Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?

There you are, just heard that you have made the cut and you’re through to the 2nd interview stage! Hopefully you have asked how many candidates have progressed to that stage, so that you have a sense of the amount of competition you have. Continue reading “Second interview – will you prepare a presentation?”

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How to prepare for a video interview

Video interviews are becoming common practice, as more and more employers (but also recruitment firms) cut travel costs and are looking for more efficient ways to manage their time. However, in my experience, few individuals are well versed in making a good impression by video link and as this is often the final filter to decide whether you are invited for an in-person meeting, it is important to prepare well. Continue reading “How to prepare for a video interview”

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Ready for your telephone interview?

Although we all spent a lot of time on our phones, we actually spent a very small proportion of that time speaking on the phone compared to 10 or 20 years ago. As interview processes often involve some sort of telephone interview, you’re well advised to give a phone interview a bit of thought and preparation. Particularly if you bear in mind that in a face-to-face conversation, 75% of effective communication is non-verbal.

So here are some tips that will help you prepare for a successful call.

1. DO SOME RESEARCH
Try to find out who will be interviewing you. Will there be multiple people on the call? If possible get their names and titles. Become familiar with these beforehand and you will have one less thing to worry about during the call. Try and get some background on the interviewer. Any insight you can gain about them will allow you to tailor your responses to make the best possible impression.

2. ORGANISE YOUR THOUGHTS
Make a list of your accomplishments, goals and strengths. On another list write out your weaknesses (or better still: your development needs) and what you are doing to overcome them. On a third sheet write down why you are interested in the company. Think carefully about all of these items as they often come up in interviews.

3. PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE
Never forget that a telephone interview is still an interview. Take time to practice interview questions with friends or family. Ask them to provide honest feedback so you can improve your responses. Mock interview questions can easily be found on the internet. If you get stuck on a question, sample answers to these questions are often provided as well.

4. DO A SOUND CHECK
During the mock interview, have your friend ask you questions both over the phone and in person. Make sure that they listen not only for content, but also tone, rate and clarity of your speech. If possible, record yourself speaking. Are you speaking slowly and clearly? Can you easily be heard? Is your voice portraying you as a confident and enthusiastic candidate? If not continue to practice until you are comfortable.

5. FIND YOUR LOCATION
Find a quiet space to occupy during your interview. Ideally, there should be a comfortable place to sit as well as a table to lay out your papers. Try and find a low-traffic spot where members of the household are unlikely to disturb you.

6. ORGANISE YOUR PAPERS
Have a copy of your resume and cover letter close at hand. Take out those lists you made while organising your thoughts. In addition keep any notes related to the company that you feel may be helpful during the call. Spread these items out across your table so they are easy to access. Only keep what is truly necessary. Too much paper can be a distraction.

7. GATHER YOUR WRITING TOOLS
Have paper and pens handy for writing down notes, questions and most importantly, your interviewer’s names.

8. ELIMINATE DISTRACTIONS
As the appointed hour draws near, make sure that the television and the radio are turned off. Exit your email and turn off your computer screen. If possible, disable your call-waiting. Let your family know about the timing of the interview so they do not accidentally disturb you.

The main rules are:

