Recruitment Consultant Fraser is an expert in White Collar Sales and Marketing roles. Think an interview is easy enough to pass? Think again. From the moment you rock up until well after you have left, the impression you create could never be more important. Here are Fraser’s top tips for interview success!
1 – Preparation is key!
You can never do too much research before an interview, the only limit is the amount of time that you are prepared to spend. Most importantly, you should know the job description well, and how you fit into it. It’s useless turning up if you don’t know what the job entails!
Next, and still very important is researching the company. Yes, you should know when they started, where they were based, what they initially did as a company at start-up because remember, companies expand and adapt! For example, did you know that Nintendo originally started producing playing cards in 1889? However, every candidate has read the company’s Wikipedia page, so the most important things to research are things that have happened recently in the company’s lifetime. That business award they won? Research that. If you’re a Sales guy, that major client they partnered up with a couple of years ago? Research that, and in the interview, ask them how they established that client. If you’re in Marketing, check out their target audience, what subsector of society buys this product, how do they approach it? Ask them! Find out as much as you can.
I have seen candidates miss out on jobs simply because when they were asked whether they had any questions they just said no. Take an interest in this company, you could spend a few years of your life working there! So get some questions prepared, I’d say 5 or so, because they’ll probably answer some before you ask, find out about them, because while they’re checking that you’re right for them, you need to check that they’re right for you.
2 – The morning after the night before?
Please, DO NOT have a heavy night the day before an interview. Ensure your outfit is prepared, ironed and clean, fresh for the morning. Gents, you should ALWAYS wear a suit and tie unless you’ve been told otherwise, and ladies you should also be as smartly dressed as you can be, again unless you have other instructions. Map out your journey to the interview and get a nice early night. It seems obvious; however, you may not be the only candidate going for this position so do everything you can to stand out for all the right reasons.
3 – Behaviour
There are several things to mention here, did you know that many Employers will approach the receptionist, or indeed anyone you have had an interaction with to discuss your general behaviour and attitude ahead of your interview? Be kind and courteous to everyone you come across and the most obvious one – turn your phone off or at the very least put it on silent and do not take it out once you are inside the building! If you have time to pull out your phone because you’re waiting, then instead have a look around the company, look at any products that they have on display, look at how they present themselves to their customers and clients.
During the interview
What you always want the interviewer to feel is that you are confident in your ability to do the job, just remember there is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. No manager wants to feel that someone new is going to come in and tell them how to run their business! That said, you want to be able to bring your experience and knowledge to the table and having new ideas is a real positive. Try to get this balance, being engaging, making sure that you listen to learn, not just to respond, eye contact etc. The usual stuff! There was a study done that suggested that the ideal gap between someone finishing talking, and someone responding, is 2 seconds in order to show maximum sincerity. I’m not suggesting that you count to 2 each time you want to respond, but the point is that it is good the listen carefully to what they are saying, then take a short time to formulate your response, rather than jumping straight in.
4 – The old Strengths vs Weaknesses
The old cliche – tell us about our weaknesses. Do not go with the stereotypical ‘I’m a perfectionist’ or ‘I push myself too hard’, honestly it just makes eyes roll. When it comes to difficult questions, or talking about weak points in your ability, never lie or exaggerate, as it only gets found out in the end. Instead, address the issue and then suggest how you are going to improve or get around this.
For example: “I find that my note-taking can let me down and thaI rely too much on memory. This works for me in the short term, but I find that if I come back to something after a short holiday, or further down the line then I can’t remember. For this reason, I am making a conscious effort to take down as many notes as possible to make me more productive and make sure that nothing gets forgotten or lost.”
This way, you have turned a slight weakness into a positive. It shows that you are aware of your own weaknesses and that you are actively trying to improve. Generally, big tick for this!
5 – What questions should you ask?
Again, don’t sit and spout all of your research out like a bad history teacher recounting facts, ask them a question – “****** must be one of your biggest clients, how did you go about getting them on board?”. You have shown that you’ve done your research, and asked a question, well done, you just got a thumbs up!
Prepare 5 or so questions that you can ask them. These questions should vary depending on the role and be relevant, but for example, if you were applying for a role within the sales team – “Tell me about your individual and group incentives?”, “How much growth are you expecting to achieve in the next year?”, “Do you have any major drives coming up for clients, or do you tend to work on a more constant approach?” etc. Take a notepad, write the questions down beforehand and make notes about their answers.
A fantastic way of showing you are serious about longer-term goals would be to ask the interviewer what their personal highlight of being with the company is, what they anticipate your biggest challenge to be in the first 6 months and how seriously the company take training and development. This way, you’ll know if there are progression opportunities but you won’t appear too keen to be employed and leap for a promotion in the first two weeks (which could be a turn off for the interviewer).
Most importantly, behave in the interview as you would in the role if you like to use a bit of humour on a sales call to make people feel comfortable, let it out! – The interviewer is looking for who you are, don’t put a face on just for the interview, and if they don’t think you’d be the right fit, they may be right. You probably don’t want to be working in a company that asks you to behave differently to fit company policy, it needs to be the right fit for you too!