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Interview guide from mynewcv
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Sep 28, 2011
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1. 1 Interview Guide from mynewcv.ieThis guide is a step by step guide to making sure that you retain as much control as possible over theinterview process so that with preparation and your own experience you can anticipate and correctlyanswer each point. All of this follows a simple process aimed at ensuring that the interviewer will beconfident that you: • are able to excel at the position in hand • can get up to speed quickly • will bring value to the existing situation • ultimately save/make the company time and or moneyWe have broken this document into the following headings and sub headings. Namely:Introduction to the Process • Interview Principles • Linear Approach • Thinking Across the DeskThe Basics • Location • Appearance • Time Keeping • FocusPreparation • The Curriculum Vitae • The Company • The Job Specification • The Interviewer • Why you? Why them? • Situation, Behaviour, Outcome (SBO) • The Mock Interview • CurveballsBody Language • Attention • Comfort • Passion v Gravitas • RapportClosing and Following up • Any Questions? • Next steps • Call to ActionTelephone InterviewsConclusion © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 1
2Introduction to the ProcessThe Interview process is the tried and trusted way for companies to hire what they perceive to be thebest staff for each position that arises, whether the candidate is internal or external. However, it’simportant to take a step backwards to consider why you have been called for the interview.It’s safe to assume that you, the person looking for a new job are extremely aware of your owncircumstances and these are different for each candidate, but we need to consider the hiringcompany.Hiring Company A has a vacancy. To correctly prepare for the interview you will need to ascertainwhy the position has arisen and put some thought into why this reason aligns with your own situation.Either the vacancy exists due to success of the company or because of a requirement to backfill, i.e.the previous incumbent has left or is leaving.If it’s a new position, your mindset has to match the hiring company’s thinking. You’ll be taking a leapof faith with them.If the vacancy is for a backfill position, this gives you the opportunity to research the previous holderof the role, why if possible they have left and this can allow you the chance to mentally focus again onthe needs of the hiring company.Establishing this fact can be easy. You ask the person who has called you for interview.Why is this important? For roles to be backfilled there’s an existing structure, reporting line, targets,timelines and other factors already pre-defined.For new roles, you must ensure that you have considered these. • Interview PrinciplesBy dint of your Curriculum Vitae, Market reputation and/or word of mouth you have been asked to beinterviewed for a given role.The hiring manager wants to find out: • Can you do the job in front of him? • Do you want to fill this position? • Are you motivated to improve the performance of the company? • Will you fit in with the current team/customer/client base? • Will you provide return on investment for them? • Is your background what they are looking for and will it improve the existing team?These are the principles that you must consider and have foremost in your mind to prepare correctlyfor every interview, whether it’s an initial telephone screening or if it’s the final round of interviews.Bear in mind that there may be numerous other people being interviewed for this role but by the sametoken it’s important to realise that their performance and/or background is beyond your control. • Linear ApproachWhat we are creating here is a logical “Critical Path” method of looking at the interview process.Approaching it as a Project Management based task you must have schedules, to do lists and tasksprepared, each leading on to the next one. At the conclusion of the document you’ll find this brokendown into tasks for the interview. Apply this process and it will ensure confidence and belief. • Thinking Across the DeskAs mentioned above, during this process you will need to be able to put yourself in the chair opposite.To correctly match your skills to their requirements and present them correctly you need to ThinkAcross the Desk. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact email@example.com for information 2
3The BasicsA lot of this information you may have heard before, but put a foot wrong in the basics and you are introuble. It would be remiss to provide an interview guide without mentioning and addressing each ofthese points. It’s not an exhaustive list and following these guidelines will not get you hired but if mis-handled it can guarantee that you don’t. • LocationSimple, I know but do you know where you are going? Googlemaps is a vital help to finding a specificcompany and many companies will have this on their own site.Recently I visited a client based in West Dublin, used the Googlemap on their site only to find thatindeed I was on the correct road, but this road was part of a really complex flyover system andalthough as the crow flies I was very close, I had to drive a further three miles and was late throughbad map reading!Consider how you will get there versus where you are scheduled to be immediately prior to theinterview. Be prepared for bad weather, bad traffic and bad public transport!I cannot stress