  • Think about how you normally answer the phone at home. When you answer the phone, do so by announcing your name, in an enthusiastic style: ‘John Pickles, Good Morning!’ If this is not your natural style, change it!
  • Sound interesting/interested, energetic and enthusiastic
  • Be succinct (don’t waffle)
  • Ask open-ended questions (beginning with who, what, when, why, where, how: these all ask for information, and keep the ball in the other person’s court). Be prepared that they will do exactly the same!
  • Don’t use jargon
  • Don’t swear or use colloquialisms (local phrases: ‘I covered the whole of London on Shanks’ pony’)
  • Be polite: Don’t use their first name unless invited to. Use their title if you know they are for example, a doctor.
  • Use the other person’s name regularly throughout the conversation (but not all the time). Also, use the company name a few times.
  • During the telephone interview, talk calmly, and with warmth. Standing can make you sound more confident and helps project a positive and professional image and smiling creates a friendly and enthusiastic impression. Do not forget to use gestures and facial expressions as you would normally do. They are translated and transmitted down the phone line. Smiling, and taking deep breaths help improve blood flow and improve your articulation.
  • To help you in establishing rapport on the phone, try to match your speaking rate and pitch to that of the interviewer.
  • Be a good listener. Your listening skills will be put to the test here, as your answers will reflect if you have been listening well or not. If you do not hear or understand what was said, do not hesitate to ask that it be repeated. Do not confabulate or make up questions.
  • Answer questions straight to the point, using short sentences. Do not say more than is expected of you. Use facts and figures, and show achievements. Let your interviewer see why you are priceless… do not overdo it of course.

Contact me if you’re not certain or would like more advice.

Good luck!

Maarten Jonckers

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The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare

Although group interviews are not common, there are a number of companies that like using this method of selecting the right candidate and it’s worth knowing how to approach them. Continue reading “The dreaded group interview – what to expect and how to prepare”

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How to end an interview on a high

Make sure you are remembered (for the right reasons!) When preparing for an interview we tend to concentrate on making a good first impression:

  • Dress code – check
  • Firm hand shake – check
  • Mini commercial prepared, why am I interested in this role – check
  • Strengths and weaknesses question, answer prepared – check
  • Mental list of questions to ask – check
  • What will be my last question or statement? Oh, I’ll play that by ear…

Is it just me or do you ever go out for dinner and have an OK starter and mains, but the dessert is absolutely fantastic, which makes you remember the whole meal as being exceptional? Maybe it is just me being so shallow.

How many movies do you remember where the ending is so powerful that you can watch it again and again? Think Shawshank Redemption…

So why should your interview be anything less?

Remember my previous blog – it is more likely that you are remembered for the quality of questions you ask than the answers you give. So, why not plan the last 5 minutes of your interview?

If you feel confident, then try an assumptive close (assume that you have the role or at least that you are going forward to the next round), for example:

  • Would it be possible for me to meet the team before I start?
  • Is there any chance of meeting some of my potential future colleagues as part of the selection process? Note: this process is as much your due diligence as it is theirs!
  • What would your expectations be of me during the first 3 months?
  • Any obstacles I need to be aware of?
  • What does the team look like? Any gaps, any underperformance issues?

And then the killer close:

I really enjoyed meeting you and look forward to seeing you again. Before I go, can I just ask, do you at this moment in time have any reservations regarding my ability to do the job or my ability to fit in culturally?

If you have papers and pen to put away, then do not do that in an awkward silence, fill it with seemingly innocent chit chat – do you have many more people to see? How many people have you met for this position?

Then when you are ready to go, a statement like ‘I was a bit apprehensive / nervous before meeting you, however I have really enjoyed our conversation’, followed by a good handshake, eye contact and smile.

I’d say that if you have taken your jacket or coat off, then do not get dressed there and then, take it to reception and put it on there.

Send LinkedIn request(s) the day after with a note to say that it was good to meet them.

Good luck!

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First interview – how to prepare

Exciting times, you have been invited to meet a potential new employer for what sounds like a great opportunity for furthering your career.

Problem is, you probably are not the only person they will be meeting. Assuming a shortlist of three candidates (and at least one internal candidate), it seems that your chance of success is 1:4.

So how can you swing the odds in your favour?

There are plenty of online articles and books about clever ways to answer interview questions, how to walk, talk and shake hands with your potential new employer and there are plenty of Do’s and Don’t’s regarding your conduct in the meeting and of course the dreaded dress code.
After interviewing potential short list candidates on behalf of my clients for more than 20 years, I have come to the conclusion that if you prepare well for the interview and stick to your plan then you have nothing to fear about.

