A guide to help you improve your chances of a successful interview
Interviews can be nerve wracking, and they aren’t an everyday activity. Remembering what you do in your role day to day can be more challenging than you think when put on the spot, so preparing well is important. In fact, the number one reason people are rejected at interview stage is for reasons relating to being under prepared!
This guide will cover:
- Step 1 – Research
- Step 2 – JD & CV comparison
- Step 3 - Preparing for a competency based interview
- Step 4 – Tests and presentations
- Step 5 – Questions you can ask
- Step 6 – Tips on managing nerves
Step 1 – Research
- Research your interviewers – check out their LinkedIn profiles, it’ll give you some insight into their remit and their background.
- Check your journey – make sure you know where you’re going and how you’re getting there and plan your leaving time, leaving room for error – being late for an interview is unprofessional and will make you more nervous and stressed before it starts.
- Research the company – visit their website, read the ‘About Us’, ‘Careers’ and recent news pages in detail until you become familiar with them (also google recent news stories). If the business sells a product or is a retailer, try and get out and see them in real life in store.
- Try and find out what type of interview it’s going to be and how you should prepare. Ask your recruiter or whoever has contacted you to arrange the interview for this information.
- Dress code – find out what it is before you go, you don’t want to over/under-dress for an interview as it’ll make you more nervous, so it’s best to ask.
- Ask if you need to bring anything to your interview – some people like you to bring a CV or sometimes security gates will need your ID, so it’s best to ask just in case.
Step 2 – JD & CV comparison
- Read your CV and make sure you know exactly what is on there! You are likely to be asked questions relating to your achievements and responsibilities.
- Start to think about your day-to-day responsibilities in each role, your achievements, things you are proud of, projects you’ve worked on etc. This will bring these things to the forefront of your memory, helping you to recall them on demand.
- Read the JD in detail. From this, you can compare your CV and experience to the job description. You should try and think of tangible examples of where your experience matches the job description i.e. if the JD says “responsible for a 3PL tender process” and you have done this, go through the process you went through, steps you took, what went well, what the outcome was. Again, to bring this information to the forefront of your memory.
- If you don’t have experience of any of the responsibilities, don’t panic! Instead, think of transferable skills you have or similar projects you’ve worked on.
Step 3 – Preparing for a competency-based interview
A competency-based interview will ask for specific examples of your experience or will challenge you to consider how you would approach a task. This may seem simple, but if you’re not prepared (and the interview has made you slightly nervous) you are likely to get a blank mind!
To start, you want to think of some examples of the following things:
- Your greatest achievement
- Projects you’ve worked on
- Changes you’ve implemented
- Processes you’ve implemented
- Management successes
- Challenges you’ve overcome
- Things about yourself you’ve improved
- Cost savings you’ve made
Next, you want to use a structure to put these examples together. We recommend using the STAR technique:
- S = situation – give a short overview of the background of the situation you were in
- T = task – give an overview of your task within the situation. What did you have to achieve?
- A = action – talk through what you did within this situation. The interviewer will be looking for information about you and what you did and why, so remember to talk about yourself in the first person
- R = result – what was the outcome of your actions relating to this task? Use tangible, measurable results to give this part of the answer.
Your answer should take around a few minutes to give, so it’s not too long but also isn’t too short. Quite often in competency-based interviews, the feedback is that someone didn’t give enough depth, so make sure you follow this process to give a thorough yet succinct overview. Also, it may feel silly, but practise this out loud if you can.
Step 4 – Tests or presentations
Verbal, numerical and logical reasoning tests are increasingly common at interviews and can in some cases be a pass/fail consideration in the recruitment process. Below is some advice to help you out:
Practise is essential! Most of us haven’t done a test since school so we see a dramatic difference in pass rates between candidates who practise and take tests seriously and those who dive straight in
Remember to do tests in a quiet location where you won’t be disturbed. Most tests are timed, and you can’t start and stop them
Work methodically through questions, again most are timed so figure out how much time you have per question and try and stick to that
Accuracy is often measured, so if you don’t know an answer, or you are running out of time, it wont necessarily benefit you just to guess!
Here are some helpful links to practise tests:
Presentations are often used in recruitment processes, so here are some top tips:
- Read the question and review all data given, you need to make sure you answer the topic fully and that you don’t fail to use any helpful info you’ve been given
- Find out HOW you should present your presentation at interview – can you email it beforehand? Should you bring a laptop or a USB? Should you print it?
- Get someone to review your presentation for you – spelling mistakes, incorrect numbers, misplaced animations or general issues with the look of the presentation can work against you
- Don’t create slides full of text! Use words, images and graphics on a slide and have notes to talk around them
- If you have relevant experience in tackling something you are presenting on, don’t forget to use the opportunity to sell your skills for the role
- Practise presenting before you go – make sure your presentation takes as long as you have been given, try not to be short of time and don’t go over time
Step 5 – Asking questions
During your interview you will get an opportunity to ask questions, so you should have some prepared. Rather than asking the basics (salary range, benefits, working hours etc.) you can use this opportunity to ask some great questions that will help you learn more about the company and the opportunity.
Great questions will be about the culture, the people, management, processes and things they want to improve, here are some examples:
- If I was hired into this role, what would success look like in my first 6-12 months?
- Why did you join the business?
- What are your current challenges as a (supply chain/marketing/finance/logistics etc.) division? (make this relevant to the role of course!)
- If you could make one major improvement to your business, what would it be?
- What characteristics make someone a good cultural fit to the business?
- What are your company (or team) goals for the next 12 months?
Step 6 - Managing nerves
Getting nervous about an interview is totally normal, so don’t worry too much! Most people get nervous and in some cases, can help you perform better. However, here are some top tips for overcoming nerves so you don’t lose focus:
- Make sure you are prepared – the more prepared you are the better you will feel about the interview
- Prep in plenty of time for the interview – finish prepping the night before and don’t do anything more on the day of the interview or leave it all to the last minute
- Arrive on time – running late or rushing will only make you more nervous. Arrive early so you can have some time to collect your thoughts in a nearby coffee shop or in the carpark!
- Make small talk – when you’re collected from reception, you’ll have the time to chat with your interviewer, this is a great time to break the ice and warm you up for your interview
- Waffling – often happens when you’re nervous! Do not fear silence in interviews, if you need a second to think, do that, don’t speak to think. Also, if you find you’ve been waffling on for a while just stop and say, “so to answer your question” and wrap up your answer
- Mind blank – again, this will happen when you’re nervous. But don’t panic! Pause and take a breath to gather your thoughts or ask for clarification on a question if you don’t fully understand it.
That’s it – best of luck with your interview!