Winning at Interview

It’s what you know, not who
Annual reports, industry fora, trade associations, previous employers, product or services guides, look everywhere but the company website to find out what you can about the new organisation. Employers want innovative, curious executives who will go the extra mile and not simply look for the easiest solution. Find out from your recruiter or the internal contact, what problem does the company have by this role not being filled.

Win friends and influence
Dale Carnegie understood the power of positive engagement. Make a great first impression, establish a connection and be approachable. Be enthusiastic and interested in the people you meet, not just the company or its opportunity. Write down the interviewer(s) name(s) and use throughout the discussion. Take your time thinking about your answers to questions. Qualify as you would in any other business meeting if you are not precisely sure what is being asked. Use the interview to build lasting rapport, by learning about the people in the room.

Gather evidence
Many organisations have moved on from CV led interviews and use Behavioural or Competency Based interviews instead. These are structured questions that ask you to draw specifically from your own experience to demonstrate that you have a competency necessary to perform the role. Even without such a structure, having examples of contributions you have made, situations that you have controlled and value that you have added is essential for any interview. Prepare and curate these carefully so that you can draw on them as needed. Remember, everything perfect is bland. Sometimes in the face of being asked a question, it is more interesting to describe concisely how a bad situation turned good and the role you played in influencing that.

Understand the need
Use the interview to get a clear understanding of the role, the environment, organisation culture, growth opportunities and reporting lines. We all need to be happy in our work in order to perform well. If this is not the right role for you, better to find out now and not three months into it. So work out your own needs and what matters to you. Make sure you get a clear picture of the challenge the role presents and the opportunity in front of you when that challenge is met.

Know your audience
Smart candidates make their pitch by wearing the shoes of their interviewers. Through contacts, online networks, your point of contact at the hiring organisation or your recruiter, get to understand the backgrounds of your interviewers and what their stakehold in the meeting is. Don’t fall in to the trap of making assumptions, if you are unable to find out much before hand, carefully evaluate by asking the interviewers what is important to them. Pitch your “evidence” so that it considers the interests of all parties wherever possible. For HR it will be the people or change management pieces you have managed, operations leaders will want to see efficiency and results in your evidence, finance leaders will want to see you grasp effective resource and budget management, marketing and sales will want to see you demonstrate a sense of the commercial impact of your decisions.

It may seem obvious, but likeability is a big factor in an interviewers decision on whether to keep a candidate in process or even to hire. Connecting well at interview means making eye contact with all members of an interview panel throughout the event. People warm to you when you thoughtfully use their names in your answers to their questions. Look for opportunities to build relationships or common interests. Remember too, that how you say it, is as important as what you say. Be clear, be enthusiastic, be warm and be positive. Thank everyone for their time and follow up with an email repeating that. The impression every employer wants is that you are enthusiastic about their company, their job and that you would fit in their organisation.