You’ve tweaked your CV, wrote a polite covering letter and submitted your application to the hiring manager. A few days later, you get a call inviting you to an interview.
The fact you have an interview is a positive sign in the first place. Just from the look of your CV, the hiring manager has determined that you have the right skillset and experience to succeed in the role. The interview is the next step – building rapport. We share our top tips to head into the interview with confidence.
Research, research, research
You should have a rough idea of the job description from adverts online, but make sure you know it inside-out. You need to show that you not only understand the role, but also understand what it takes to thrive in the role. A hiring manager is looking for someone talented – someone who can not only do the job, but actually perform above expectations of the role.
So that’s the role, but what about the company? You should also commit a few hours to researching the business and its operations. Firstly, have a good understanding of their sector – how do they operate, who’s their competitors and where do they fit into the market – are they the leader, established player or a challenger to the status quo. The company’s market position is likely to affect the personality and cultural fit for the role – a challenger business will want fresh, new ideas, whereas the market leader will want to see previous experience and hire proven talent.
You should also do a little bit of research on the interviewers, team bosses and leadership. Have a look at their background, where did they come from, how have they acquire their experience? You might also find a talking point that will really help smooth the interview process for both parties. An interview can be nervous for both candidate and interview (though less-so for the latter), having that common talking point would be highly advantageous. Perhaps you worked at the same employer; you attended the same events; or share a common interest – if you can relate it back to the industry (like the first two options), then it is a great starting point for the interview.
Preparations for the day
An interview is a major meeting, so treat it as such. Don’t attempt to ‘wing it’ as the hiring manager will see through this instantly. Rather, make all the necessary plans and preparations the day before if possible.
Firstly, consolidate your research into notes to revise during spare time on the day – whether that’s while travelling or waiting to meet the interviewer. Make sure you know where you’re going too – we’ve heard horror stories of candidates googling the company name, only to arrive at an office of the same name, but completely different industry. Know the address, check for any disruptions on your travels and plan accordingly.
Have your outfit picked out the day before too. There’s nothing worse than having to plan your wardrobe on the day. Look at the company’s team or career pages in the days before the interview and gauge how formal the team dresses. Always side with caution and go more formal than strictly necessary. And no trainers!
Get a good night’s sleep and always try to arrive near your destination early. If that means popping into a coffee shop to pass time, its also an ideal time to run through your notes you prepared earlier. As for when you should turn up at the office, we would recommend arriving between 5 – 10 minutes before the scheduled interview. In the unlikely event you’ll be late, call the hiring manager, apologise and give an indication of when you will arrive.
Whether the interview is HR or your potential line manager, you should aim to build rapport with them in the meeting. There’s nothing worse than an interview with bog standard questions that becomes stale and dull quite quickly. Instead, by building rapport with the interview, you’re far more likely to stand out with a positive opinion from other candidates.
Rapport is also an indication if you would fit well into the team. The best candidate matching all the skills and experience might not have the right personality to fit in with the rest of the team. Personality fit is a crucial aspect that managers have to look at and ensure their teams function as productively as possible.
Look to build that rapport by approaching the interview as a meeting rather than an interrogation. Sure, you’ll still need to answer questions, but throw questions back to make the interview more conversational.
Every interviewer should offer you an opportunity to ask questions – whether during the interview or at the end. Use those opportunities to learn about the role further, but avoid closed questions that only need a yes/no answer. Invite the interviewer to express their own opinion on the future of the role, business and industry – they’re in the company already, so they have a good idea of where it’s heading. Naturally, do take things with a pinch of salt; they are still looking to recruit you. Some questions you could ask:
- Why has the role become available?
- How do they see the role changing?
- How do they see the industry changing?
Acknowledge your weaknesses
While you want to focus on all your positive aspects such as skills and experience, don’t hesitate to mention any weaknesses. Hiring managers often ask candidates what they think their weaknesses are, so have a think about areas you want to improve.
Even if one of your weaknesses is something that the interviewer is looking for in a candidate, acknowledging a weakness shows great strength, but also commitment that you know where you need to improve. Plus, a job description often describes the perfect candidate and it’s highly unlikely that they’ll find someone who ticks every single box. Truthfully mentioning a weakness in your interview means the company could tailor learning and training to improve that aspect. Plus, it builds trust and rapport between you and the interviewer.