Interviews are one of those hurdles that everyone faces and are definitely one of those areas where practice makes a great difference. When I was between roles in the recession of 1992 -93, I went through about 50 interviews before I finally worked out how to be successful and ultimately came out of interviews 55, 56 and 57 with three separate job offers!
The two key ingredients to successful interviewing are passion and confidence. If you need help with re-building your confidence, please see this article. Conveying your passion for a role comes from being really clear about what you’re looking for and also what you have to offer. For support with working out your new direction, please see this article.
Five Rules for Successful Interviewing
It is essential that you include all five steps in your preparation.
You need to research all you can about the role, the organisation, the industry and even the person interviewing you. This can be done through desk research of published materials and industry literature. You can also explore the organisation website, watch videos it publishes and test out the otganisation’s products or services. Through networking, you might be able to speak to people who know the company from the inside either as employees, suppliers, competitors or customers. The more knowledge you have and can demonstrate in your interview, the more attractive you will be to your interviewer.
2. Review your CV
You will talk most eloquently – and passionately - about those roles and experiences which are the highlights of your career, so pick one or two and decide what you want to say about them. More generally, you may be asked to demonstrate, through examples, specific skills or competencies that the role requires. Read through the job description, identify what is required and review your CV to select the examples you will use to show how you match the role requirements. Don’t worry if your examples are not all work related; they are just as valuable if they have come from experiences you have had in education, sport, voluntary work or other community activity.
3. Prepare answers to obvious questions
These questions include:
- Why should we hire you?
- Tell me about yourself?
- What are your strengths and weaknesses?
- What else would you like to tell me?
These questions have two things in common. They are all open questions – which can make them seem daunting – and they are all an invitation to you say precisely why you are the right person for the role. It is worth preparing your answers to these questions in advance as they are bound to be asked.
If you’ve not been to an interview for a while, it can feel strange to be talking about yourself in the way that an interview requires, so it is a good idea to practice saying your answers out loud. You don’t need to have someone listening, but if you have someone whose perspective you trust, feedback on how you are coming across is useful. Some people also find it helpful to role play the interview experience.
5. Prepare your own questions
It is really important to remember that interviews are a two-way process. While the interviewer is assessing your suitability for the role and organisation, you need to be doing the same. Make sure that you ask the questions that will help you to decide if the role and organisation is a good fit for you and your requirements.
A note on flexible working
When to raise the possibility of working flexibly can be a tricky issue. NB: Flexibility can be interpreted in many ways so it is important to define what it means for you and to express this clearly.
The current legal position is that people only have the right to ask for flexible working when they have been employed by an organisation for 26 weeks, so if you are coming new to the organisation you don’t have the right to ask for this. However, you can use your pre-interview research to find out more about the organisation’s attitudes to flexible working, to the extent of phoning the HR department to ask them. If you would only be able to take the role if it can be done flexibly, it is probably worth checking out the attitudes before you put yourself through the application and interview process. If the answer is unhelpful, then the organisation would probably not be one where you would feel happy in the long run, anyway.
An alternative is to wait until you are in the interview and say something like, ‘While I am able and willing to do this role full-time, if required, I would be interested to know about the possibility of flexibility’. Asking in this way, keeps the dialogue open and allows for further exploration while a more direct question might close the door to you.
If you have any questions that have not been covered in this article, please get in touch via the website.
Katerina Gould is founder of the executive coach and career consultancy business Thinking Potential. She will be joining our expert panel and will be writing occasional articles for working mums.co.uk on careers advice. We will be relaunching our Q & A section in the next weeks and plan to answer questions from different perspectives rather than just give one expert answer.