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Preparing for interviews

By Guy Stacey | 7th April 2015

Preparing for interviews

Thank you to those who responded to last week’s post on Visa’s and the Global Fight for Talent. This week I wanted to provide some practical advice relevant to those interviewing for a new role. One of the great frustrations of my job is watching candidates fail an interview process for a role I know is ideal for both sides. So I thought it might be useful if I highlighted the main reasons I have seen interviews go wrong.

I should say that I am assuming that being well presented and turning up on time are fundamental points that everyone would be aware of! I should also say that there is probably an almost infinite list of points, but I have tried to focus it down to the top ten:

  1. Preparation - You should have researched the business, their results, their competition, who you are meeting and the job description. You should go back through your career and consider examples that demonstrate your suitability for the role. Also consider how you would deal with, “what are your strengths and weaknesses?”
  2. Real life examples - No interviewer wants to hear a hypothetical answer. They want to hear what you have done, in a real situation which has led to a positive result.
  3. Be Concise - This is a major reason for interview failure. Always listen carefully to the question, and then answer the point directly without waffling or progressing on to related points.
  4. “I” rather than “we” - Most people work in teams, so it is only natural that they refer to examples that involved working with others. It is important to demonstrate that you are comfortable working with others, but if you refer to “we” all of the time the interviewer will have no way of understanding what your contribution was and what your abilities are.
  5. Enthusiasm - You could answer every question perfectly on paper, however if you leave an impression of indifference then you will not pass the interview. Through your tone of voice, body language and your explanation of why you want the job, you should appear enthusiastic about the job. Many people have overcome gaps in their experience to go on and get the job purely by demonstrating their enthusiasm for the role.
  6. Body language - This may seem simplistic, but a firm handshake, eye contact and a smile genuinely do make a substantial difference. Never sit through an interview with arms crossed or avoiding eye contact.
  7. Motivations - All of the career decisions you have made should make sense. In other words most interviewers want to know that you think through your decisions, and that if you accept a role with them you will be committed to that decision. So you should be very clear on why you want to join the business in question. Any gaps in your CV should be credibly explained.
  8. Don’t make excuses - Almost everyone makes a mistake at some point, either a failed exam, a bad job move, or a personal situation that leads to an illogical career move. This will almost always be addressed at interview; if you try to cover it up or make excuses for the mistake then you will come across as defensive or even dishonest. Admitting to a mistake or a bad decision and demonstrating you have learnt from it is a strength.
  9. Ambitions - Most interviewers are not only considering the role you are applying for but also future positions in the business. It is almost always a good idea to demonstrate ambition. However the two mistakes often made are firstly, being so ambitious that you come across as having no interest in the role you are actually applying for; and secondly your ambitions not being a logical follow on from the role you are currently interviewing for.
  10. Always assume the worst - If I could leave you with one piece of advice it would be this. Assume the interview will be the most probing, intimidating and complex that it can be. If you prepare for this then you are giving yourself the best chance of passing.

I should emphasise that this list is by no means definitive, but I am confident that the majority of interviews fail for one of the above reasons, so however experienced you are I hope that the above is of use at some point in your future. Best of luck for your next interview.