We have always found that those individuals who conduct quality research before going into an interview are better equipped to deal with the interviewer's questions and as a result tend to perform better. No matter what you're going for, be it a part time job at your local retail bank, or a high-flying hedge fund job, we suggest you never go in "blind" to an interview, and recommend that you are well versed on the company you are going to see.
The more you know about a potential employer, the better. This in turn demonstrates your interest in the company & ultimately will help make a positive impression on the interviewer. Know who their main competitors are, their market share, and specialist products, mission statement, goals, intentions, and history.
Thorough research into a company will also help you decide whether their corporate profile is right for you.
- For research materials we suggest:
- » Company Website
- » Reading trade publications
- » Newspapers & Web based news portals
- » Annual Accounts & Company Brochures
Interviews will vary in content from one interviewer to the next, but expect to answer the following questions relating to the company:
- » How long has the company been in business?
- » What is the company's target market?
- » What is the company's market reputation?
- » What are the company's performance figures?
- » Is it stable & profitable?
- » What are the company's key products?
It may sound like a clichťÖ but you never get a second chance at a first impression. They have the potential to make or break an interview before it's even started. So it's vitally important we look at even the most basic of issues raised in our experience as recruiters.
We hate to nit-pick, but you can't ignore smell, hygiene, haircut and professionalism when attending an interview with a prospective employer. Good personal hygiene is an absolute must!
- » Hair should be neat and trimmed. Style your hair so it won't fall into your face if that is a problem
- » Nails should be trimmed & well presented. For the ladies we suggest that you avoid fingernail designs and bright- or odd-coloured polish. Clear or no nail polish is best.
- » Cologne and perfume are nice, but should be kept to a minimum. Preferably none.
- » Do not smoke before the interviewÖ you may not be able to smell it but others will!
Interview Dress Code
It may seem like a simple notion "business meetings require business dress" but all too often we hear of people making the wrong impression through dress sense! So here's what we recommend:
For the men:
- » A conservative colour suit in black, navy or grey. If wearing a pinstriped suit, ensure the stripes are subtle.
- » Suits should be well pressed & free from dust & other debris.
- » Shirts should be full sleeve & preferably cuffed.
- » Shirt colour should be restricted to either white or a light blue. If wearing a pinstripe shirt, again subtlety is the key. Bright colours or loud patterns are best avoidedÖ you can dress to your own style once you've landed the job!
- » Again, we suggest you ensure that the shirt you wear is well pressed.
- » Shirts should be accompanied by a simple tie in solid colours and plain cufflinks. We suggest you do not wear the cartoon tie you received for x-mas along with matching cufflinks!
- » Shoes should be formal shoes at all times. There is no room for smart casual footwear at anytime during the interview process.
- » Ensure shoes are clean, well polished and scuff free.
For the women:
- » A smart business suit is advised preferably in a conservative colour, ideally black, navy or grey with a long to medium length skirt or trousers.
- » Suits should be accompanied by a plain pastel coloured blouse, preferably full sleeved.
- » Shoes should be low heeled, conservative dress shoes that are plain in colour and closed toed.
- » We recommend that you wear hosiery to accompany your skirt, ideally in skin colour. Ensure there are no runs or snags as that will create a poor impression.
- » If your skirt or trouser has belt loops we recommend you wear one, ideally to match your shoes.
- » Avoid wearing jewellery and makeup that are showy or distracting. Make up should be used sparingly and avoid unusual or bright colours. If wearing earrings, wear small conservative ones. Wear only one per ear in the traditional earlobe position.
- » It's better to carry a briefcase or portfolio into an interview than a purse.
- » What can I expect in a typical day on the job?
- » Why are you hiring for this position / what happened to the previous incumbent of this role?
- » What are the prospects for advancing within the company?
- » Can you describe the ideal candidate for this job?
The Handshake & Opening Greeting
The first handshake and eye-contact along with the opening greeting is an essential part of that first impression of your interview. Handshakes should be firm but not forceful or bone crushing; made with solid eye-contact to the person you're meeting. We suggest that you practice with a partner & seek honest feedback on how to improve if necessary.
Greet the interviewer with confidence upon introduction & say "Hello", "Pleased to meet you", or whatever phrase you feel comfortable with. We also suggest you wait to be invited before taking a seat.
Pleasantries aside, we suggest getting right down to business with an interview. Keep the banter short & concise, enough for you both to settle into the interview without too much disruption. Usually the employer will have an introduction and a strict agenda of things they want to talk about, and may have other interviews to follow. Don't jeopardise your chances by wasting time.
Body Language - Be wary of what your body is saying!
Once the opening exchanges are out of the way you should be well into interview mode and at greater ease. Begin your interview with more effective body and spoken language.
Always ensure you are sitting upright, & do not interrupt when the interviewer is speaking. You should lean into the conversation, using simple, engaging hand gestures and nods. Keep eye-contact with your interviewers, and keep answers simple but fluent.
Try & make yourself as relaxed as possible, look interested in what the interviewer has to say. You should avoid certain actions such as crossing your arms, scratching or fumbling with your clothing, touching your face or hair. Simply clasping your hands in your lap usually works fine, if you need to avoid fidgeting. Remember, body language says a lot about a person.
Admitting to your weaknesses
Instead of talking yourself up, research suggests that admitting a weakness before being prompted adds support to interviewee candidates. By telling your interviewers that you need to work on technical skills or leadership, you are building a rapport beyond the general interview questions. Hopefully it will lead into a more memorable, off-the-agenda conversation.
Asking Questions at an interview
It's now time to turn the tables on the interviewerÖ
Employers are always impressed by well thought, intelligent answers. Now is your chance to make that impression stick with a set of equally well thought out questions.
Referring back to your previously researched information, you can throw some interesting questions at the company itself, which will make for good, unplanned discussion and a better interview. Ask yourself what you really want to know about the company, beyond the superficial, and use your well-known facts to bolster the questions. Good questions should be focused around the company, it's market share, products & services, future plans for growth etc.
Also make a point of asking questions based around the particular job in question, such as:
We advise that you do not ask questions relating to salary, bonuses & benefits etc. This will give the interviewer the impression of someone who is looking at financial gain above career development and the company. Leave this to your consultantÖ that is what we are here for!
Listening during the interview
We have all heard this before, but it still happens. It is vitally important that you do not talk over the interviewer. It gives off a negative impression and that of a person who simply does not listen.
Pace yourself, listen to what the interviewer has to say, and then take time to construct your answer carefully. If you do not listen, you may end up missing the point of the question and babbling on about an irrelevant subject.
Also be wary of your body language during this time. It is at this moment that you are likely to lapse due to your concentration on what the interviewer is asking. Take care to acknowledge what the interviewer is saying by occasionally nodding at the appropriate time.
Nearing the end - how to close the interview
You're almost done, but how do you ensure that you leave the interviewer with a positive impression to cement all the hard work up until now?
We often hear clients say they never felt closed towards they end of the interview, or that they felt the candidate didn't want it enough. Remember, the last impression is just as important as the first.
Let them know, you want the job. Tell them what you liked about the role, the company, and ask how they plan to move forward to the next stage. Let them know you're keen to pursue the opportunity and you would be open to attending a second interview at their discretion. If you don't say, they won't know!
You can discuss what to expect from your interview further with your dedicated consultant who will be willing to help you along each interview stage.