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Preparing for an Interview

  |  October 27, 2011   |  Comments

What can you do to get an edge over the competition?

So you are on the job market looking around for your next challenge or the next step up the wrung of the career ladder. Getting a CV looking professional and across to companies you want to work for is one thing, but the single most important factor is what to do once you are sitting there in front of an interviewer.

This is your moment to shine and you want to make a good impression. It's very rare that if you mess up you will be given a second shot. Preparation is the key to success in this instance and it can make a huge difference. Failure should not be an option if you are truly serious about landing that dream job. So what exactly can you do to get an edge over the competition?

Well, apparently knowledge is power and thanks to the wonders of technology and the Internet, it's something you can easily get your nose into. Bring up their website and make sure you have a thorough read. Go through all the pages and take notes. Keep an eye out for interesting facts or things that may not be so obvious to the casual viewer. One of the most frequently asked questions at an interview is "What do you know about our company?" Ensure you can answer this with an instant and insightful answer.

Look at their blog if they have one and even take a look at their Twitter feed and the LinkedIn profiles of their staff. Especially take a close look at the profile of the person interviewing you. Try and find some common ground. An interview is about personality fit as well as skills and experience. If you happen to share interests, work them into the conversation. People generally love to talk about themselves and so it's good to know exactly what they do and how long they have been working there. It also shows you have done your research if you know this information.

Remember the walk to the interview room, too. It's often overlooked and can be an awkward silent moment. If you know the interviewer enjoys skiing and you do too, mention it. It's the small things like this that can help break the ice and build some rapport.

Now for some of the more mundane but often overlooked facts. They may sound dumb, but I have been in the industry a long time and seen people fall at the first hurdle many times because they missed the basics.

Firstly, make sure you know how to get there. Google Maps is your friend here; and always print a copy of the map off. Even if you have a shiny new smartphone, plan for the worst. What if the battery dies? No signal? We all know this can happen. If going by public transport, plan your route. Are you driving? Then where can you park?

And above all, arrive early. Aim to get there about 15 minutes before the interview. This will give you time to calm down and mentally prepare. If offered a drink, take one. Preferably water as you can quickly take a sip to ensure you don't have a dry throat. It can also buy you a vital few seconds to collect your thoughts if you get a little flustered. Now if you happen to be a smoker, ensure you don't have one before going in. A non-smoker will pick the smell up a mile away and trust me, it's far from pleasant. Get some mints and dose up.

I often get asked by applicants where to sit when they enter the interview room. Generally sit on the far side of the table and when your interviewer arrives, stand up and give them a firm handshake, but don't try and break their hand. A visit to the ER would not be a good start to the interviewer's day.

When in the actual interview, make sure you have all your facts and figures memorized. Take the time to learn your CV and, it goes without saying, do not fake it. If asked something you don't know, be honest and say "I don't know, but I can find out and get back to you." Most people have a reasonably good BS sensor built in.

When asked about your reason for leaving your job, make sure you don't bad-mouth your current employer. It is far better to offer positive reasons, as no one wants to hire negative people.

Always have some good questions prepared. Base them around what you have seen on their website. Ask about the company, its culture, plans for the future, its history, as well as the things you are interested in knowing. Show them that you are interested and serious about working there. Ask about their market strategy and how best you could fit in.

It may sound like a cliché, but close the interview at the end. Companies want to hire people who want to work for them, not just someone who needs a job. You may feel a little nervous, but ask them if they have any concerns about you. They may have misinterpreted something you said or want more clarification on a topic. You can overcome any objections at this stage.

If you genuinely like the company and the job, tell them. Again, they want to hire eager people. If you ask and someone else doesn't, then there is a good chance you may get the job because they feel that you actually want the job. Ask about the next stage and how you compare to other people they have seen.

End with a firm handshake and say goodbye.


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Jake Langwith

Jake Langwith is managing director and founder at International Head Hunters Stone Carter where he specializes within SEO, web analytics, and social media. With over 17 years experience across the U.K., Europe, and Asia Pacific markets he has established a strong global reputation and works in close partnership with some of the world's leading digital agencies and brands.

Jake is actively involved in the digital marketing community. He's also an avid blogger and a speaker at SEO-related industry events such as the SES conference series. He takes a keen interest in his market sector and outside of recruitment runs several websites where he puts into practice SEO and marketing strategies. Jake is particularly interested in SEO and conversion strategy within e-commerce.

A self-confessed search and tech geek, Jake is married with two children and lives in London where he was born and bred.

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