Whether you have attended scores of interviews, whether you are naturally a confident person or whether you believe the interviewer will not be as senior as you are, if you do not prepare, the likelihood is that you will fail.

So what to do? Well you can’t go far wrong by following these tips:

1. Prepare a 10 minute mini commercial about yourself:
a. Expect the interviewer to have read your CV, so start off by giving only a brief overview of the companies and positions you have held (in no more than 2-3 sentences).
b. Then highlight the experience you have gained that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for, ie ‘the biggest team I have managed was at XYZ, where we achieved the following’, or ‘whilst at XYZ I lead the transformation project that lead to a 180 degree change in company culture’.
c. Highlight 2-3 specific achievements that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for. You really want to talk in quite some detail about what the situation was, what plan you / your team came up with, how you implemented it and what the final result was. Note: the more specific you can be in terms of % or £, the more memorable it will be for the interviewer. Achievements ought to be time based, specific and bench marked, it is the difference between saying ‘whilst at XYZ I significantly improved sales’ and saying ‘in 2013 I increased sales by 15% or £1.5m on a like-for-like basis against a market increase of only 2%’.

Btw you prepare this 10 minute mini commercial so that you can answer the ‘so tell me a bit about yourself’ question. You need to practise it, so that you know what you’re going to say and in what order. Don’t be word perfect, because you might come across as a news reader. Make sure to stick to 10mins – shorter will make you wishy washy, longer may make you verbose (please note that most interviewers will start to switch off after 10mins), however with 10 mins you’ll come across as succinct, to the point and (hopefully) with great clarity.
2. Research the company:
a. Read their website enough times for you to be able to speak knowledgeable about the business.
b. Search the internet for recent news articles on the company.
c. Visit the company’s stores, talk to the store staff, observe what works well and make a list of the things you think do not work well / want to ask questions about. Make a purchase, use their product and have an opinion about the experience and the product.
d. Check the online user experience, compare the digital customer experience to the one you had in store. How did the check out procedure work, was the order delivered on time. What did the packaging look like?

3. Research the competition:
a. How do they compare in service, price points, quality, availability, customer journey on and off line?
b. Speak to customers, why do they shop there? Do they also shop at the business you’re interviewing with? Why, or why not?

4. Research the interviewer(s):
a. LinkedIn is of course a great source for this, however are there also any articles published by or about your interviewer? Check!
b. Is there anyone in the interviewer’s background, who you know? Can you find out some background information on the interviewer? Even to know where they have last holidayed or what sports team they support can help you find common ground, which is so important in establishing rapport.

5. Prepare a SWOT analysis or a brief presentation based on your findings on the business. Preface it with ‘without any concrete information, but more as an outsider looking in, I believe that…’. You need to let the interviewer know in a subtle way, that you have done your home work. And you have done it thoroughly.
Btw if you (and I suggest that you do) leave a few slides / printed pages behind, then make sure they are printed on good quality paper, make sure that your name is printed on each page and depending on how many pages you leave behind, either put them in a nice folder or have them bound professionally. It is amazing how a few quid spent on a simple hand out can make a massive difference.

6. Find out what the company’s dress code is (even better, find out what the interviewer’s dress code is) and either match it or slightly better it. It’s better to be a bit neater than a bit more casual than expected…

7. Make a list of topics you want to talk about / questions you want to ask. The first question after your 10mins mini commercial ought to be ‘although I have done a lot of research, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you what the company has been through in the last 3 years, where it is today and where it aims to be in 3 years time’. Followed by ‘what has prompted the business to want to recruit a new xyz and what would this person need to achieve in their first 6 months in order to be deemed successful’.
Btw, the more you can find out about the interviewer’s or the company’s expectations for this role before you have to start answering their questions the better it is, because it will give you a good idea of what to highlight in your background later on to pique their interest.

