The Expert Guide To: Gaining An Edge in An Interview

We all know that interviews can be a daunting prospect – what should I wear? What time do I need to arrive? What questions will they ask and how should I answer them? Interviews can be a time-consuming thing to prepare for, but luckily for you, we’ve got experts on hand with insider tips to help you prepare!

We sent some commonly asked questions to some experts in the field. Lucy Goddard is Head of HR at Pricecheck, an international brand wholesaler and distributor of fast-moving consumer goods, who turned over a record-breaking £73m in 2018. Recruiting for offices all over the world, Lucy has come to know a thing or two about the process and how to get through an interview like a pro!

Our second expert is Leanna Moody, who is HR Manager at Solo Protect. Solo Protect works to deliver innovative solutions to help employers discreetly protect their lone workers. This includes the launch of the innovative technology package ‘SoloProtect ID Pro’. Recruiting for their UK and US offices, Leanna also has over 10 years of experience in carrying out interviews.

We also have our very own Rob Shaw, the managing director of Glu Recruit. Their responses to the questions below will stand you in good stead for any future interviews you might have.

What do you feel is the biggest mistake candidates make before the interview?

Lucy: “Follow what is asked of you. If your invite to interview asks for an email back to confirm your attendance, please do so. Even worse than this is confirming your attendance but then not showing up on the day! If for any reason you no longer want to attend, let somebody know. Just as you don’t want to waste your time attending an interview that your heart isn’t in, please respect the time of the interview panel too. Manners cost nothing – you never know where paths may cross again in the future.”

Leanna: “The biggest mistake you can make before your interview is getting lost on the way there. This shows a potential employer that you don’t have great preparation skills. Do a dummy run the day before to ensure that you know your way and arrive no earlier than 10 minutes before the interview – there is such thing as arriving too early!”

man being interviewed

Rob: “A lack of preparation. Sometimes the basics can be easily forgotten such as reading through and thoroughly understanding the job spec and person requirements. Researching the business that you’re being interviewed with – not just reading the about us page of the website, but checking out their social media, speaking to people that you know who work there, looking at awards, recent news, etc gives a great picture of the business to date. A dummy run is a great idea so that you’re not overly panicking on the day about how long it takes to get there, where they are, or parking etc. It’s a good idea to prepare some questions for the interviewer yourself too and identify what it is about the opportunity that makes it of interest to you. Fail to prepare and prepare to fail!”

What do you feel is the biggest mistake candidates make during the interview?

Lucy: “Giving the answer you have prepared, rather than answering the question that you’ve been asked. I appreciate that you have done your research and you want the panel to know this – this will naturally come across during the interview, and you can steer the conversation in the questions you ask. You have key skills that you want to share (and we definitely want to hear about!), but please do it at an appropriate stage otherwise it can come across as not listening and being quite detached”.

Leanna: “Bad Mouthing your previous employers. You need to put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer – how would it look to you if you were interviewing somebody who had bad faith towards their past employers? Is there a chance that if you employ this person, they will do the exact same to you later down the line? It’s a huge no-no. If you left on bad terms from a past employer, keep your personal opinions to yourself and focus on excelling the criteria of the current opportunity that they deem as the perfect candidate”.

Rob: “Not fully answering the question given/relating it to the role requirements. This can sometimes come from a lack of understanding but this can be easily cleared up by asking if you don’t fully understand what’s being asked. Sometimes you can have a mind blank and that’s OK, so rather than fudge together an answer to ask the interviewer for time to consider that question and come back to it at the end. Don’t rush, answer fully and try to back up each of your answers with real-life examples. Ideally, work ones that demonstrate your competence and suitability to the role.”

How should a candidate pinpoint the important information employers want to hear?

Lucy: “As well as using the job description to highlight how you can demonstrate all the requirements for the job, research what is important to the company. If they have a huge Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) presence on their website, how would you contribute to this? If they advertise they are undertaking a huge innovation project, how can you demonstrate you are commercially creative? Look for the company vision, mission, and values and see how this matches what is important to you. When it comes down to choosing between two solid candidates, appreciation of the bigger picture can make a huge difference”.

Leanna: “Do your research on the company. What is their aim and mission? Do they have core values? What products do they provide? You do not need to tell the interviewer the full history of the company, but showing an interest is always a bonus. Research the job description and person specification of the role – If you do not have one, ask for one in advance! These documents will give you a clear direction on what the interview questions may be and what the interviewer is looking for, and will show the interviewers you are fully prepared to undertake the required duties and responsibilities of the role. It will also help you tailor your answers to essential criteria which will boost your chances of success”.

Rob: “By reading and understanding the job and person spec. This often clearly defines the role duties and what skills/experience the employer is looking for. By planning for this you are able to answer the interview questions with the most relevance to the role. If it’s unclear, ask the interviewer beforehand if you have the opportunity so that you can plan, or if not during the interview to get clarity so that you can answer with examples which are the most suitable to the role.”

