Interview? Don’t forget the basics when preparing for the big day!
Getting the offer of an interview is a big deal. You may have spent a great deal of time and effort on carefully preparing your CV, searching for the right opportunity and, in many cases when first leaving the Service, have had to have overcome a couple (or more) of rejections for jobs you had applied for. This is a common occurrence in civvy street but it’s quite difficult to deal with for those who have been in military service for a while, so when the offer of an interview is made, it can feel like – and is – a real achievement.
The interview itself is another hurdle that must be cleared before moving on to receiving a job offer or to the next stage of selection for a particular role. Many people fail to clear this hurdle and are doomed before they even begin. One of the most important aspects of getting it right at interview is in how it is prepared for. This article isn’t about the detail of how to prepare for the questions you may be asked at interview but about the more basic elements of preparation that so many people forget or don’t pay enough attention to. You have to get the basics right or the rest may not work.
When you receive the interview offer, be it over the phone or by email or letter, ensure you pay attention and listen (or read) the detail carefully. If unsure ask for confirmation. When received by email/letter the interviewer may provide specific detail that can often be lost in the moment or skimmed over. For example, it may say that the interview will be held at a certain time but state further on that you need to arrive 20 minutes early. The letter may have a Head Office address but the location for the interview is being held at a different location. These sound like basic things but it is surprising how many people turn up at the wrong time or location!
Consider what, if any, documentation you need to bring. Proof of identity or the right to work in the UK for example, are often asked for. Imagine leaving it until an hour before you leave the house to travel to your interview to grab the passport from the drawer, where it is always kept, only to find that it is not there. Or, worse still, that it expired last week. Has the interviewer asked you to prepare a paper, or presentation? There is an old saying about work expanding to fill the time available – make sure you have prepared and practiced (on family members of willing friends) so that any speaking part or presentation can be delivered confidently and professionally. Again, when these things are left until the last moment, they have a habit of catching people out.
What is to be worn at the interview? Make sure you read the email or letter a good two or three times and ensure that you have not missed any specifics concerning clothing, footwear and accessories – if, for example, the interview involves a tour of the premises, there may be requirements for safety clothing. Don’t get caught out by wearing clothing that is inappropriate or not taking items that have been specified in your interview offer instructions.
Finally, most interviewers or panels will have expected you to have carried out at least some basic research into the company that you are trying to join. It is entirely understandable that you will wish to focus the main efforts of your preparation towards questions that are specific to the job role you are being interviewed for but it is strongly recommended that you devote at least a little time into conducting some wider research into the organisation. It may be a little uncomfortable if a candidate who is being interviewed for a job with a Bank does not know the current share price, or who the current president is, or for someone who wishes to work for a large FM company not to know who the organisation’s major contracts are with.
These are only a few, very basic, ideas that may help in preparing for an interview. Once they are in place, you can move on to the hard work of getting ready for the role-specific preparation of the interview and how you will deliver your answers and secure the job. The basic foundations are important though and it doesn’t matter how good your answers are - if you have turned up at the wrong office, with out of date documentation, inappropriately dressed or with absolutely no wider knowledge of the organisation, you will have instantly put yourself at a disadvantage against the other candidates who have got it right.