8. Prepare yourself for the difficult questions – ‘what are your salary expectations’ (never give them a number, because you will be committed to it), ‘what are your weaknesses’ (give them a past development need that you have now overcome or a development need that has nothing to do with the job you are doing or the job that you are interviewing for).

9. Before you go to the interview think about how you can give some anecdotal evidence of your achievements. Just quoting facts and figures will ensure that the interviewer will forget your achievements, whilst if you wrap them up in an anecdote and tell them a ‘memorable story’ then that is far more likely to stick. Even better if it is a funny story, if you can make the interviewer smile then you are definitely building rapport.
Btw, don’t tell jokes, stick to the truth, don’t set out to be the funny guy. However, we all have experiences that we can smile about – share them!

10. Prepare a few ‘closes’ to the meeting, so that you can chose which one to use depending on the level of rapport you have built. A pushy, in your face close would be: ‘do you at this stage have any reservations regarding my ability to do the job or my ability to fit in from a cultural or personality perspective’. Less direct would be ‘I enjoyed the meeting, what are the next steps please’. Note: you will learn more from the first one, but it might not always be appropriate to use it.

Good luck and make sure to enjoy the experience, because you will come across as more confident if you set out to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need more advice, feel free to contact me.

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Interview dress code – what (not) to wear!

Ah, the good old days when things were easy and when turning up in a suit was always a safe bet… I blame ‘dress down Fridays’, it has all become so confusing from thereon in.

Now blokes, you’ll have to get in touch with your feminine side – and that doesn’t mean turning up for your interview dressed as Eddie Izzard…

And ladies, it ain’t that much easier for you – Power suit? Are trousers acceptable? Twin set? Dress? Skirt? Above the knee or below the knee?

What do you do?

The importance of making a good first impression gives weight to the argument that you need to carefully think about what you’re going to wear to that 1st interview (and also to the 2nd, 3rd and subsequent interviews, because you cannot turn up in the same outfit every time!).

Your safest bet is to try to find out the company’s dress code and the dress code of the person you’re meeting. Then copy whichever is the smartest dress.

If you do not know anyone who can give you reliable info on a company’s dress code, then phone switch board and ask how the directors are generally dressed. If you’re not sure about the response, then phone again at another time aiming to speak to a different receptionist.

Whilst we’re on the subject of dress code, have a think about your general appearance: hair, jewellery, piercings, tattoos et al.

My view is that generally you do not know the personal likes and dislikes of the person you’re meeting, therefore do not give them the opportunity to dismiss your candidature based on your appearance or first impression. Dress and present yourself within conservative boundaries. Take off excessive jewellery, take out your visible piercings (gents this includes your earrings), go to the hairdresser if you’re not sure that you can make your hairdo acceptable and cover up any tattoos if you can. Also, often forgotten: polish your shoes!

I may sound old fashioned and middle aged, but then again your interviewer might have old fashioned and conservative views. Just do not take a chance.

You may think that they should accept you as you are, however if you are not prepared to flex your style in order to make a good fit, then one could conclude that you are generally inflexible and come across as someone with a point to make. These tend not to be qualities that employers are looking for.

A suit isn’t always the right choice

I pitched for business once, where the client was a young lifestyle brand. I turned up in a suit and tie and could not convince them that I understood their brand and culture (even though I was a client and had been buying their clothes for some years – up until that point…).

A big lesson learned!

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to more articles on the subject and retail related chat

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Preparing for a 2nd (or 3rd) interview with a potential new employer

Congratulations, you have aced the first interview and you are invited back for a subsequent interview / meeting with a prospective new employer. What could possibly go wrong?

There are a few points to consider here, some of which relate to your preparation for the first interview…

 

  1. If after the 1st interview you don’t really know whether this opportunity is or is not right for you, then it is probably because you have not asked the right questions in the 1st meeting and this is probably down to poor preparation. Your 1st interview is as much part of your due diligence process as it is part of the hiring authority’s. So prepare well, ask the uncomfortable questions, do not assume anything and make sure that at the end of the meeting you know whether you want to be invited back or not.

