Preparation is the Key for Your Interview Success
The old saying ‘knowledge is power’ is extremely apt when it comes to your personal and professional preparation for your job interview. It is surprising that even at the Executive level, candidates fail to prepare or practise for the interview adequately. The interview process is like an iceberg – 90% you can’t physically see as it is the preparation prior to the interview. On the day, your interview makes up only 10% of the process. So, preparation is the key.
Here are 10 tips to ensure you place yourself in the best position when the phone rings and the caller asks, “Would you come in for an interview?”
- Understand the purpose and process of the interview
Your resumé or CV is a ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ tool. If it gains you an interview, it has achieved its purpose. Likewise, the interview can be thought of as an opportunity to ‘sell’ to your prospective employer the benefits you can bring to the organisation.
As in any good sales process, you should first seek to understand the ‘needs’ of the employer. Then you ‘sell’ your achievements and benefits in a way that targets the needs and requirements of the position.
Employers will not ‘buy’ you on your features alone (strengths, skills, knowledge and experience), as impressive as these might be. As in any ‘sale’, they want to know what’s in it for them. It is essential to ‘sell’ the benefits that you bring. How is hiring you going to solve the need that the employer has?
Your achievement statements developed for your resumé are central to this ‘sales’ process. Having the right mindset is essential in positioning and preparing yourself for the interview. And just remember, 80% – 90% of your interview has taken place even before you have it!
- Understand the recruitment, screening and selection process
As part of your preparation, you will need to understand clearly the recruitment and selection process for the position you are applying for.
At an executive level, organisations will generally choose to use the services of a recruitment agent to screen and put forward suitable applicants for interviewing. (Refer to my blog on How to build a win-win relationship with your recruiter)
Essentially your interview begins at this stage, whether it is via a phone conversation, an email or a subsequent face-to-face meeting, should you pass the initial recruitment screening process.
Assuming the outcome of your meeting with the recruiter is positive, an appointment will be arranged for you to meet with the employer/board for an interview.
So, begin with the end in mind. Treat the recruiter respectfully and act professionally in all encounters, imagining the recruiter to be as important as the employer. The recruiter is the gatekeeper to the interview.
Like any relationship, you need to identify which recruiters are the right match for you – ones who are the most helpful and with whom you can build good rapport.
Also understand that the recruiter’s role is not to find you a job or position but to establish whether or not you are suitable for their client. The recruiter will not look to secure a position for you. They are being paid to fill a gap in the organisation so their responsibility is to the organisation, not to you.
- Research the company and purpose and process of the interview
In preparation for the interview it is essential that you know and understand the company and the position you are applying for.
Some advertised executive positions lack detail. If that’s the case, go to the company’s career section on its website. And better still, if you know someone at the company or know someone who knows someone at the company, call and ask more about the company. The bottom line is that while preparing for an interview, uncover as much information as possible regarding the expectations and criteria of the role and the qualifications required. This will enable you to target your statements about your strengths, skills and achievement to those criteria.
- Understand the position
You must know what the employer wants. This seems almost self-explanatory and goes without saying. But doing your homework here is essential. What does the position entail? Where does it sit within the organisational structure of the company? Do you meet the essential criteria that the employer is looking for? Read and re-read the position description. Show the job to a trusted friend or mentor and ask them to give you their honest opinion on your ability to fill the position. (There’s nothing worse than wasting the time of hiring managers, recruiters, employers and your time applying for a position for which you are not suited).
- Know your resumé/CV
Being prepared for your interview also means that you are able to speak fluently and confidently about any aspect of your CV or resumé. Does your resumé present you in the best light for the job you have applied for?
- Practise memorising the four or five key strengths and skills recorded in your resumé and demonstrating these on the basis of your achievements.
- Ensure you can speak fluently about your achievements through stories that match the criteria in the job application (memorise these stories if possible).
- Use language that puts you in control. Avoid phrases such as “I think …” or “This might be a good example of …” or “Perhaps …” because they suggest uncertainty and invite analysis or speculation.
