Part three interview answers: be prepared

Written by
Changeboard Team

12 Mar 2012

12 Mar 2012 • by Changeboard Team

Researching the organisation/department

There are several very good reasons for researching the organisation you are seeking to join:

• So that you know exactly what you are getting in to.
• So that you can ask sensible questions at the end of the interview.
• So that you can anticipate some of the questions you may be asked.

• So that you can show you are interested in their organisation, motivated to join them and that you have been proactive in investigating their requirements.

It’s worth emphasising that in today’s highly competitive job market, most organisations will expect you to have done this research before you arrive for your interview and will be disappointed if it becomes clear that you haven’t.

Where to find information

Company web site
Most large organisations provide a wealth of information on-line. Typical web site headings include:

• About us
• Careers
• Publications

Even small businesses will have web sites that include a lot of relevant information to the job seeker.

Other web sites
Gaining an external perspective of the organisation is also worthwhile. Company websites are designed to sell the company, but websites such as Wikipedia, market intelligence websites, newspaper sites, consumer sites and profession/trade sites can all give you very useful and different perspectives.

Newspapers and magazines
These can provide information about the broader industry that you are interested in as well as market trends and share price. Consider looking at The Economist, The Grocer (retail), Oil and Gas (energy sector), Accountancy Today (business consulting), to name but a few.

The organisation itself
The organisation itself can provide you with some essential information. You can try to discover the following:

• What competencies or criteria are they interviewing you against? 
• Is there anybody you can talk too about the role, e.g. a current job holder?

You might know somebody who already works there. An informal conversation with an insider can tell you a lot about the organisation that you will be not be able to learn from their website. Alternatively explore any contacts you have with suppliers to your target organisation or even their competitors.

Researching the interview itself

You should aim to find out about:

• The timing of the interview – how long will it last? This will give you a sense of how expansive you can afford to be with your answers.
• The interview format. Will it be a structured competency based interview? What, if any, other components will there be? For example, will there be any psychometric tests or a  CV/biographical interview. If you are anticipating having to sit a psychometric test then you can prepare yourself by reading “You’re Hired! Psychometric Tests: Proven tactics to help you pass”.

• Who and how many people will interview you?
• Details of venue - the last thing you need is to panic about finding the right location.

Most of this information should accompany your invitation, but if it doesn’t, then ask.

Know your CV and work history

Be prepared to be quizzed in depth on this. You will be expected to give reasons for your career moves and any employment gaps evident in your CV. As part of your preparation, go through your CV and ask yourself the same questions about each job role:

• What do I consider were my main successes in that role/situation?
• What helped or hindered me?
• What were the key skills/knowledge I brought to the situation?
• What did I learn?

Researching yourself: know your assets and risks

The final element of your preparation is an objective self evaluation of your assets/risks in relation to both the interview situation and the job.

So, how well do you know yourself? What do your friends / family / colleagues say about you behind your back? Probably the only way you are going to find out is by asking them.

Your impact at interview

Ask yourself/others:
• How confident do I sound when I am talking about myself?
• Are there any mannerisms or verbal ‘ticks’ I need to be aware of?
• How formal or how open and friendly do I appear – particularly in the pressure of the interview situation?

Assets and risks in terms of the job
Your research into the competencies needed for the role comes into its own here. Again, we suggest you use the task, thought, people framework described in the previous article as a way of checking – in broad terms – how your experience, skills, competencies and personal attributes map on to the organisations requirements. So ask yourself:

• What aspect of the TASK, THOUGHT, PEOPLE areas is likely to come across as strongest from my experience? You should shape your preparation to ensure that you are able to call up examples of your weakest area. The risk otherwise is that you will find yourself less able to tackle questions based in one or more of these domains.

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Next week, we’ll look at how to conduct yourself in the interview itself.  For more information on this topic, why not read the full chapter in “You’re Hired! Interview Answers: Impressive Answers to Tough Questions” available for purchase from the Trotman Publishing website. Remember to use the discount code ‘change’ at the checkout to secure an exclusive 25% discount off your order*.

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