Are there any signs in body language or otherwise a candidate should look out for in the interviewer? What do they mean and how should they react to them?

Lucy: “If the interviewer is talking an awful lot, are you answering the questions fully? It should be a two- way conversation – it also gets quite repetitive for an interviewer if they’re getting nothing back so keep them interested! Don’t feel the need to fill a pause (I’m terrible for this ‘in real life’!!). Yes, they could be waiting for you to expand on an answer, but if you feel you have already covered it fully and concisely, there shouldn’t be more to add. Waffling through the silence may de-credit what could have been a fantastic answer initially. Follow the pace which the interview panel set. If they are asking quick-fire questions, answer succinctly and move on to the next one. If they are more drawn out on their questions and have a chatty style, adopt this approach. Their interview technique/style could be representative of the company tone and they may be looking at how you fit into that culture”.

Leanna: “Eye contact during an interview is very important. It shows that all parties are engaged and absorbing what information is being said. If your interviewer does not have great eye contact, it’s important to understand that they may not be collecting key information from your answers. After answering their question, clarify with them that they are happy you have covered all points in the question or ask them if they have any further questions to re-engage them. A good interviewer will make sufficient notes to ensure that they have documented your answers and can score you fairly to the required criteria. Remember – If you have any concerns about your interview, you can always provide feedback to the recruitment agency you are registered with, they will deliver this back to the employer on your behalf”.

Leanna’s last point is very important, and if you are registered with us, we always encourage our clients to discuss the positives and negatives of interview experiences, so we can work to improve the process for future candidates.

Rob: “Body language can be a complicated one and overthinking it can make it even more confusing. As an interviewee, you should aim for good posture, a firm handshake and avoid folding your arms as it can be perceived as a ‘barrier’ or a lack of interest. It’s a good tip to appear relaxed (even if you aren’t) and sit back in your chair, try to avoid fidgeting and keep a good level of eye contact with the interviewer without staring! It’s important for you to look out for the interviewers’ body language during the interview for signs of either engagement or disengagement. Mirroring body language is a good way to create a bond with the interviewer and remember, not everyone is trained in interviewing. For some, it’s just a part of their role and interviewers get nervous too!”

Post-interview, should the candidate wait to hear from the employer or are there proactive steps they can take?

Lucy: “I think this is down to your individual preference and how the interview went. If it was a positive experience and you have a purpose for sending a note (follow up timescales, making the panel aware of dates you would be unavailable should your application progress etc), go ahead and drop an email, but don’t just do it for the sake of it. On the other hand, if hindsight allows you to think of better answers to the questions or share additional relevant experience that you forgot to mention during the interview, sending ‘revised’ answers following up wouldn’t suffice for me. Do what you feel is right for the situation – there definitely shouldn’t be one blanket email to send as standard after each meeting as it won’t come across as genuine”.

Leanna: “Ask the interviewer how many other interviews they are planning to conduct for the role. To promote a good candidate experience, in my opinion, an employer should get in touch with the candidate within 1 week from the date of the interview. An employer will more than likely immediately discuss the candidate with key stakeholders once the interview concludes. If you haven’t heard from the employer during the 1-week period, I would then make contact as this gives the employer a reasonable amount of time to finish their recruitment assessment. It is very easy for an employer to get agitated if a candidate contacts for updates within such a short period of time from their initial interview. It could also give the impression that the candidate has poor time expectation/management skills that could affect how they see the candidate in the role”.

Rob: “With lots of candidates looking for a career move it’s important to stand out, without being too over the top. Little things such as following up with an email thanking the interviewer for their time goes a long way. You can also use this opportunity to reaffirm your interest in the opportunity, or to cover off anything that you think you missed in the interview that you think is relevant to your application. Also, you could send a LinkedIn connection request to the interviewer with an accompanying note thanking them for their time.”

In your experience, what one piece of advice will impress the interviewer and give the candidate the best chance of success?

Lucy: “Remember that the interviewer wants you to do well. You want the job and they ultimately have a position to fill – they would love if you were the right person for them! The interviewer wants to see you at your very best so try to relax, be yourself, take an interest and prepare well.”

Leanna: “The key thing to remember – You have been invited to an interview because the interviewer sees potential in your skills, they want you as much as you want them so you’re halfway there already!”

Rob: “Preparation and ensuring that the interviewer knows that you want THAT job at THAT company rather than just a job.”

So, there you have it! Insightful answers full of insider tips and tricks to ensure you are as prepared as you can be for your future interviews. Being told to relax during such an important hour of your life might sound unachievable. But think about it: you’ve got this far and the company is clearly interested in you – if you’ve done your research and prepared well, (and read through this guide, of course) what have you got to be nervous about?

Now go out there and win at that interview!

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