Interview preparation: an employer’s view

September 2011

Successful job interviewPreparing for an interview can be one of the most stressful parts of the job hunting process. Iain Mackenzie, Employer Brand Consultant for Direct Line Insurance, gives his take on what to do and what not to do.

There is a lot of noise out there. People telling you what to do for interview, how to prepare, what to say, what not to say, how to look - it can all be a little overwhelming.

In essence the best way to be during an interview is to be yourself, however, the hardest thing to be at an interview is yourself.

Your skills and experience on your CV have got you this far now all you have to do convince your future employer that you will be a valuable addition to the company and that you will seamlessly fit into their culture. Easy!

"By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail" - Benjamin Franklin

An old chestnut; however, it stands the test of time. If you want to be yourself, make sure you have prepared. Preparation can take many different forms:

Research the company and the group it belongs to: don’t be like the candidate who went into an interview and extolled the virtues of an organisation, its strengths and great reputation, unfortunately the candidate was talking about the competition.

Understand your role in the company: don’t be afraid to ask for clarification, contact whoever invited you for interview for further information. If it’s not forthcoming do you want to work for them?

Assess the dress code requirements: don’t wear your dad's suit that is three sizes too big. If you don’t own one don’t wear one, or wear heels that even you wouldn’t been seen dancing around on a Saturday night and please, please leave the diamante tiara at home!

Most employers will have more than one stage during the interview / assessment process. It will be difficult to keep up a pretence over a two- or three-stage process. Make the resolution to be yourself, it could be very liberating.

Ask yourself this: would you want to be in an organisation that you had to be a completely different person to get into? Wouldn’t your working week be so much easier and enjoyable if it just required you to be you?

There is, as ever, a limit to being you. Being you at interview means how you would normally act in business situation understanding your peers and your surroundings. The great Einstein realised this when stating: 'The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.' The following gives a flavour of interviewees failing to grasp their surroundings - literally.

Interviewer: So why did you leave your last role?
Candidate: Lots of reasons. Hours, pay, building too big.
Interviewer: Sorry? The building was too big?
Candidate: Yeah lots of corridors and stairs etc. (tailed off into a mumble)
Interviewer: Ok so why was that a problem?
Candidate: Well the building was just really big so I had lots of different places to go...
Interviewer: Ok but why would that make you leave?
Candidate: I kept getting lost

In the bygone era of smoking in offices, a senior candidate turned up for interview and promptly took out his cigarettes and started to smoke. Slightly taken aback, the interviewer said 'excuse me'. A flustered, apologetic candidate promptly took out his cigarettes again and offered the interviewer one! Dumbfounded, the interviewer let the candidate finish the cigarette during the interview!

And finally if you are unsuccessful at any stage of the process, or have to receive some constructive criticism, please do not react like the candidate who refused to accept their fate and stood right in the middle of an assessment centre, fingers in ears shouting LALALALALALA I can’t hear you! LALALALALALALA! 

You never know who you might meet again in your career on the way up or that pesky interviewer on their way down!

Be yourself, give 100 per cent, leave nothing at the front door and good luck!

Preparing For Interview : An Employer’s Insight - Courtesy of Jobsite.co.uk