highly enough how important it is to reconnoitre the building. Look at it, if possibleduring business hours. You’ll see employees and how happy they look (or unhappy), their dress codeand notice things such as parking, one way systems, where to lock your bicycle and so on. • AppearanceYour appearance, demeanour and even odour can be vital in an interview scenario. Showing updressed incorrectly will definitely work against you.So what is the best way to dress?The tried and trusted method is slightly more formally than their dress code. You can ask the hiringmanager in advance what the dress code is and establishing this is mentioned above. In the case ofIT and Technology roles, smart casual is probably best, but if you are attending the interview directlyafter a day’s work, the hiring company should be told this and of course you will be adhering to thedress code that currently applies. This will not be an issue as generally interviews whilst alreadyemployed are of course frowned on and companies accept this.If you smoke, don’t smoke for some time before the interview, ensure that a modest amount ofaftershave or deodorant is used; too much is worse than none and that you are clean shaven or atleast your facial and head hair is clean and tidy.If you wear glasses, make sure that they are smudge free. I once interviewed a man that I could smellbefore I could see and who had a massive thumb print on his glasses. It shows lack of attention todetail and would rule any client facing roles out immediately. • Time KeepingBeing late can be disastrous. It demonstrates lack of motivation and sends a really bad message.Unless you have the phone number of both the interviewer and the front desk saved in your mobilephone. If you are going to be late, call them and let them know and you’d better have a good reason.But if you are late without prior notice and an excellent reason…..? Be 10 minutes early. • FocusOne thing that is a very important is keeping focus on the questions being asked, the reason that youare in front of the interviewer and the fact that this is an interview. This is not a casual chat about yournext career move. They may say it is, but it is always an interview. Don’t bring in water bottles orchewing gum. If you meet in a hotel or a bar, don’t order alcohol.Later on we’ll introduce the concept of Situation, Behaviour, Outcome which will help the focus, butit’s vital not to forget to focus. If you feel the interview is going well it’s easy to relax, maybe evenslouch and start making jokes. Appropriate humour is welcome, but if you’re not focussed it’s easy tosay the wrong thing. Remember, this is NOT a chat, it is an INTERVIEW. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 3
4PreparationThis is the real bones of this process. All else is pure common sense, however in this section we willbreak down the methods to ensure that you are supremely confident going into any interview. As timegoes by this process will become second nature and you will follow it automatically. • The Curriculum VitaeYour own CV you should know like the back of your hand, however in your case it’s a relatively newdocument perhaps using phrasing that you normally wouldn’t use yourself.For this reason it is imperative that you are very very comfortable with each word and every benefit.This will not take much time but it will require a friend to help you.Hand the CV to a friend and ask them to read it to you, line by line.After each line you should then tell them all about it.E.g.:• Senior Sales Manager with direct responsibility for improving margins, client register and geographicalreach; achieved 74% increase in turnover within a 6 month periodTell them about client register. Assume you are to be interviewed by a Managing Director. Her job isto manage and direct. Her direct reports deal with these issues and it’s just words to her. So the realtest here is can you explain complex issues to an audience who may not be directly involved in yourrole?Your friend will get up to speed quickly with this process and might even learn something!What this will achieve is that in a short time you will be able to speak at length in plain English abouteach and every skillset on your CV. Therefore, no matter what is thrown at you during the interview,bearing in mind that all interviews are a combination of the Job Spec and the CV you will becomfortable, knowledgeable and able to project your knowledge easily. • The CompanyWould you employ somebody who knows nothing about your company? Neither would I. Going intoan interview without having researched the company, the Organisational Chart of Employees (even anotional one is good, use LinkedIn or the Company site) and where the company has come from andwhere it is going, is vital.You won’t need to work too hard to demonstrate this knowledge but it will help guide your answers.From a business standpoint, you will be able to establish what type of technologies they use, whattheir competitors use, what’s coming down the line in terms of future plans for development, socialmedia, mobile advances etc. and you can leverage this knowledge in how you frame your answers.Use Social Media to get a grip on how they operate. Find their Facebook page and join it. Follow themon Twitter and LinkedIn.You need to know: • The origin of the company • The future direction of the company • Who are the players here? • Who is the competition?You will find other nuggets on their websites and other sources, but research is key. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact email@example.com for information 4
