Advanced interview preparation
When researching the amount of time the average job seeker spends preparing for an interview, it's surprising how little time and effort is invested, writes Matt Craven of CVIA Careers. The average time spent preparing is around two hours, which normally revolves around some cursory online research, reading of the job description and brushing up on one's CV/resume.
These are all valuable elements of your preparation, but this article will provide some tips on how to prepare much more thoroughly for that all-important interview.
Most people understand that they should do some research on the organization they are applying for a job with, but how much is appropriate? Looking online for any recent news is a good start, as is following them on social media where they are likely to post anything they feel is relevant to the external market. Aside from interviews, it’s always a good idea to “follow” target companies on social media as this is often used as a filtering criterion during the hiring process. Studying the organization’s website is a must, especially their ‘news’ page, and trade publications can also glean useful information. Although strictly speaking, LinkedIn is part of the social media ecosystem, it’s worth a separate mention – you can perform a fairly detailed analysis on an organization and its employees by investigating their company page and the individual LinkedIn profiles of their key people.
Assuming you are applying for an accountancy role, it would be a reasonable expectation for candidates attending an interview to acquire a copy of the organization’s company accounts and to put some time into analyzing them. At a senior level, it’s quite possible that a question about the organization’s finances would come up during the interview. Regardless of whether this happens or not, a more ‘strategic’ job seeker would want to make sure a potential new employer is in a sound financial position, and this due diligence demonstrates a level of savviness that is likely to be perceived positively.
As we mentioned earlier, LinkedIn is a great source of information. You can glean insights on the organization, but also the people who are interviewing you. At the very least, read their LinkedIn profile and try to obtain some information that you can use in the interview as an icebreaker. Perhaps the interviewer went to the same school as your partner, or maybe they have indicated support for a certain charitable cause that aligns with something you have done – these insights give you something to talk about before the main interview starts so you can build rapport and create a deeper connection between yourself and the interviewer.
Learning about the organization and its representatives is all well and good, but the ‘entity’ that you should really focus on learning about is yourself. After all, the interview is about you and your capabilities. Many people attend interviews with the assumption that they know themselves, only to find out that they know themselves on a ‘personal’ level, but not so much on a ‘professional’ level. To eradicate this ‘gap in knowledge, it’s a great idea to create a career autobiography, which is a record of all the key events that have happened in your career i.e., projects, achievements, successes, failures, tricky situations, etc. Once you have this body of material, you’ll find it much easier to recall examples when asked to answer questions during the interview.
Recruiters are a great source of intel. They will usually have a deep knowledge of the organization and its requirements, the people you are meeting including their personality and interview style, and the format and likely questions during the interview. Assuming you are not the first of their candidates to attend the interview, the recruiter may be able to pass on details of other candidates’ experience and the questions they were asked. In short, make sure you quiz the recruiter on all the aforementioned points to proactively prepare yourself the best you can.