How to prepare for an interview

Over the years, we must have literally interviewed tens of thousands of people at Red Executive. The roles have varied and the key components of a matching candidate have changed depending on the client and the specific role. When we have been recruiting on behalf of a client, we 100% endorse a quick meeting to go over the company and the role relatively quickly. This allows both parties to understand if the opportunity is right for the candidate. Ultimately, we are matching the candidate in a pretty basic manner. When this has been clarified, we provide more detailed information to the candidate and schedule a second, more in-depth meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to gauge the ‘real’ interest of the candidate as well as overall suitability. Via various methods, honed over many years, we can understand if the individual is enthused by the opportunity. Of course, this is partly down to how the role is presented, and we are specialists in engaging passive candidates, yet, if you cannot get that individual excited, there is no point in them being included on the shortlist.

This is similar when I am personally recruiting for Red Executive, although I provide the information to candidates before the first meeting. The purpose of this meeting is to see how enthusiastic they are about the opportunity and the prospect of working with our business.

Nevertheless, time after time, we find people who claim to want work with our client or our own business, but simply cannot demonstrate what is required to convince us they would bring the necessary drive and enthusiasm to be successful in the role.

How can candidates do this better?

  • Investigation: make sure you have done your preparatory work via the information provided and moreover, go beyond the call of duty and do your own research. Consider the prospective employer and what makes them unique and how you can help them achieve their goals as a business. What would you do in the short, mid and long term to bring value to the role and the organization? What is the reason for the role within the business and how will you create value? Who are their competitors and how does their offering differ? What is the culture of the business both internally and externally? What are the limitations of the business and how would you overcome these elements? What are your limitations and how would you overcome these in order to be successful regardless?
  • Interview Preparation: more and more, organizations are using Competency Based Interview Questions. It has been around for a while yet, you would be amazed the volume of people who don’t consider what is required by a question that is based on a previous scenario you have experienced. When asked such a question, you should structure your answer in the following way: STAR.
  • Situation: set the context for the story. The problem.
  • Task: what was required of you? Your strategy.
  • Activity: what did you actually do? The implementation.
  • Result: how the situation played out. The consequent upside or downside.

If you can ensure you answer in such a structure, your answer will have all the necessary criteria looked for by the interviewer. However, to gain top marks, ensure your answers match the key components of the company culture, which should be easily decipherable from your initial investigation.

  • Questions – Many times at the end of an interview, I give the opportunity for the interviewee to ask questions. For the record, a perfect interview will not have this element as all the questions will have been asked during a perfectly natural conversation. Nonetheless, sometimes it is required and if you don’t have any prepared questions, for me, this is a clear sign; you are not motivated by the role. If you feel yourself saying everything has been covered, stop yourself and think long and hard about what is important for you in this role. Please find below some excellent examples I have been asked over the years:
  • What’s your biggest mistake in business and what did you learn as a consequence?
  • What’s your biggest commercial issue in your business currently and how do you plan to overcome this?
  • What issues do you believe I would have in achieving my goals in this role and how would you help me overcome these?
  • What would your expectations of me be in this role and how does it compare to people doing a similar role in the business?

As you can see, they are all incredibly insightful questions, highlighting your eagerness to be successful in the new role. Moreover, it will give you some much needed insight into the business where you could be an employee. Remember, recruitment is a two way street and you have to be comfortable with the prospective business.

As you can see, you have to prepare for interview. If you don’t do all of the above, chances are slim you will be taken to the next stage. If you really are enthused by the opportunity, take the time to get under the skin of the role and the company and match yourself to those elements. Good luck.

Still want to learn more? Check out our other blog posts on interview advice

This was written by Martin Collins, the Founder & MD of Red Executive

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