Preparing for interviews is absolutely critical. Interviews challenge even the most experienced interviewee so prepare, prepare and prepare again. The key is to achieve a balance between being able to present yourself confidently and coming across over-rehearsed.
Your key messages
What you are really preparing for is to remind yourself what you would say about:
- Me and the kind of person I am – revealing your passion can speak volumes
- My achievements in HR and how they relate to the job description
- How I will be able to contribute to the organisation and what I can do for them
- What I know about the organisation including the competitive landscape
Many HR professionals find interviews particularly challenging as they are often used to being on the other side of the desk. Some can forget that they are there to be interviewed – not to interview a potential employer… Every month we meet candidates who forget this basic dynamic – and as a result try to “take over” their meeting with us.
A second common fault is under-preparation. Yes, you might be a seasoned interviewer but are you as good when the roles are reversed? Many HR professionals have many times more experience of interviewing than being interviewed. They are two very different skills. As a candidate your job is to sell yourself effectively and succinctly. Give the interviewer what they want and your chances of success multiply.
Use your Chiumento HR Recruitment Consultant wisely in your preparation too. They usually know an awful lot about the interviewer, the role and the organisation. Information that can give you an inside edge.
Then you will not be taken by surprise.
The interview could be one-to-one or two-to-one or you might be interviewed by more formal panels. Busy agencies, organisations with over-subscribed vacancies and international recruiters may start their interview process on the telephone.
Most interviews contain a range of question types, based on the job description, and can be highly structured or more candidate led. They will usually fall under the following categories:
- Competency (behavioural) questions – structured to draw out examples from your experience to demonstrate a particular skill or competency
- Hypothetical questions – seek evidence in past behaviour of how you might act in a given situation. Interviewers are trying to ascertain your style and approach when addressing situations likely to arise in the role.
- Self analysis questions – seek to find out how you respond to feedback in evaluating your future behaviour – eg what did you learn from that? What did you do as a result? What would you do differently next time? What do you think are your strengths and weaknesses?
- Closed questions – require a yes/no answer. A good interviewer uses few closed questions, a more inexperienced interviewer may use a lot. Try to support any “yes” or “no” responses with relevant information, e.g. “Yes, I did work for them for 10 years, and during that time I …” This helps differentiate you from others.
You should be clear on what key points you must communicate for each interview you attend. They are the things that are directly related to the job you are applying for, and that the interviewer needs to hear, to confirm that you are the best person for the job.
Decide on the key information you wish to get across
Decide on the impression you intend to create
Aim to achieve your next step objectives, which might be:
- to get a job offer
- to get a further interview
- to find out more about the job opportunity – especially if the interview is a result of a speculative approach
- to satisfy yourself that you want to work for them
If you are not sure if this interview will lead to a decision or only move you to the next stage it is perfectly fine to ask the question so you know where you stand, and to clarify all the stages so you have an idea of timeframe. In fact, this shows initiative, so don’t be shy.
Ensure you know the name of the person interviewing you and their position within the company. Better still go one step further – try looking the interviewer up on LinkedIn for example. Interviewers are often flattered if you can demonstrate you have taken the time to find out more about them. You may even discover you have things in common – like mutual past work colleagues.
Research the company so you can more than adequately answer the question “what do you know about us”. The internet means there is no excuse for not knowing latest news stories, results and product/service launches. Creating an information summary shows interest and commitment.
Find out exactly where you are going – get a location map, find out where you can park, check if there is a security entrance requirement, check if and how you need to pay for parking and if cash only make sure you have the right change, etc. Park in a legitimate place even if this means a longer walk.
If you plan to use public transport, check timetables, walking distance and directions. If possible, do a “trial run” at a similar time of day, to give you a good estimation of the time it takes.
Turning up at the last moment, stressed from a difficult journey can only hinder your performance. You want to be relaxed, focused and ready to perform. Not worrying if you will get a parking ticket…
Wear clean, smart, comfortable clothes, and remember it is better to be too formal than too informal. Even if a company has a routine “dress down” policy for staff they may still expect candidates to turn up in traditional business wear for interviews. You are not on the team just yet!
Don’t be late – if this is unavoidable make sure you phone with a brief explanation.
Arrive up to 15 minutes early. This will give you the opportunity to absorb the following:
- How the organisation presents itself in the reception area which can often reflect their values
- The formality of the company – staff dress, presentation, use of first names etc
- Company literature or performance information in the reception area, or displays, photographs, awards etc – which may provide a talking point