Killer Interview Techniques – Part 1

  • Emma Cartmell
  • 15th March 2017

It’s all about the preparation!

Last month I covered the art of CV writing.   I hope you found my approach to this important subject useful, especially the CV Building-Block exercise, but to refresh your memory, or to review the subject -matter of CV Writing, please click this link.

Over the next couple of weeks I will cover and focus on,   Interview Techniques and how to get through an interview successfully and come out of the other side.  Some of you may be lucky enough to enjoy interviews and breeze through them, others however,  will find them a stomach-churning experience.  I hope you will  find my approach and advice useful for your next interview and over the course of my blog,  I will impart to you  some of my,  ‘Killer Interview Techniques,’  which will  enable you to be  fully armed and confident when faced with your next interview.

Preparing for the interview

I may be on my own here (I often am) , but the one thing I miss about being employed is going to interviews – believe it or not I used to love them!  How often do you get to talk about yourself for an hour – only to be interrupted by more questions?  I  find interviews  immensely challenging;  over the years I have experienced  some great interviews  and also  some terrible ones. Hopefully you will find my experience and lessons learnt  will prove  helpful and informative.

Let us examine  the basics of  what to do first when preparing you for a killer interview!

The Basics

  • Research the company 

Hopefully right now you are thinking,  “Well yes, who wouldn’t?”  but you would  be surprised at how many people attend an interview ill- prepared.

Research goes beyond knowing what the company does to make its money.  Try to find out more about its culture; who its stakeholders are; what kind of events they organise; who their clients are and what your job might therefore entail?  The list is of course endless, but these suggestions provide an opportunity for you to do more research.

  • Go beyond their website 

The easiest way to do your research is by visiting the company website.  You can go a step further however, by looking at news items, blogs, magazine articles where the company are mentioned and the easiest way to do this is to set up a Google Alert with the company name.

Once you have your Google Company Alert set up, you will receive information about the company you are researching every time they are mentioned online. This will give detailed information that you can use to formulate questions with, or throughout the duration, of the interview when the opportunity comes up for discussion.

  • Research culture and dress code 

When you are researching the company’s culture, also try to find about what they are expecting from you? Are they the  fun and easy-going type of company, or more formal and conservative? For example, it may be that the company have a ’Dress Down Friday’ culture,  however, if your interview falls on a Friday always dress professionally.

  • Do a practice run of the route and parking

This is great for anyone who might be nervous before an interview.  By knowing exactly how long it will take you to get where you are going, where to park, or where the train station is, how to find the entrance, alternative parking  should it be necessary? All of these measures to familiarise yourself with your interview surroundings will give you confidence on the day and one thing less to worry about.  All you need then is to add some extra time on for travel and you should arrive as fresh as a daisy, rather than stressed and bedraggled!

  • Be on time

Even better – arrive early!  This not only shows great professionalism, but also allows you time for contingencies, such as using the bathroom when you arrive and before the actual interview.

  • Prepare your pitch

Could you tell me in 30 seconds why you are perfect for the job?  You might know in your mind what makes you stand out from the crowd, but perfectly crafting your pitch to answer that question, ‘So tell us about yourself?’ takes practice. In my experience, this question nearly ALWAYS comes up! SO be prepared as you can also use your ‘pitch’ at the end of the interview as a postscript.  Your ‘pitch’ could be an expanded version of the Personal  Statement on your CV, tailored to the actual role   the employer is looking for with that vacancy.

  • Don’t expect your interviewer to be good at interviewing

I recall an interview in my early 20’s where two people interviewed me.  The setting was rather awkward, as we were crammed into a small room (it was an internal interview for a promotion) and the seating was not  great.  I had one interviewer to my right and one to my left, so I could not  address one of them without turning my back on the other!  Not ideal.  The questions (in my mind!) were not great either, so I had a real struggle to tell them why I should get the job and  what I could contribute.   Awkward situations like that illustrate why it is so  important to have your pitch ready, because if all else fails you have a cracking 30 second statement to tell people why they should hire you.  Thankfully I got the job,  but it did not  come easily.

  • Don’t trip yourself up!

I speak from bitter personal experience here too.  Probably in my mid 20’s I applied for a job and I included a statement in my covering letter that I thought looked fantastic.  It read: ‘I would welcome the opportunity of an interview to further demonstrate how I could add value to your department and become a valuable part of your team’.

Again, it was an internal interview for another promotion (I did not get this one and this might be why!)  This time I was with an expert interviewer, who later became a very good friend, but as I sat down for my interview, the first thing he said was,

 So, Emma, tell me, how exactly´ could you add value to my department and become a valuable part of my team?’

Suffice to say I didn’t really know enough about his department, what was expected of me, or how I could add value. He did not even give me time to ‘settle in’ to the interview.  Oh, how we can laugh about it now (almost 15 years on), but at the time all I could do was cringe as I tried miserably to answer the question.

In next week’s blog I will cover interview questions which typically occur in the events industry.

Chief Executive Officer

Emma Cartmell