Confirm the date and time of your interview and make sure you get directions if necessary. Check out the travel time either by road or public transport. Make sure you allow for the time of day. If necessary make a dummy run at the same time so that you are completely familiar with the route. Aim to arrive at least 15 minutes before the scheduled start time and then allow another 15 minutes just to be sure. There is nothing worse than arriving late for an interview!
Having sorted out the logistics now you need to start your research into the company or organisation. One of the first questions that interviewers often ask is "What do you know about us?" Have a good look at the company web site but also use a search engine to research as much background information as you can. Having this information will ensure that you can answer that question confidently and also give you the opportunity to ask some smart questions of your own. "I see you've recently opened a new call centre, what CRM package are you going to use?" sounds a lot better than "What time do you finish work on Fridays?"
Make sure you also research your interviewer(s). You may find a profile (or even a CV) on the company web site or try searching for the interviewer's name on the internet. It's important that you know as much as you can about your interviewer and their background as this will enable you to predict the types of questions they will ask and how you should pitch your responses. For example if your interviewer comes from an IT background similar to your own then you can expect a technical grilling but what if your interviewer comes from a finance background? Clearly you will need to pitch your responses at a different level.
Try to put yourself in the interviewer's shoes. If you were interviewing a candidate for this position what questions would you ask? Try to prepare strong responses to the most likely questions.
If you are working with a recruitment consultant ask them to provide you with a thorough briefing. They may have had candidates who have previously attended interviews with the same interviewer. What questions were they asked? If they were unsuccessful what was the feedback
Try to find out what the format of the interview will be. Will this be a formal/informal interview? Will there be just one interviewer or a panel? Might you be required to make a presentation? Should you take examples of your work? Will there be any kind of technical test?
Remember that interviewers (particularly from HR) often ask "Competency Questions". The theory behind competency based interviews is that past behaviour is often the best indicator of future behaviour. So these questions will often start with "Tell me about a time...." or "Can you give me an example...?" Try to think carefully what competencies are likely to be relevant to the job. If you are lucky they may be listed in the job specification.
If you decide that the competencies will include:
leadership, communication, influencing skills and innovation
Then make sure you that you have a store of good examples of your experience in each of these areas.
The best way to structure your response to competency questions is to use the STAR technique. STAR is an acronym for Situation - Task - Action - Result.
So for example if the interviewer asks:
"Can you give me an example of your ability to provide innovative solutions to problems?"
Using the STAR technique you could answer:
I was the leading a team at XYZ company (SITUATION). I was asked to come up with a plan to improve communication within the project management community and provide a central resource for project management tools and templates (TASK). I created an intranet site which contained all the necessary documents plus a forum for the project managers (ACTION). This has proved extremely successful and I recently received an award from the company congratulating me on the success of this project (RESULT).
Note that you should use I (not we!) in your answer and that this response follows the STAR format, - in simple terms "it's a story with a happy ending"
In preparing for your interview try to prepare as many of these "stories" as you can that will be relevant to the role.
Finally be positive! Taking this amount of care with your interview preparation will give you a head start and ensure that you perform at your best on the big day.
The relationship between employer and candidate has often been seen as a one-way street, with that often-dreaded interview question "why do you want to work here?" spring to mind. However more and more, its the employers themselves who are being asked the tough questions. Following a recent BCS report on how better company cultures would attract more women back into the profession; how much do we look into the company we are applying to?
In the current job market, although many people searching for a new role will be keen to make a swift move back into work, the ways in which people make employment decisions is showing signs of change. For many IT workers, company culture is still high on the job-hunting agenda. Similar to the BCS findings, Computer People's Salary Survey conducted earlier in the year also suggested how the culture of an organisation is key to a happy and contented workforce.
Some 70% of those questioned placed high importance on the quality of their working environment and culture. Many also saw the culture of a company to be a deal breaker in their choice to apply for a position or not. Findings such as these highlight the shifting onus on companies of all sizes to sell themselves to the candidate rather than vice versa.
A key part of this process involves alerting all potential candidates, male or female, to what your company offers over and above a paycheque. From offering flexible working hours or childcare facilities to regular company-wide social activities or duvet days and sabbaticals, employers that offer the best mix of work and play will be the ones attracting and retaining the best candidates.
You are a technical person. If you are like me, you might be pretty geeky. I don't think there's anything wrong with that (!), but you might need to think about your social skills so you can build rapport with your interviewer.
Building rapport with your interviewer is an intangible thing, but it leads to a great conversation and a way to showcase your skills. Make sure you make contact with the interviewer as a human being.
As you speak through the interview, continue to make eye contact every so often with your interviewer. Keep your interviewing skills in mind, and you'll do well.
At the end of the interview, ask the hiring manager for a business card so you can write a thank you note. I'm old fashioned and prefer a handwritten note, but an email might be good enough. Learn enough about the hiring manager so you know!
Being geeky doesn't mean you have zero social skills. It just means that you (and I) have to work on them a little. A little practice will go a long way.