2 parts - 5 rules - 1 interview

It’s been a top week, we have a class of grads who, this week went to code school. Our coding trainer might just be one of the coolest trainers ever, he can make the world’s most complicated technical stuff seem simple and easy to understand (more on this in a future blog).

Anyway, this is my first ever two part blog, it’s a two part blog for two reasons – one because we’re going to look at interviewing from both sides of the table (one side this week and one side next). It’s also a two part blog because it means I can write “tune in next week” or “to be continued” at the end of it!

This part is on being interviewed.

I’m going to give you my 5 golden rules to being interviewed. These rules apply to any job at any level but this is aimed at graduates interviewing for jobs, not at C-level execs. I’ll save that one for a later date (you’ll know I’m running out of things to write about when that crops up).

ONE

First off never be late, ever, full stop. Arrive ten minutes before it’s due to start. 15 is fine, 20 is too much, 7 is fine, 5 is just about ok. Arriving at 3pm for a 3pm interview is late. The interview won’t start as you walk through the doors to reception. Obvious, sure. Make it a rule for yourself and never break it.

TWO

Second rule, you should be super-duper prepared. This isn’t going to be news to any of you but yet I often meet grads that underwhelm me with how prepared they are. I hardly ever meet grads where I think “wow, they’ve really done their homework”. I think the point here is that lots/most of you know that you should be prepared and you want to be, it’s just that some of you don’t really know what that looks like. The thing I think you struggle with is how to prepare, what to prepare and, well, where to start. Here’s some thoughts. Can you draw a rough diagram to show how the company is structured? Do you know the last 5-10 things that were written about the company? Do you know all the ways that the company makes money and do you know how much each of these methods make? Do you know the backgrounds of all the people you’re meeting? Do you know what the company’s vision/mission/values/culture is? If you’ve got your head round all this stuff then you’re probably going to be fine.

Why is step 2 so important? If you’re interviewing for a role then you, presumably, want to work for the company right? How on earth are you supposed to know if you want to work for the company without doing some proper preparation? If the person interviewing you senses that you don’t really know this stuff, then they don’t know if you really want the job. The one thing that you can guarantee, absolutely guarantee, is that someone else they’re interviewing for this job will know the lot.

THREE

Step three, tell the truth, 100% of the time, always, without fail, tell the truth. There are obvious exceptions; you’ve just got back from holiday and you spent the entire time partying, they ask you what you did while you were away. In this instance you can spare the details and say “just spent time relaxing with friends” but short of this sort of thing the rule stands.

FOUR

Rule four (yep, steps and rules are 100% interchangeable) – this is my personal favourite and most important rule. You know how, at the end of every interview you’ve ever had or will ever have the interviewer says “do you have any questions?” Well, the rule is that you should have an absolute, 'zero tolerance' minimum of 10 good questions to ask. The truth is that this shouldn’t be difficult to prepare at all, you should, genuinely have hundreds of questions. You’re about to go and work at this place! You’re going to spend more hours in this business, with these people than you spend doing anything else at all. You must, surely (SURELY) have questions.

The thought I’d add to this is that for me and I suspect many others, the quality of your questions will be a big indicator as to how good you’ll be in the job. Asking good questions is a very real skill and demonstrating that you’re good at it is can be a real game-changer. Base your questions on things that the interviewer(s) have said. “you said earlier that you have big ambitions for your department, can you tell me more about what you’re hoping to achieve?”

FIVE

My final rule is “finish the interview”. Make sure the interview finishes well. It’s amazing how many interviewees get this bit wrong. If you want the job then simply telling the interviewer this is a great end to the interview. Let’s call this the minimum you should do. “I’d just like to say that I think this is a brilliant opportunity and I’d love the chance to work here”.

The step beyond this is to tell them all of the above, but add in one extra. Something like “I’d just like to say that I think this is a brilliant opportunity, from what I understand I think I've got the right skills and attitude to do it, and I’d love the chance to work with you on making it a real success”.

The time that this really starts to pay off is when you know that they have a reservation or two. If they’ve said “I’m concerned you don’t have quite the right knowledge to fulfill the role” then you can address this in the wrap up. “I’d just like to say that I think this is a brilliant opportunity, I know I’d have to get myself up to speed in the areas we’ve discussed but I’m confident I can do that quickly and I’d love the chance to work with you on making this role a real success”

They may seem obvious, but you’d be amazed by how many of you don’t follow all five rules at every single interview.

If there’s a theme that runs through all of this, then it’s “want the job” – it’s amazing how if you genuinely want the job then almost all of this will happen without any extra special thought.

“TO BE CONTINUED!!!”