Whether you are a career contractor interviewing several times a year or a permanent employee who hasn’t taken the plunge in over a decade; the thought of interviewing and having to sell yourself in under an hour can be daunting.
Let’s start with the basics. Make sure before the interview that you are clean and well groomed (yes, we do run into candidates that aren’t). Make sure that if you’re a smoker, you haven’t just had a cigarette outside and you aren’t chewing gum. In addition to this, it may be wise to cover up any visible tattoos. After all, you may think none of these things matter but people can inherently be judgemental.
The format of any interview should be quite conversational, with questions coming from both sides. After all, a hiring manager doesn’t want to spend 40+ hours a week sat next to a robot who is purely reactive. Before the interview commences, ask how their day has been and accept a water/coffee if offered; this allows them to play host and gives a perfect opportunity to break the ice.
For all interviews, even outside FS, there are questions interviewers ask that crop up time and time again. Answers to these should be rehearsed however not delivered in parrot fashion. Examples of these could be; what are your strengths and weaknesses? Why are you leaving your current employer? Why do you wish to work here? Tell me about yourself. A stumble on one of these could indicate that you have not adequately prepared for the interview and would most likely see you exiting the process at that stage.
The most common industry specific questions we see are generally around dealing with difficult stakeholders, the size of teams you have worked in, the biggest project you have helped deliver and your proudest achievement in the workplace. When answering these, use the STAR technique (Situation, Task, Action, Result). This is an easy way to break down how you overcame a situation and stay on track.
Taking the most difficult stakeholder question as an example:
‘I was stuck with a difficult stakeholder who ignored my requests and did not get back to me over email. He/she was a major roadblock to the process change we were trying to implement.’
‘To get them on board with the change and to adopt the new process we were implementing.’
‘Sit down on a 1-to-1 basis with him/her and explain the benefits of the change and why the project was being implemented from an holistic standpoint.’
‘From this, they were able to see the value of it and were much more receptive to me; this helped the project deliver in a much smoother manner.’
Find more info on star technique here.
To make the interview more conversational, you are going to have to ask questions also. Try to tailor your question to what has already been mentioned in the interview, however if you are struggling a good place to start can be asking, ‘What do you expect from me in the first three months?’ This will give you an idea of the expected deliverables and how success will be measured by that particular manager. Another subject to ask around could be what originally attracted the interviewer to the institution; this again is another opportunity to find common ground, which can put you ahead of the competition. This being said, my best piece of advice for the interviewee questions would be as the interview is drawing to a close, questioning if there are any competencies you haven’t displayed that are relevant for the role. If you have gone off track or haven’t answered a question in the way that was wanted, this is a second chance for you to display your suitability for the position; for example, you may have focussed on your subject matter knowledge for a particular project, but not demonstrated your transferrable change skills sufficiently enough. This is a chance to rectify that.
If you are looking for your next role in Projects and Change or just seek some advice/preparation on interviewing, then please don’t hesitate to get in touch.