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Candidate Preparation for a First Stage Interview

When preparing for your first interview it is essential that the recruiter you are working with acts as your trusted advisor, ensuring that you are fully prepared for the task ahead. The importance of a first stage face to face meeting with a prospective employer should not be taken lightly, and therefore working with a professional recruiter who can guide you through the process seamlessly is of the upmost importance and integral to the potential success of you securing your ideal job.

The following steps are very much an initial guideline to help assist you, but it is equally important to understand there is no real tried and trusted methodology to the "ideal interview", there may be other variables that are outside of your control. Thorough preparation however, is the key to limiting these variables and ensuring that you are perceived by the interviewer as a candidate who brings a high value proposition to their business.

In essence there are the "core basics" that from an interviewer’s perspective are seen as mandatory, although somewhat surprisingly candidates can still forget the following:
  • Attendance - arriving on time (preferably 10 minutes early)
  • Bringing clean copies of a resume
  • Noting or memorizing key questions that are relevant to the role in question, and of course the company
  • Dressing accordingly

In addition other factors that are taken into strong consideration by the interviewer are:
  • Body language
  • Strong eye contact
  • Being engaging
  • Firm handshake
  • Politeness
The above is clearly non-exhaustive and the suggestions below should also be taken into consideration and, when relevant, acted upon accordingly. Remember the ultimate goal is to stand out from your competition, and to do this you need to ensure you go the ‘extra mile’ by doing the following:


Researching the company
An integral part of the interview process, and it is important you can show due diligence on the company, and the competitive landscape of which they are operating within. Great ways of researching the company are familiarizing yourself’ with the company website. Secondly accessing websites such as:

www.hoovers.com
www.cbronline.com
www.wikipedia.com

each of which have excellent information on most, if not all companies across the technology and telecoms arena, detailing accurate information from a company’s history, leadership team, product or service offering, and in some cases the key financials and market intelligence on major competitors.

By quite easily researching a company and gathering market intelligence, you are covering possible questions when asked what know about the company.

Great research shows great enthusiasm and initiative, and in many respects should be seen as a unique selling point to an employer particularly when you are trying to stand out from the crowd.


Being prepared to talk about your background
There are two main types of interview styles: the resume style and the behavioural style. Some interviewers tend to go with the resume style i.e. "Tell me what you did at 'ABC' and then why did you move to 'XYZ' - Usually these would be questions around the work you have done as outlined in your resume. The behavioural style is more of "Tell me about a time when..." or "What would you do if"

In talking about your background, whether you have had 3 jobs in 20 years or 6 jobs in 20 years, employers will want to know your thought process from moving from one company to another. The key thing here is to remember not to be negative towards your current or past employers and give positive reasons for making those decisions i.e. "I was not actively looking for a new role, but was approached with a role that offered me the chance of career advancement with added responsibilities"

In some cases there may be "red flags" on your CV that the interviewer may bring up. Possible "red flags" could be consistent job movement, currently unemployed, size of company, need for relocation etc...Therefore try to anticipate any objections and be prepared to talk about them with confidence.


Being prepared to ask questions
An interview is an opportunity for a 2-way Q&A, therefore preparing questions beforehand is of critical importance. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the role and company, but also display to the interviewer your interest. The common map for an interview is split into 2 parts firstly for the interviewer to ask questions, and finally for you to ask questions to the interviewer. Never should this be the other way around.

When asking questions to the interviewer I would encourage that the following areas are covered:
  • Team & Management – i.e. How would you describe your management style? Could you give me an understanding of how the business is structured? Could you tell me more about some of the other team members I would be working with?
  • The Job – i.e. What are the key objectives to you in this position? What are the intangibles (soft skills) you are looking for? What kind of training programmes do you implement for new intakes? What are the expectations in year one (broken down into the initial 3,6 or 9 months)? Could you tell me about the most successful person that performs this job? What is it that makes them successful in this role? How would you describe a successful first year?
  • Career Path & Company Future – It is important not to dwell on this as you do not want to detract from the position you are actually interviewing for, nor give the impression that you are looking beyond the role. However we all expect advancement at some point!  i.e. If I am performing effectively well within this role, what could be possible in 3 or 5 years from now?


Handling Money Related Questions
It is not uncommon for interviewers to ask how much you are earning at a first stage interview. Therefore it is essential your numbers are in line with what was originally stated upon your initial application. In addition another common question may be “What are your salary expectations?” This can be a particularly hard question to answer as you may be potentially selling yourself in too high or possibly low. The best possible way to answer this question is to clarify that money will not be a sole motivator to move or take on a new role, it’s a combination of factors – the company, the culture, the role, responsibilities etc...


Closing your Interview
The final recommendation is that you close the interview properly. In many cases, candidates interview very well, but fail to close the meeting. As the meeting gets near to the finish line an interviewer may ask you if you have any further questions – Your steps should be:
  • “No, I think I have asked all of my questions, I want to thank you for your time”
  • “Before I go, do you have any questions, concerns or reservations that we haven’t talked about yet (try to eradicate any concerns)
  • “Did I articulate clearly about my background and what I was responsible for in my previous/current role(s) to you? (second attempt to eradicate any possible concerns)
  • “Based on what we’ve discussed, how do you think I could fit in with the team? (try to gain an understanding if there are any buying signals)
  • “Based on what we’ve talked about today I do feel that this is a genuinely exciting opportunity and I would be keen to move forward in the process, if the feeling is reciprocated, could you advise me on what the next steps may be?”

Quite naturally interviews can be perceived as daunting, but realistically why should they be? Providing you take the steps of preparing yourself accordingly from researching a company, showing the ability to talk in confidence about your background and achievements, ask great questions and finally, closing out your interview in a professional manner, the whole “interview” scenario becomes less daunting and incredibly more valuable.