Fail to prepare, prepare to fail – your interview!

A good interview is all about preparation.

I have interviewed three candidates today ahead of their prospective meetings with one of my clients. All three are very strong, and I think they will do well – the client will have a tough decision on their hands. In particular, I was delighted by the amount of preparation they had done; this is what sets apart the best candidates for any role, no matter whether they are a graduate looking for their first proper job, or an experienced head of IT.

This is a particularly important lesson for graduates and junior candidates to learn. On many occasions I have met candidates that said things to me like ‘so what does your client do again; is it some kind of software?’ Bear in mind that many of them are meeting me on the way to their interviews, and that I would rather withdraw someone from the process than have them waste the client’s time when they have not bothered to prepare for the interview.

Your interview preparation will always set you apart from other candidates – it demonstrates to the client that you are interested in the organisation, it will give you an abundance of good questions to ask them, it will help you to feel less nervous, and it will really impress the client that you have gone the extra mile. (Particularly if you’re up against someone that strolls in and says ‘what does your company do, is it some kind of software?’)

So, how should you prepare for your interview?

A glance at the ‘about’ page on the company website on your mobile phone isn’t enough, and job specs are usually written by HR so they don’t always provide much insight. Have a proper look at the website. Are there any testimonials from customers or staff profiles? Case studies? Read them. Make notes. Come up with some questions while you’re at it, and write those down too.

A picture of someone preparing for an interview

Who are you meeting? Have you looked them up on LinkedIn? What’s their background? You might even find that you’ve got some common interests or connections.
Does the company have a social media account? Have a look at LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other sites – this is often the best way to get the most up to date news about the company. Google them as well for mentions in the local press.

Have you looked them up on Glassdoor? What are their employees saying about them?

Does the website have a careers page? Do they have a lot of vacancies to fill at the moment? Is this due to growth, or turnover? Use the interview to find out.

This might sound like a lot of work but it won’t take you all that long – remember that many of us were preparing for interviews long before mobile phones and tablets and broadband made it easier than ever to access the information that we needed!

Interview preparation is simple, really.

Honestly, just put the work in. It will not guarantee that you get the job, but I promise you won’t need to attend that many interviews before someone takes a chance on you, based on how well you’ve prepared. Much better than attending interviews endlessly with the ‘is it some kind of software?’ approach, and perpetually failing to realise that all of this could have been so much easier.

If you’re doing an IKM technical test, you’ll need to prepare for that in a slightly different way.  Start by reading this blog.