 

  1. However, if after the first meeting you are not 100% convinced that this is the right company, right position or the right fit for you then you must communicate this to the person who is arranging the 2nd meeting. After all, if they weren’t 100% convinced that you were the right person either, then the chances are that this is probably not right for either party, therefore it might be best to stop the process and avoid wasting each other’s time. If it is decided that you should go ahead and meet a 2nd time anyway, then this will be a very different meeting in which you can ‘clear the air’ and have a very open conversation about your and their concerns. Based on the outcome of this conversation both parties can decide to go ahead or abort, either way, you will come across as a professional, who wishes to carefully manage their career without making change for changes sake.

 

  1. Assuming you are keen to go ahead and meet for the 2nd (or 3rd) time, then how do you prepare? How do you make sure that there is added value for you, rather than just a repeat of the 1st meeting, but with another person? Again, some of this will come down to the fact finding questions you asked in your 1st interview. Assuming you are meeting with a different person this time around, you may chose to verify your understanding around some of the facts you learned in the previous meeting – do I understand correctly that…? Is it true that…? As I understand it, this role will….? Your colleague described the culture as…., would you concur?
    Your aim here is to absolutely make certain that this is the right opportunity for you.

 

  1. One good way of finding out about opportunities within the business is to ask questions such as – what will happen to the current person in the role? (if they are leaving, why? Were there no opportunities for further progression?). What is the average tenure of people in senior positions and what is their background? (in other words, were they external hires or were they promoted?).

 

  1. It goes without saying that before the interview you need to do your homework on the person(s) you will be meeting. What is their background? Do you have common acquaintances or interests? If so, use these facts as an ice breaker. Depending on how well you got on with the 1st interviewer, you may ask them about advice on how to ‘handle’ the person you meet for the 2nd interview. 

 

  1. If you prepared a presentation for your 1st meeting, make sure to bring it to your subsequent meetings too. Make sure to make any appropriate amendments based on your findings from previous meetings.

 

  1. Do not assume that everything you told your first interviewer has been passed on to the next interviewer. Be prepared to give a repeat performance.

 

  1. Based on the information gained in the 1st meeting, you will probably have some idea of how you would tackle the challenges in the role. In most cases, it is worthwhile clarifying your understanding around these challenges, before giving an overview of your first 100 day plan. It does not need to be too detailed (unless asked for it), however they need to know that you have thought it through and that you have a plan…!

 

  1. It may be that an offer is extended in this meeting, make sure beforehand that you know what your expectations are and particularly make sure that you know what your minimum is, below which you will not accept. If you are offered in the meeting and it is below your expectations, do not decline or comment on it. Instead, thank them for the offer and ask whether you can think about it for 48 hours. Your search consultant / head hunter should negotiate the offer that is what they are paid for, so let them earn their money and expect them to negotiate an offer that will be acceptable to you. On the other hand, if the offer in the meeting meets or exceeds your expectation, then accept it and ask for it to be confirmed in writing.

 

Always, always, clarify at the end of the meeting what the process will be from here on (another two meetings? Who will make the final decision?) and to what timescales they are working. You need to manage your own expectations here and if possible, create a bit of urgency.

 

Follow @maartenjonckers on twitter for links to lots more related articles and general tweets and discussion about the world of retail

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Reference checking – important or not?

Imagine you have interviewed 10 candidates and there are two you would quite like to hire. One is your favourite and the other is your back up.

What is the next step?

You can ask them to give you details of three previous employers, however surely they will only give you details of people who are going to speak highly of them and ‘collaborate their story’, so what’s the point? Why not go straight to making an offer and hope for the best? Or, why not get them to accept the offer, subject to receiving satisfactory references (which are taken once they have resigned)? Then HR can deal with it and you can move on with your life.

