Interview in the North West

Focus 5’s Top 5 – Interview Preparation

1 Get Virtual Interview Ready

Video interviewing – particularly at an initial screening stage – is not new, and right now it’s the norm. First impressions are vitally important in the interview process. It’s not just you on show now, it’s also your ‘home office’ set up, where you’ll need to work on a day to day basis, perhaps for a while to come. You need to look work ready (we’ll come on to that shortly); but so does your bedroom, lounge or under-stairs-cubby.
Think about:

Background
Find – or create – a space that’s as free from clutter as possible, even if it means moving bits and pieces out of sight temporarily.

Depending on the software being used for your interview, you may be able to utilise a virtual background. Choose wisely!

Lighting
Avoid sitting with your back to a window if possible, as you’ll be in shadow.
Think about how long the interview may last – squinting into the screen if the sun starts to stream in through a window at you will not be comfortable.

Sound
While children and pets have often become honorary team members as we’ve been working from home, your interview is not the best time to introduce them.
Make sure anyone at home with you is aware of when you’ll need as few distractions as possible, and rope in friends and family, if possible, to help by taking children or dogs out for a short period of time.

Camera angle
Think about where you’re going to put your phone or laptop, so that you can look directly into the camera. If you’re looking down at the camera, then the interviewer is looking up at you, and will probably have a very clear view of your nose….
Invest in a laptop stand, or repurpose a pile of book or magazines, to ensure that you can make virtual eye contact with your interviewer comfortably and naturally.

Dress
Sales of loungewear have soared over lockdown, as office attire has been relegated to the back of the wardrobe.
Keep at least one ‘smart’ outfit interview ready. Whether online or in person, make sure you’re appearing professional and job ready.

2 Research The Organisation

Sounds obvious… however unprepared candidates are still right up there on the list of hiring managers’ biggest gripes.

Make sure you’re clued up on:

What the company does
Checkout the company’s website “About Us” page, or the “About” section of their LinkedIn profile. Press Releases and the company blog will give you an insight into the direction the company is taking – including why they may be in the process of hiring new staff. Set up a Google alert, to keep up to date with the latest developments.

Why they do what they do
Does the organisation have a mission statement? It’s a good way to understand where a company has come from, and where they may be heading.

How they do what they do
Company culture is becoming more and more important, and you need to know that you’re going to enjoy the working environment. Social media – particularly Facebook and Instagram – are increasingly used to demonstrate employee engagement. Lots of pics of dressing up as superheroes? Team challenges in muddy fields? Super casual dressing? Or traditional and formal? Your interviewer will be looking for clues that you’ll fit in easily with your new team and referencing how the company looks and feels from its social media presence shows you’ve done your homework too.

Who else does what they do
Showing that you’re aware of competitors in the market demonstrates a deeper understanding of the industry as a whole. Easier to do if you’re currently employed by a competitor, or have been in the past, but a little research can pay dividends.

3 Research Yourself

While you’re researching the company, the company are researching….. you. And that includes, potentially, your social media accounts, your posts and your pictures.
You may want to set your accounts to ‘Private’ – if they are not already. Your profile picture will still be visible, so check that it’ something you’re happy with.
Do you mention work in your social posts? If you’ve taken to Facebook, for example, to share frustrations or annoyance about your current or past roles, team mates or employers, it’s advisable to hide these, (no matter how justified you feel they are) as they’re not going to cast you in the best light.
Cross reference too, your LinkedIn profile with your CV, to check that dates, job roles and experience tally.

4 Have Examples of Your Experience at the Ready

‘Lack of technical ability’ is often cited as the reason a candidate doesn’t get put forward for a second interview. When you’re under pressure, it’s not easy to be the very best version of yourself.
Take your cue from the job description. Read every bullet point listed and prepare some specific examples that demonstrate your skill and expertise in the areas your interviewer is particularly interested in.

5 Plan for the Unexpected

Whether the interview is in person, or online, even the best laid plans can go astray.
If you’re travelling to an unfamiliar location, plan the journey in advance and check on the day for any potential delays. Make sure your phone battery is charged, just in case you need to phone ahead in the case of unavoidable delay.


Online interviews require advance planning too. Check well in advance if you need to download any meeting software, and that your internet connection will manage to stream video. Ensure that your PC or laptop is turned on and ready to go – you don’t want to find yourself waiting for the latest update to run, or software to open.

Interviews can be challenging, and being prepared can go a long way to ensuring success. If you’ve been put forward for interview by a recruiter, be sure to learn from their experience of the company, its recruitment process and often the hiring manager. They’ll be able to give background information and an insight into what the interviewer will be looking out for on the day.

For help and support in taking the next step in your career, please do get in touch.

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