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Spice Up Your Interview Technique

Posted on: 06 May 09

Summary

The inspiration for this article came to me when watching an interview with Mr N R Narayanmurthy, Chief Mentor at Infosys. I was particularly taken by his control and poise; clearly, someone with years of training and experience in being interviewed can be completely at ease in such a stressful situation, but it made me think about how we can all improve our own techniques and create that vital positive first impression.

“… interviewing skills have been rapidly and continuingly changing…”

Being interviewed can be a nightmare at times and having been in the industry for 11 years, I recall how interviewing skills have been rapidly and continuingly changing over that period. Having been both a candidate and an interviewer on many occasions, as I am sure many of us are, I would like this article to reach out to everyone, particularly those seeking their next strategic positions.

So how can you prepare to perform at your best in that all-important interview?

Build on your CV

There is much web-based information available which can help you format your CV. However, preparing yourself for an interview for a senior position calls for you to present a more detailed work profile with job responsibilities held at your various positions. Whilst the skill set and employment details are mandated, your CV must capture the highlights of your career to enables the interviewer to assimilate necessary information about you. In preparing for interview, be prepared to expand on any aspect of this condensed career history, particularly how your previous experiences could be applied to the business sector or role for which you are being interviewed.

Do background research

Research about the company that has invited you to interview should always be your first step. Gathering background information on a potential employer’s vision and values is a crucial element in successful interview preparation. You will need to be prepared to answer the questions “What do your know about our company?” and “Why do you want to work here?” Use the internet to find out more about the company and reflect on both your own motivations and the overlap between the company’s vision and values and your own.

“… reflect on… the overlap between the company’s vision and values and your own.”

Information on the company’s turnover and growth pattern relative to its sector, the countries where it operates, its main competitors, its vision for the coming years and what stands for are some points to look for. It’s important to ask yourself that if the position you are being interviewed for is a strategic one, do you have the capabilities as a visionary in this sector and to lead a team to the achievement of common goals?

Prepare yourself for the interview

On the day of the interview, it is important to perform to the best of your ability, without being distracted by nerves. It’s important to:

  • Stay calm
  • Dress to succeed. It’s better to be smart even if the company you are going to see has a ‘dress down’ policy
  • Be very confident and positive on why you are looking for a change of job
  • Prepare examples that relate to the details in your CV
  • Should you be asked to make a presentation, put in a significant amount of effort and energy

Behavioural interviews
A behavioural interview is considered a strategic tool to predict a candidate’s future success based on actual past behaviour. In a traditional interview, you are asked a series of questions which typically have straight-forward answers like “What are your strengths and weaknesses?” or “What major challenges and problems did you face and how did you handle them?
For strategic senior positions, the pattern of asking questions has changed. The behavioural interview is a window to sneak into your past and predict the future. The interviewer knows the skill set required for the job set and questions are based on the situation to enable you to show these skills. The questions will be directed towards “How did you manage an actual situation” rather than “How would you manage a hypothetical situation?
Here are a few questions which can help us understand the behavioural style of questioning:

  • Give an example in your current job where you managed a conflict.
  • Give an example where you had to take a real hard decision and what was the outcome.
  • Give an example where you think you could have taken a better decision and why was this.
  • Give me an example where you reached your goal and how did achieved this.
  • Give me an example of a problem you faced on the job, and tell me how you solved it.

How to prepare for a behavioural interview

In preparing for a behavioural interview, it is important to obtain a thorough knowledge of the job description, so that you can understand the skill sets the employer is looking for. These can be matched to your current job profile. If you are in contact with the recruiter, try to get as much information about the job you have been shortlisted for. A few important skills required for any job function are:

  • Enthusiasm
  • Flexibility
  • Knowledge and skills
  • Personal attributes
  • Credibility
  • Honesty
  • Integrity
  • Trustworthiness

With these in mind you can form examples that draw from your CV to demonstrate these traits.

Any answer you give to this type of question should be:

  • Specific
  • Orientated to the situation or task
  • Action taken by you
  • Result achieved

“… remember that there is no right or wrong answer for a given situation.”

As a candidate, remember that there is no right or wrong answer for a given situation. Questions are only asked to understand a real life situation and how you managed it, so your answer will only indicate how close you are to the skill set required for the job. For every job classification there is a different set of behavioural interview questions.

Example

The following example is intended to help you to understand the specific intention behind a behavioural interview question. A question might be phrased “Can you list your top five accomplishments, and communicate their impact to your team/organization?” The purpose of the question is to give employers a way to associate your skills with their needs and a reason to remember you. Top accomplishments that you detail in an interview will enable a prospective employer to see what you can bring to their organization. Be prepared to list your top skills and show how they can help meet corporate needs.

If your answer discusses each accomplishment in turn, the interviewer might stop you and ask you to be more specific. Instead, you might consider listing the accomplishments in summary form before going into detail on each one, such as “My top five accomplishments were 1,2,3,4 and 5. Let me give you examples how these impacted the bottom line…

Follow-up questions from the interviewer in this situation might be “Why do you think this accomplishment was important to you?” or “What were the obstacles you overcame in your achievement?”

Prepare to succeed

Your success in an interview is entirely based on your preparation, and I am sure handling difficult situations that relate to the job profile is a proficiency we all should have. Remember to quote examples, state facts and be specific in your approach to demonstrate how targeted you are towards the goal.

“… quote examples, state facts and be specific in your approach…”

Since you cannot know the questions you will be exposed too, prepare as much you can and give it your best shot.

Good luck!

Shanoo Singh is a Resource Manager at i3 Pharma
• Direct: +91 124 3063 059 •Mobile: +91 9899 402 447

Shanoo Singh

Last updated on: 27/08/2010 11:40:18

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