5 • The Job SpecificationThe strongest clue you have to their requirements is the Job Specification. Later in this point I’lladdress what to do if none is provided but we’re assuming that in this case they have.The genesis from “Across the Desk” for the Job Specification is simple. They write down what the roleentails and what their vision of the successful candidate is. Remember, it’s generally a wish list. Ifsomeone fills every criterion then they already work for the company! Another point to consider is thatif the role is for a Contract or Interim position, then the successful candidate must be moreexperienced than the role in hand. If it’s a permanent role, in normal circumstances then thecandidate should be slightly below the requirements so that the move suits all parties and there’s amotivation to move to this role on the part of the candidate. However, in recessionary times this shiftsto parity with the experience required. Employers generally can pick and choose from a range ofcandidates.If no Job Specification is supplied, then you need to write one for the role. How do you do this?If the Job Title in question is: Senior Sales Manager, what you need to do is write a checklist of whatyou think the client is looking for. • Experience in exceeding sales targets • Internal liaison experience • Industry knowledge and the ability to bring in new clients • Extending geographical reach • Onboarding exceptional sales staff and mentoring sameAssuming that you now have a Job Specification, we will address this specific preparation in the SBOheading below and for this purposes we will use a real world specification.A search finds a role with a client of Eolas Recruitment. It’s a junior role but it will serve our purposes. • The InterviewerWe have briefly touched on the interviewer above but you need to be as armed as possible based onwhat knowledge you can garner about the actual person who is interviewing you. A simple Googlesearch will probably find something on almost anybody but I strongly suggest using LinkedIn.Obviously they are a senior person in this organisation, so where did they come from? Are there anysimilarities between them and you? Perhaps they are interested in Mongolian Throat Singing too?You never know and if you can find a common area of interest beyond Technology and have alegitimate reason to bring it up, this can allow you to demonstrate attention to detail, rapport, howseriously you take and want this role and generally put the interviewer at their ease.If you go too deep you can possibly make people feel a bit weird, so keep it above the belt. • Why you? Why them?Part of what the interviewer needs to establish is precisely this. Why you and why them. You need tobe able to demonstrate to the interviewer and the company at large that you are the best mix. Youneed to show that you can fix their pain. You are looking for a Solutions Designer. I design solutions.From the other point of view, Why Them? When I used to interview Recruiters to join my organisationand this was their first interview, I always sent them away to interview with other companies beforeconfirming a second interview. This is because hiring companies want their prospective employees toWANT to work for them. Imagine Google. Lots of people really really want to work for them, but why?Great PR? Super funky offices? Perhaps and they hear that all the time. However, the people thatthey do hire are genuinely aligned to their core values.They want not to be evil! They want to be part of the most innovative and creative software relatedcompany in the world. Not what the company can do for them, but what they can do with thecompany, to paraphrase. When your interview is confirmed, consider this sentence and what is it youwant to do with the company. Not how much they can pay you. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 5
6 • Situation, Behaviour, Outcome (SBO)As mentioned above regarding Job Specifications, SBO is the easiest and most overlooked method ofacing interviews. In the interview itself you will be asked questions based on the Specification andyour CV. To make sure you get your point across you should take the following steps. • Listen to the question and you request clarification or repetition if required. • Tell the interviewer the Situation. This is how it was. • Then tell them the Behaviour. This is what I did. • Then tell them the outcome. This is how it is now. • Smile politely and answer follow up questions in the same fashion.If you are lucky enough to be called for a competency based interview, approaching each competencyor line from the Specification in this fashion with prepared answers will allow you to score incrediblyhighly (as it’s a statistical way of interviewing). If it’s not a really formal competency based format anda more traditional “chat” one, then the interviewer cannot help but be impressed with your approachand your no nonsense or waffle way of answering the questions.SBO appears to be all very well but how do I prepare? Going back to the real world examplementioned here is a Job Specification for a Sales Manager. It’s essentially Responsibilities vRequirements.Responsiblities: • Building a business field sales team capable of meeting and exceeding the companies sales targets across the companies network footprint • Hiring and managing a sales team consisting of individuals capable of performing at or above target • Manage a team of 6 Field Sales Reps with focus on activity based selling • Supporting Individual sales people through coaching and mentoring