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How to succeed at interview


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Richmond Solutions' quick guide to preparing for job interviews

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How to succeed at interview

  1. 1. Never waste a chance:preparing for interviewsSo, are you a good candidate or a weak candidate?Do you know how to maximise your impact at interview?We’ve written this paper with you in mind.It’s not a simple tip sheet.But it will repay reading.It may even be the most valuable10 minutes reading you ever do.Let’s begin >> PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND +44 (0)20 8835 7082 S
  2. 2. The Weak CandidateWeak candidates come in many forms. They may not simply besomeone who is a poor match for the job in question. Theymay actually be a good match, but fail to put this over in theirpaperwork or at interview, missing prime opportunities.Weak candidates have one particular thing in common: poorpreparation. This means that they miss out not just on oneopportunity but on many. In fact, for a weak candidate, gettinga new role becomes purely a game of chance. They learn thehard way, if at all, and, maybe, get an interview with a companythat they know well.What’s more, badly prepared candidates tend to be lessconfident in the room and this will have an inevitable impacton their performance, no matter their true potential. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  3. 3. The Good CandidateIn a competitive market, you need to None of this is wrong and is better thanperform at your best in every interview nothing. However, to be a truly goodto secure the job you want. From your candidate you need to do more – inearliest meetings with careers advisors other words, you need to do someyou will have been told that you must proper research. Ideally, this should startalways prepare for an interview. What with your application but at the latest,does this mean? Do you: in-depth research should begin the moment you know you have an• Read a bit about the company? interview. This should involve:• Check over your application and make sure that it answers the job • Understanding the description? company/organisation• Rehearse a few questions and • Understanding the role answers? • Understanding who you are talking to Let’s look at all three of these vital steps. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  4. 4. Understanding the organisationPut yourself in the shoes of the employer: • What is the direction of the company? In drawing this together, you may find it usefulwhat do they value and what will make them Is it on the way up or the way down? to write a SWOT (or strengths, weaknesses,say “yes” to you? Reaching an adequate answer Is it a market leader or a pretender to the opportunities and threats) analysis. This is notto this requires travelling some hard research crown? Is it looking to expand its offering only a good way of bringing some order toyards. We recommend that you find answers or is it refocusing on a core service area or your research, providing you with a usefulto the following questions: product range? summary to which you can refer, but it may also • What is its financial position? help you in drawing up questions to ask at the• What is the purpose of the company/ • Who are the competitors? interview. organisation? In other words, is it a public How does their proposition differ company, owner-managed, a charity, a public and what is their proposition vis-à-vis body, a social enterprise, etc? the company/organisation that you are• What are the company’s values? In other interviewing with? words, what do the people who run it and • What market is the company/organisation in? those who already work there hold dear? Why would someone choose to come to Can you also work to these values? them or buy from them as opposed to a competitor? What are its USPs? PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  5. 5. What your SWOT Analysis might look like:JZT ManufacturingStrengths: Weaknesses: Opportunities: Threats:• JZT has an established product • The Delta range has flopped since • There is demonstrable demand for • A Chinese company has recently range with a loyal customer its launch two years ago. JZT’s products in India and China. entered the market and is offering following. • JZT in the UK has recently been • They have just signed an agency a similar range for approximately• JZT enjoys strong brand loyalty, through a round of redundancies agreement with the largest sales half the price. especially in its domestic, UK which may have unsettled the agent for these products in South • There has been a drop in demand market. remaining employees. America. for JZT’s products in their core• JZT is making good progress in the • Despite two attempts in the past • They have recently opened a European market. Russian market, which it entered 10 years, they have failed to gain a factory in South-East Asia, allowing • The Lugano range from Bottega three years ago. real foothold in the US market. them to manufacture on a cost- Lampi is acquiring market• Their Omicron range is the UK • While being one of the earliest competitive basis. dominance in its class, at the market leader in its field, while Eta, manufacturers in the market, JZT expense of JZT’s Sampi range. Iota and Xi are all in their have been slow to embrace • The strength of Sterling versus the respective top tens. emerging technologies. Renimbi is damaging JZT’s export• JZT have a high-profile and widely- sales. respected Chief Executive. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  6. 