What if, by taking references you can increase the likelihood of the new employee succeeding in their new job? This would save you having to go through another 10 interviews in 6 months or so, whilst coping with underperformance for that period of time … Would you be more inclined to do it yourself then?

If handled correctly taking a reference can be as effective as having the candidate completing an assessment, be that online or in an assessment centre. Here’s how to do it.

There is of course a massive advantage to taking advice from someone who has managed the person you want to hire. However, you’ll only gain valuable information by asking the right, open questions.

From “How long did this the person work for you and how much did they earn?” you might learn that they weren’t quite as accurate with the truth as they ought to have been, but other than that, it does not give you much insight as to why they are the right person for you to hire.

Try these instead …

“Tell me, in the 8 years that this individual reported to you how did their role change?” This will tell you whether they have steadily developed in taking more responsibility each year or whether they were content doing the same job for 8 years … Depending on what you are looking for, this could have a big impact on the hiring decision you’re about to make.

“What colleagues did they find challenging to get along with and why?”

“What did their team think of them and how many of their team were promoted over the years?”

“In your opinion, what has held them back from developing their career faster?”

“If they could improve themselves in one area, what would (or should) it be?”

“What motivates / demotivates them?”

“What is the biggest mistake they have made on your watch?” Bearing in mind that if they did not make any mistakes, they probably did not make many decisions.

“With the benefit of hindsight, what would you do to develop them further? And why?”

These are all good questions, which will help you uncover more about the person and how to manage them.
This isn’t really about hiring or not, because you already know that you want to hire them. This reference checking is about finding out the short cuts to success with this individual. And about being a good boss. Knowing people well, warts and all, will help you manage more effectively.

And surely you want one of your referees to tell your prospective new employer this at some point in the future?

I think I have got reference checking down to a fine art and I am happy to help you improve or share my ideas. Phone me!

Maarten Jonckers

+44 (0)1491 845 375

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How to ensure interview success

There are plenty of online articles about clever ways to answer interview questions, tips on how to walk, talk and shake hands with your potential new employer – and there are plenty of ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ regarding your conduct in the meeting.

After interviewing potential short list candidates on behalf of my clients for more than 17 years, I have come to the conclusion that if you prepare well for the interview and stick to your plan then you have nothing to fear.

Whether you have attended scores of interviews, whether you are naturally a confident person or whether you believe the interviewer will not be as senior as you are, if you do not prepare, the likelihood is that you will fail.

And please do not start the meeting by saying that you have been too busy lately to look at the company’s website or that your computer crashed (that may have worked 15 years ago, but is inexcusable with the level of connectivity we ‘enjoy’ nowadays).

So what to do? Well you can’t go far wrong by following these tips:

1. Research the company:
a. Read their website enough times for you to be able to speak knowledgeable about the business.
b. Search the internet for recent news articles on the company.
c. In retail – go and visit the company’s stores, talk to the store staff, observe what works well and make a list of the things you think do not work well / want to ask questions about.
d. If this is a pure play retailer – make a purchase, in order to be able to comment on the customer journey / user experience.

2. Research the interviewer(s):
a. LinkedIn is of course a great source for this, however are there also any articles published by or about your interviewer? Check!
b. Is there anyone in the interviewer’s background, who you know? Can you find out some background information on the interviewer? Even to know where they have last holidayed or what sports team they support can help you find common ground, which is so important in establishing rapport.

3. Make a list of the company’s direct competitors:
a. Who are they / where are they, form an opinion about their strengths and weaknesses.
b. Read their websites and visit their stores.
Btw in the interview do not make assumptions about who they think their competitors are, so before talking about them ask ‘do you consider XYZ to be a direct competitor of yours?’ If affirmative, then talk about them. If negative, then ask who they believe to be their direct competitors.

