruitment race you enter!