Count down to a perfect job interview

Confirm the date and time of your interview and make sure you get directions if necessary. Check out the travel time either by road or public transport. Make sure you allow for the time of day. If necessary make a dummy run at the same time so that you are completely familiar with the route. Aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time and then allow another 15 minutes just to be sure. There is nothing worse than arriving late for an interview! Having sorted out the logistics now you need to start your research into the company or organisation. One of the first questions that interviewers often ask is “What do you know about us?” Have a good look at the company web site but also use a search engine to research as much background information as you can. Having this information will ensure that you can answer that question confidently and also give you the opportunity to ask some smart questions of your own. “I see you’ve recently opened a new call centre, what CRM package are you going to use?” sounds a lot better than “What time do you finish work on Fridays?”

Make sure you also research your interviewer(s). You may find a profile (or even a CV) on the company web site or try searching for the interviewer’s name on the internet. It’s important that you know as much as you can about your interviewer and their background as this will enable you to predict the types of questions they will ask and how you should pitch your responses. For example if your interviewer comes from an IT background similar to your own then you can expect a technical grilling but what if your interviewer comes from a finance background? Clearly you will need to pitch your responses at a different level.

Try to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes. If you were interviewing a candidate for this position what questions would you ask? Try to prepare strong responses to the most likely questions.

If you are working with a recruitment consultant ask them to provide you with a thorough briefing. They may have had candidates who have previously attended interviews with the same interviewer. What questions were they asked? If they were unsuccessful what was the feedback

Try to find out what the format of the interview will be. Will this be a formal/informal interview? Will there be just one interviewer or a panel? Might you be required to make a presentation? Should you take examples of your work? Will there be any kind of technical test?

Remember that interviewers (particularly from HR) often ask “Competency Questions”. The theory behind competency based interviews is that past behaviour is often the best indicator of future behaviour. So these questions will often start with “Tell me about a time….” or “Can you give me an example…?” Try to think carefully what competencies are likely to be relevant to the job. If you are lucky they may be listed in the job specification.

If you decide that the competencies will include:

leadership, communication, influencing skills and innovation

Then make sure you that you have a store of good examples of your experience in each of these areas.

The best way to structure your response to competency questions is to use the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym for Situation – Task – Action – Result.

So for example if the interviewer asks:

“Can you give me an example of your ability to provide innovative solutions to problems?”

Using the STAR technique you could answer:

I was the leading a team at XYZ company (SITUATION). I was asked to come up with a plan to improve communication within the project management community and provide a central resource for project management tools and templates (TASK). I created an intranet site which contained all the necessary documents plus a forum for the project managers (ACTION). This has proved extremely successful and I recently received an award from the company congratulating me on the success of this project (RESULT).

Note that you should use I (not we!) in your answer and that this response follows the STAR format, – in simple terms “it’s a story with a happy ending”

In preparing for your interview try to prepare as many of these “stories” as you can that will be relevant to the role.

Finally be positive! Taking this amount of care with your interview preparation will give you a head start and ensure that you perform at your best on the big day.

Good luck!

About Jeremy I'Anson

Jeremy I'Anson is the author of You're Hired! Total Job Search 2013 published by Trotman Education. Jeremy provides one-to-one career coaching to job hunters at every level from graduate to CEO. Jeremy writes career related articles for the national press including Computer Weekly and The Guardian. He is the official Career Coach at the Daily Telegraph. View all posts by Jeremy I'Anson

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