Blog & Advice

Preparing for Interview

Let us imagine that having invested in developing a brilliant CV it has secured you a much needed interview. It is extraordinary how few people really prepare for that great event despite it being the most important ‘sales’ presentation they will ever make.

As a long time recruiter both internally and as a headhunter I have seen intelligent people at every level turn up on the day and try and ‘wing it’. If your sales manager did that he would be sacked. You expect sales managers to turn up with brochures and benefits and samples and a whole raft of supporting facts and figures to ensure a win-win. And you expect them to take notes of any important points made by the audience.

An interview is different in that only rarely are you given the floor to make a presentation. Instead you have to react to questions by people who may actually find the process as intimidating as you do. You therefore have to somehow quietly take charge by ensuring that you have worked out exactly what strengths and experience you need to convey. It may mean turning their questions or adding a little supplementary to an answer, but unless you plan it beforehand you are unlikely to succeed. You have to practise as well, just as one rehearses a good sales presentation, to ensure it is done with care and courtesy.

Three areas of preparation. Firstly, any reports documenting facts and figures, especially if in brief summary form, about your present organisation. At the interview if they ask you exactly how you or your department fit into an organisation a simple chart is worth a thousand words. They will be impressed by your forethought and efficiency.

Secondly, the same for the organisation interviewing you. The Internet enables you to research them as much as possible, earning you both the knowledge and feel for an organisation, and crucially, where this appointment fits in. If it is not clear or is not explained well at interview you will have a prepared list of clarification questions. You will be expected to have done your homework about them – but not to be an expert.

Finally the same for you. Look at your CV and all the notes that went into its construction and ask yourself two main questions. What have I achieved that match the requirements for this appointment? What else do I have to offer that looks as if I can really add value to it?
Again dig out any supporting evidence. Perhaps you have a project report or sales figures or production achievements plus details of courses you have been on or run. Don’t offload them all on your interviewers – make sure they know you have them available. You can perhaps pass just one or two across if they seem to really support your answer to some critical question.

One final tip. At the end they should ask you if you have any questions. Don’t be tempted to talk yourself out of a job by asking all the questions on your carefully prepared list. Unless they really have failed to clear up many of your queries it is better to thank them for an informative interview, shake them by the hand and depart. If you believe that they seem to have missed some vital part of your experience or knowledge it is permissible to ask if you could just make one final point – but do it very briefly and tactfully. Good luck.

The CV Experts

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