in sales, product and time management issues • Supporting sales people with individual sales opportunities and assist in closing deals at meetings on a regular basis • Building monthly sales volume to meet or exceed company targets through generating sales of the product set within the SME and Corporate space • Working within guidelines set by the Company in relation to sales process and activity levels • Resolving issues across the company through positive and proactive engagement with other departments, removing barriers to sales. • Developing with Marketing Department marketing initiatives and events to support Business sales. • Representing the company at industry or other networking/promotional events. Reporting sales volumes and commissions to senior management and so on…Requirements: • 5+ years experience in Sales Management in the telecommunication and/or IT industry • Team Management experience • Presentation to clients up to Finance Director and IT Director level • Driven approach to meeting and exceeding sales targets - new business • Experience in Sales of Telecommunications/ICT solutions into the SME and Corporate market" • Experience of working in a team based environment • Proven sales and sales management skills • Excellent Presentation skills to individual and group audiences up to Director level • Proven ability to work within a cross functional team environment • Full Driving Licence © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact email@example.com for information 6
7So, taking the first line… • Building a business field sales team capable of meeting and exceeding the companies sales targets across the companies network footprintInterviewer will ask this question or something very similar.Tell me about a situation where you built a sales team and exceeding targets?SituationWhen I was promoted to Sales Manager the team was underachieving and were low on morale.BehaviourI put in place a number of initiatives, refocused the team by predefining exactly what KeyPerformance Indicators were expected of each and created an ongoing training programme to helpthem identify and address issues that each were having. I also negotiated a bonus with managementfor a weekend away for the entire team if we hit target by Christmas.OutcomeBy Christmas, we had already hit the initial target and brought on board a new staff member, so weall received our bonuses but also went on our weekend away.And repeat. For each line of the Job Specification you will now have an SBO ready. The hiringcompany wrote the outline of what it is that they want. Now you have been told what they need toknow. You should prepare in this fashion so that anything they ask you about in any of these areasyou have knowledge of you will have examples. And you will have examples in the SBO format thatfollows the linear fashion that most interviewers want, and especially technically minded people. • The Mock InterviewAs mentioned above you will need some help with preparing the CV. Use the services of your friendwhen you have prepared your SBO and hand the spec to them.Ask your friend to Interview you based on the spec.“Tell me about read a line from the spec”Using your memory of creating your SBO, brainstorm the answers. You now have written the answersdown, you have answered them in a mock environment and verbalised them. From a psychologicalpoint of view, seeing the words and getting them out of your head is all very well, but enunciatingthem is a different kettle of fish and can be very hard to do the first time.You now are very well prepared for the interview by knowing your own skills and how they arepresented and taking their requirements and matching your skills, with the ability to present theanswers that they need to hear in the Situation, Behaviour, Outcome format. • CurveballsIt’s extremely difficult to prepare for curveball questions, but there are the classics.What are your weaknesses?What mistakes have you made?And so on.Giving answers to these are always on a case by case basis. What you can control is what not to say.Turning a weakness into a strength can be construed as arrogance. So be careful.E.g. I work too hard sometimes… © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 7
8Prepare an answer for this that is honest but not over the top.Don’t say..I drink too much and hate Mondays but maybe something like..”there have been occasionsin the past where I’ve focussed too much energy on areas that are not critical to the go live period. I’maware of this, so I tend to be a stickler in dealing with issues of clarity with Project Managers. This candrive them mad on occasion but it’s important for me to make sure my work is focussed.”Something like this shows self awareness and an ongoing ability to fix it.A good rule of thumb however is to ask yourself this.What are the questions that I really hope are not asked.Write down three of them and then write the answers down. You’ll then find yourself hoping that theyask those formerly tricky questions.Most people’s insecurities are based on not addressing issues that are bothering them. Face up towhat you’re afraid of in these situations and you will become bulletproof.Body LanguageMy main concern with looking at body language is that it’s an art in and of itself. So much effort canbe put into body language and how to convey meaning and subtext, truth and belief that to theuntrained eye, this person is jerking all over the place.You can avoid this by only paying attention to the most important things to get yourself in the situationwhere all of your body