How to prepare for an interview – both sides of the table!

  • Post published:04/05/2011
  • Reading time:5 mins read

Well, I suppose it depends on which side of the table you are sitting. Let me start by addressing what you need to do if you are the candidate. How do you survive and impress the very professional HR Manager or the headhunter?8669_Meter_High_web

Then further down in this story, what you as a company HR Manager or line manager can do when an applicant comes for an interview or a candidate for a meeting.

So before you attend your next job interview or meeting, keep this email in a place where you can easily find it. Reading this reminder could be the difference between performing at the highest level during an interview or on the other hand shooting yourself in the foot while making a fool of yourself.

Real HR Managers and headhunters use behavioral based interview technique which is based on the premise that a candidate’s past performance is the best predictor of future performance. You will need to provide detailed responses including specific examples of your work experience. The best way to prepare is to think of situations where you have successfully used the knowledge and skills. You should have developed stories that illustrate your past performance.

Of particular interest is to hear about your most significant major accomplishments (achievements) that relate to what the company or the headhunter’s client is looking for. Things, ideas, initiatives, results – whatever it may be – that you are very proud of and can talk about in detail.8339_7112_fireplace_chair_colorLow_web

Write these stories or examples down. Bring the paper along for the interview and don’t be shy to place it in front of you. You will only come across as a person who gave the meeting some thoughts beforehand and just that will give you positive points in the book. How many times have I met candidates who were told to bring examples of achievements and accomplishments? Instead of bringing a list to help them, they desperately try to memorize it all. But it never works and we are left with the impression of just another ordinary candidate.

To better understand your actual role in the position you are meeting discuss, there will be follow up questions by the interviewer such as: when did it happen, how long did it take to finish, what was your specific role, who else was involved, describe the environment and culture, what was the impact you made, what were the biggest challenges you faced, what technical skills did you use and learn, how did your boss manage you. Again, don’t even try to remember all this in your head. Write them down, bring your notes along, place them in front of you on the table and use your paper for reference.7332_Approved_stamp_red

Interviewers will repeat questions that you were asked earlier or ask questions where the answers are already given in your resume. They do this on purpose for various reasons, one being to allow you an opportunity to present yourself and to open a discussion on the subject.

Most answers during the meeting should be about one-to-two minutes long. If you talk for more than three minutes, you risk losing the interviewer’s interest and you will likely be ranked as boring, long-winded, or too self-centered. If you talk for half a minute, you are most likely considered superficial, incompetent, or lacking interest.

This kind of interview process is less stressful and more enjoyable than traditional interview sessions. No need to think about what they want to hear or what you would do in whatever situation. Simply talk about what you have done in real life work situations.  It’s a good idea to make notes of the stories you want to talk about. Bring your notes for the meeting and also bring your resume; place your papers on the table in front of you for easy reference. Sorry for repeating myself.

You will also notice that the interviewer will likely take tons of notes. That’s a good sign. If you have any questions before your interview meeting, do not hesitate to contact the company or the headhunter. You should of course know who you are meeting, like name and position. If you don’t know that, just call and ask. Check also how many people you will be meeting and how many hours you are likely to spend there.

And now, if you are the interviewer, the HR Manager or line manager, who have invited an applicant or candidate to come and meet you. The easy way, copy the text above and paste into an email which you send to the person before your meeting. Edit the text to change they to we. And so on. And also include in the email the names and positions that the person will be meeting. What’s your address (map) and a telephone number and name to call in case of last minute changes or delays. As simple as that, but believe me, this is how you build your employee value proposition even before you meet the candidates.7821_music_notes_blueLow_web

Tom Sorensen

Tom Sorensen is an executive search veteran with over 25 years of experience recruiting in Asia, Europe, and Africa. He has worked in executive search in Thailand since 2003 and is recognized as one of the country’s top recruiters and most profiled headhunters.