‘Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success’.
This Henry Ford quote emphasises the importance of preparation, something we all know is important before an interview, but what does it actually mean and how can we ensure we’re ready to handle the unexpected?
Clive Lister has interviewed numerous Armed Forces Officers for 12 years and works with high profile clients placing senior executives. He discusses the three fundamental parts in the process – interview, prep, the interview itself and post-interview learning, with our CIPD-qualified career consultant Fiona Jackson.
Clive says: “You don’t need to churn out endless information in an interview but knowing hardcore facts and figures about the organisation is a good idea.”
So much information is readily available online about organisations, including their market and competitors.
Unusual questions do crop up so be prepared for anything! Fiona says that one of her clients was asked what the current share price of the organisation was and he hadn’t researched that particular area.
Clive adds: “Any organisation will want to know – ‘does this person really have the motivation to want to join us?'”
Practice is preparation
It’s absolutely vital you don’t go in ‘cold’. Sit in front of the mirror and deliver the first five minutes of your dialogue. It sounds obvious but it does settle you down.
What matters most in an interview?
In our webinar poll, 61% of you rated communication ability as the most important factor in an interview. 21% voted for ‘personality and appearance’ while 0% voted for ‘your military experience’.
Clive says: “There may be a preconception that an interview’s only designed to test your communication skills but there’s always more behind it.”
Fiona backs this up with: “For me, when interviewing, the most important question has always been ‘can the person do the job?'”
She adds: “Although none of you think your military experience would count, this would depend on the job you’re going for. For example, if you’re going for a job in logistics and you were in the Royal Logistics Corps, your military experience may be directly relevant.”
How are your skills useful in another world? Whether someone is a ‘good planner’ or ‘well organised’, these skills are just as important, whether you’re in Afghanistan or in the MOD main building.”
Clive points out: “Even if you don’t have commercial experience, it’s the desire you have to learn and how that comes across that is important.” He adds: “If it was an absolute, they wouldn’t be seeing you.”
Dress smartly but make sure it’s appropriate attire for the organisation. Fiona says: “If you’re seeing a hi-tech, trendy company in Shoreditch, perhaps leave the pin-stripe suit and regimental cufflinks and tie behind! However, always go smartly rather than casually. Research the culture of the organisation and reflect it.”
Take your time with difficult questions
Prepare for any obvious omissions you have for the job, such as qualifications, but let your interviewers know you’re prepared to learn. Don’t be afraid to acknowledge you don’t have particular experience.
Reacting Positively to Feedback
Its important to ‘never go away thinking you weren’t good enough.’ Clive says: “It’s likely you just weren’t right for that role.”
Take note of the difference between ‘style’ and ‘substance’ too. For example, substance is normally linked to a factor that’s out of your hands. It could refer to a candidate having seven years’ experience over another’s three.
In contrast, style can normally be worked on. Clive says: “If you receive feedback that you were fidgety and nervous, or ‘rattled through a presentation’, these are points that are worth listening to and learning from.