First of all, a disclaimer. I wrote this article well before it’s appeared on the website.
I often delay these articles, writing them during evenings or even (sadly) weekends, and set them to appear in regular intervals during the week(s) ahead. I seem to get into a rhythm of writing several articles at once, and at other times have total writer’s block. So it makes sense to delay articles.
So I’m writing this article on a Sunday morning (I’ll repeat: sad) after performing a number of final interviews over the last fortnight, and I’ve set the article to appear quite a long time in the future. This article isn’t in direct response to any specific candidate, it’s a culmination of several interviews taking place over several years really.
The thought of writing this entry is that last year we worked on a competitive pitch for a client who was totally open with all suppliers. I say totally open – and he would keep a completely open communication channel, with the aim of everyone improving their bid response if they all knew what each other were thinking. It was a great process to go through (winning was part of the greatness), and it’s something I’ve adopted when running RFPs since that point. The level of quality improved significantly by sharing information openly across competitors. So I thought I would repeat this for interviewees, because at the end of the day, every interviewer only wants to see really good candidates.
- Mental preparation. Firstly, let’s expel a myth: interviewers aren’t trying to catch candidates out. They need someone for a specific role, and just want to find the right person. Your role as the interviewee is to project yourself as correct for that role. It’s vital you are alert for the interview. Nervousness is fine, to a degree, because if you’re being hired for a client facing role and you turn up at the job interview in a bad state, the company is going to wonder how you’ll perform under pressure in front of a difficult client. (In this case, you should question whether you want a client facing role anyway).
- Research the company. Research everything you can about the company you’re interviewing for. How did it start, how did it grow, who are the clients? This will give you a feel for the culture of the company.
- Research the interviewers. Go to LinkedIn and have a look at the profiles of who you’ll be interviewed by. More often their profiles will have links to blogs, articles, Twitter accounts, etc. – so you’ll get a feel for the people before you’ve met them. Have a look through their own employment history, both in terms of companies and positions. It will help you answer questions appropriately – if you know the interviewer has a technical background or a sales background, it will help you formulate answers. At a recent interview, the candidate started answering my questions with the same view as I’d written on this blog (without quoting they’d seen it). I told them that I was impressed with their research, but from that moment on, I wanted their view, and they shouldn’t just say what I wanted to hear.
- Dress appropriately. One of the things that annoys me is when a candidate comes back for a second or third interview – so they’ve been in our office before – and they are wearing really casual clothes. Dressing appropriately isn’t even correct – try to slightly overdress. If everyone is wearing chinos, wear a suit. If everyone is in a suit, wear a suit and tie. The reason for this, in a client facing role at least, is the employer wants to know that you’ll dress appropriately in client offices. On a similar note, arriving late and all those other golden rules of interviews also apply – if you’re late for the interview, how punctual are you going to be with the companies’ clients?
- Questions. Prepare and ask intelligent, related questions. I once heard a quote that you can tell how intelligent someone is, not from their answers but from their questions. In an interview this is the best indicator of bright candidates. Coming along with a list of prepared questions written down is only half as good as thinking of the questions during the interview though. So you need to be totally switched on and alert during the interview. The best interviews I’ve done, are when a candidate has put themselves into a mental state of arriving on their first day, and they ask questions around performing their new role.
- Be honest. Here’s a tip – if you don’t know an answer to a question, say you don’t know. 99% of the time, the interviewer will know the answer, so trying to guess (or worse) the answer is going to be an epic fail. There’s nothing wrong with saying you don’t know. It shows honesty, and sometimes can present an opportunity. For example, saying “I don’t know, but can I go at providing an educated guess?” or asking the interviewer for the answer and then entering a discussion (such as “Oh, at my last company we had a different term for that – it was xyz. Is that similar?”), can result in good dialogue. Again, it’s unlikely the interviewer is asking you the question to catch you out – they just want to find the best candidate. So demonstrating aptitude after answering “I don’t know” is a great opportunity.
I hope this helps, and good luck with the interview.
Image courtesy of Quinn.Anya.