language is natural and effective. Getting passionate about your subjectmatter. • AttentionOnce I had a direct report who never looked me in the eye at meetings, doodled and slouched duringimportant discussions. I learned that he in fact took in every word, but his body language was allwrong.Take some time over the next few weeks to watch the body language of people who are engaged inwhat they are doing. Watch the focus as the barber cuts your hair. See how the football fan is on theedge of his seat during a big match. Also, watch the politician standing behind the Taoiseach in aninterview who doesn’t want to be there.What makes the interviewer see that you are engaged will happen as long as you are engaged andyou know that they need to see it. Look like you’re paying attention. Don’t slouch, don’t doodle andmaintain eye contact during the question. • ComfortThis is more about mental comfort than physical comfort. Assuming your clothes fit correctly andyou’re dressed correctly for weather conditions you’ll be fine. But if you have prepared you arecomfortable. You can discuss at length anything that’s asked about your CV, your experience, thecompany, the jobspec and even curveballs that are thrown at you.Preparation is key and if you’re prepared you’ll win. Fail to prepare, prepare to fail. • Passion v GravitasPassion can become excessive, where you’re discussing a given technology and foaming at themouth, going off topic because you’re discussing your two favourite subjects. You and Technology.Gravitas is the demonstration of your seriousness of the situation, i.e. the interview and the chance towork with this company and should temper the passion. Passion + Gravitas = Credibility. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact email@example.com for information 8
9 • RapportAs mentioned above you may find common ground with your interviewer on a personal level. Maybeyou are into golf and they have a golf trophy on their desk. Golfers love golfers, sci fi nuts (like me)like other sci fi nuts!Rapport cannot be faked but it’s important that the interviewer likes you. And of course that you likethem. It really helps to be in a positive frame of mind. To remember that each of us has our faults andas such, we’re all in this together.Of course there is such a thing as negative rapport, but that’s beyond your control.Closing and Following upHere we will consider what happens towards the end of the interview and after it is over. Again it’simportant to remember that the interview itself is only part of their process, although it’s extremely bigfor you, it’s part of their day to day operations and they may be interviewing several other candidates.To this end, you need to consider the following. • Any Questions?Have you any questions for me (us)? A line that gets asked at pretty much every interview.You MUST prepare good interesting questions for this.How long have you been with the company?Why have you stayed so long with the company? What attracts you to here?These are good examples of leading questions that allow the interviewer to talk about their twofavourite subjects. Lots of rapport building and it also gives them a chance to sell the company to you.The interview should be a two way process and people do turn down offers of employment. You needto be comfortable continuing with the process. • Next StepsDepending on the scenario itself, are you dealing with the HR department, interviewer direct,recruitment agencies and so on, each process will be different. However my strong advice to you(unless you hate the company) is to give them the impression that you’d like it there!“Really good to have met you and I enjoyed hearing about the company, I’m definitely interested inmeeting again” is a good line. But however it’s delivered you want them to feel wanted. • Call to ActionThis again is essential. Irrespective (as above) of the nature of the process and who you’re dealingwith, you definitely need clarity on how it’s going to go. Ask them. What are the next steps?Should I give you a call? Will you speak to my references etc?Before you leave the room you should find out how and when the next contact will happen. If youdon’t, then you’re in limbo and waiting for the phone to ring and that’s bad for you. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 9
10Telephone InterviewsI won’t go into them in much detail bar the following. • Use a landline • Make sure you will not be disturbed • Prepare as above • Be aware that they want to find out “Can you do the job” • By dint of it being a telephone interview, they need to shortlist quickly, therefore no waffle and very little in the way of small talk • Before you get into the call, make sure that your voice is steady and relaxed – the 100% surefire guaranteed way to do this is to sing very loudly (and if you’re like me, badly) about half an hour before the interview. This technique is used in almost all television interview scenarios for amateurs. Seriously.ConclusionThis document should be read over and the steps recommended taken until such time as you do notneed to refer to it again.When you feel that is the case, read it again once more then put it aside.There are no silver bullets but with preparation which will give you confidence you will leave your bestgame on the pitch.To learn more about interview preparation and expert CV and Resume Advice, please contactRuadhri McGarry, Managing Director of mynewcv.ie on 086 – 1282591 or email@example.com. © Ruadhri McGarry – mynewcv.ie Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information 10