A good friend asked me for some interview advice today.
Having personally hired 50 + staff, and, as a headhunter in a previous life, interviewed hundreds of candidates, there are definitely some basic principles to abide by.
You need to prepare, you need to know what the employer wants and you need to “win”……
In other words, get the job you want, with a great package over other people who want the same thing….
Your objective is to offered a role.
You may not accept it, you may not like them, but use every interview as a chance to hone your skills in order to be offered the job, and for YOU to reject THEM if needed. Being offered one job is leverage if interviewing for another!
#1 Research the Company and the Interviewer
At an absolute bare minimum, you should know:
- What the company does
- Who runs the company
- Who is interviewing you
- Do they have investors (who are they?)
- Check Companies House (if in the UK) for their published accounts
- Check on LinkedIn for number of staff, key people, mission statements etc
- Check Glassdoor and read reviews
- Who are their competitors?
- What is their technology built on?
#2 Dress the part
This may sound dated, but first impressions count.
Yes, people can change their mind about you, but why make it harder?
It goes without saying that you should wear clothes that are neat, clean, at least a bit fashionable and suitable for an interview.
You don’t want to turn up in a suit if the culture is not very formal. Check out their website and go for clothes that reflect the organisation
#3 Be on time.
Allow plenty of time to get there. Don’t eat on the way. Don’t arrive too early.
Heaven forbid if you are held up, call ahead and let them know.
#4 Put your interviewer (and yourself) at ease
Breaking the ice on arrival is important. At this stage people are looking to see how friendly, polite and easy to work with you are. Be nice. Let them talk and don’t gabble.
It’s likely you will be asked the following:
- Did you come far / where do you live?
- Do you want a drink? (you do…..water is a good one as its quick to prepare. If they are having a hot drink, join them.)
- What are you doing at the moment?
- How did you hear about the role?
Give short friendly answers and ask them questions. People’s favourite subject is themselves!
Good warm up questions from your side:
- How long have you worked here?
- What were you doing before?
- I read that you have X staff. Are they all based here?
#5 Show off your research
Depending on the interviewer, you may start with a conversation about your experience, or more likely, before you get into that, a general discussion on the business and then the role:
Ask questions that show off your research:
“ I noticed that last month, you recently did X. Is this because of Y and how did it go?”
“What % of your business comes from X area. Is this growing?”
“How are these three competitors different from you”
“What are some of the big strategic directions the business is taking”
#6 Ask questions BEFORE you start talking about your experience
If its an in person meeting, bring a couple of printed copies of your CV which should be well formatted, accurate, clean and no more than 2 pages.
Before you get into your CV, ask if you can cover off a couple of questions.
You must put yourself in their mind and think of yourself as a specialist tool for them to solve a problem.
Your questions should be open ended, friendly with the aim of understanding what THEY are looking for:
“Where does this team / role sit within the organisation?”
“What is the main focus for this role?”
“What does success look like for this position?”
“Where do you see this role developing?”
Ask first. Listen. Then frame your experience to tie in, and reflect back to what they are looking for.
If they are looking for something that you are clearly not, there is no problem in raising that now and if need be, suggesting it’s not a match.
For now, let’s say their answers pique your interest and it sounds like a challenge you are very much interested in.
Here are some tips in framing your answers:
#7 Frame your experience in overarching themes and quantify EVERTHING in numbers
Think in numbers:
Try and quantify everything that you say when going through your experience.
Telling someone that you brought in “lots of new business “ or created a process that “saved a lot of money “ is completely meaningless. It shows fuzzy thinking and any interviewer worth their salt will challenge you : “what does “a lot” mean?”
Here are some examples that carry more weight:
“I signed 150 clients over two years, each of which had an average value of $30k, so that equates to approx $4.5 Million of new business.”
“I introduced a new training program, which meant our new starters were able to contribute faster to the business and it helped employee retention. Our average tenure for employees went from 15 months to 3 years. This also saved approx. $20K on recruitment fees, plus management time.”
“I wrote new content pieces that led to a doubling of our audience. We went from 10,000 users a month to 20,000 + users per month in 3 months. Each user to our advertisers was worth approx $1”
“With some A/B testing I optimised a campaign that was doing $25K a month to $55K a month. We also negotiated faster payment terms from the client, from net 45 to net 15. This helped our cashflow and allowed us to leverage our media buys”
Think in themes
Now that you know the role is based around certain attributes, highlight these in the run through of your career. Let’s say its a management position, highlight aspects of each position, or why you left, centring on the key attributes.
“I was managing one person at X company and wanted to develop this more, so joined Y company as I had an opportunity to lead more staff”
“I put together and organised a project team which delivered X projects, within Y timeframes earning Z amount of $”
Themes don’t have to be linear. Being a start up person and having an impact in a smaller team rather than a small wheel in a big cog, might be a theme in your career to date.
Be honest. Tie it all together. Create that image of a specialist tool for their business need.
#8 Think about salary before the interview
This one is tricky for many people. Just remember, this is is your opportunity to earn thousands of pounds with a few sentences, so its worth doing some preparation beforehand.
By the time it comes to talk about salary, you should have a good idea on what is going on inside the company, how important the role is, who they are ideally looking for, and how you match against that.
If you are a good fit, have done your research, demonstrated your value through numbers and woven the story of your career to date in a way that is a great fit, you should be on firm ground.
Don’t sell yourself short.
When asked: “What are your salary expectations?” answer honestly. What would really like? Salary is one thing. Are there bonuses, options etc?
A real turn off for employers is asking about holiday and pensions upfront…….It screams to someone who is not passionate about the role and just looking at add ons.
Would you get married to someone who asked that question? Nope…….Neither would I.
By all means cover these, but they should be final details rather than anything material.
#9 Ask for feedback
At the end of the interview, ask if they have any feedback on you, or your suitability for the role. This might feel totally awkward, but get over it.
Feedback now is crucial for you to correct any assumptions or misapprehensions they may have. Stress that you are interested in the role. If you are interviewing elsewhere, let them know but its worth saying that this role is very much of interest.
#10 Follow up
After the interview, drop the interviewer a quick note to say thanks and stressing your interest in the role. Use this as a chance to reiterate your salary expectations, notice period etc.
If you don’t hear anything follow up. A call is better than an email!