- Identify non-verbal behaviour that helps or hinders effective communication in the interview process
How you use body language, or non-verbal communication, will impact on the interview. Negative body language can weaken your message and communication as well as distract from what you are trying to convey. It is true that generalisations are being made in interpreting non-verbal communication cues. However, the meanings ascribed to the ones below are commonly accepted.
- Poor eye contact may convey evasion, indifference, insecurity, passivity, or nervousness
- Head scratching may indicate uncertainty or bewilderment
- Lip biting could indicate nervousness, fearfulness or anxiety
- Foot tapping often conveys nervousness or impatience
- Folded arms typically convey anger, disagreement, defensiveness or disapproval
- Raised eyebrows generally indicate disbelief or surprise
- Narrowing eyes may convey anger or resentment
- Shifting in your seat usually suggests restlessness, boredom or apprehension.
So being aware of these non-verbal behaviours is helpful. As part of your interview preparation, role play interviews for a specific position with a friend or careers coach for the explicit purpose of concentrating on non-verbal behaviours that may positively or negatively impact your interview on the day.
- Interview formats
Knowing about the types of interviews that might be used is also useful in your preparation. From most common to less, the 7 interview formats you are likely to encounter are:
- One-on-one interview
- Panel Interview
- Telephone Interview
- Electronic interview
- Group interview
- Stress Interview
- Dining interview
Make sure you know what type of interview you will be expected to participate in and research these. Download our Free Report for further information
- Anticipate and practise typical questions asked in interviews
You will be much more confident at your interview if you can anticipate, think through and practise your responses to possible questions. Many of these questions will be around the key skills, responsibilities and roles outlined in the advertisement.
Basically, the interviewer(s) will focus questions to seek information on four broad areas:
- Can you do the job or fulfil the role? (skills, knowledge, strengths, experience, achievements, benefits to the employer, learning potential and so on)
- Do you really want this position? Or Will you do the job? (interest in the industry, organisation, position; work ethic; energy level and enthusiasm; outside variables that may affect your willingness and availability)
- Do you fit in? (likeability, ‘chemistry’, communication, alignment with the company’s purpose, vision and values, work and management style, dress and appearance)
- How much will you cost?
- Identify questions to ask in the interview
Have questions prepared to ask the interviewer or the panel. This will ensure that you learn more about the company and the role. It will also demonstrate that you have done your due diligence and will highlight the areas that are important to you.
The types of questions you ask are very important. Centre these around the company and the role and expectations rather than around salary, personal benefits, hours of work, overtime, overall package and so on. These are best negotiated once you have a firm offer.
- Use role play and other practice strategies
Ask a trusted friend, mentor, executive career coach to take on the role of the interviewer and ask you questions that are likely to come up in an interview. This will help you to tell your story, be prepared for the real thing and overcome any nervousness, anxiety or fear,
You can even practice speaking into a recorder, in front of a mirror, or to your dog!
So when you next receive the call for an interview, remember the iceberg metaphor. At least 80% of your interview success is “hidden” but your prior preparation will show up on the day.
To find out more visit http://executivecareermove.com.au/
Dr Edward Gifford
Master of Education (M.Ed.)
Master of Arts (M.A.)
Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)
Diploma in Education (Dip.Ed.)
Diploma of Management
Cert. IV Training and Assessment
Cert. IV Coaching for Life and Business
Advanced certification in ACT
About the Author
Edward is a professionally trained coach specialising in executive, leadership and careers coaching, as well as workplace and personal coaching. He is also a business adviser and mentor. Edward’s consulting services focus on leadership coaching, executive career transition and management, strategic thinking, team building, workplace engagement and work-life integration. He is an approved business skills mentor and coach for Queensland Government. Edward has been coaching full time since 2001 and has over 3000 hours of personal, executive, careers and workplace coaching experience. Edward has also developed a comprehensive and very successful outplacement and career transition program for executives and senior professionals.