An interview is a powerful tool, it has the ability to change the course of someone's life and for an organisation, the selection of an ill-fitting candidate can be costly in many ways.   Yet despite this how many of us as interviewers or interviewees can say we have sufficiently prepared for an interview?  As an interviewee do you know how to prepare so you can showcase your experience AND assess the organisation's suitability for you?  Yes, it really is a two-way decision.

The very first job interview was first formally recorded in 1921 and while the format of job interviews has evolved from in-person to video, the purpose and objectives have not. At the heart of a job interview are two objectives 1) to understand if a candidate has the ability to meet the demands of the job and 2) if they will be a good fit for the organisation and the team.

In this blog, we take a look at how to showcase your suitability and how to assess whether the role and the organisation will be a good fit for you.

Do you have the ability they are looking for?

For someone to understand if you are a good fit for the job, you need to share your evidence, building on what you have already provided through submitting your CV or completing an application form.

What do we mean by evidence?  Simply saying you can do something that you are great at x and y is not enough you need to provide real examples from your career which clearly demonstrate to your interviewer your ability. 

But how do you know what examples to share?  Your clues are in the job description or the role details that you have seen in the job posting.  Working through each of the responsibilities of the role (those listed first tend to be the most important) consider the following:

  • What is the skill needed to perform this aspect of the job? For example is it about leading a team of people, building rapport with clients, managing large complex data?  This is particularly helpful to identify if you are a career changer as although you may not have worked in this particular industry before you may well have relevant experience.
  • When have I used this skill before?  Select an example from your past which demonstrates using this skill.  The closer your example is to the job you are applying for the easier it is for the interviewer to make the connection.
  • Using this example familiarise yourself with the details:
    • What were the circumstances?
    • What exactly did you do?
    • What were the challenges you faced?
    • What were the issues or risks you had to manage?
    • What were the results?
    • What did you learn?
    • How is this relevant to the job you are being interviewed for?
  • Compile your toolkit of evidence examples.  Interviewers will typically use words such as “tell me about a time when you…”  “What experiences have you in…“  “When have you found yourself…”  These are all questions designed to extract your experience, as you answer them think about which one of your examples can demonstrate your ability.   A great way to practice incorporating your example is to search for a list of commonly asked interview questions and practice weaving in your examples to your answers.  Don’t be afraid to be explicit and respond with an opening such as “perhaps the best way for me to answer that is to share with you a relevant example”

It is not unusual for an interviewer to start your interview with a question similar to “Tell me about yourself.” Let’s be clear this is not a question to find out about your childhood, what you do in your spare time.  Remember what they want is evidence you are a good fit for the role. 

And if you are asked to “Take me through your career experience.” Don’t waste this opportunity by taking them through your CV they have this already; instead, this is about adding another layer of information.  Questions like these are your golden opportunity to walk them through your career focusing on aspects that are directly relevant to the role and company.    A good way to start your answer is to preface it with: 

“Perhaps a good place for me to start is my role at X as this really starts to highlight the relevant experience I have for this position.”

As you talk about your experience highlight the relevant aspect; your prior experience which shows you have the skills, knowledge and experience they are looking for.

Are you a good fit for the organisation?

You can tick all the boxes, but still, the role may not be a good fit for you.  From an organisation’s perspective, they will want to understand how you will complement the team and if you are aligned with the values and culture of the organisation. 

Unless you are familiar with the team you are unlikely to know what will be considered a good fit.  The team may be inexperienced and therefore priority may be given to someone who can bring this and can help them with their succession.  There may be a particular knowledge gap within the team that they would like to resolve with this hire.  The team may consist of long-serving experienced employees so their priority could be to bring in a fresh perspective or they could be in a position to bring in someone more junior who has the enthusiasm and drive to learn but will be cheaper. 

Asking questions about the team, the level of experience, what the gaps are within the team and what skills and experience they need to develop to equip the team for the future can provide insight.  However, the biggest piece of advice I can give you is to be you, because you want the organisation and team to fit you too.  And for them and you to ascertain this you need to be honest about what you need from an organisation and what is important to you.

If you know individuals who work within the organisation, ask them what it's really like to be an employee, because we all know that what a website may say and what happens, in reality, can be quite different.

In preparation get clear about what are the values which are important to you to find in an organisation.  What things would cause you to leave if they weren’t being fulfilled?    And as you start to interact with different people understand how the organisation will stack up against your values. 

What gaps in information do you have? At the end of the interview when asked if you have any questions, use this time to try and fill in your gaps.  For example, if empowerment is a value that is important to you, you may want to delve deeper into how much autonomy the incumbent will have in the role.  If career development is crucial then ask questions around how they support employees with their career development.  If work-life balance is important ask how they help employees to strike a balance between work and home life.

And if they don’t like a question you ask, then they probably aren't the right place for you!

Remember we spend a lot of time working we need it to be right for us as well as them.  Putting in the time to prepare before can help you make better decisions about your future and your happiness.

If you need help with an impending interview get in touch and book a free introductory call to see if I am the right person to help you prepare.

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