4. Prepare a SWOT analysis or a brief presentation based on your findings on the business. Preface it with ‘without any concrete information, but more as an outsider looking in, I believe that…’. You need to let the interviewer know in a subtle way, that you have done your home work.
Btw if you (and I suggest that you do) leave a few slides / printed pages behind, then make sure they are printed on good quality paper, make sure that your name is printed on each page and depending on how many pages you leave behind, either put them in a nice folder or have them bound professionally. It is amazing how a few quid spent on a simple hand out can make a massive difference.

5. Find out what the company’s dress code is (even better, find out what the interviewer’s dress code is) and either match it or slightly better it. It’s better to be a bit neater than a bit more casual than expected…

6. Prepare a 10 minute mini commercial about yourself:
a. Expect the interviewer to have read your CV, so start off by giving only a brief overview of the companies and positions you have held (in no more than 2-3 sentences).
b. Then highlight the experience you have gained that is relevant to the job you are interviewing for, ie ‘the biggest team I have managed was at XYZ, where we achieved the following’, or ‘whilst at XYZ I lead the transformation project that lead to a 180 degree change in company culture’.
c. Highlight 2-3 specific achievements that are relevant to the job you are interviewing for. You really want to talk in quite some detail about what the situation was, what plan you / your team came up with, how you implemented it and what the final result was. Note: the more specific you can be in terms of % or £, the more memorable it will be for the interviewer. Achievements ought to be time based, specific and bench marked, it is the difference between saying ‘whilst at XYZ I significantly improved sales’ and saying ‘in 2013 I increased sales by 15% or £1.5m on a like-for-like basis against a market increase of only 2%’.

Btw you prepare this 10 minute mini commercial so that you can answer the ‘so tell me a bit about yourself’ question. You need to practise it, so that you know what you’re going to say and in what order. Don’t be word perfect, because you might come across as a news reader. Make sure to stick to 10 mins – shorter will make you wishy washy, longer may make you verbose (please note that most interviewers will start to switch off after 10 mins), however with 10 mins you’ll come across as succinct, to the point and (hopefully) with great clarity.

7. Make a list of topics you want to talk about / questions you want to ask. The first question after your 10 mins mini commercial ought to be ‘although I have done a lot of research, I wouldn’t mind hearing from you what the company has been through in the last 3 years, where it is today and where it aims to be in 3 years time’. Followed by ‘what has prompted the business to want to recruit a new xyz and what would this person need to achieve in their first 6 months in order to be deemed successful’.

Btw, the more you can find out about the interviewer’s or the company’s expectations for this role before you have to start answering their questions the better it is, because it will give you a good idea of what to highlight in your background later on to pique their interest.

8. Prepare yourself for the difficult questions – ‘what are your salary expectations’ (never give them a number, because you will be committed to it), ‘what are your weaknesses’ (give them a past development need that you have now overcome or a development need that has nothing to do with the job you are doing or the job that you are interviewing for).

9. Before you go to the interview think about how you can give some anecdotal evidence of your achievements. Just quoting facts and figures will ensure that the interviewer will forget your achievements, whilst if you wrap them up in an anecdote and tell them a ‘memorable story’ then that is far more likely to stick. Even better if it is a funny story, if you can make the interviewer smile then you are definitely building rapport.

Btw, don’t tell jokes, stick to the truth, don’t set out to be the funny guy. However, we all have experiences that we can smile about – share them!

10. Prepare a few ‘closes’ to the meeting, so that you can chose which one to use depending on the level of rapport you have built. A pushy, in your face close would be: ‘do you at this stage have any reservations regarding my ability to do the job or my ability to fit in from a cultural or personality perspective’. Less direct would be ‘I enjoyed the meeting, what are the next steps please’. Note: you will learn more from the first one, but it might not always be appropriate to use it.

Good luck and make sure to enjoy the experience, because you will come across as more confident if you set out to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need more advice, feel free to contact me.

Follow Maarten on twitter @maartenjonckers for general natter about the world of retail and links to lots of interesting articles

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