Your CV has done its job, writes executive coach James Sweetman. Now only the interview lies between you and the role you are after. You want to do a great interview, but fear you will dissolve into a mumbling nervous wreck.
The path to interview success starts well before you shake the interviewer’s hand. Preparation is key and preparation means:
In this article I will give you the inside track on the first two essentials when it comes to preparing for a successful interview. But first, let’s get clear as to what an interview is and banish some of the common and debilitating misconceptions around these key face-to-face meetings.
When I work with clients helping them prepare for interview I remind them of three things:
With a little bit of thought you can predict many of the questions you are likely to be asked. However, it’s never about learning answers off by heart. This makes you seem rehearsed, inauthentic and makes it very difficult for the interviewers to relate to you. You also pile a tremendous amount of pressure and stress onto yourself because you are now trying not to forget the answers you had written out. Remember an interview is about verbal communication, you are not doing a written exam!
In contemplating your responses to probable questions, the phrase I like to use is, put the scaffolding in place for your answers. By scaffolding I mean the key points you want to get across, the salient remarks you would like the interviewers to note down.
From my experience of helping hundreds of candidates prepare for interviews, here are five questions you are almost guaranteed to be asked.
By the end of the interview you want the interviewers to know your strengths, but how can they be clear as to what your strengths are, if they don’t roll off your tongue. Effective interview preparation starts by knowing your top four or five strengths.
Alternative ways of asking the strengths questions are – how will you add value to the company? ‘why should we employ you?’ or even the generic ‘tell me a bit about yourself?’ The answer to all these questions lies in knowing your strengths.
It’s not about regurgitating the competencies as listed on the job description, it’s sharing the four or five attributes that you feel you are bringing to the table.
This is a favourite question of the HR person sitting on the interview panel. This question is asked because the interviewer wants to know how self-aware you are. The way to approach your answer is to identify an area that you feel is not quite a strength yet and to emphasise how you are working on developing that area.
This is the ambition question. Your answer will let the interviewer know if you are interested in a job or developing a career. You don’t have to be specific in your answer. You can speak about continuing to learn and grow, overcome challenges, deal with bigger clients, move into a supervisory or management role.
Your answer here tells the interviewer how much preparation you have done and how serious you are about getting the job. Knowing the company’s website is a threshold competency, it’s the minimum that is expected. Do you know anybody working in the organisation already? Could you have a conversation with them? Prior to the interview set up a ‘Google Alert’ to assist you in gathering the most up-to-date information about the company.
You are guaranteed to be asked this one. Don’t ask about salary if it hasn’t been mentioned, but perhaps have a question about the company, as again this lets the interviewer know you have done your homework. There are other ways you can use this question at the end of the interview and I explore them in this video.
A great question to ask yourself as part of your interview preparation is what question would I hate to be asked, or what issue would I hate the interviewers to bring up? This sheds a light on an area where you may not be as comfortable. If you prepare your answer in advance, it gives you a greater sense of control. The issue may not come up at the interview, but if it does, at least you won’t be floored.
In the next part of this series of articles on interview preparation, I’ll explore the whole area of competencies and the way competencies are assessed during an interview.
For more insights into effective interview preparation – check out James Sweetman's Interview Skills Coaching page
Author: James Sweetman is a motivational speaker and executive coach focusing on leadership, presentation skills and personal development. He is also the author of five books. More information is available at www.jamessweetman.com