Any job interview is a big event and requires appropriate preparation to make sure you get the desirable outcome. There are hundreds if not thousands of do’s and don’ts when preparing for an interview, but the one rule that overarches all others is: it is impossible to be overprepared.
For me, there are 3 core imperatives to successfully preparing for an interview:
Frame the interview in the right way
Queue all the clichés: ‘it’s a two-way street’, ‘it’s as much for you as it is for them ‘, ‘just be yourself and if it doesn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be’ – however, and this may be slightly against the grain of what I’ve read online, they all seem to fall short of being wholly true and feel a little more like a pre-emptive defence mechanism, to me anyway.
I really like the way Liz Ryan described an interview process as being like a ‘recon mission’ in an article in Forbes magazine a few years ago. It implied the need to prepare militantly and to remember that you are attending the interview in order to learn more, but to do so subtly and in a way that ensures progression to being offered the role. It is not entirely an equally balanced meeting, candidate to interviewer, and there is something genuinely off-putting about a candidate approaching the meeting in a manner that reflects a ‘what’s in it for me?’ mindset and absence of trying to pitch their strengths for a role.
In order to frame your preparation in the right way, It is important to ask yourself two questions before even starting research: ‘how can I get the most from this meeting?’ and ‘what do I want to leave the interviewer(s) thinking about me?’.
Useful interview tips
Ask what to wear (particularly true for arts organisations – smart casual, versus the suit and tie approach for central government)
Logistics – make sure you know where you are going and plan the journey early. The ideal is to get there 10 minutes early and make yourself know to reception at 7 mins before the start time.
Google yourself and do all that you can to avoid your online presence making a bad first impression
Take time to practice delivering responses out loud but never try to memorise
Find the statement the CEO gave when they took the role online – often available and provides a useful steer on their agenda
Meeting with a recruiter is an interview – I know that I have successfully championed candidates who I have met as a result of how well prepared they were, how committed to the process and professional they had been. Hiring managers often ask for the recruiter’s point of view on who to offer when it is extremely close.
Respond to the mood in the interview, if it develops into a conversational style then great – this is a very good sign and go with it, but still remember what you want to leave the panel thinking about your application.
An informal meeting with a hiring manager, is an interview exploring something beyond competency – typically is a combined agenda of testing of your ‘fit’ whilst also offering you a chance to ask any residual questions.
Do not commit to a salary in the interview, no matter how tempting– always direct the question to the recruiter stating: ‘I have discussed this with the recruiter and (they or I) would prefer that they be the channel for this subject, but I can reassure you now that I am keen on the role and confident we can make it work if you feel the same way…’ – this is not to hand over control to the recruiter, god forbid – it is the best platform for you to negotiate from and avoids being put on the spot in an unbalanced context.
Always ask the panel what the next steps are at the end of the interview.
It is far more credible to admit a weakness/are to develop and explain what you would do to get up to speed, than trying to blag your way through a response. Whilst most people fall into this trap, if you do, you really won’t be fooling anyone.
Good luck in your interview and I hope this is helpful