6. Information sourcesThe kinds of information sources that you should use to • For information on competitors, make a search on thebring this information together are: internet on the service or industry in question and/or find market reports. In the case of the latter, some will• The company’s or organisation’s own website. have tables of contents freely available online from• Company reports. For public companies, charities and which you may be able to derive the names of the public bodies, these will usually be available on their competing companies so you can do further research own website. Where the information is not on their yourself. own website, the information for UK companies (no matter how small) is available on the Companies With this kind of knowledge under your belt, you are in House website (; a far stronger position to differentiate what you can offer and for charities you can refer to the Charities the company/organisation you are applying to. It will give Commission ( you a better idea about whether you want to join it and• The news. Try Google News (or similar) but will help you tailor your responses accordingly. if you can get access to online news archives like Factiva or Lexis Nexis through a library, all the better. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  7. 7. Understanding the RoleThere are some basics that you should check at you must get a strong grip on what it involves.the outset if at all possible. These include whether Obviously, you need to be able to explain theyou will manage a team and, if so, how many people skills you hope to transfer into the role. However,are in that team? Similarly, will you hold a budget at interview you will need to show a thoroughand, if so, how much will it be? How will your understanding of the role itself, even if you haveperformance be measured? For example, will there undertaken extensive retraining to enter a newbe specific targets that you will need to meet? Will be paid a salary or will part of yourremuneration be earned through commission? Ideally, if you are looking to make such a change, your research will have started long before youIf the new job you’re going for is similar to one you even make an application. If possible, it would be ahave done before, then you will not need to do so good idea to see if you could shadow someone inmuch research. However, even if you are in this your new chosen profession for a few days. If this isposition, you should ensure you understand where not possible or time does not allow, there isthe role sits in the potential employer’s nothing like learning from the horse’s mouth.organisation and therefore how you will fit in. Network with people working in that field and,What may be a pivotal role in some companies having established a relationship with them, ask ifmay be a support role in others. Will you be happy you can call them to talk about what they do.being a sideshow if you are used to being at thecentre of things? And visa versa? Just telling an interviewer that you have a “lifelong passion” for something will not hold much water ifIf the role represents a new departure for you, there is little substantial evidence for that claim. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  8. 8. Understanding who you are talking toYou must understand the motivations of the Alternatively, the interviewer may be a hiring careful how you use this information and don’tperson interviewing you. Their own drivers will manager. If this is the case, you need to look for imagine that it’s a good idea to try to createhave a bearing on how they view you as a what keeps them awake at night and work out empathy by pretending you have common interestscandidate. what problem you are effectively being brought if that’s not the case. A friend once put on an in to solve.You should be able to work this out application form that he was keen on clay pigeonIf you are being interviewed by a recruiter from an from the research you have done into the shooting when he’d only been once. He cameagency a major consideration will be the bottom company/organisation. unstuck when it turned out that his interviewerline.Yes, alas, we mean fees. They need to be was a clay pigeon shooting enthusiast and wantedconvinced that you are placeable and that you will If you are able to, find out a bit about the person the chance to speak to a fellow fan of the sport atbe credible in the eyes of their client. If you don’t who will be interviewing you – about their length. Let’s put it this way, it did nothing for ourconvince them of that, you won’t go forward as interests and what makes them tick. However, be friend’s credibility.they will not wish to ruin the relationship withtheir client. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  9. 9. Bringing it togetherFinally, go back to the job description. With all ofthis knowledge to hand, place it in context. Whenyou look at the competencies it asks for, theyshould now make more sense and rather than justgive a bland recitation of how your skills match thejob description, you can properly match them tothe needs of the company/organisation. In otherwords, you can give some real colour to yourapplication and interview.Never skimp on your research. Even if you getthrough the application stage without it, a goodinterviewer will find you out. Make the best ofyour chances, don’t squander them. PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES RICHMOND R S BACK HOME NEXT
  10. 10. Experienced.Heidi Nicholson is a Partner at RichmondSolutions. Before becoming a recruiter and thena personal career advocate, Heidi spent manyyears in international marketing consultancy.Her speciality was competitor intelligence.Heidi has also worked in politics, and has aFirst Class Honours Degree in French and Italian.Andrew Brown has over 14 years of experiencerecruiting senior executives in the private andpublic sectors and specialises in devisingrecruitment and selection solutions. A trustedadvisor to numerous Chief Executives onrecruitment issues, he has also worked onleadership team assessments prior to privateequity investment on at least 50 occasions. He hasrecruited on both UK-wide and international leveland of note, has delivered assignments in the US,Croatia, France, Belgium and the Czech PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATES R RICHMOND S BACK HOME NEXT
  11. 11. Richmond Solutions offer interview training as one of their services. For further details,please contact us at If you would like a free review of your CV or LinkedIn profile, please contact us via our website. For updates from Richmond Solutions follow us onTwitter @richmondsol and join our LinkedIn group. With regular updates and information always appearing on our blog,why not come and take a look PERSONAL CAREER ADVOCATESR RICHMOND +44 (0)20 8835 7082S